Step into Spring
Where to enjoy the best of spring
With Belle France holidays, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. This is not the Tour de France. Nor is it a marathon. Consequently, by providing you with a leisurely itinerary, we aim for you to be gently and inexorably immersed in the quiet charms of your chosen region.
And springtime is possibly the best of all seasons for a little gentle activity. See the landscape stirring into life, the orchards in bloom, the vineyards awakening in the warm sunlight.
Take your time
On foot or on bike, when travelling under your own steam you always get to see more. It might be a spontaneous diversion to see that intriguing looking church peeping through the trees, or a desire to indulge in a slightly longer lunch than planned. After all, when you see an empty table in the sun and a tempting plat du jour it’s hard to resist.
Hurtling from A to B is not our style. And whether you are a brisk walker with a sense of purpose or a wobbly cyclist who does not even own a bike, no matter. We cater all levels of fitness, ability and interest.
What do you look for in a holiday? Where do you see yourself on the ability scale? Well, below we dangle a few suggestions before you just to see.
The easy going one
Château to Château en Vélo (Loire)
A Belle France classic: an intoxicating blend of elegant châteaux, fertile landscapes just bursting into spring life, historic towns, fabulous little hotels and some superb cuisine. And all to be enjoyed with a modicum of energy.
This is an easy going route through the flatlands of the Loire Valley, checking off some big name châteaux along the way: Chenonceau, Amboise, Cheverny and even Leonardo da Vinci’s residence at Clos Lucé - a fascinating treasure trove of replicas of his most famous inventions.
The coastal one
Here’s an invigorating blend of craggy coastal scenery, salty winds and hopefully brilliant spring sunshine that will set you up for the summer months. This route allows you to walk beside sandy beaches, veering down rocky inlets and coves as you follow the Atlantic coast towards the crashing surf of the Pointe du Raz.
It’s old school Brittany: sleepy granite fishing villages, cheerful little boats bobbing in the harbours, ancient traditions and wonderful seafood. Don’t miss out on a plateau de fruits de mer if you get the chance – a real piece of culinary theatre.
The going is moderate, with some rocky stretches to contend with, but certainly not challenging. And in spring you are well ahead of the school holiday tourists racing to stake their claim on the beaches.
The slow one
While none of our holidays is really for hard-core athletes, we do have a small selection of routes up our sleeve which are truly for those in search of the slowest of the slow. These have time aplenty built into the itinerary, with extra nights at each hotel to ensure you really do get the chance to explore and get to know your surroundings as you pass through. With these routes you really can relax before setting off the next day.
Fine brandy and a spot of cycling are not always an obvious combination but everything in moderation of course. You’ll follow the meandering Charente river, through the Cognac vineyards (including a stop off at the Hennessy distillery). There are some gentle hills but travelling mostly along the river you’ll find this holiday easy going, slow-paced and tremendously relaxing.
The spiritual one
At Belle France we have many years’ experience arranging group holidays for religious organisations or just for customers wishing to experience a little taste of life on the road, pilgrim-style.
There are various holidays to choose from starting in Le Puy in the Auvergne, and ending at St Jean-Pied-de-Port in the Pyrenees. The terrain can be challenging in places, with loose surfaces and no shortage of hills. The accommodation can be simple and rustic (the options for upgrades don’t really exist on this route) and there is often communal dining ‘en famille’ with no menu per se.
All this is quite different to our other holidays but these pilgrimage routes allow you to connect with generations who have walked these paths in centuries before.
The long one
Don’t worry, this may be a long distance route of some 1,200 km, but we have created a trio of holidays which allow you to dip in and cycle a short stretch! La Vélodyssée is the Atlantic coast cycle route, stretching from Roscoff in Brittany down to the Spanish border. Passing the Pays de la Loire, Poitou and Aquitaine, it is the longest marked cycle trail in France.
While much of the route is along the sublime coast, the good news is that some 80% of the route involves dedicated cycle paths with no motorised traffic. Apart from meaning no pesky cars to worry about, it ensures that all accommodation and hostelries along the way are well geared up for welcoming cyclists and meeting their needs.
We offer three stretches: the Nantes to La Rochelle run is an 8 day holiday through seaside towns, oyster farms, pine forests, nature reserve and even Noirmoutier island.
Alternatively you can start a little further south with the La Rochelle to Bordeaux leg – another 8 day itinerary along canals and coastline, finishing with the majestic vineyards of the Médoc and the elegant city of Bordeaux.
Finally Bordeaux to Biarritz is a vintage route, encompassing the UNESCO heritage city of Bordeaux, the vast, fragrant pine forests of the Landes, the Dune du Pyla (Europe’s highest sand dune) and the grande dame of the Basque coast, Biarritz.
The challenging one
We classify the more challenging routes as ‘treks’, denoting a little hard work is involved. A certain level of basic fitness is required, not to mention some decent boots and a degree of sensible preparation, as well as the ability to do some elementary map reading from time to time. Our trekking holidays may be slightly more demanding but they are often also more rewarding: the more dramatic scenery, more spectacular views, and, of course, a heightened sense of quiet satisfaction and accomplishment at the end of the day.
Our two Cathar Castles walks involve trekking through the Pyrenean foothills in the shadow of ancient castles – built defensively these naturally are perched precariously on hill tops and in inaccessible places. The trail can twisty and turny, the snow capped peaks are visible in the distance – it’s a truly dramatic terrain, wild and untamed with an inescapable whiff of bloody history.
Please note - some of the holidays featured in this article are not part of our standard 2018 Program and are therefore not featured in our brochures or advertised on our website. You can still book these tours by request. Please ring us on 01580 214 010 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org