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Q: I’m interested in doing a two-week, multi-sport adventure (bike, hike, car) trip through and around the regions of France, and can’t find a good English Web site or guide to reference for ideas. Any thoughts?
— Lindsay, New York, New York
A: Call an outfitter that specializes in self-guided adventure travel. Unlike traditional tour companies that squeeze like-minded travelers into pre-set itineraries (including the requisite stop at the Châeau de Touristes gift shop), these outfitters can help you set up a custom trip with as much or as little external intervention as you need. France is well-covered territory for this type of travel. Asking an experienced guide to help you plan is the smartest way to go.
Case in point: Canada-based Randonnée Tours (www.randonneetours.com, 800-465-6488) arranges multi-sport trips all over France, with a mix of biking, hiking, canoeing and driving in different regions. Their ten-day Dordogne itinerary, for instance, starts in any of three small southwest towns, where you’ll be met by an English-speaking guide who will outfit you with bikes and maps, then pretty much leave you be. Your luggage is magically whisked from town to town and inn to inn while you’re busy bushwhacking through the dark forests of Périgord Noir or paddling the underground river near Rocamadour. You’re on your own, but gear and support are just a phone call away.
If that’s still too hands-on, try the Adventurous Traveler Bookstore. The routes described in Tim Hughes’s Cycling in France will give you plenty of ideas. Then borrow a dictionary, or a French-speaking friend, to order Series 900 trail maps from the Institut Geographie Nationale (www.ign.fr). After that, you’re on your own.