Getting to France

by SteppenHerring   August 29, 2014  

I have a plan next year to go to the Alps with my son. He'll be 15 then and is pretty fit. So we need to get the two of us plus luggage and bikes to somewhere near Alpe d'Huez for a week. Accommodation is sorted (if you haven't stayed with Helyn and Guy then you should). Having a car there would be handy in case we want to go further afield.

I went last year with some clubmates and took the ferry and drove. With the péage and fuel and stuff, plus the time it takes (and the fact that spending that much time in a car with anyone can get irritating) it didn't seem so much fun. Also my son is too young to share the driving.

I was thinking: fly to Grenoble (I can borrow bike boxes) and rent a car. Probably something mid sized to get bikes in. The thing is, I've not done this before. Has anyone got any tips on airlines, who to book through, whether to book car hire separately etc?

Oh, and Gatwick is closest but Heathrow could work.

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You may need an MPV or an estate car, and these are costly to hire.

Try rentalcars.com -- they've always got me a good deal.

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posted by harman_mogul [155 posts]
30th August 2014 - 17:00

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If I could get a bunch from the club going, then we could do what the people who flew did last year - hire a minibus. Loads of space for bike boxes etc. Rentalcars.com have a reasonable deal on a Ford C Max which I reckon (although I will check) would take two people + luggage + bikes.

posted by SteppenHerring [230 posts]
30th August 2014 - 17:44

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Are you sure the driving option won't work? I've done two trips to the Alps (Alpe d'Huez and Stelvio) with two of my sons (one on each trip), and it was great.

My sons are old enough (just) to share the driving, but even if they weren't, it's not too onerous. We took it easy, stopped half way down for the night, stopped en route to look at stuff (WW1 battlefields, etc) and had a father-son-road-trip-bonding thing. Quality time together, no irritation, great opportunity to talk and experience Europe together. And then riding together in some beautiful mountains. Fantastic experience.

Driving also gives you the option to stop in the Vosges and climb the Ballon d'Alsace, Grand Ballon or Petit Ballon.

Not the cheapest option, but worth every penny in my book.

posted by tomisitt [39 posts]
30th August 2014 - 20:21

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I'd be tempted to drive but it's a long old way. I found getting back last year - 11 hours in car, then 3 hours wait + ferry, then 2 hours in the car - just a bit much. If they still did Newhaven-Dieppe then that would be a little nicer - although driving the Peripherique is a bit of an experience.

posted by SteppenHerring [230 posts]
30th August 2014 - 21:25

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Can you fly to Grenoble in the summer?

I thought it pretty much shut down outside of Ski season.

Lyon is another option.

posted by farrell [1580 posts]
30th August 2014 - 22:46

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You might find driving is the cheapest option and it's by far the most fun. Add up the cost of flights, baggage, rented bike boxes, rental car and the car even with petrol and an overnight stop is cheaper. Add in the hassle of air travel and I'd drive any day.

Crossing are cheap - paid £126 return this year for Eurotunnel during the summer holidays!

posted by charliepalooza [20 posts]
31st August 2014 - 8:12

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I've not done it by plane, but I have taken the Eurostar and TGV to Grenoble. It was pretty straightforward and a lot more relaxing than driving. Bikes on the Eurostar and TGV are easy if they're in a bag. Otherwise you need to book them seperately.

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posted by mr-andrew [300 posts]
31st August 2014 - 9:26

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I'd opt for taking the car on the Eurotunnel (three crossings an hour, very quick and easy) and avoid Paris by driving via Reims, Troyes and Dijon. It's an 8 hour drive from Calais to Grenoble.

posted by tomisitt [39 posts]
31st August 2014 - 14:40

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Another option is Motorail. There are several routes from Paris to southern France including Briancon. Drive to Paris, put the car on the train and relax for a few hours. Less driving, but with the advantage of having your own car for your holiday. Have never done it myself though; probably quite expensive.

http://autotrain.uk.voyages-sncf.com/en/

posted by NeilG83 [260 posts]
31st August 2014 - 15:23

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I'm in the Alps right now - flew from Gatwick to Geneva, then got a transfer to where we're staying in Chamonix. Trying to remember the cost of everything, but it does add up. It's mostly very stress-free though, and since you've no one to share driving with I'd not even think about driving down - you'd need two days to recover! Anyway, flying urgh Easyjet, it's about £150 each return flights, £70 for carrying the bike box, and £26 for each hold bag. Bike box hire is about 60-70 quid, so this time I thought I'd just spend the big bucks and get a box of my own and save in the long run. Transfers are about €30 euros each to here, but no idea how much they'd be to the Alpe.... but as you say, you'd be best off hiring a car. The climbers in our group here did that, spending about €200 for a small car. Not much room for bikes in that though.

posted by bashthebox [647 posts]
31st August 2014 - 16:10

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I did the drive to Geneva this summer but shared it. I think you are right about it being a bit too much for one. The Eurostar sounds a good idea though. Let us know what you do

posted by snappyandrew [71 posts]
31st August 2014 - 16:41

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in the past i have flown geneva then got the train to Verbier, this year i drove, one driver me in a 1.2 Polo...

Worst part of the drive both ways by far is the UK leg, Cheltenham to Dover and vice versa isn't pleasant!!!!

For the out route broke the journey in Troyes for the night which helped, the return i did in one which is probably a touch too far.

Pluses once you factor in transfers, airport parking, as well as flights it is cheaper and you have a car once you get there.

I don't drive that much but found the drive pretty easy and relaxing, decent roads, decent speed, regular service areas, etc.

Minuses, it is a fair way! and don't get lost and end up in Roubaix!!!!

oh and a 1.2 will go up a mountain, eventually!

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posted by mrmo [1361 posts]
31st August 2014 - 18:00

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Have a look at www.bike-express.co.uk

Otherwise, and if you're starting from SE England, and can get a decent fare, train is a nice way to travel (but do check the Eurostar and TGV cycles policy closely!).

You could book one ticket all the way but it's often cheaper (if more time-consuming to do a bit of research and book individual legs). Have a look at www.sncf.com/en and Eurostar's own site for their tickets. There's always lots of good info on this site too: www.seat61.com/France.htm#London%20to%20Lyon%20by%20train

Jumping off the Eurostar at Lille might give you a more pleasant connection than hacking across Paris (although these is a direct 'RER' train from Gare du Nord to Gare du Lyon, as I recall). But if you do go via Paris, try www.idtgv.com/en for direct tickets to Grenoble - they can be cheap.

posted by Duncann [90 posts]
31st August 2014 - 21:26

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