Travellers' Tales: 900 miles across France

A older man wearing cycling clothes holds a road bicycle above his head in triumph along a coastal road. Behind him, a road sign with the EU flag on it surrounds the word 'Espana'.
Brian’s finish near Cerbère
In September 2019, Bryan Hopkins cycled end-to-end covering 900 miles across France, from Brittany to the border with Spain on the Mediterranean

My route was from Pointe St Mathieu in Brittany to Cerbère, the last French town on the Mediterranean coast. My wife Helen drove our campervan following my route, which meant that I didn’t have to carry the usual touring paraphernalia and could take routes that would be difficult on a heavily laden bicycle.

Working on an average of about 60 miles a day, it took 15 days. Doing the journey in September meant that we followed the sun as the northern European autumn advanced.

I crossed Brittany, then the Loire, and headed south along the Atlantic coast, following Eurovelo 1 as far as Royan. After that I headed inland along the Dordogne Valley, then turned south to cross the edge of the Massif Central before dropping down to the Mediterranean near Narbonne. I then followed Eurovelo 8 along the coast to my final destination at Cerbère.

An older man stands by the beach holding his road bicycle next to him. He is wearing cycling shorts and a short-sleeve jersey

The few days I spent crossing the Along the Atlantic coast I saw plenty of bikepackers but I didn’t see any after heading inland. The few days I spent crossing the Massif Central were tough but magical: forested landscapes criss-crossed by deep gorges, with hair-raising descents and long, long climbs.

Crossing a country on a bicycle is a special experience. You feel the landscape alter. The air on your skin changes when you arrive at the coast. Your leg muscles tighten as you move from flat, coastal cycling to hilly terrain. Your mental state changes from exhilaration when descending quickly to meditation as you slowly climb.

It was an unforgettable experience. I used the ride to raise money for World Bicycle Relief, a charity that promotes bicycle use in low-income countries. You can donate, if you wish..