The Beaujolais

After I was accepted into the Club des 100 Cols (100 Passes Club), I wanted to add as many cols (passes) as possible to my list.

My friend, Charly, recommended cycletouring in the Beaujolais, since it is a part of France that has a lot of cols in a small area.

Though best known for wine, the region also is good for bicycling, hiking, horseback riding, automobile touring.

A couple of web sites that describes this region are:
Into Wine, Exploring Beaujolais
Beaujolais Wines and Tourism

I spent four nights in the Beaujolais. I rode three days and "did" 21 cols.

I took my bike with saddlebags on the train from Paris to Villefranche-sur-Saône, a short afternoon trip. I stayed at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, which is a bar-hotel listed in the FFCT (French Cycletouring Federation) book of "good addresses". However, I do not recommend it. When your room is above a bar, it is not quiet. The bar-hotelkeeper let me leave the bike "housse" at the hotel, which freed me from carrying the extra weight and bulk on the bike.

The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel's bar (no other choice), I started my three-day tour. I did not ride directly from town to town, but took lots of side roads in order to climb the passes.

At the beginning of the first day, I climbed from the river valley to the top of the "hills". Then I stayed more or less along the crest for the rest of the trip.

At one point that day, I stopped at a crossroads where it was not obvious which road to take. While I was studying my map, a group of mountain bicyclists came down a dirt trail to the crossroads. They stopped and talked with me, and suggested which road I should take. We talked about bicycling, travel, and living in France. When I said that I did not like living in the Paris area, they said that "Paris is not France."

Throughout the trip, I criss-crossed the scenic "Route des Sapins" ("Fir Tree Route"), a route along the ridge of the mountain, through an unusual countryside where the fir tree is king. The area is rich in conifer forests, and at times, I saw woodcutters at work. The French do not clear-cut their forests. Instead, they select the trees to be cut, and leave the rest. Thanks to this technique, their forests produce good wood and last for hundreds of years.

Though it was mid-August, the height of French vacation season, the hotels were empty, and I saw almost no one during the whole trip.

At the end of the first day, I stayed at the Hôtel des Nations at the Col des Echarmeaux. There was one other guest. The hotel keepers are from Alsace. The man, who was the chef, made a salad that was as impressive in size as in fresh ingredients. The omelet was equally as beautiful and large.

The next day, this chef helped me pump enough air into my front tire so that I could continue my trip. The tire had developed a slow leak. I had to stop along the way that day, and ask for help again to get enough air into the tire to go on to Thizy, the town where I would spend the next night. That does not say much for my pump or for the condition of the tube. After I reached Thizy and checked into the hotel L'Ecrevisse, I found a shop where I could buy a new tube. In France, you have to look for bicycle parts in motorcycle shops. The new tube solved my problems. There was only one other guest at the hotel at Thizy, too.

The third day, I rode from Thizy to Villefranche, arriving in the afternoon. I took the train to Paris the next morning.

This trip was short and delightful, with lots of cols, little traffic, few people, mostly nice hotels. And yes, you can find calm, scenic places in France in August.

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Barbara Leonard