Posted by: Jennifer Sage | August 26, 2008

Les jours de chien d’été

I’m sure “Dog days of summer” is idiomatic and translates more to the days of the dog summer in French… but whether they call it dog days or not, I’m sure it’s plenty hot in southern France.  And I wish I was there soaking it up!

In the heat of August, those who are in France and Italy with their bicycles most likely have to get an early start to avoid the heat of the day. Usually I don’t recommend my clients take a cycling vacation during the month of August, but sometimes it’s all the time you have. If you are thinking about a cycling trip next year and only have August, here’s what I recommend.

To avoid the oppressive heat of Provence, Dordogne, Loire, or most of Italy, select Burgundy, the Alpes or Pyrenees, Alsace or the coastal regions of Brittany. In Italy you’ll want to stay in the mountains to the north. Switzerland is also a good option. These are all excellent cycling destinations. You may still encounter crowds through. 

On hot days, try breaking up your rides into two, avoiding the middle of the day.  Early mornings are wonderful on a bike, and riding through tiny medieval villages as they wake up is a special experience. Then go back to your hotel or villa and hang out by the pool, or visit the local villages, wineries or museums, and have a long lazy lunch in an outdoor café under cool shade trees and people watch.  Then go out again on your bike in the afternoon.  In Europe, it doesn’t get dark until later in summer. I’ve found a great time to ride is 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.

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Responses

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    I’m a huge cycling enthusiast myself and live in the Lot-et-Garonne, France’s best kept little secret. It’s just below the Dordogne.

    To be honest, the temperatures in Summer are easy tolerable. But that could just be because I have aclimatised.

    If you’re in the area during summer and it’s hot then I recommend the route(s) along the Canal-du-Midi. It’s about 140km long but best split over several days. I thoroughly recommend it for a relaxing ride with lots to see along the way.

  2. Hi Gerry,
    what town are you in? I have ridden in the Lot, and it’s very beautiful. Maybe you could share with us your favorite ride down there. At the moment, I have someone doing some route research for me around Carcassonne and up towards Castres – some of the routes go along the Canal du Midi there. Absolutely incredible riding! Endless uncrowded roads, lots of medieval villages, panoramas and scenery to die for.

    Most of the inquiries I get are for bike tours are for Provence and Tuscany – and August is oppressively hot there (usually – you can find some respite occasionally). We’ve got to get people to realize there’s other beautiful and less touristy, less crowded areas of France and Italy!

    I used to live in Burgundy, and in August it got quite hot there too, and we’d ride early mornings (when I wasn’t on tour) and it was a joy to get out early like that. I once lead a bike tour in the Dordogne in August when it was 38-40 degrees C (104 degrees F)! I had someone get heat exhaustion on that trip. Nevertheless, as you say, the temps can be tolerable – I probably just hit it during a heat wave. And maybe I just have a narrow range of acceptable temps that I tolerate myself – where I live it’s considered hot when it reaches 80 degrees F (26 C)!

    Happy Riding!

  3. Hi again Jennifer,

    I spent quite a bit of time this evening have a nose around your blog. Reallt good stuff.

    You need to get in touch with a friend of mine called Patrick Hayes at patrickhayes@hotmail.com.

    Patrick has just bought a chateau somewhere along the Canal-du-Midi. It backs onto the track. His plan is to turn it into a hotel/Chambre d’Hote for cyclists only. He’s a fanatic and has covered quite a bit of the country.

    Tell him that Gerry (the Irish guy in Eymet) says Hi!

    All the best


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