Cycling Holidays France - Cycle to Villandry

Press Coverage

Over the years our cycling holidays in France have been been featured in various publications.


Pedalling en Francais with Loire Life Cycling

Ride-On – Oct-Nov 2011

We didn’t know at the time, but guest Julia Blunden writes cycling books and contributes to Australian cycling magazines – so we were thrilled when she wrote about her Loire Valley cycling experiences on our Discovery Cycling Tour!

This article first appeared in Ride-On Magazine ‘Australia’s most widely read bike magazine’ Oct-Nov 2011


Julia Blunden discovers that there is more to France than yellow jerseys and big mountains.

“Readers of Ride On know that France is the home of elite cycling. But what does France have to offer riders of more modest ability? Well, quite a bit actually. Apart from the beauty of the scenery and built environment, and its fabulous food and wine, France has a growing network of traffic-free and lightly trafficked routes for touring riders, drivers who treat bike riders with great courtesy, and a veritable smorgasbord of organised cycle tours.

Touching Base

Another good option for less intrepid riders is a base camp, where you can stay in comfortable accommodation and explore the surrounding area with day trips by bike.

Alison and Jon, like many other English people, have taken advantage of the declining population in this charming part of France to invest in property. They’ve turned the erstwhile farmhouse of Gue de Ray, and its barn, into a cushy base for exploring the Loire Valley, whether by bike or car.

Our five sunny spring days at Gue de Ray, filled with varied and well-planned rides along almost traffic-free roads followed by delicious four-course dinners complete with bottomless carafes of wine, were some of the most enjoyable I have spent anywhere.

Gue de Ray can accommodate up to eight guests but there were only six during our stay. We rode together most of the time, but there’s no compulsion to do so. Bikes were supplied for a small additional charge. Basic puncture repair kits were also supplied, but it was reassuring to know that rescue was at hand in case of serious problems.Jon had planned one or two rides for each of our five days. Each evening he distributed maps and instructions, and ran through the route, pointing out tricky navigational issues and explaining options to shorten or lengthen rides or to visit different attractions.

Our first ride took in forests and lakes and a chateau to the north of Gue de Ray. An early thrill was to see two deer, surprised while feeding in a field, springing across the road ahead of us to the safety of the forest.

Our destination on day two was the weekly market at Bourgeuil. After a turn around the market and lunch at a cafe overlooking it, we headed off to La Cave du Pays de Bourgeuil. Here we visited an underground museum of historic wine-making equipment and enjoyed a wine tasting.

Day three saw us heading southeast down to the Loire for the first time. Chateaux within reach, depending on one’s riding capabilities, included those at Langeais, Villandry, Azay le Rideau and Usse. At day’s end Jon collected us and our bikes and we rode back up to Gue de Ray the easy way, in the people mover.

Our decadent destination on day four was one of several cafes in the area offering a Menu Ouvrier (workman’s lunch). Four courses and drinks are provided for a set price of around €12.

Our last day saw us heading down to the Loire once again, crossing the river at Varennes and heading west to Saumur. The limestone cliffs along the river here are honeycombed with dwellings, and we lunched in a troglodyte cafe with a terrace overlooking the river. After lunch we pedalled through vineyards to reach the chateau sitting high above the river at Saumur. There was time to explore this, the town and its bars, before another rendezvous with Jon and the people and bike mover.”

France Magazine Sept 2012

In September we were listed as one of France Magazine’s top five picks for Cycling Holidays in France.


Cycling Active Mar 2012

We were more than happy to be included in Cycling Active’s 30 French Cycling Holidays for 2012!


My Bike - Welsh Womens Institute Magazine

YWAWR – Welsh Women’s Institute Magazine Mar 2010

Entitled ‘My Bike’ the article’s author, Cath Williams and her husband, were new to cycling and their time with us was their first cycling holiday.  They enjoyed it so much they returned again in 2011!

This article, entitled ‘My Bike’ first appeared in the Welsh Women’s Institute (Merched y Wawr) magazine, ‘Y WARW’.

Originally written in Welsh, a summary translation follows….

“We took up cycling in September 2009,  but then we had early rain, sleet and snow, so didn’t manage to get out much.

After Christmas we found Loire Life Cycling by chance on the Internet and decided to go for it and booked a cycling holiday with them.  During April and May we cycled regularly, aiming to complete twenty 20 mile trips, but with one thing and another the best we could do before setting off for France was 19.2 miles!

We arrived and met our fellow guests, two ladies travelling on their own, Linda from Australia and Jane from California.  We also met our hosts, Alison and Jon.  Chatting over tea we learned why they had decided to settle in France and how the cycling business had begun.

Then, when we started our cycling we spent the first day having a great time getting completely lost!  We made it back and settled into more fantastic food, wine and CHEESE!

Our daily trips took in a few good cake shops which kept us going and on the longer trips we were picked up at the end of the ride and returned to base in a people carrier with the trailers towed behind in a trailer.  Thursday was memorable for the ‘workman’s lunch’ we were treated to and the final day was a wonderful route to Saumur with so much to see on the way.”


Connections Article - Loire Life Cycling Holidays

Connexions July 2010

Way back when we first started, the French based English Language newspaper interviewed us about our new venture.

This article first appeared in Connexion Magazine, July 2010.

 “We came for the weather and the pace of life – but I also love the French lunch!”

Alison Shawcroft and Jon Lethbridge Nationality: British Moved to Parcay-les-Pins

Alison Shawcroft and husband Jon Lethbridge, both 39, originally chose the Pay-de-la-Loire for their holiday home and for six years lived between the UK and France before finally settling in 2006.  Today, their links have grown much deeper and they have particularly enjoyed discovering the history of the region, exploring its chateaux and, of course, learning about the wine.  “We have lots of things around here and Nantes and the beach are only two hours away so that’s handy.  We know all our neigh­bours and they are really friendly. There are many British people here as well, so we know a lot of them.”

They have been coming to France every year on holiday since they met and said: “We wanted to move to France but it was just a question of what we could do to earn money.”  In 2000, they bought a holiday home in Breil, in the Maine-et-Loire department, not far from their current home: “Until we bought our holiday home, we had come every year for about 10 years and we had been to all different parts of France – it was a case of finding somewhere where we could do long weekends initially.”  They chose the Pay de la Loire because it was close enough to the coast to allow regular travel from the UK, where they still lived and worked.

The couple have had the opportunity to meet plenty of new people: “It is great, people come from all parts of the world. There are Australians, Canadians and the British, of course. We came out for the bet­ter weather and the pace of life. But I also love the French lunch now and the way we can take two hours over lunch. It is great.”

After six years of to-and-fro, they decided it was time to settle in the area they had been getting to know and started letting their holiday home as a gite and bought a new house to live in Parcay-les-Pins in 2006.  It did not stop there as they found a barn conver­sion that gave them two other gites. Like many oth­ers who made the move, bureaucracy was the hard­est thing to deal with but setting up the gites was sur­prisingly easy.  Their 18 months of French classes before they moved out paid off: “Luckily we can get  by in French, we are not fluent but we’re pretty good.”  The couple even handled the complicated process of renovating their home with the help of local builders.

Now Alison and Jon are running a cycle holiday firm as well as gites: “It is a bit like in a ski chalet; the cyclists come here and they go off each day on routes that we have planned for them through various chateaux, vineyards and market towns.  We pre-plan routes and we cook for them in the evening. It is lots of fun cycling here because the roads are so empty and it is fairly flat so it makes for an easy, leisurely cycle.”