August 5, 2014

How to leave a city?

Its a bit of an odd thing, starting up a blog after a 4-month hiatus, with momentum gone and readers also. But it was time for a break, as I found myself with little to write. Absolutely at the top of my list now is to send out a big thank you to several readers who checked in with me via email. It is a lovely thing to have a public, "virtual" reality become a more personal, specific (for want of a better word) reality.

So what brought on a post now? There's been no change in my day-to-day world, which consists of: sleep, eat, work, ride, eat. Repeat. Take out the work on weekends, increase the ride, and (sometimes) throw in a bit of gardening. Try to learn a language. You know which one.

What has changed is that now I have a plan, a ticket, a departure date, maps, and reservations. The plan is to ride from Paris to Nice, inspired by the annual race to the sun. This New England summer has been so grey, so wet and chilly, that riding to the sun sounds brilliant.

Much of a route from Paris follows the Seine.

I love the idea of riding directly from Paris. Leave my hotel, apply foot to pedal and head to the southeast. The alternative is to use a train to exit the city. But doesn't it sound somehow more satisfying, complete, fun, to ride from the city? Riding door to door has a big appeal.

But knowing me, that appeal may be an intellectual construct and probably a romantic one. Is riding directly from the city likely to end in confusion, wrong turns, missed turns ...  and so turn a 45-mile ride into an all-day affair? To be simply a nuisance of a way to start a tour?

Up until 1962, the Paris-Nice race actually began in Paris, finishing in Nice. Since then, the annual  race does not leave from the city itself; the start line is from a city on the southern outskirts. In 1963 and 1964 Fontainebleau was the departure city.

Fontainebleau Castle. 

I've found one route on the internet, which is here, in May q's site. It is very detailed, complicated even. Yes, I have put the route on my Garmin, but I have extremely poor Garmin skills. My version is not one of those modern wonders that talks to you in whatever language you choose. I continue to prefer and rely on paper maps.

I'm wondering if any of you have ridden out of Paris to the southeast, specifically to or near Fontainebleau? Any thoughts or ideas?


So, leave directly from Paris and ride to Nice? Or take the train through the Parisian exurbia, and ride from Fontainebleau?

How do you start tours?

Thanks ... and it's good to be back in the virtual world. P.S. None of these photos are mine ... all are picked up from Wikitravel. 


  1. I think I'd do it from the hotel. The hassle of taking the RER with your bike and panniers would probably be just as big as the traffic. It's just another big city. In the older part of the city you'll have plenty of cycling lanes on the roads, with lots of Velib companions! After that, you'll need to navigate the banlieues, but it won't take too, too long. I'd use Google Street View and look for the shortest route east / southeast that gets you to the countryside.

    Happy planning!

    1. It's not the traffic that imtimidates me, though maybe it should, it's the potential for getting lost.You make me think it might be best not to try to follow complicated directions, but to hop on the easiest route and ride. Perhaps that's my backup if the other proves too time consuming.

      BTW, when do you fly this direction? Still riding when here?

    2. I'll be starting from Montreal (where I have to find my own route out of town still!) on Aug 17th, then heading down the St. Lawrence. I see LaCanadienne has piped in below. Listen to her...she's a local ;-)

  2. It is good to hear that you are going touring. I wondered if you had disappeared under a blanket of snow never to be seen again.

    The total end to end sounds good but town cycling is tricky. Looking at the map or the garmin while the traffic is whizzing by is not easy. I wish you luck. The least number of turns seems like a good plan.

    1. I wondered that too.... But now I wish we would get to meet up this summer in France!

  3. If you don't like the Garmin, or the mechanical thing, write out the itinerary on a piece of paper, plasticized, to which you can easily refer as you ride. That too is complicated. Bonne route, en tous les cas.

    1. That is most likely exactly my plan, with the Garmin as back up, for when I miss a turn. And I hope to have a decent papermap. Overthinking, overplanning? Who, me? Et comme toujours, je vous remerci.

  4. Agree with Gerry that RER is not fun with panniers, but you don't take an RER to Fontainbleau: it's a TER from Gare de Lyon. (details here)

    This means no nasty stairs - the platforms are at ground level. Even the trains themselves are at grade: you can roll your bike right on.

    Also, when time is limited, I opt for scenery vs door-to-door simplicity. But this might also be my allergy to exurbs, having spent 13 years in one.

    That all being said, since time will not be an issue for me in 2 weeks, and since I'm now also heading SE (towards the Vosges), I can try MayQ's route to Fontainbleau and let you know how it goes!

    1. Re: finding the most direct route out of town.

      Here's what the Via Michelin site says for a bike route (which, in France, I am sometimes more inclined to trust than Google): Parvis to Notre Dame to Fontainebleau on bike.

      The stretch from Paris to Choisy le Roi we've driven before, en route to Ikea. It's not scenic, but not horrific either. And in August, traffic should be a non-issue.

    2. Hello LaCanadienne,

      Thank you!! for all of that...both for your advice and the links. I have used the TER in other parts of France and am very fond of it. I hadn't been to the Michelin site before, but played with it a little after first reading your comment. It looks great, and I will go back soon. Probably in the end I'll decide that morning, informed by your advices and how jet lagged or ambitious I am feeling.

      If you do try that route or any part of it, I'll love to hear about it...will you have email with you while traveling, and also will you post? I look forward to staying in touch while we are both bike touring!

      Bonne route!

  5. Sounds so lovely. Have a wonderful time x

    1. Georgie, Very nice to hear from you! Hope the pedalling is still wonderful in your part of the world. Suze

  6. Glad to see you back 'in business' on here!

    The French seem quite good at engineering bike routes out of major cities along rivers and disused railway lines, remembering the wonderful one out of Bordeaux you missed last year! I found some of my routing last year simply by using Streetview to check any potential byways on Google maps - there are signed bike routes that don't even appear on Michelin, such as one I followed the day after we parted company last year in the Dordogne, which I found by spying the road signs.

    On the other hand, there's always that helpful advice in response to asking for directions that 'I wouldn't start from here'.

    No tour for me this year, I'm afraid (in fact my cycling generally has been pitifully rare this year for one reason or another - usually lethargy). But I'm hoping to put the bike in the car when we go and stay south of Tours in early September and get out and about there on shorter rides among the chateaux to counteract all the food and wine I plan to get through.

    When are you off to Paris and beyond?

    By the way, I've started my own blog now, too, though no cycling on it yet (mostly opera and a bit of travel):

  7. Hi Matthew!

    Super to her from you. Yes, I have been thinking of our different experiences in leaving Bordeaux last year. I was glad to have had the time in St. Emilion, but regretted not riding from the city. You are, from my viewpoint, the very best at getting every single drop of information from maps (including street view as a map.) Right now I'm thinking I will ride from the hotel, and will try to follow the confusing parts of the route with streetview first.

    Glad to hear you'll get back to France this year. I originally wanted to include the area south of Tours last year, because I hoped to design a route chasing the history of Elenor of Aquitaine. It was too many miles, but maybe some day. Looks like a good region for a bike ... and definitely for food and wine ... have fun!

    I fly on Aug. 27 and will be there much of September. It would be fun to hear about your travels, I think our dates will overlap. Great that you are writing a blog; I will go there next, and look forward to following it.

    Be well, and enjoy France!

  8. I just can't wait to get started on "our" next adventure. Happy and safe cycling.

    1. And I am so pleased to have you along in the virtual world! I love hearing from friends here when I'm riding. But you have to put up with me again on Tuesday first:-)


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