Following the invitation, via the website, to twin with the southern French town of Villeneuve-lès- Béziers, Phil Parker kindly sent this account of his cycle journey to Montpellier, taking in Villeneuve. The Cycle Route to Montpellier Autumn 2009 The following photographs try to encapsulate the essence and simplicity of cycling through France. This followed a similar trip made by Roger Owen and myself to San Sebastian in 2007 which provided an overwhelming case for a repeat predicated on the following: the overwhelming sense of freedom that the bike and its routes provide, the general ease of cycling along these routes as they do not pass through hilly regions; the simple, cheap but wonderful food and wine in the rural areas available as Plat du Jour, and the autumn climate which during the 2 three week tours we experienced a few spots of rain on one day in 2007 and light drizzle for one morning in 2009, with temperatures typically mid 20s. In the evening in Bordeaux on 6 October 2009 the Pharmacie displayed 32°c …. at 18.45! There was nothing not to wholeheartedly enjoy. And for those concerned about the distance, imagine an easy hours pedalling which would comfortably cover some 8 – 10 miles. Do that for 3 ½ hours in the morning and 2 hours after a rejuvenating and relaxing 2 hour French lunch and an easy 50 miles can be comfortably covered in a 9am – 5pm day. Some 15 days will find you in Montpellier and only 12 days would find you in Spain.  With a combined age of your two guides in excess of 120 years, and using basic standard bikes you can see that it is within the capability of anybody!  Enjoy the photos and for those who would like to share the research and experience in greater depth to enable successful planning of their own expedition please do not hesitate to have a chat with us. Who knows, we could establish a route to a new twin village near Beziers! Now there is a wonderful opportunity!   . St Malo – Rennes This leg of the journey is covered by a cycleroute which starts as the old railway line from Dinard to Dinan. Dinard is accessible by Ferry (Vedettes) or you can cycle across the EDF Rance barrage. Immediately before Dinan at Taden the route follows the West bank of the River Rance. At Dinan it is necessary to change banks crossing under the spectacular viaduct From Dinan all the way through to centre of Rennes is a cycleroute that follows the Canal d’Ille-et-Rance. Rennes -  Nantes From the centre of Rennes the cycleroute continues alongside the river Vilaine. It would be possible to continue all the way to Nantes alongside the river to Redon and then pick up the Brest- Nantes canal but this is much further and would miss the wonderful Brittany Countryside and charming villages, and the Foret du Gavre. These rural roads are extremely quiet and traffic is negligible. Entering Nantes by the D965 from Sautron is the easiest route into a major busy city. Also from this direction there is anextensive segregated cycle route connecting to the heart of the City.   It is worth spending a day in Nantes and you can take advantage of the available launderettes! The tram system takes you quickly to all parts of the city for a cheap 24 hour ticket that can be used anywhere. Trams are generally about every 3 minutes. And one stop would have to be to see the mechanical elephant! Nantes to Bordeaux You can follow the bank of the River Nantaise from the centre of the city to Vertou and then cross to the other bank to continue.              Then pass through Muscadet country to Les Herbiers. The Loire countryside continues until you reach the flatter countryside of the Marais at Coulon. Arrive before 18.30 and it is possible to get the last boat hire and experience Venise Vert and the extensive network of narrow waterways. And continuing due South from Coulon along more quiet rural Departmental roads, which around St Jean d’Angely can get hilly. And on to the Roman City of Saintes.                                                                    From Saintes the rural roads continue to the Gironde and then follow the river. The last stretch from Etauliers to Blaye is a disused railway now a cycle route through the vineyards. An irregular ferry (important to check times) from Blaye takes you across the Gironde into the very wealthy Medoc area. One of the oldest cycleroutes in France links Lacarnau on the Atlantic Coast to Bordeaux. You can pick this route up to avoid the busy traffic                                       routes into the City. This takes you almost to the Gironde and to the quieter routes towards the city that eventually link to the riverside cycle routes within the City. Like Nantes it is worth taking a day out for a break and to enjoy the City (and the launderette!). Nantes to Bordeaux is relatively the hardest leg of the journey as it is across undulating countryside particularly around Saintes, and at 225 miles is a 5 day trek. It does not enjoy the benefit of the level canal towpaths and the slack railway gradients that can now be enjoyed for 95% of the rest of the journey to Montpellier! The harder miles at Bordeaux are behind you! Bordeaux – Toulouse The canal that links Bordeaux to the Mediterranean is not available for cycling for the first 80km. Comfortably segregated cycle routes take you out of the City to the Piste Cyclable Roger Lapébie named after a local former Tour de France winner. This former railway line takes you though the woods and Bordeaux vineyards for some 55 km to Sauveterre Créon with its bustling market square provides a very convenient stopping point along the route to recharge and either petit- dejeuner or a mid-morning coffee. A short link through rural lanes leads to the fortified Medieval Town of La Réole with its commanding views over the Garonne and thence to the Canal at Le Fontet.                                                  From the end of the Piste Cyclable to the                                              Canal is only 22km. Thereafter sit back and enjoy the magnificent canal all the way to Agen and its                           aqueduct. Apart from some 2km of gravel near Montech the route continues with a good surface for the next 120km to Toulouse. Apart from the other many wonderful sites in Toulouse which is worth one or two days stay, there is of course their Rugby Team with Nos 9 – 15 all current French internationals. For those that enjoy running rugby it is a gourmet feast to savour!                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Toulouse – Montpellier Click thumbnail to enlarge