I’ve written a lot about day tours and how much I enjoy them. Rather than committing to a week long, herded around like lemmings kind of experience, a well done walking or day tour can add a lot of value to a trip. One style of day trip I had never considered was a bike tour through a new town. I’m not sure why I hadn’t considered them, I can after all ride a bike and I don’t crash too often. But still, I had never been on one before my visit to the Atlantic coastal town of La Rochelle, France and now I’m hooked.
I met my bike guide near a rack of bright yellow bikes in the middle of town. As I learned, La Rochelle is very progressive when it comes to green technology and there are many laws in place designed to limit emissions. The bikes are part of that plan, they’re free for the first two hours and anyone can use them. They’re also one of the best ways to get around town.
My guide that day has lived in La Rochelle for more than a decade, although she’s originally from Paris. She loves her newly adopted city though and has even written a series of historical children’s books all set in the ancient coastal town.
The calendar said late May, but the weather had decided that February was preferable. It was shockingly cold and the rain threatened throughout the weekend. I dressed for summer and many a passerby stared at my tropical inspired clothes as they folded their parkas tightly around their body. As soon as the bike tour started though, my corporal concerns fled immediately.
It was just the two of us, so we could do whatever we wanted. Since it was my first visit to the city, I asked her to show me what she felt was most important to see in the city. She smiled and biked off, leaving me to catch up in her wake.
We skirted along the banks of the bay, watching the boats bobbing along in the marina awaiting their owners to return for the summer boating season. With infinite ease and speed we cut through a park and entered the old town itself. This is what I loved most about the bike tour, our ability to see such disparate sections of town easily and without wasting a lot of time. There’s no way a three-hour walking tour would have been able to accomplish this and I couldn’t have been happier.
We biked down medieval alleys to reveal long forgotten courtyards and Templar Knights barracks. We stopped at the weekly farmer’s market to sample the wares and smell the fresh veggies on sale that morning. More than a lot of sights, which we certainly enjoyed, it was about capturing the feeling of the city. On bike I began to understand the ebb and flow of La Rochelle and a deep appreciation began to grow. Instead of my conspicuous tourist self, I could pretend I was a local on a bike, if even for a couple of hours.
The tour concluded just as the rain began to start in earnest, as if Mother Nature had been waiting for my visit to end. The bike tour was one of my favorite experiences in France not just for everything I learned and saw, which was substantial, but for the experience of the tour itself. I think I’ve found a new favorite way to explore new destinations; one that’s healthy and responsible. Even if it’s not the way you normally see a new city, when you’re in La Rochelle there’s no better way to learn more about this fascinating city’s history.
10 thoughts on “My New Favorite Tour Type – Biking Through La Rochelle, France”
La Rochelle is an amazing town, and cycling there is definitely fun and easy. I recommend it on Ile de Ré as well!
Biking is our favorite way to see most cities. You can cover more ground, get to places that are out of the way, and not have to deal with parking or taxi hassles! We’ve biked in so many place from U.S. cities to other countries like France, Laos, Cambodia, and China.
Biking is not only the best way to see a city, but a country as well. I’ve biked across a couple and it allows you to see small towns and villages you wouldn’t see otherwise. Plus, everyone comes out to see what’s going on when they see a bunch of bikes go by all day. It may take more than a week, but you’ll never feel ‘herded’ on a bike tour!
We love exploring places by bike as well, however, we do it more in the countryside rather than in cities. It looks like La Rochelle is a very charming place – definitely goes on our list!
Hi, do you have a link to this bike tour?
Yup, here’s a link!
I was googling tours from La Rochelle and your great blog entry came up. I clicked on the link but it just gave a phone number and I don’t speak French. Do you happen to have the email of your tour guide or business office for that bicycle tour?
Are you the person who wrote about the bicycle tour here? It doesn’t look like you in the picture. If not,do you know how do I contact the writer of that story?
Yes I wrote this and no I’m not featured in the photo. She was my guide for the 2-hour bike tour of the city.
Does anyone know of a great, economical tenting site in or along the coast from La Rochelle? Some place that you can do things from like take tours or get to cafes, etc. without having a car?
Comments are closed.