Travellers’ Tales: sea to sea

Juliet cycle-camped across France in 12 days
Instead of flying to her friend’s house in Marseille, Juliet Molteno cycled there from Zeebrugge

"Let’s keep going!” This is what I had said to my partner on short cycle trips in northern France and Belgium in the past. So, as a 50th birthday present to myself, I decided to do just that: cycle across the whole of France and end up at our friend’s house in Marseille. I had two weeks. My partner couldn’t get the holiday, so I went alone.

I looked down at my legs and bike and thought: “It’s just you and me now: Marseille or bust!

Juliet Molteno

After three months’ planning with maps all over the living room floor, it was time to cycle from Beverley to the ferry at Hull. Cycling down the ramp at Zeebrugge, I looked down at my legs and bike and thought: “It’s just you and me now: Marseille or bust!”

Temperatures were in the low 30s the entire way down, which was pretty tough in the north but got easier as the climate dried out the further south I rode.

Campsites were invariably delightful, as is usual in France. I followed canals and rivers for much of the way on traffic-free velo-routes (only some of which were paved). Climbing was mainly steady. It included all the locks on the Saône-Marne canal to beautiful Langres and the watershed. I then rode down the Saône to the Rhone.

The ViaRhôna velo-route was a very different experience from everywhere else I cycled in France. Suddenly there were cyclists everywhere, many of whom looked like me: heavily laden and trundling. The campsite at Condrieu is reserved for cyclists and walkers, so it was absolute heaven. No car doors slamming or worries that people playing music might not turn it off.

When I arrived at our friend’s house, I said to him: “There! You see: we don’t live so far away after all. Just 12 days pedalling and here I am!”