The Beautiful Spots Along This Year’s Tour de France Route
The Tour de France is one of the world’s most famous sporting events, and certainly the most well-known cycling competition on Earth. For many who travel to the event or watch from abroad, however, it’s more than just a grueling, three-week contest. It’s also an opportunity to see a sort of roving tour of one of the most beautiful countries in Europe.
The route is different every year, which actually makes the tour something of a dynamic brochure, showcasing different areas with each new year. A preview of the 2018 race, which took place throughout July, noted that there were three summit finishes and seven days in the Alps and Pyrenees, meaning the race really took cyclists and spectators through some of the most striking regions of the country. But there were also lower routes and stages at which the cyclists passed by other scenic landscapes and charming towns. There was, as usual, a little bit of everything.
You can see the map at the Tour de France website if you’d care to take a closer look at each individual stage of the race, but we’ll point out a few of the highlights of this year’s tour.
Les Sables d’Olonne Beaches
Les Sables d’Olonne is actually a mid-size town on France’s Atlantic Coast that the 2018 tour sped past. And while it sometimes escapes mention, with travelers typically favoring the Mediterranean beaches and towns on France’s opposite coast, it’s a lovely place to explore the outdoors. Walking along the various promenades as well as the nearby beaches makes for a lovely afternoon.
Photos left to right: Les Sables d’Olonne: photo by Les Sables d’Olonne promenade: photo by lephotographelibre.wordpress.com
Canal de Brest a Nantes
More simply known as the Nantes-Brest Canal, this is an early 1800s canal that was built through the region of Brittany to connect Nantes and Brest, both of which are seaside towns. The Nantes to Brest route heads east about 200km and offers paths along the canal which make it perfect for extended hikes or bike rides. The canal passes interesting towns such as Redon, Malestroit, Pontivy, and Josselin as well as marshes and the lush Aulne valley where you can witness wildlife such as otters and coypu.
Naturally the tour passes through Paris, and while the capital city may not seem like the most natural inclusion on a list like this, it’s actually a perfect opportunity to delve into the nature around Paris a bit. Many people may not realize that there are actually some excellent places to experience nature in close proximity to Paris, meaning you can easily visit the city and enjoy a few miniature hiking adventures while you’re at it. Great hikes include Franchard’s Gorges Trail as well as Dame Jouanne’s Massif. A bit further out from the city you also have Le Perche Natural Regional Park. If you would care for a nice gentle stroll, you must check out the famous Fontainebleau gardens and forest.
PNR Scarpe-Escaut (the “PNR” standing for Parc Naturel Régional, for those who aren’t familiar) is a lush, beautiful park area in northern France, along the Belgian border. Enjoy gorgeous hiking paths through grasslands and marshes that are home to numerous bird species, especially during the migration season. You can spot several species of warblers, grebes, egrets, and the rare Eurasian bittern. It’s about as nice a place as there is in France for a hiking expedition.
PNR Scarpe-Escaut: photos by Pierre Andre Leclercq
PNR Pyrenees Ariégeoises
The Tour de France always ventures into the Pyrenees for its more challenging stages. This may be one of the most grueling parts of the event for cyclists, but it is rather pleasant for the visiting tourist. The area is a hiker’s paradise, packed with hundreds of miles of paths and trails suitable for all types of fitness levels. Visit nature reserves such as Mont Valier and Orlu as you search for brown bears, bearded vultures, and rare orchids.