Tuesday 7 September 2010

Cycling the Mayenne Towpath, from Mayenne towards Laval

From the distinctive tourist office beside the river in Mayenne you can hire respectable hybrid bikes for adults and kids (5-7 euros each for a half day) and set off across the cobbles south towards Laval. Although you have to use the road for about a kilometre, you are soon on the traffic-free towpath and being treated to lovely bucolic views across this tranquil stretch of the Mayenne river. On a summer weekend, you'll pass walkers and other cyclists every kilometer or so, but the path is wide enough to mean collisions are unlikely. Every so often, you'll come to a lock usually with a picturesque old lock-keepers cottage, one of which now houses an organic boulangerie, selling beers, ciders, hot drinks and snacks. The track is mostly flat, so it is easy to just keep cycling southwards, soaking up the scenery, but the tourist office closes at 6.30pm and you won't cover the round trip to Laval (about 65 kilometres) in half a day. So, you need to be sure to turn round in good time, leaving at least half an hour for a riverside drink en route back to Mayenne. If you want to venture further, you can hire the bikes for longer periods and a useful map, available at the tourist office, shows the 68 kilometre route the towpath takes right down to Chateau-Gontier. 8/10