That is the question - or at least it's a paraphrased question I've been pondering about getting to France. Let me start at the beginning or else you'll think I've gone completely mad.
At the start of the year MOH and I agreed this summer we'd like to cycle along the Loire Valley. It sounds idyllic: sunny days, multiple chateaus, cycling that's not too challenging and of course French food and maybe the odd glass of red, or two. The area is well set up for hosting cyclists and we already have plenty of information on how we can book a route we can tailor to suit exactly what we want to do.
That part seems easy enough. Sure it'll need some planning and thought, but like I said, easy enough once we start.
The part that's giving me cause for more pondering is how we actually get ourselves - and our bikes - to France, as ideally with France being so close we'd like to cycle our own bikes. And rather than having our luggage transported by taxi, this year we plan to carry our luggage in the shiny, new panniers we bought in the January sales. That's likely, of course to bring a packing conundrum but that will be much nearer the date of our departure!
To get us to France there are basically a couple of options:
- Strap the bikes to the back of the car and head over - or under - the Channel in the usual way.
- Leave the car at home and travel with our bikes by train all the way to Tours or Angers (whichever we choose as our start point)
Each has benefits, and drawbacks though...
- We'll be taking our bikes on a train, which will be pretty exciting.
- By taking the train to Lille and changing there we should avoid the need to cycle across Paris to change trains...
- We can relax during the train journey, in a way I wouldn't be able to while driving.
- We can travel to Tours and back from Angers, or the other way round.
- It'll be quite an adventure, really!
- Cycling across Paris between stations doesn't really appeal in much the same way as cycling across London wouldn't either.
- We will have to carry everything we need, and there will be less capacity to bring wine home with us.
- The journey time to reach Tours/Angers is likely to be lengthy.
- We will most likely need to book onto a specific train and stick with that booking, no getting on an earlier one because we've arrived at the terminal early.
- We're travelling by car!
- We'll have extra capacity for luggage, especially on the way back.
- I've driven in France before, so have all the necessities, such as spare bulbs, breathalysers, high-vis jacket and such like to stay legal.
- The total journey time will, I expect be less than by train, though I'm happy to be proven wrong on this.
- Did I mention we'll be travelling by car!
- We'll have to plan a circular route to end up back where we've parked the car.
- We'll need to find somewhere to park the car for the duration of our cycle tour.
- I'll have to drive the whole way to Tours/Angers, as MOH doesn't drive so will need to include some breaks into our schedule.
- We'll need to be au-fait with the French legislation about carrying the bikes on the back of the car, not a big one but better to be in the know.
So there's my conundrum.
The Accident Advice Helpline have put together this handy Travellers Guide to Driving Etiquette for Driving in France which I think I'll be consulting further, along with the advice for travelling with bikes by train before we make our final decision.
But what would you do? And is there anything you've thought of that I've missed, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
This is a collaborative post with Accident Advice Helpline but all words are my own.