Panorama of the inner city of Lyon, taken from the basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière's roof.
As you probably know by now, I am a huge fan of Le Tour de France, and have covered the fourth stage and the eighth stage of the race in previous blog posts. In case you're not up-to-date, however, allow me to fill you in briefly. I am a keen cycler, and enjoy nothing more than grabbing my bike and driving over to France in search of unexplored cycling spots, taking advantage of Eurotunnel Le Shuttle's super-fast 35-minute journey time to get me there. In my third instalment on the Tour de France, I am going to be checking out the 185.5km route between Bourg-en-Bresse and Saint-Étienne, which will make up the 12th leg of the race on 17 July 2014.
Bourg-en-Bresse is a picturesque commune, and capital of the Ain department in the Rhône-Alpes region of Eastern France. Nestled at the base of the sub-alpine Jura Mountains, there is some varied cycling to be had in the beautiful surrounding landscape.
The large central square of Place Stanislas in Nancy, France
The town has a series of ‘smart routes' designed to make exploring by bike easy and safe for families, so it's a great place to head with your kids. Make sure you visit the beautiful Royal Monastery of Brou, a 16th-century religious complex with a fascinating history, built with marble and stone and a fine example of the ‘Flamboyant Gothic' style.
Lyon and the Rhône-Alpes Countryside
The 12th stage of the Tour de France follows a charming course through the Rhône-Alpes countryside with a couple of must-see destinations en route, particularly the city of Lyon. The foodies amongst you will rejoice at the chance to visit the ‘gastronomic capital' of France, so hailed for good reason; you would be hard pushed to find a bad meal in any of the numerous restaurants here. After a little over-indulgence at the dinner table, take a stroll up the steep hill in the Fourvière district to admire the view of the city beneath you, before exploring some of the monuments at this UNESCO World Heritage site. The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and the Roman amphitheatre should be top of your list of attractions.
Looking over the city from Fourvière hill, Lyon
Whilst you're in the area, you will also have the opportunity to sample some of the delicious local wine, as this stage of the Tour de France winds its way through the world-famous Beaujolais wine region. There is even a festival in honour of the wine held on the third Thursday in November, Beaujolais Nouveau Day, when the first bottles of wine from the season are happily enjoyed!
Saint-Étienne was once the bicycle capital of France – the first French bicycle was actually made here – and it often plays host to one of the stages of the Tour. The passion for cycling still lives on in this city, with the bicycle wheel manufacturer and official Tour de France sponsor Mavic still based here, along with frame manufacturer Vitus.
Some of the old bicycles on display at the Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, Saint-Étienne
Saint-Étienne's cycling history is also commemorated through an exhibition of weird and wonderful bicycles in the fascinating Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, which is well worth a visit when you're in town. And even if you've left your own bike at home, you can still enjoy a cycling tour of the city by hiring one of the self-service VéliVert public bikes found in various locations around the city.
Following Le Tour de France
With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle's quick and convenient service from Folkestone to Calais, exploring France and keeping up with Le Tour de France is a breeze. With services running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and a journey time of just 35 minutes, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is the fastest route across the Channel. All that remains is for you to load up the bike rack, head off into the French countryside, and hit those cycling trails!