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Cycling to Paris...and Back

Description of the cycle guide and route to Paris
The idea of creating a cycle route to Paris arose some 15 years ago. Paris is a great destination, partly because you can buy so many books, travel guides and maps that describe every detail of it, but also because you’ll find all sorts of music, fantastic food, etc., and of course, simply because it’s Paris, a city that deserves to be visited at least once every five years or so. Since then we’ve given a lot of people, a lot of pleasure with this route. It’s a really wonderful experience to be able cycle to a fantastic destination in just a few days. Paris is beautiful, but from there you can also cycle further afield in France, or even Lisbon, which is where we want extend the route in future. The route gives you a really excellent traffic-free route into Paris. And with just a little patience, a similar, cycle-friendly route from Paris and heading south will also soon be ready. Paris is big - very big!


Climate and seasons
Of course the climate in Paris is not so different from what we experience further north. The summers are approximately four degrees Celsius warmer and the sun probably shines a little longer. On the other hand, in the Ardennes and specifically the section between Hamoir and Ciney, it’s actually a couple of degrees cooler than what we have further north. In principle you can cycle the route from May to October. In May the nights tend to be quite chilly, but up until mid October the weather can be pretty mild, with beautiful colours in the forests in the autumn. The disadvantage of October is that the hunting season has already started, and you must be aware of the hunters (warning signs are erected) especially around St Gobain and the Compiegne forests around Pierrefonds. Of course you can also completely avoid the more hazardous parts. I have cycled through the area myself at that time of year - singing at the top of my voice. I’ve also cycled the route with a friend at the end of October, warmly wrapped up of course, but it was still really enjoyable.

In our part of north-west Europe we are pretty familiar with the prevailing winds coming from the south-west. The wind isn’t always strong, but cycling all the way to Paris and then returning homewards with a tailwind is maybe not such a bad idea. This is why the route is now written in both directions. It also offers the possibility of going via Maastricht and then returning via Brussels.

The pictures give a good impression of the route, some of which are Dutch photographer, Erik van de Boom’s photos taken in November during a trip.


So what kind of bike do I need, and how fit should I be?
In the introduction to the cycle route to Rome I had rather optimistically suggested that you could cycle it on a bike with just three gears. In my enthusiasm (probably more like tenacity) at that time, this appeared to me to be quite feasible. In the retrospect it has emerged that some people found it not so feasible - specifically through the Hoge Venen in Belgium. Therefore I’d now like to give the assurance that as far as this guidebook to Paris is concerned, the route is over 99% of the distance extremely easy.

From Maastricht you are faced with two very gradual inclines. On the section after Dinant there are another two climbs between Mariembourg and the French border, which anybody can do. In France you have to do a few short sections of a couple of hundred metres that are a little steeper. But they are well worth the effort. Once you reach the top and look around, the more difficult moments on the hill fade into the past. The best bikes to use on cycling holidays are touring bikes, sometimes called hybrids. It goes without saying that e-bikes will get you there too. But without a half decent (hybrid) bike your trip will not be so enjoyable.


Route summary
At Eindhoven, Leuven (Louvain in French) and Maastricht this route seamlessly joins on to the cycle routes given in ‘Part 0: The Roads to the South’. The guidebook contains 36 detailed maps and a few city maps. The altitude contours and relief rendering on the maps makes it easy to work out your own cycle stages.

All the route signs are included on the map pages. In addition there is also a very comprehensive description of the hotels, camp sites and B&Bs on the route. The route is also given the other way around and a GPS track is available. More than 200 kilometres of the cycle route consist of traffic-free cycle paths, such as the Hoegaarden to Mariembourg section on RAVeL2 (RAVeL or ‘Réseau Autonome de Voies Lentes’ are slow roads dedicated to cyclists, hikers, skaters, horse-riding, etc., in Belgium), and also from Aubel to the outskirts of Liege, and through the valley of the Ourthe to Hamoir.

The route also uses traffic-free roads and cycle paths in France, including through the Forest of Compiègne. Finally, you cycle on a dedicated, traffic-free cycle path starting on the eastern edge of the Parisian metropolis that takes you right into centre and the Bastille. Paris is actually not that far... and the roads that take you there are really beautiful. This cycle guidebook takes you over the nicest cycling roads wending their way through changing scenery and with as little road traffic as possible, ending right in the heart of Paris. The distance from Eindhoven to Paris is about 500 kilometres. From Maastricht to Paris is around 490 kilometres.


Map



General information
Edition/Year: 5th edition, 2015
Language: Dutch, route directions can be provided English
Distance: 490 km from Maastricht and 500 km from Eindhoven
Detailed Maps: 30, scale 1:100,000
City Maps: 8, scale varies
Traffic-free kilometres: 150 km
Difficulty rating: Easy

GPS available: Download GPS-tracks


Map samples
Sample pages with detailed maps and height profiles.



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