Vacation Experiences

 Emil Bizon

France Cycling Trip: May, 2004

 

This trip was done with a group of 10 reasonably fit cyclists/runners in the area known as Le Limousin which is a region comprising three departments- #87 Haute Vienne, #23 Creuze and # 19 Correze.

We chose this part of France for many reasons. Accessibility from Paris was one, but its suitability for biking was the main one. We needed a countryside which was not too densely populated, with a lot of roads and small towns not too far apart. Not flat but not too hilly was also good. And, of course, France is, by far, the best place in the world to cycle.

The road and signage are typical for these minor roads which appear only on maps of scale 100k:1 or less

This area is on the western edge of the Massif Central at an elevation of 300 to 500 meters. It is covered by a lot of beautiful forest, mainly hardwoods such as beech, chestnut and oak but also some conifers, mainly hemlock. The rural economy rests on cattle and sheep. The Limousin is a distinct breed which is ubiquitous here-reddish brown coat all over with slightly lighter eye surrounds to give them a raccoon look. They are not liked too much in Alberta because of some quirks in behaviour. Twice we had them running along side us and through the fences onto the road to follow us!

The main urban center is Limoges, a city of 140,000, renown for a centuries old porcelain, ceramics and glass industry. The porcelain is absolutely gorgeous but priced to suit, i.e. a hundred bucks for a dinner plate!

From  CdeG airport we drove in rented Renault Diesel Kangoos, a great vehicle which would hold six bike boxes and two people. We had a third van for passengers and luggage.  From the airport we had to do a half-circle around Paris. There are three ring roads and the outer one, which is N104 in part, worked very well as we cleared the city and reached the A-10 without slowing below 100 km/h. The A-20 then leads to Limoges and beyond to Toulouse. This was about six hours but not too tough with several drivers.

 

The French system of Autoroutes is quite excellent. They are of better quality than anything we have here and although most demand a hefty toll, it puts the burden on the user. Signage, roadside services and general attractiveness is of a high order. And they do not permit the maniacal speeds one sees on the German equivalents; 130 or 110 in the rain which is fast enough for me.

Our group at the top of a tower. Mont Gargan is at the extreme right rear, a hill of 730 meters that was stage 10 of this year's Tour de France

 

Above, my good pal, Tony Ashley with whom I have been running and cycling for over 20 years. We had a memorable bike trip in 1991, also in France, when we carried tents and sleeping bags and slept out for two weeks.

Right, a lunch in Montbron on a nice day.  This town has 2200 people and is quite busy.

 

Above, the ruins of the small town of Oradour sur Glane which is 20 km west of Limoges. On June 10, 1944 a detachment of Waffen SS  surrounded the town and rounded up all the women and children into the church and then blew it up. The men were machine gunned in various buildings in the town and then the town was put to the torch. A total of about 680 people perished. The remains of the town have not been disturbed since. Left, a memorial plaque near the church.

 

Editor's Note: I hope Emil doesn't feel shortchanged because I used only 7 of his photographs. Scanned photos create larger files than digital camera photos and I must remember the many classmates who are still on 56K dialup.