France and Spain out of season, accommodation

Discussion in 'Touring and Adventure Cycling' started by robjh, 27 Dec 2017.

  1. I'm considering riding across northern Spain and/or France at the end of March. I'm assuming that the weather will not be very camping-friendly so early in the year, so I will probably save on the weight by leaving camping gear at home and relying on (budget) accommodation en route.

    The routes would be, very roughly,
    a) Barcelona to Bilbao or Santander, or
    b) Barcelona to Channel (eg St Malo/Caen/Dieppe)

    Does anyone have experience of touring in these areas out of season, especially with regards to accommodation? How easy is it to find find cheap rooms at this time of year, and at what sort of places? Are there likely to be large gaps outside main towns with nothing open?

    - pot luck with small hotels (hostales, pensions) ?
    - budget chains, eg. Formule1 - main towns only?
    - airbnb?
    - warmshowers?
    - gîtes d'étape? - on most websites they look more like group accommodation (and I haven't yet found a good single site where you can search from a map).
    - hostel websites eg - in a few tourist centres only?

    Any tips gratefully received.
    Last edited: 27 Dec 2017
  2. Crankarm

    Crankarm Guru

    Nr Cambridge
    What's your budget?
  3. OP

    robjh Guru

    Trying to keep it low but no exact limit. Ideally ca. £30 upper limit for accommodation but where possible managing on less.
  4. gavroche

    gavroche Getting old but not past it

    North Wales
    Formule1 and other low budget accommodation are usually located closed to motorways, ringroads and zones commerciales ( shopping centers out of town).
    Moodyman and robjh like this.
  5. jay clock

    jay clock Massive member

    Hampshire UK
    You should have no problem as long as you are not in smaller tourist-dedicated destinations. And my experience in Spain with camping is poor, and hostales are amazing value. I would use and book ahead during the day.

    Of those two routes the France one is nice, but pricier hotels (40 to 50 euro approx). Spain is cheaper (25eur approx) but that route has long and desolate stretches, and may not be warm as you would think.

    As an aside I did Montpellier to St Malo last year, and personally I would avoid the Canal du Midi like the plague. Dull as hell. But other people loved it
    robing and robjh like this.
  6. Surely you mean 'dull as ditchwater'?
    andrew_s and jay clock like this.
  7. TinyMyNewt

    TinyMyNewt An execrable pun

    South coast, UK
    I can't be much help, except to say that if you use the Avenue Verte to head towards Dieppe, don't use the Hotel Le Saint-Aubin in Gournay en Bray out of season. It's slightly reminiscent of the Bates Motel :laugh:.
    silverdorking and robjh like this.
  8. Redlight

    Redlight Active Member

    Blackheath, London
    I cycled Bilbao-London a few years ago, in April, and had very few problems finding reasonable hotels, apart from in the only two large towns that I visited, Limoges and Amiens, both of which were over-run by corporate events on the days I was there. I didn't have anything planned other than I knew I wanted to finish up in Dunkirk so made my route up as I went along. The Logis de France guide is very useful - I would usually look at it around lunchtime, see what was within a four-five hour riding distance, and head for somewhere with two or three options. Many of the medium-sized towns also have helpful signs on the approach roads direction you to the various hotels while in the larger ones, the tourist office is usually happy to ring around a few on your behalf.
    robjh likes this.
  9. maxap

    maxap Well-Known Member

    Try warmshowers. We have hosted quite a few people and also stayed a couple of places as guests. Great way to meet people who like cycling.
    robjh likes this.
  10. MarkF

    MarkF Legendary Member

    I've done both sides "out of season", Catalonia and Cantabria/Asturias, but I can't imagine much seasonal change for accommodation, Spain has a lot of short stay travellers, everywhere, year round. Rooms above bars are not often obvious, these are my favourite rooms (!), usually around 20 euros, I've criss crossed Spain and never once not found a room, even in the most remote one horse towns.
    robjh likes this.
  11. mmmmartin

    mmmmartin Random geezer

    My experience prompts me to suggest a minor change of plan. Fly to Seville and follow the pilgrims' camino northwards where you will find dormitory accommodation for €5 to €10 a night and cafes serving food in the early evening for pilgrims walking from 6am, for about €10 max. Also this route is amazing. i did it in May about am going back in March this year, this time not to Santiago but to Santander for the ferry home or the three-day dash across France to Caen.
    If you stick to your plan, Spain is a great place to cycle - good tarmac, empty roads, nice drivers. A few words of Spanish makes a big difference. Any questions, PM me.
    This is the guide we used, very good, detailed maps, very accurate
    robjh likes this.
  12. OP

    robjh Guru

    Thanks for the idea Martin, but Barcelona is where I'm going to be, as I'm going on a week's cycling 'camp' with my club in Mallorca in March, and am then looking at taking the ferry to the mainland (Barcelona) and riding home - with the choice of a ferry from northern Spain or the Channel.
  13. OP

    robjh Guru

    I signed up to them last night and have been browsing their maps for the areas I'm thinking of.
    Does it work well at short notice, eg. 1 to 2 days notice to hosts, or did you find it works best with more planning?
  14. jay clock

    jay clock Massive member

    Hampshire UK
    I have used WS a lot, giving and receiving. Issue I had in Spain was slow response by which time I had sorted something else
    robjh likes this.
  15. OP

    robjh Guru

    Anyone used Spanish youth hostels?
    The main website is not the most informative, as you mostly need to click through to other sites (which may or may not exist) to find prices and availability for a particular hostel, but with a bit of patience it could be useful. Where I have managed to drill through to the details they often look quite good, reasonable prices like our YHA or less, and they appear to accept oldies.
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