Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
A73-869175 - © - Matz Sjˆberg
France, Yvelines (78), Rambouillet, le château (vue aérienne)
Mont Saint Michel
Sarthe river in Alenson France
Cathedral Our Lady of Chartres, France
Palace of Versailles
X3H-2066777 - © - Christian Goupi
From Notre-Dame to the foot of Archange St-Michel
The Véloscénic is the cycling route from Paris to Mont-Saint-Michel. It’s aptly named, as it offers a visual feast throughout the 9 stages of the course. It all begins on the Parvis de Notre-Dame. As you progress, you will be amazed by the chateaux of Versailles, Breteuil, Rambouillet, Maintenon, or Carrouge, as well as the unforgettable Cathedrals in Chartres and Alençon and the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel: pure wonders. Your nine-day cycle route will follow miles of quiet voies vertes (greenways), the first of which, the coulée verte, runs from Montparnasse in Paris, where beautiful surprises await on minor, deserted roads.
Ref : 796
The Veloscenic departure point in the Parvis de Notre Dame is also Point Zero for the roads of France. The signs are well placed: via Quai St-Michel and rue de Rennes you reach Montparnasse and the Place de la Catalogne. From here, the coulée verte leads you to Massy before greenways and cycle paths, and barely any roads, lead you safely to Versailles. You can stay here for the whole day to visit the Ville Royale, the Chateau, its Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), and the gardens designed by Le Nôtre.
The journey away from Versailles is mostly via greenways. You avoid car traffic, but not the coastline as some raidards await as far as the Chevreuse Valley, dominated by the imposing Chateau de la Madeleine. On the plateau, stop off to visit the Chateau de Breteuil (where original furniture survived the Revolution) and the pretty Jardins à la Française. After a few miles in the forest, you will arrive in Rambouillet where you will find an exceptional chateau and gardens.
The Grand Canal, facing the Château de Rambouillet, is your route away from the city. In the grounds, you can walk through the Jardin Anglais and its two small and very refined “fabriques”, the Laiterie de la Reine and the Chaumière aux Coquillages. A small road will take you to the Drouette, a charming little river that runs to Maintenon: be sure to visit the beautiful chateau. By now, you will be ready to reach Chartres: the cathedral can be seen from a distance and its gothic portal and windows are a delight.
The majority of this stage runs along the minor roads of Beauce, and then Perche. In Illiers-Combray, you can enjoy finding the many traces of its native son, Marcel Proust. In Frazé, a charming town hall offers a wonderful view of the 15th century chateau and the church, notable for its four gabled chapels. In Thiron-Gardais you can discover the Benedictine abbey, now the Royal and Military College, and its pretty themed gardens.
Today, the road winds through the hills and valleys of Perche. Nogent-le-Rotrou is dominated by the imposing Château St-Jean where you can find a lovely view of the city with its numerous Gothic and Renaissance buildings. From Condé-sur-Huisne you can take a 70km greenway to Alençon (tomorrow’s itinerary). After St-Maurice-sur-Huisne, you can admire the 14th century Manoir de la Vove, practically a fortress! Next is the medieval Mortagne-au-Perche, situated high on a hill and particularly famous for… its boudin noir (black pudding).
There is no traffic to contend with today as the greenway takes you to Alençon. In Mêle-sur-Sarthe, there’s a chance to swim in the leisure centre: make the most of it if it’s hot as this is a shorter stage and there are no more anticipated stops before Alençon. There, you can enjoy the rich heritage of the old centre, spared by the 1944 bombings, and the Notre-Dame Basilica, including its porch, a beautiful lace of stone in this needle-point lace region.
This route out of Alençon runs through minor roads. The views are frequently pretty, but at the cost of a few hills. The highlight of the day is Chateau de Carrouge, where you can stretch your legs: the visit begins with an elegant châtelet exterior and continues with the impressive castle surrounded by moats. You can then cross the Andaines Forest to arrive in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne. The site, particularly the Belle-Epoque district, is charming.
MytripTailor Tip: take advantage of all Bagnoles-de-l’Orne has to offer in terms of hydrotherapy and book the local specialty, a “multi-sensory massage with moisturizing extracts of cider apples”: your calves will appreciate the gesture!
As you leave Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, you will find the Andaines Forest followed by a landscape of groves and apple trees until Domfront. The natural site is remarkable, as is the old town and its timber-framed houses. Shortly after Notre-Dame-sur-l’Eau is a beautiful 11th century Romanesque church at the exit of Domfront and a greenway directs you towards Mortain. A small detour (2 x 4km) is required but fully justified as the location and its waterfalls are mesmerizing. The greenway will then take you directly to St-Hilaire-du Harcouët.
This last stage takes the greenway crossing Ducey before continuing on to the mouth of the Sélune. Via quiet roads you will see the herbus, a particular type of vegetation so tasty for salt-meadow sheep. Mont-St-Michel will begin to surface on the horizon! Particularly at Pointe de Roche Torin, at the top of the German Mausoleum in Mont d’Huisnes ,where you’ll find superb views. In Beauvoir, the Couesnon leads you directly to Mont-St-Michel.
MyTripTailor Tip: park your bike (car parks at the entrance of the access gateway), take a slow and relaxed walk to the Mount as you have all of the next day to visit it. Enjoy your evening and the sunset on the bay from the church square: divine!
(Access to Mont-St-Michel is prohibited for bicycles from May 1 to September 30 between 10am and 6pm, it is free the rest of the time, but parking bikes is prohibited at the foot of the Mount)
Mont-Saint-Michel is a spectacle and even more unforgettable when you visit by bike! The beauty of the site and its architecture will amaze you with every step. You will never forget the lively Grande Rue lined with old houses, the ramparts, which offer beautiful views of the bay and the Abbey where you will be amazed by the Merveille (Mont Saint Michel Abbey), a beautiful Gothic ensemble made up of the Church, Cloister, Refectory and adjoining rooms. The gardens and terrace are dominated by the statue of Archangel St-Michel in gilded copper.
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