Families today have an enviable choice when it comes to choosing a type of holiday. The days of having to plump for a one-size-fits-all package deal, or nothing, are long gone.
Whether it’s a short break (perhaps a cultural city break?), beach holiday (some fly and flop R&R?) or some kind of activity theme, the choice is vast.
And when it comes to activity holidays there are myriad flavours and levels of intensity to consider. For most families a winning formula is some gentle activity involving stunning landscapes not seen at home, with time built in to stop and enjoy key sights and points of interest. Add to this some charming, characterful accommodation (ideally with pool), fine food and wines and a dose of warm but not overpowering sun, and you have a holiday with plenty of kerb appeal.
In many ways a self-guided cycling holiday in France embodies this perfect combination. For starters, it guarantees fabulous scenery and incredible food and wines. And whether on foot or on bike, you really do get up close and personal to the real France. Yes, you are travelling (in a leisurely, unhurried way) from hotel A to hotel B but you are experiencing aspects of the French countryside and way of life that you simply miss when whizzing past in a hermetically sealed and air conditioned car.
It’s about the small things: the characterful chickens scratching at the side of the road, the scent of the beautiful roses in someone’s garden, the sound of the midday church bell, the hubbub of a Saturday market. These are all the micro experiences that make for an enjoyable holiday but they also constitute a fascinating slice of authentic French life. You can’t learn this from school or the pages of a book.
But let’s not assume it gets too dry and worthy! On a cycling holiday all the family enjoys pedalling a few miles: that feeling of independence, the wind in your hair. And a walking holiday gives children that sense of modest adventure and pioneer spirit that is a welcome change from the daily routine back home.
What’s in it for kids?
- Kids love to get involved – helping plan the route
- They learn some basics about map reading and following directions
- They enjoy the constantly changing scenery
- Our itineraries have new features built in every day
- Buying food from the market is often a novel experience…
- …And a lazy picnic later is never a bad idea
- They love unexpected surprises – maybe an unexpected small fairytale chateau tucked away among the trees, or a chance sighting of wild boar foraging at the roadside
Loire Family Discovery
One of our most popular Belle France holidays, this is an easy going trip through quiet country lanes and is ideal for all ages and abilities. We’ve allowed plenty of time to visit suggested family attractions and still make it back to the hotel for a dip in the pool before dinner.
Highlights for families
- All hotels with pools.
- Clos Lucé – home of Leonardo da Vinci, with interactive museum featuring working inventions.
- Château Chenonceau – perhaps the most photographed of all.
- Château Cheverny – the inspiration of Château de Moulinsart, made famous by the Tintin books.
- Château Chambord – the grandest, most majestic of all and the inspiration behind Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
And don’t overlook the fact that France is a cyclists’ paradise with enviably safe roads and the respect of motorists. In most areas, the absence of dense hedging means long fields of view ahead and behind and the ability to see, and be seen by traffic in both directions.
Find out more about Loire Family Discovery
Vélodyssée for teenagers
This is an epic cycling route that runs across Brittany from Roscoff to Nantes, then down the west coast of the Vendée and Charente, past La Rochelle. Then it crosses the Gironde and the Bordeaux vineyards of the Médoc, running south to the Spanish border along the Aquitaine coast. After over 1200 km it ends at Hendaye on the Basque coast near Biarritz.
Some 70% of the route is on traffic-free paths and trails. At Belle France we have crafted a couple of manageable itineraries that give you and your family a great taste of this amazing trail: ‘La Rochelle to Bordeaux’ and ‘Bordeaux to Biarritz’. Both offer a great recipe for families, with amazing scenery, vast beaches, vibrant ports and safe, easy going trails.
The latter stretch was hailed in the Telegraph as one of the '10 greatest cycling holidays on Earth' by ex-professional cyclist David Millar.
“Oddly, Biarritz isn’t a destination much thought of when it comes to cycling, being primarily associated with surfing, yet it has lots to offer. I should know, as I lived and trained there for seven years. Much of the best riding is to be had along the French-Spanish border which lies atop the nearby foothills of the Pyrenees. As for Biarritz itself, there are few places better for après-vélo”.
Read more about Vélodyssée here