Please suggest smallish, bike-friendly cities in France.
March 6, 2019 7:57 PM   Subscribe

I would like to take my teenager to France for about a week in June. I think the ideal arrangement would be to fly into a major city, take a train to a smaller city, and make that our home base for low-key walking/biking excursions - I picture us looking at old buildings, reading magazines at cafes, and shopping at normal everyday French stores. She is 16, so the wine-growing regions aren't a particular attraction. I speak no French, she speaks a little. Suggestions for a tranquil trip?
posted by lakeroon to Travel & Transportation around France (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If you like looking at old buildings, I'd suggest Amiens. Last I was there my SO and I had a challenge to find a view that wasn't gorgeous.
posted by pompomtom at 8:03 PM on March 6, 2019

I did a solo bike thing around the Loire Valley a few years ago and had an incredible time. Breathtaking castles, gorgeous countryside. You will be fine not speaking any French. I stayed in Blois, which was quieter than I would've liked - if I could do things differently, I would have made it to Tours or Orleans. The trains from the Tours area to Paris are about 1h45m. Bon voyage!
posted by wintersonata9 at 8:05 PM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

How about somewhere in Provence, such as Arles? There's plenty of Roman ruins and places where Van Gogh painted.
posted by monotreme at 8:18 PM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in this question I asked recently about peaceful, walkable towns a train ride from Paris: lots of good ideas there I hadn’t thought of!
posted by stellaluna at 9:52 PM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you like sourkraut and sausages in a small town with a lot of history (and canals, islands, and rivers) try Strasbourg. Bonus: you can hop across the Rhine river for a trip to Germany. The EU offices there support a great cafe and people watching culture.
posted by zaelic at 1:31 AM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Aw heck Stellaluna, how’d I miss your past question? That’s exactly what I’m looking for. Thanks to all for these responses.
posted by lakeroon at 3:44 AM on March 7, 2019

Seconding Strasbourg! The cycling infrastructure is top notch and very extensive; the city and its environs are stunning, especially as the weather starts getting warmer around April.
ETA: and at least within Strasbourg language barriers shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
posted by peakes at 5:29 AM on March 7, 2019

This kind of stuff is my jam and I've done part of the Loire à Vélo (Tours to Blois, with a stop at Amboise), Strasbourg and Colmar, Nice, Paris and Nantes and of those preferred Nantes by far, followed by Strasbourg. Nantes is lovely and one of the most bike friendly in the world (beat by Strasbourg, notably), the food is great, there are lots of interesting things to see in the area (Les Machines de l'Île is pretty cool) and you can also do parts of the Loire à Vélo. Nantes is a beautiful, modern city.

Strasbourg is pretty good too, though I would say the food is less good than Nantes (Alsatian food is pretty pork and cabbage heavy and not in a good way). You can bike to some of the local wine producing towns in Alsace and there is a lovely route both to the German border over pedestrian and bike bridge (passerelle des deux Rives) to a park on the German side of the border and (safe, separated) bike lanes are essentially ubiquitous and easy to use. The architecture in this area is cooler than in Nantes, which is more modern, and the towns around Strasbourg are cute and many of them have a wine route bike touring route that is either on small farm roads or off road set up between them - for instance you can bike from Strasbourg to Colmar along a nice little canal and you can bike in kind of a loop around Kaiserberg-Ribeauvillé (which are beautiful in their own right and not just for wine region-related reasons) and the like near Colmar. Non-bike transportation within the city is also excellent.

I recommend NOT Colmar, however, as although it is beautiful, it is essentially just a tourist town where nothing is open other than on tourist hours. We stayed five nights there and did the aforementioned bike tour, which was great and easiest from Colmar, but were bored out of our minds in the town of Colmar itself.
posted by urbanlenny at 11:31 AM on March 7, 2019

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