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Atlantic to the Mediterranean

A Classic coast-to-coast voyage using a network of quiet back lanes and canal towpaths. Our 295-mile route links picturesque villages, medieval cities, ancient forests, vineyards and fields of sunflowers as we head slowly east through this historic land.

This fully supported trip is about discovering the highlights of Southern France by bike and is suitable for anyone who enjoys cycling. The riding, mostly flat, is done at a leisurely pace with an average daily distance of about 40 miles. There will be plenty of time to relax or explore the many natural and man-made points of interest en-route.

Overnight stops are taken in sleepy towns, cosmopolitan cities and everything in between. We stay in comfortable hotels, selected for their charm and fine restaurants. A more varied insight into the region and it's culture is hard to imagine!

Itinerary (10 Days / 9 Nights)

DayDescription
1Transfer from Biarritz airport to our tour start point at Hossegor. The beach here is one of the best on the Atlantic coast and a Mecca for surfers from around the world. The old harbour town maintains many charms and is a nice place to people watch in a cafe before drinks and dinner.
2We start, by heading north on the picturesque coast road through the ancient tropical pine forest. This region is a deservedly popular holiday destination, the well restored villages welcome us with cafes and bars. For part of today's ride we follow a purposely designed cycle path, taking us into the heart of the Landes Forest. Our destination is the hamlet of Arjuzanx, put on the map by the Palace and gardens favoured by King Edward III. (39miles)
3We will have time to explore the châteaux and gardens before continuing East into the Parc Natural Regional des Landes De Gascogne. This vast expanse of marshland is home to many species of rare fresh water birds adding to the beauty of today's cycle ride. Tonight we stay in the picturesque market town of Roquefort (nothing to do with the cheese!). (33miles)
4Leaving the plains behind us we head into the rural heartland of France. We undulate our way through meadows and untouched villages, crossing many small rivers and through some breathtaking scenery. Our aim is the town of Condom (we have to stay here really), in the heart of the Armagnac region. The town itself has many charms including the Benedictine Abbey and wine making museum. We can expect a feast of regional specialties tonight, like 'Foie Gras' and 'confit de canard', naturally washed down with a few of the regions brandies. (42miles)
5Be sure to stock up on the very rich 'Bonheur de Condom' chocolates before setting out on today's ride! A beautiful back road takes us over the watershed and to a high point of 264m where we are rewarded with some great views and swooping downhill sections. We stay in the sleepy town of Beaumont-de-Lomagne, famous for its annual Garlic Festival!! (35miles)
6 We head down into the picturesque flood plain of the mighty River Garonne. Where a network of quiet lanes and cycle paths takes us alongside the canal and into the Heart of Toulouse. Toulouse is a city which needs no introduction; There is fine Art and Architecture throughout the city. You will have time to explore whichever avenue you fancy in this fantastic city. (36miles)
7We will have time to watch Toulouse slowly coming to life before heading out of town on the Canal Du Midi. This amazing feat of 16th Centaury Engineering links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and is shaded with Plane trees for its entire length. The tow path has now been surfaced, making this one of the most pleasant bike rides anywhere in the world. We stay in Castelnaudary and will no doubt have the opportunity to sample the famed 'cassoulet' - a meat and bean stew. (36miles)
8A leisurely ride along the Canal takes us to Carcassonne in time for lunch. The afternoon free to relax or to explore many delights of this uniquely preserved Medieval City. Officially Europe's largest Fortress it is flanked by 26 towers and 3000m of twin walls! You will be impressed. In the evening you are free to sample one of the many open air restaurants in the main square. (23miles)
9Fully rested we set out on our final and longest day of the trip. The route takes us through vineyards and fields of sunflowers, marking our approach closer to the Mediterranean. A final short climb gives us a panoramic view of the great sea - Its all down hill from here! We end in the resort town of Narbonne-Plage where a well deserved swim and celebration are in order. (60miles)
10Time to leave. We can enjoy a leisurely morning swimming or packing up the bikes, before transferring to Perpignan in time for the lunchtime flight.

General

10 days road cycling tour with leader. Vehicle support carries your bags, meets you along the route and can also help you up the hills!

This cycle tour is not guided due to the varying pace of riders but we hold daily briefings. Maps and route notes are provided.

9 nights en-suite B&B in small family-run hotels, on a twin-share basis. Single rooms are available for a supplement. Picnic lunches are included. 7 evening meals are included but not drinks with the meals.

Food

This trip could be looked at as a 'gourmet cuisine' trip with a bit of biking to work up an appetite! The French are deservedly proud of their regional specialties, so we will be spoilt by the various taste sensations as we head east. All breakfasts are included and are continental style. 7 evening meals will be taken in the hotels or local restaurants. In Toulouse and Carcassonne, you are free to sample from the many fine restaurants in town where you are spoilt for choice. Picnic lunches will be provided on all biking days except Day 8. No drinks are included. Allow €40 - €60 for the meals not included.

Accommodation

Everyday we move onto an different Hotel. Where possible these are small but comfortable 2* hotels, which reflect the character of the region. All rooms have private facilities and are allocated on a 'Twin-share Basis'. If booking alone it is possible to book a single room throughout the trip, there is a charge of £150 for this and you must inform us on booking.

Terrain

The cycling is mostly flat except for 3 days in the middle, where we undulate over the watershed. Even then, none of the hills are very long or high, the maximum height reached is 264m. Throughout the journey we stick to quite back lanes, cycle paths and the canal towpath (which is un-surfaced in sections). Daily distances vary from 23-60 miles

Getting there

Ryanair provide a cheap flight service between London Stansted and both Biarritz and Perpignan. If booking in advance these should cost no more that £85 return. Airport transfers will be arranged to meet these flights only. From Birmingham, Southampton or Bristol visit www.flybe.com. From Heathrow, www.airfrance.com. From Gatwick, www.ba.com, www.easyjet.com. From Manchester, www.flybmi.com.

Prices

Tour cost: £645
Bike hire: £105
Helmet hire: £15
Insurance: £37

Dates