Following the invitation, via the website, to twin with the southern French town of Villeneuve-lès-
Béziers, Phil Parker kindly sent this account of his cycle journey to Montpellier, taking in Villeneuve.
The Cycle Route to Montpellier Autumn 2009
The following photographs try to encapsulate the essence and simplicity of cycling through France. This
followed a similar trip made by Roger Owen and myself to San Sebastian in 2007 which provided an
overwhelming case for a repeat predicated on the following: the overwhelming sense of freedom that the bike
and its routes provide, the general ease of cycling along these routes as they do not pass through hilly regions;
the simple, cheap but wonderful food and wine in the rural areas available as Plat du Jour, and the autumn
climate which during the 2 three week tours we experienced a few spots of rain on one day in 2007 and light
drizzle for one morning in 2009, with temperatures typically mid 20s. In the evening in Bordeaux on 6 October
2009 the Pharmacie displayed 32°c …. at 18.45!
There was nothing not to wholeheartedly enjoy. And for those concerned about the distance, imagine an easy
hours pedalling which would comfortably cover some 8 – 10 miles. Do that for 3 ½ hours in the morning and 2
hours after a rejuvenating and relaxing 2 hour French lunch and an easy 50 miles can be comfortably covered in
a 9am – 5pm day. Some 15 days will find you in Montpellier and only 12 days would find you in Spain. With a
combined age of your two guides in excess of 120 years, and using basic standard bikes you can see that it is
within the capability of anybody!
Enjoy the photos and for those who would like to share the research and experience in greater depth to enable
successful planning of their own expedition please do not hesitate to have a chat with us. Who knows, we could
establish a route to a new twin village near Beziers! Now there is a wonderful opportunity! .
St Malo – Rennes
This leg of the journey is covered by a cycleroute which starts as the old railway line from Dinard to Dinan.
Dinard is accessible by Ferry (Vedettes) or you can cycle across the EDF Rance barrage. Immediately before
Dinan at Taden the route follows the West bank of the River Rance.
At Dinan it is necessary to
change banks crossing under
the spectacular viaduct
From Dinan all the way through to centre of Rennes is a cycleroute that follows the Canal d’Ille-et-Rance.
Rennes - Nantes
From the centre of Rennes the cycleroute continues alongside the river Vilaine.
It would be possible to continue all the way to Nantes alongside the river to Redon and then pick up the Brest-
Nantes canal but this is much further and would miss the wonderful
Brittany Countryside and charming villages, and the Foret du Gavre.
These rural roads are extremely quiet and traffic is negligible.
Entering Nantes by the D965 from Sautron is the easiest route into a major busy city.
Also from this direction there is anextensive segregated
cycle route connecting to the heart of the City.
It is worth spending a day in Nantes and you can take advantage of the
available launderettes! The tram system takes you quickly to all parts of
the city for a cheap 24 hour ticket that can be used anywhere. Trams are generally about
every 3 minutes. And one stop would have to be to see the mechanical elephant!
Nantes to Bordeaux
You can follow the bank of the River Nantaise from the centre of the city to Vertou and then cross to the other
bank to continue.
Then pass through Muscadet country to Les Herbiers.
The Loire countryside continues until you reach the
flatter countryside of the Marais at Coulon.
Arrive before 18.30 and it is possible to get the last
boat hire and experience Venise Vert and the
extensive network of narrow waterways.
And continuing due South from Coulon along more quiet rural Departmental roads, which
around St Jean d’Angely can get hilly.
And on to the Roman City of Saintes.
From Saintes the rural roads continue to the
Gironde and then follow the river.
The last stretch from Etauliers to Blaye is a disused railway now a cycle route through the vineyards.
An irregular ferry (important to check times) from Blaye takes you across the Gironde
into the very wealthy Medoc area.
One of the oldest cycleroutes in France links Lacarnau on the Atlantic
Coast to Bordeaux. You can pick this route up to avoid the busy traffic
routes into the City.
This takes you almost to the Gironde and to the quieter routes towards the city that
eventually link to the riverside cycle routes within the City.
Like Nantes it is worth taking a day out for a break and to enjoy the City (and the
launderette!). Nantes to Bordeaux is relatively the hardest leg of the journey as it is across
undulating countryside particularly around Saintes, and at 225 miles is a 5 day trek. It does
not enjoy the benefit of the level canal towpaths and the slack railway gradients that can
now be enjoyed for 95% of the rest of the journey to Montpellier!
The harder miles at Bordeaux are behind you!
Bordeaux – Toulouse
The canal that links Bordeaux to the Mediterranean is not available for cycling for the first 80km. Comfortably
segregated cycle routes take you out of the City to the Piste Cyclable Roger Lapébie named after a local former
Tour de France winner. This former railway line takes you though the woods and Bordeaux vineyards for some
55 km to Sauveterre
Créon with its bustling market square
provides a very convenient stopping point along
the route to recharge and either petit-
dejeuner or a mid-morning coffee.
A short link through rural lanes leads to the fortified Medieval Town of La Réole with its
commanding views over the Garonne and thence to the Canal at Le Fontet.
From the end of the Piste Cyclable to the
Canal is only 22km. Thereafter sit back and enjoy
the magnificent canal all the way to Agen and its
Apart from some 2km of gravel near Montech the route continues with a
good surface for the next 120km to Toulouse.
Apart from the other many wonderful sites in Toulouse which is worth one or two days stay, there is of course
their Rugby Team with Nos 9 – 15 all current French internationals. For those that enjoy running rugby it is a
gourmet feast to savour!
Toulouse – Montpellier
Click thumbnail to enlarge