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peloton in Paris
Post from 03/07/2013

Tour de France ÔÇô a journey through France

The 100th occasion of the worldÔÇÖs largest bike race is underway. Come on a journey with us through the regions which the tour will visit in its anniversary year.

21 stages with a total of 3360 km are on the schedule for this year's anniversary tour. However, we do not want to deal with the favourites for the yellow, green and polka-dot jersey nor with the scandals and controversies surrounding the large cycling spectacle in this blog post. Instead, we are taking the route of this year's tour as the reason for a little journey through the regions that the tour will visit. Decide for yourself whether to spontaneously set off to experience the Tour de France 2013 live on site, or whether you simply want to be inspired for your next holiday in France.


New sporting territory: Kick off in Corsica

The Tour de France began last Saturday with a real tourist highlight; for the first time in the long history of the famous cycling race, Corsica was on the schedule. In fact, the Mediterranean island is the only French region that has never been visited by the competitors for the "maillot jaune" - the yellow jersey of the overall leader. Our tip: Take the exact route that the Tour de France has travelled on the island to discover Corsica itself and its varied landscapes and attractions. Popular holiday resorts like Bonifacio and Moriani-Plage, and the unspoiled nature in the island's national park-protected  interior both formed part of the three stages on Corsica. And last but not least, the four stage locations of Porto-Vecchio, Bastia, Ajaccio and Calvi are always worth a trip. They impress everyone with their beautiful old towns, sandy beaches and real Corsican-Mediterranean lifestyle. A holiday home on Corsica offers you an ideal base to explore the island.


Across southern France and up into the Pyrenees

Subsequently, the Tour de France reached mainland France. A team time trial through the streets of Nice was on the schedule. The capital of the C├┤te d'Azur enchants visitors with the winding streets of its historic quarter and a unique landscape of museums for art lovers. As a visual treat, this stage of the tour also led along the Promenade des Anglais, the beach promenade of Nice.

In the coming days, the route will then extend further into delightful countryside. From the C├┤te d'Azur, it first goes through Provence and then on to Languedoc. One sight or another awaits you along the route, past colourful and fragrant lavender fields, gnarled olive trees and fruit plantations that gleam in the sun. One highlight is the journey through Grasse. The medieval town is also known as the "capital of the perfume industry" and was immortalised by Patrick S├╝skind, among others, in his historical novel "Perfume".

After reaching milestone stages in the southern French cities of Marseille and Montpellier, the tour then proceeds further inland. The riders will then, at the latest, note that the Pyrenees and thus the first difficult challenge are getting closer.


At the eighth stage and for the first time following the first week, it actually becomes very steep. After crossing the 2000-metre high Col de Panheres, which offers an impressive panoramic view over the surrounding valleys and peaks, there is a mountain top finish to be tackled in the winter sport resort of Ax-3 Domaines. Unfortunately, the riders are unlikely to have much opportunity to enjoy the scenic beauty on offer here. But you, on the other hand, should do. In contrast to other regions that are popular with tourists, the Pyrenees are an insidersÔÇś tip for both summer and winter holidays. The spa town of Ax-les-Thermes, with its medieval historic quarter and the traditional thermal baths, also lies just a few metres below the milestone stage on the mountain.


At the Atlantic and back to the south

Following another Pyrenean stage of the tour, during which four mountains will be scaled this time, there is then a well-deserved day of rest in Saint-Nazaire - the small resort town at the mouth of the Loire River near the Atlantic Ocean. A day later, the tour entourage then moves on along the border of Pays de la Loire and Brittany through classic cycling country, where you can also take a ride during a holiday. The milestone stage is in the old port city of Saint-Malo, where the finish will take place against the backdrop of the magnificent medieval city walls. One can only hope that the riders donÔÇÖt miss the beautiful beach, and the citadel that dates from the 15th century and towers over the city.

The most visually attractive stage of this year's Tour de France follows. An individual time trial in the south of Normandy leads from Avranches to the famous Mont Saint-Michel. The island, which is unique throughout the world, with its hill monastery and the winding streets of its historic quarter in the middle of the Wadden Sea, always leaves visitors speechless at the sight, and thinking they were in the Middle Ages or had been transported into a fantasy novel.

And the tour subsequently continues to become interesting for tourists. In three stages, the route leads from north-west France to Lyon to the south. Among others, it crosses the Loire Valley, which is known for its many chateaus (some of which can be rented as a holiday home at atraveo!), and Auvergne, which is much appreciated as a holiday region because of its extensive, unspoiled countryside.


14 July: France and the Tour celebrate each other

Traditionally, stages that take place on the French National Day are something special. This year, at 242 kilometres in length, not only does the longest stage of this year's Tour de France await the competitors, but, with Mont Ventoux, also one of the most legendary milestone stages. Numerous myths and legends surround the lone mountain with its barren summit that rises from the plain of Provence. It is not only one of the most visited destinations of the Tour de France, but also one of the most popular areas for hiking and mountain biking holidays in southern France. Also, you should not miss the "mountain in front of the sea" with its unique flora and fauna. Take a excursion here - although it may, of course, be more relaxing for you to go there than for the cyclists during their summit finish.


And we continue with mountains: The Alps are waiting

"Up the mountain, back down the mountain" is the motto for the last days of the Tour de France 2013, because after a day of rest near Avignon, it is on to the Alps. And the slope of the anniversary route, in particular, does not get easier: A true classic - and, strictly speaking, twice - follows in an individual time trial along the shores of the Lac de Serre-Pon├žon a popular lake for water sports. The famous 21 bends up to L'Alpe d'Huez have to be conquered, namely twice in a row this year. This has, so far, never happened in the history of the Tour de France, and cycling experts are not the only ones who agree that a decision will be made here, at the latest, about the Tour victory. Speaking of L'Alpe d'Huez, also venture up the 21 bends of the mountain yourself and visit the popular holiday resort in the middle of the French Alps. In summer, outdoor enthusiasts and hikers get their moneyÔÇÖs worth, while in winter, of course, it especially attracts skiers to the snow-covered slopes around L'Alpe d'Huez.

The tour will go through the following stages in the shadow of Mont Blanc, including Albertville, which hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1992, and to Annecy, which is considered among the most beautiful cities in the Alps, with its castle and the old town. With a final surge towards Semnoz, the local mountain of Annecy, this year's Tour de France will then leave the mountains and make its way to the last stage, the traditional gateway to Paris.


Paris by night

Also for the finale, a lot has been taken into consideration to tie in with the anniversary. The start of the last stage shall be held in proper style in the gardens of the famous Palace of Versailles. For once, it also starts in the afternoon, so the riders will reach Paris at dusk and will finish after cycling through the courtyard of the Louvre, the traditional loop on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees at night. With a city apartment in Paris, you can still witness the spectacle live this year - or head off at another time to explore the French capital. That is worthwhile at any time.


We hope you have enjoyed our Tour de France, whoever gets the yellow jersey in Paris this year. Further information on featured destinations can also be found on our website under the individual regions and places. Or let yourself be inspired by the holiday homes and apartments that are featured below and are located in the regions visited by this year's Tour. In any case, we wish you a lot of fun when planning your next holiday in France!

(Photos 3, 5 and 6 as well as the map in this post are provided with the kind approval of the Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O))