Last month Kevin and I had the opportunity to spend a week biking around the south of France with Discover France, an award-winning tour operator specializing in self-guided bicycle tours to France for over 20 years. From June 22-26 we biked around the Midi-Pyrénées, where some of the most beautiful villages in all of France are located.
I had never taken a “self-guided” trip like this before — normally Kevin and I plan out every single detail of our trips ourselves. We normally prefer it that way so we can do exactly what we want, whenever we want, without having to worry about staying with a group, etc.
This experience was a GREAT new (to us) way to travel — not to mention a huge stress relief and time saver on our part!
With a self-guided tour with Discover France, you can choose your own dates of travel — you don’t have to wait until they offer a certain trip. You can go whenever you want! You can also travel with whoever you want — just by yourselves, with friends, etc. You don’t have to go with a group of strangers. Discover France has tons of amazing premade routes you can choose from, but they are also all fully customizable according to your interests. Just tell them what you want and they will make it happen! They take care of arranging all your accommodations and offer a number of hotel options to fit any budget. They’ll even transfer your luggage for you from place to place! You don’t have to worry about a thing. Plus if you ever need help, there is always a Discover France representative on call 24/7 for you.
Traveling with Discover France is like having your own personal travel agent / butler / ninja who handles every aspect of your trip, customizing everything to your personal preferences, while working quietly in the background — all you have to do is show up and enjoy! We loved it and I would definitely do another self-guided trip in the future.
Now you may be thinking, Oh my gosh, I am SO not in shape enough to bike around my driveway, let alone France! Especially when I tell you that on average we biked about 25 miles a day!
But let me assure you, yes, you TOTALLY can. The secret? Discover France’s e-bikes! They’re electronic bikes! Now, they’re not like motorcycles or mopeds. If you don’t pedal, they won’t move. BUT, they make pedaling SO much easier. You can be going up a hill that goes STRAIGHT up — a hill that would be hard to even walk up — and it will feel like you’re just pedaling with ease on a completely flat street. When we got to steep hills, I MUCH preferred biking up them rather than walking. Biking was so much easier!! I didn’t even break a sweat or get remotely tired. It was just like I was spinning the pedals with no resistance at all. But I was flying past people who were struggling to walk up the hill, and they were looking at me incredulously like I must be in AWESOME shape. Hahahaha!
Honestly anyone of any skill or fitness level could have an amazing time biking through France on these e-bikes. They were actually easier than walking. We were able to cover so much more ground than walking, and at the end of the day, our feet or legs weren’t sore or tired at all. They also offer gel-cushioned seats so your booty doesn’t get sore either. I seriously want one of these bikes for all our traveling from now on!
But now let me assure you, if you want a little exercise (to justify all the cream, cheese, and butter) the e-bikes are totally adjustable. You can turn them off altogether and it would be just like riding a regular 9-speed bike. There are also 4 different settings for the e-bike. You can get just a little help in Eco mode (level 1) or you can get a LOT of help (for those super steep inclines) in Turbo mode (level 4). It’s totally up to you! And of course if you’re a super awesome fit advanced biker, they have regular bikes too. ;)
The pace of riding a bike was the perfect way to experience the small villages and French countryside. We were able to cover so much ground. And since it was self-guided, we could stop as much as we wanted, whenever we wanted for breaks and photos. We didn’t have to worry about disrupting a group.
Discover France planned out an amazing itinerary for us. The bikes came with GPS devices with our maps pre-loaded, so all we had to do is get up and follow the new route for the day. Discover France transferred our luggage to the next hotel, so all we had to do was enjoy.
One of the first villages we visited was Saint Antonin. We stopped at the first pastry shop we came to, Pâtissiere Tabarly, and picked up this strawberry tart with creme anglaise. We were dying over it. It was honestly one of the best things I have ever had. We were fighting over the last bite!
One of my favorite things about all the little villages we stopped in is that usually we were the only other tourists there. It was like we had the entire village to ourselves to enjoy.
And when we were riding through the countryside, we were treated to views like this.
On our first day, we stopped for a picnic lunch at the Beaulieu Abbey in Rouergue.
Discover France had set up a beautiful array for us. (Yes, that is chicken wings you see on the middle plate there, lol!)
We ate under the cool shade of a large tree.
Such a beautiful view for lunch!
I could not get over this ivy-covered abbey.
After lunch, we rode on. Everywhere we turned there were fields, castles, and beautiful churches.
We saw cows, countryside, and quiet, gorgeous villages.
So much beauty!
We stopped for the night in Najac and explored this charming village perched high on a cliff above the Aveyron gorges.
We followed the GPS straight to our hotel, where our luggage was waiting for us.
This red flag with a yellow Occitan cross is the official flag of the Midi-Pyrénées region.
The next morning, we would get up and explore this royal fortress.
But that would have to wait one more day. For now, after a long day of riding, we feasted on aligot, a local specialty, specific to the Aveyron and Midi-Pyrénées region of France. And oh my gosh, if you are ever in this region of France, you HAVE to order the aligot! :) It’s normally a winter dish, so they didn’t have it on the menu, but we were assured that every restaurant in this region would have it, so we asked and they made it especially for us. We were warned that it was a “heavy” dish, but we were up for the challenge. Aligot is mashed potatoes blended with butter, cream, crushed garlic, and melted cheese, and develops a unique, smooth, elastic texture. It’s almost fondue-like. It’s like nothing I’ve ever had before. I’m still dreaming about this aligot!
Click here to read part 2 of our biking adventure through France. :) Have a great weekend!! xoxo