The 2012 Tour de France is underway and will continue through its culmination in Paris on Sunday, July 22. If you’d like to experience the thrill of this exciting and challenging race, here is a look at five of the best destinations where you can not only check out the Tour de France but also enjoy some fantastic sites and attractions.
Rouen, France: July 4-5
Rouen is the capital of Normandy and is situated along the River Seine. This ancient city is known as the “City of Impressionists,” inspiring artists for centuries. Here you’ll find magnificent Gothic architecture and a wealth of historical sites.
Rouen is home to the Joan of Arc Tower, the only part of the 13th century castle remaining, and the location where she was imprisoned and tried. Explore the Le Secq-des Tournelles Museum, dine on heavenly local cuisine at La Petite Auberge and enjoy a comfortable stay at the La Boulangerie, a Bed and Breakfast located just a short walk from some of the best that Rouen has to offer.
The fourth stage of the Tour de France will finish here on July 4 and depart once again on the 5th of July toward their next destination of Saint-Quentin.
Besancon, France: July 9
The Tour de France will arrive to the World Heritage city of Besancon, France on July 9 for a 41.5 km individual time-trial. Besancon is a hidden gem, mostly unknown to travelers outside of France but is filled with historic charm, with one of the most beautiful historic centres in the entire country. You’ll find classic buildings dating to the Spanish Renaissance and even the Middle Ages.
The town has narrow, winding cobbled roads with museums and galleries to explore on nearly every corner, including the Musee des Beaux Arts, known by locals as the “Little Louvre.”
The Le Detour Bed & Breakfast Inn offers an ideal warm and friendly place to stay in the countryside, and includes a mouth-wateringly delicious breakfast with homemade jams, honey and cheese.
Saint-Jean-de Maurienne, France: July 13
The Tour de France embarks from Saint-Jean-de Maurienne, France where they will ride for 226km, including two massive climbs. Located in the Rhone-Alpes region of southeast France, this town is known for its breathtaking hiking and cycling opportunities with endless trails and paths to enjoy.
Come to this mountain town for spectacular scenery and stay at the Hotel du Nord, an Alpine lodge situated at the foot of the great “mythical passes” of the Tour de France. The hotel also offers a fine restaurant with traditional French food that is said to be some of the best in the region.
Pau, France: July 19
Pau has been a stage town on 64 previous occasions. The Tour de France will stop here on July 16 and remain through July 18 before heading on to Bangneres-de-Luchon. This breathtaking Pyrenees city is home to Chateau de Pau, or Pau Castle, a royal residence that was the birthplace of Henry IV, King of France and Navarre.
Here you can explore the beautiful parks, gardens and museums and stroll along the walkway that begins at the Castle, providing panoramic views of the Pyrenean Mountains.
Stay at a cozy bed and breakfast run by warm and welcoming hosts, Vincent and Francoise, at the Les gites du Hameau de Pau, and dine at the top rated Le Majestic restaurant with delectable, and affordable, French fare.
Chartes, France: July 21
Chartes will host one of the final stages of the Tour de France, the last individual time-trial of the Tour on July 21. Located in northern France on the banks of the Eure River, Chartes is best known as the home of one of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world and the largest in the nation.
Treat yourself to a stay at the Mercure Chartres Centre Cathedrale, a hotel in the heart of the town with a contemporary design and views of the cathedral. Esprit Gourmand is a French Bistro offering classic French food and fine wine to delight travelers with a variety of tastes.
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