A Blog Post by Heather Mason
A new motor home with bikes on the back, perfect late summer weather, a quiet part of France with pleasant campsites what more could you want!
Having looked at the weather forecast for the Vaucluse, our favourite part of France, only to find temperatures of over 30°C for the period of our stay, we headed for Southern Burgundy. This is an area we had always intended to visit for a long time as it is full of interesting monuments, gentle countryside, superb wine and now has some of the best gentle cycling in France on the Voies Vertes or Green Ways.
Voies Vertes (Google will give you further information!) can be found in many parts of France and make use of disused railway lines, canal and river towpaths, dedicated cycle lanes and quiet country lanes. Many form part of long distance cycle ways for example along the Loire to the Black Sea – not all complete yet but will be 5000Km in length! Not only designed to be used by cyclist but also for all non-motorised transport incliding walking! The asphalted surface lends itself to the use by people in wheelchairs. Needless to say the Dutch have found them and are ther in considerable numbers! The French appear on them after work for a ‘burn up’ and at the weekends always dressed in very smart cycling gear of all colours!
We sampled 3 areas each of them providing us with an easy route along paths where borders are left uncut so are full of wild flowers buzzing with bees and colourful butterflies. The rural landscape was peaceful with small villages with magnificent churches, smart looking Charollais cattle, vineyards dripping with bunches of green and black grapes, sunflowers just about at the end of their flowering still turning their heads towards to sun and ripening maize. So many people had small allotments full of colourful flowers, fruit trees and vegetables of all shape, colours and sizes.
Firstly we cycled part of the 120 Km of old railway lines from Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune and Charnay-les-Mâcon passing through Chalon-sur-Saône and Cluny. We stayed at St Boil which is a very convenient halfway point and enjoyed trips north to Buxy and Givry – both famous wines areas. Going south towards Cluny there were many places to visit – old churches chateaux, weekly markets. Both parts of the path had plenty of places to stop in the shade and get refreshments. There were also many marked walking routes leading off around the countryside to points of interest. Tourism is taken very seriously and there is plenty of information to make the most of your stay.
Our next stop took us to the interesting small town of Paray-le Mondial well known for its Romanesque church of the Sacred Heart – a place of significant pilgrimage.
We cycled along the peaceful Canal Du Centre to Digoin – about 35Km round trip - where we walked our bikes over the magnificent water bridge crossing the Loire – our first sight of this magnificent river - to continue cycling along the Lateral Canal of the Loire. Both canasl had very little traffic on them but plenty of enthusiastic local fishermen!
Finally, we moved to a campsite on the Loire itself close to the hill top small town of Sancerre which is famous for its expensive wines!! On the first day we made the mistake of leaving the cyclepath to’ cycle’ up to Sancerre in the heat of the day! It looked so so close but the road we took went a very circuitous and steep route so after pushing the bikes for over a mile we turned around and enjoyed the freewheeling back down to the river! Next day we found the proper cycle route which actually went over an old railway viaduct and then up a gradual incline to the fortified town of Sancerre – well worth the effort. Again great cycling in a different area.
Hope you will be encouraged to try the Voies Vertes – a great way to see hidden France!