Thursday, October 1, 2015

Grange 87 cycling holidays in the Haute-Vienne

French Village Diaries cycling holidays Haute-Vienne Limousin Grange 87 Eyemoutiers Lac Vassivière
Grange 87 bike storage area

A few weeks ago I was out and about exploring somewhere new in France, moonlighting in fact, for the great cycling website Freewheeling France, but thought it only right to share my mini adventure here too. My brief from Lyn was simple, make contact with Paul from Grange 87, arrange a visit, go out cycling and then write about the accommodation and cycling in the area. The first thing I noticed when looking at Eymoutiers on the map was that the topography was very different to here. We live in a relatively flat area and many of our roads are long and straight. Eymoutiers is an area that has lots of gradient shading and even the straight roads look like a very shaky hand has drawn them. We were definitely headed to the hills and the land of the lakes, challenging terrain for the leisure cyclist.

September days are normally bright and sunny, however thanks to the tail end of Hurricane Henri, wet and wild were more accurate descriptions of the weather that week. Not ideal cycling weather, but hey-ho, we packed our long-sleeved gear, our rain jackets and our smiles and set off. Unusually for Adrian we left a bit later than planned and every tractor, slow moving digger and doddering old dear that it was possible to meet on route was out in front of us. At least it wasn’t raining; in fact there was a hint of sunshine in the air, which lasted precisely as far as the border between Poitou-Charentes and the Limousin, when we seemed to find ourselves within the clouds.

French Village Diaries cycling holidays Haute-Vienne Limousin Grange 87 Eyemoutiers Lac Vassivière
Eymoutiers is about a forty-five minute drive from Limoges, which has regular flights to the UK, and for a small town in rural France it has managed to retain a lively community with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. Paul and his wife Frances were very welcoming, even surprising us with lunch and dinner invitations where we got to know them and chatted away like old friends. Grange 87, their two-bedroom rental apartment in the centre of town, is beautiful and has been designed with the cyclist in mind. The first thing you see is the spacious ground floor secure bike storage area, complete with hanging frame should you need to work on your bike. Upstairs the open plan living area is light and airy with beams that add character, but didn’t provide a hazard for Adrian’s head. The kitchen with oven, induction hob and full size dishwasher mean self-catering would not be a problem, but with a selection of restaurants in town it isn’t essential; the perfect mix for a good holiday in my opinion. We managed to sample two cafés and two boulangeries during our stay, but there are more, awaiting our return.

French Village Diaries cycling holidays Haute-Vienne Limousin Grange 87 Eyemoutiers Lac Vassivière
Grange 87 accommodation Eymoutiers

The double bed was one of the cosiest and most comfortable I have ever slept in and there is also a twin bed room plus sofa bed if necessary. The shower room is fitted out to a very high standard and the warmth and power of the shower was perfect for my cold legs after a wet bike ride. The attention to detail throughout the apartment can’t be faulted, including retro cycle themed decoration and the free wifi was fast compared to what we have at home. If you enjoy cycling holidays in France I’m sure you will have a very happy holiday here.

I have to admit we have pretty much avoided the Limousin area since a family holiday in August 2002 when two weeks of rain and temperatures ranging from 10 to 14 degrees kind of put us off returning. This area of the Haute-Vienne is called the Parc natural regional de Millevaches en Limousin, the land of a thousand cows and during our 23.5km bike ride around Lac Vassivière a French cow related expression came to my mind.
Il pleut comme vache qui pisse!” It’s raining like a pissing cow!

French Village Diaries cycling holidays Haute-Vienne Limousin Grange 87 Eyemoutiers Lac Vassivière
Circuit des Legends, Lac Vassivière

Although we set off in the dry and enjoyed a sunny early evening stroll around Eymoutiers, we had only just begun our afternoon cycling tour of the lake with Paul when the rain started. Lac Vassivière is a short drive from Eymoutiers and has real cycling heritage as it has been used three times as part of a time trial course in the Tour de France. This cycling fame has been preserved in the Circuit des Legends route named after Raymond Poulidor, the Haute-Vienne’s most successful professional cyclist. Our clockwise route was a beautiful ride with ever changing views over the lake that even the rain and misty clouds couldn’t spoil. There were hills, but nothing too strenuous and the route took in the large dam and shady forest sections as well as stretches that followed the many beach areas, but the lake is so large and such an interesting shape it is not possible to see it all from any one position. I have never cycled in rain so hard that it was running down the road like a river, but it was still a good fun afternoon. My socks were so wet I had to squeeze them out and as for the puddle my lycra shorts left on the seat of Paul’s van on the journey back to town, oh la vache! (another French cow related expression meaning an exasperated oh no!).

French Village Diaries cycling holidays Haute-Vienne Limousin Grange 87 Eyemoutiers Lac Vassivière
Lac Vassivière, Haute-Vienne/Creuse

It was a shame the weather wasn't kind to us, but having some great cycling routes proved to Adrian that you can still have fun, even if the weather isn’t perfect. Paul is really keen to encourage cyclists to experience this area that has something to offer for all levels and abilities and I think Adrian has his sights set on conquering Mont Gargan, a real mountain just south of Eymoutiers. I know we won’t be leaving it another 13 years before returning this time. 

Thanks Lyn, Paul and Frances, we had a great mini adventure.

Click here to read my accommodation report for Freewheeling France.

Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post and I was not paid to write about our visit.

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