Review: France on Two Wheels by Adam Ruck

Published by Lyn on 17 April 2013

Guest reviewer Julia Stagg joins Adam Ruck as he explores France on Two Wheels.

France on Two WheelsHaving run a cyclist-friendly auberge in the French Pyrenees, Adam Ruck’s France on Two Wheels: Six Long Bike Rides for the Bon Vivant Cyclist held instant appeal for me. After all, apart from being one myself, I know a bit about long-distance cyclists after years of catering for the poor souls who battled their way over the Tourmalet and the Aspin to arrive dusty but elated at our door. And if I learnt anything from that experience, it was that cycling is embraced by a wide variety of people. Adam Ruck’s book proves that!

Six routes. An average of 100km per day. Minimal luggage. No Lycra. Good lunches including the local wine. And a hotel bed each night. France on Two Wheels takes a refreshingly laid-back approach to cycling through France, sure to be inspiring to even the most hesitant of cyclists.

Divided into six parts, each covering a different journey of about a week’s duration, the book is both travel guide and travelogue. Each section begins with a quirky map, gives a broad summary of how the journey unfolds and provides plenty of entertaining asides. I particularly enjoyed the tale of how Henri IV was reunited with his head (it took a long time) and found the sidebar on Robert Louis Stevenson’s travels in the Cévennes so interesting that I am currently reading his book. (Thanks, Adam!)

But if I am honest, as a former aubergiste, the aspect of France on Two Wheels that had me gripped from start to finish was Adam’s descriptions of the places he stayed in along the way. He met with the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the hospitality industry – I’ll let you work out which was which! Aghast at some of the treatment meted out by my fellow hoteliers, I found myself equally proud of those who understood how to make a weary cyclist feel at home. Even one that arrives late for lunch, covered in muck and smelling slightly off (Adam’s friend, I hasten to add).

Whatever you take from this book, one thing is certain: it will make you want to ride your bike through France. Which raises the question: which route do you take? Do you go south and smell the lavender? Tootle along the Loire and sample the wine? Or enjoy the stunning scenery of the Massif Central? By the last page you will understand why Adam Ruck keeps being tempted back.

For those who wish to emulate Adam (with or without the wine!), more substantial information can be found on his website, including detailed maps and accommodation guides.

Julia Stagg writes fiction set in the Ariège region of the French Pyrenees, an area she discovered through her passion for cycling. Her latest novel, The French Postmistress, the third in the Fogas Chronicles, will be published by Hodder and Stoughton in April 2013. Her first two novels are L’Auberge and The Parisian’s Return.

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