Reader Q&A: Getting from Brittany to Bordeaux for the Canal de Garonne

Published by Lyn on 21 August 2013

Les is cycling along the Canal de Garonne from Bordeaux. He wants to know about catching a train with his bike from Brittany to Bordeaux without going via Paris.

I am planning a trip for two of us along the waterways from Bordeaux until we run out of steam or reach the Med next summer. I would like to use trains from a ferry port (pref St Malo) without going via Paris but it is beginning to look expensive. The alternative is to use the car to Bordeaux but where to park?

Anyone any info on any of these ideas?
Thanks in advance.
Hi Les

You could get the Eurostar to Lille and then a TGV connection south to Bordeaux - you don't have to go through Paris.
See our France by rail article and the one on taking bikes on French trains.
If driving, there is long-stay car parking at the airport in Merignac (Bordeaux). Alternatively I've generally found most hotels OK about leaving a car in a car park as long as you're staying there a night etc at the start/end of a trip. There's sometimes a small charge (offering to pay one helps).
See also our Canal de Garonne article.
Lyn @ FWF
This query was originally posted on our forums (which I'm phasing out). Here's the reader responses it attracted:

From Keith:
Sorry Les, can't help with the query (but looks like you had a good answer already), but just checking that you know there is a good guide to the Bordeaux to Toulouse bit - in French but very useful: Bordeaux - Toulouse a velo and I understand there is a similar one for the Toulouse to Med bit. I did Toulouse to Bordeaux in May - 3 days easy (and I'm 67), but that did not allow much sightseeing on the way. Guides available from

Les writes back:
Thanks both. All info is useful. Any hotels with car parking recommended?
From Lyn:
There are a few cycle-friendly ones around Bordeaux listing in our Where to stay section (search the Aquitaine region). You could try any of the ones around the airport – there's an Ibis Budget and a Novotel nearby (part of the Accor chain - see here for a link). They all have parking. The Accor chain hotels are usually pretty good. A bit soulless but functional and generally cheap enough to crash in for a night.

In the centre of town, the Adagio Apart-hotel has a car park underneath – you could try them. That would also give you the chance to explore the city (and have a leisurely ride along the riverfront).

Any of the hotels around Meriadeck in the city centre are also central, and some of those would have parking. If I don't have a particular hotel in mind, I usually use or to compare.
From Barbie:
I live in France and met some English guys who got a bus from London with their bikes in a bike trailer towed behind the bus. They were taken to Bordeaux and picked up a week later at Narbonne on the Canal du Midi. Did the canal From Bordeaux to Sete last May - fantastic. If you need any help get in touch.
From Lyn:
Hi Barbie - that may have been the European Bike Express - more info here.
A trip update from Les:
Just returned from fantastic trip cycle camping from Bordeaux to Toulouse. The solution to my parking problem was to contact Camping Bel Air (not much English) at Sadirac near Creon, who are experts at accommodating cars whilst people do the Entrte Deux Mers route. At a cost of €2.20 a night, this is excellent value. It is a very good campsite with lovely pool to sooth those tired muscles and a good bar/restaurant. Too many highlights to mention, except seeing Wiggo in yellow crossing the Canal du Garonne at Castellsarrasin the day Cav won in Brive... Gooosebumps of excitement in the telling! 
From Wiley:
Hi all, new to Freewheeling France and coming late to this thread, however, my wife and I are planning to cycle from Bordeaux to Sete this coming September via the Canal du Midi. It has just come to my attention that one needs to get a permit from the French Canal Authority to cycle along the canals in France. Can anyone fill me in regarding this?
Lyn writes:
Hi Wiley - Tim at Relax Rentals, which hires bikes along the canal, has contacted the Canal Authority locally, and it seems the permits are not really required (they don't check them, apparently). I have to say I have never heard of anyone bothering to get a permit, and have never heard of anyone being asked for one.

From Gerry via Facebook:
"Hi, We lived on, and cruised the French canals (cycling as much as we cruised). We were fully legal for the  waterways... never came across the need for specific cycling permit..... There are many sections where you are better off cycling on adjacent roads though!

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