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For the next few months, I am a full-time Nanny for my youngest grandson and it certainly is a more physical use of my time compared with my usual full-time job as a librarian in an academic library, where I sit in front of a screen for most of the day! I am loving my new temporary role, but am finding it hard to put aside time to create new posts. However, I have been able to take a few moments to re-think my approach to our forthcoming trip to France in 2014.  I have stumbled upon a plethora of pretty and stylish B & B’s throughout France, where bikes are supplied to guests (or can be hired nearby), so that we could explore the countryside at our leisure. It dawned on me that this might be a lovely way to get in a little bit of cycling, rather than doing it through an established company.

Having taken it upon ourselves to organise the cycling aspect of our trip, I would still highly recommend companies like A Walker’s World – the guided and self-guided tours they offer are extensive and well organised- you can see this from my previous posts where I have described the Provence trip we did a few years ago. Their advisors are excellent and I am sure they will be able to suggest, and probably book, beautiful places for us to stay- but where, that is the question?

Jill Grant (from A Walker’s World), has encouraged me to explore further afield than the the South of France, which is my region of choice. At her suggestion, I have recently been exploring attractions and places to stay in the Loire, Burgundy and the Dordogne via the Internet, and the idea of exploring more of France than we initially planned is appealing. La Maison Chaudenay for instance, looks pretty irresistible and comes highly recommended by friends of our travelling companions. So, after discussing this revamp our trip with them, we are hatching a new plan…

But how do you plan such a trip?  When we planned our France/Italy trip last year, we all found The Internet to be an amazing tool for research and planning – there are some incredibly talented writers posting really helpful hints on their blogs (see my blogroll), and combined with recommendations from friends, Trip Advisor, and using well trusted guide books like those written by Rick Steves and Steve Smith, it is possible to plan fantastic trips for yourself.

It also helps to look at brochures like these on A Walker’s World website – they surely whet the appetite and give a good base from which to start planning. Personally, I have found it helpful to immerse myself in books written by those who have done similar trips, or who live in France. My French Life by Vicki Archer is my favourite of those who base themselves in France, but at the moment I am enjoying a lovely read about a bike trip following in the footsteps of Marie Antoinette – The Valley of Heaven and Hell : Cycling in the Shadow of Marie Anointette by Susie Kelly.  It is written with great good humour, and provides well-researched historical background, plus it is full of useful comments about independent cycling in Paris and beyond.

What I have found useful in planning such a trip, is to keep a journal and annotate it with pertinent information as I find it – hints taken from books like Vicki’s and Susie’s, which you won’t find in mainstream guide books. Watch this space to see where our re-vamped trip will take us and maybe come along for the ride….