ABOUT DISCOVER FRANCE


DISCOVER FRANCE is the leader in self-guided bicycle tours to France. With our offices in both France and the USA, we are positioned to provide the best trips, itineraries, and value to customers.


In 2019 we celebrate 25 years in business!

Established - Since 1994 we have pioneered self-guided travel for travelers to France. We are an award-winning leader and recognized by reputable associations like National Geographic and Maison de la France.

  • Professional- we are committed to giving our clients the best service and experience possible. We have the staff, professional and certified guides, systems, and know -how.
  • Knowledgeable - We are French, speak French, live/lived in France; our unparalleled insight into cycling and hiking and multisport travel and the little details that make a great vacation are essential.
  • Flexible and Responsive - we can adapt tours to your needs, and we offer enough tours to meet just about everyone's needs.
  • Superior equipment - We offer SCOTT Sub Sport 20 hybrids along with SCOTT Addict 20 or Cannondale Synapse carbon road bikes with GPS in every region!
  • Responsive support - We offer bilingual help, orientations, transfers, and other support services available 24/7.
  • Pre-travel Documentation - We design and send you extensive materials to help you finalize and anticipate your tour.
  • Price - Nobody beats our quality and affordability.
     
     


MEET THE TEAM

At Discover France, we have a team from around the world ready to meet each and every one of your needs. Based in southern France right between the Mediterranean Sea and the Massif Central mountains, we all love to be outdoors. Most of us bike, others run and play soccer, and we even have some swimmers and rugby players in the office. No matter what we like to do outdoors, we understand how to make an outdoor vacation absolutely unforgettable.

 

CEO

  • Thomas BOUTIN: A former Top 10 MTB French Pro cyclist, Thomas is in charge of all organization (offices, bike shop, business development, Tour de France liaison, Bike School, as well as corporate team building programs, incentives, youth camps, vehicles, and bike fleet). In 2010 he was awarded a top business honor for entrepreneurs of small business in France and holds a Masters in sports management!

Tour Consultants

  • Maggie Berardino: Maggie is part of the sales team in the US and is ready to create a special itinerary just for you. Ever the adventurer, she lived in Australia for two years and taught English in Japan for three. When she's not hitting the slopes in the winter, you can find her cycling the trails of the Rockies and training for triathlons.

  • John Sessa: A former bike mechanic for top professional teams, John knows his way around a bike. After having traveled around Europe for years as a mechanic, he is now based in Florida where he wants new people to experience the thrill and beauty of cycling in Europe. He is the one of the newest members of the consultant team and is ready to share the beauties of France with the world!
     
  • Valentina Perego: The token Parisian on our team, Valentina provides that authentic French touch when preparing trips. Although she lives in the bustling city, she still has her roots from the northern Italian countryside. Using her European perspective, she knows how to create the perfect trip for each client.
     
  • Sakari Kyrö: Swedish national that was born in Finland, but lived most of his life in other countries (Austria, Sweden, USA) before marrying a French woman and settling down outside Nîmes in France. Sakari came to Discover France from the startup/agency world because of his love for cycling. He bikes to work, bikes when he has the time on his lunch breaks and bikes on his free time.
     
  • Melanie Gentz: Melanie is part of the sales team in the US. She has been in the travel industry for over 15 years and has traveled to 35 countries and can help find the best adventure for you. When not working she loves cycling, hiking, running, skiing and of course traveling. She secretly thinks she has French blood!
     
     

Back Office

  • Sébastien Charles: A fanatic of every sport out there, Seb loves to go out and adventure. You are bound to see him canoeing one day and boxing the next! In the office, he handles logistical activities to make each trip run as smoothly as possible while also improving the office’s tech savvy by implementing software that has increased efficiency in the office.
  • Valentine Segrestan: Valentine is an absolute work horse on the mountain bike trail and an absolutely friendly person in the office. She competes annually in the French Mountain Bike championships while effortlessly organizing our TDF trips and any other custom trip that comes our way. When the trip season gets busy, she likes to relax with the occasional piece of chocolate, so if you ever want to make her happy, a chocolate bar will do the trick!
     
  • Francois BERNARD: Francois is in charge of all logistics including orientations, route book preparation, tour sales, and support. Along with this, he is the Tour de France logistics coordinator and a professional touring guide. He is the busy bee of Discover France, making sure everything runs smoothly. Working from France, he is bilingual in French & English, and his key hobby includes knocking heads on the rugby field!
     
  • Aurelien BIANCIOT: Aurelien manages bikes, seminars, team-building, events, and logistics. And somehow he also manages to have time to be a Cat 1 road racer, downhill racer, mountain bike, and cross racer -- as well as a certified professional guide!

Accounting

  • Sandy Paclet: Madame Comptabilité (Ms. Accounting). Sandy is a steadfast rock who can handle any type of project. She is a true pro by making the difficult task of handling Discover France’s finances with absolute ease. However, while consistent and solid in the office, she lets out her creative side by acting in a local theatre!
     
  • Sandrine Gaudot-Dulac: Part two of the dynamic duo of accounting. Sandrine is as organized as it gets and keeps the rest of us in order whenever business gets busy. Although working for a cycling company, she is a fan of swimming more than anything. That slight imperfection aside, Sandrine is a ball of joy and incredibly kind.

 

Marketing

  • Théo:  Théo oversees the overall marketing strategy of Discover France by deciding how we market and who we market to. Although working for a cycling company, he constantly dreams of growing another 15 centimeters to join the Miami Heat basketball team and bringing home an NBA championship.

    AWARDS

  • Discover France is the pioneer in specialized self-guided bicycle tours, since 1996. We offer self-guided tours across Europe and France so our clients can enjoy visiting places by bike, keeping their independence, still knowing we are available and will provide support when needed.

  • Discover France has won the Septuors award 2018. This award is given to the most innovative tourism company in "oenotourisme" or "wine tourism" in the region of Occitanie.
     
  • French Affairs in Vegas Winner 2013 & 2014 Discover France picked up two awards at the French Affairs conference in Vegas in 2014: Best Regional Operator and Most Active Partner
     
  • In 2013, France Tourism Development Agency Atout France named Discover France Most Active Partner at the 2013 French Affairs Awards.
     
  • NGA Award 2009 National Geographic Adventure magazine : - named our Tour des Pyrenees one of the 25 Best New Trips for 2010 (read the article). - named our Provence Multisport Tour as one of the Best 25 New Trips for 2009. - selected Discover France as one of the Best Outfitters on Earth in 2007!
     
  • Men's Journal, Outpost, and SmarterTravel.com have all selected trips by Discover France and our brands as Best Trips!
     
  • Discover France has been recognized annually by the French Government Tourist Office for our extensive product offers and award winning websites.



References

  • We are a member of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA).
  • Discover France participates in a variety of French Government Tourist Office events.
  • In 2014, Discover France enters its 20th year of operations. Trade names are registered with the United States Patent Office. We work with various offices of tourism and employ destination specialists in the regions that we promote.
     

OUR GUIDES

What does it take to be a professional cycling guide in France?
Answer: A LOT!


Dedication, experience, schooling, and a combination of social, language, and organizational skills. We believe we have the best when it comes to offering our Custom Guided Cycling Tours. See the full details of what it takes to be a Professional Cycling Guide in France and what Discover France requires before our guides ever meet you on the tour!

  • Casual: Beginners and occasional cyclists. Easiest tours we provide. Typically flatter terrain, no notable hills or anything of a steep gradient.
  • Hobby: Weekend riders. People with some cycling experience, rolling countryside, possible short climbs.
  • Active: Cyclists with experience on longer rides. Hilly terrain with reasonable amount of climbs and difficulty
  • Pro: Avid cyclists, ride every week and love long and challenging rides. Dream on riding the Tour de France cols.
Other conditions Surface conditions - road/trails; all assumed to be in good condition; no technical experience is needed and not an added difficulty factor.

More challenging options : Ask us to design you a custom tour or simply take our maps and add miles to your route. Feel free to improvise, but know your limits and know what the symbols on the maps mean!

Weather: heat, rain, and wind will all have an effect on your ride/walk and extremes of each will make it more difficult. Load: carrying excessive weight obviously makes more work for you. We always transfer luggage, so this refers only to what you take in a day pack or in panniers.

Dress: layering, using appropriate and lightweight clothing, protection from the sun, and good footwear make it easier for you.

Equipment: primarily relates to bikes; but knowing how to shift, when to shift, and maintain your bike will make it easier for you as well. How long will it take to cover the rides/walks/hikes at these levels? There is no specific answer because everyone travels at his or her own speed. However, when we indicate a time, such as in the hikes, we generalize with an average of 5 km/hour on flat surfaces and 3.5 km/hr on grade. In the bike rides, we generalize an average of 13-18 km/h on flat surfaces and 10-13 km/h on grade. Those times do include bathroom breaks, but not time for lunch and visits. Everyone should allow time to stop and explore, visit sites, and check directions.

If you can ride a bike at 20 mph; you cannot take a trip and expect to finish a ride in 2 hours. First, you need to allow time to check directions as you go, and then stop to visit. No less than 4 hours should be allowed to do any of the hikes and rides we have in our programs on any day. Longer days will last as much as 8 hours with stops and visits included.

Star tours - aka loop trips! These are days where you return to the same hotel where you start the day. This means that people who are less strong can do shorter days than stronger persons. It also allows a day off, non-active participants to come along, and is a great way for families and groups of varying abilities/interests to do the same trip together. These tours offer everything from easy to challenging rides, (Levels 1 - 3) but are usually rated as easy because it accommodate easy.

Exceptional terms and conditions Tours linked with Covid 19

applicable for all bookings made from 1st April 2020 and until further notice for Reservations, deposits, payments, changes & cancellations

RESERVATIONS, DEPOSITS & PAYMENTS

Reservations: Reservations can be made by email or on-line by providing your credit card info, however no booking is final until you receive a written confirmation from us.

Deposits: An advance deposit equal to 30% of total amount per person is required at the time of booking via credit card. Full payment is due 30 days prior to the tour departure date. The tour price is per person based on double occupancy and includes those items mentioned in the itinerary plus any prepaid optional items selected by you. Single room requests are subject to additional charges and must be requested at time of booking. Group sizes may have a maximum and a minimum number of participants, which may vary for each tour.

If the requested tour is not available, you will be refunded the deposit. If you wish to pay your deposit by wire or check, your reservation cannot be confirmed until we receive your deposit and it has been cleared by the bank.

The deposit of 30% will be applied to the final amount due which will be determined and payable at the latest 30 days prior to the tour's departure date.

Final Payment: Final payment is due at the latest 30 days prior to the tour's departure date. Final payment shall be made in Euros by credit card or by wire transfer. We will remind you of your final payment date in advance and provide you the information on payment options. NO debit card shall be accepted. We will give you the wire transfer instructions and the amount due in Euros. If you find a more favorable exchange rate any time prior to your payment due date, you are free to pay your final amount in advance to save more money. If we do not receive payment by the 30th day prior to the tour departure date, your reservation will be automatically cancelled and subject to the cancellation terms and conditions below.

Last-Minute Bookings: If you are booking a tour within 14 days of a tour departure date, full payment is due within 24 hours of our written confirmation by either wire transfer or credit card. If we do not receive payment within 24 hours, then the credit card submitted with the booking will be charged for the full tour amount which shall not be refundable.

CHANGES AND CANCELLATIONS

Changes : If you wish to make a change to your tour itinerary, you must submit your request to us in writing by email at contact@discoverfrance.com or postal mail at: Discover France, 427 rue Hélène Boucher Espace Commercial Fréjorgues Ouest 34130 Mauguio, France. Once a booking request is received and confirmed by us in writing, any modification of dates or alteration of itineraries by you will incur change fees. Fees vary according to the type and scope of the change. Our vendors, which include hotels, often impose additional fees or penalties for changes and cancellations. These are included in the change fees and can be substantial. A minimum change fee of 200 Euros per person applies to any change within 60 days of travel.

Cancellations: If you wish to cancel your tour, you must submit your request to us in writing by email at:

contact@discoverfrance.com or postal mail at: Discover France, 427 rue Hélène Boucher Espace Commercial Fréjorgues Ouest 34130 Mauguio, France.

If a cancellation is made after receipt of the deposit but before the 15 day final payment due date, 100% of the deposit are returned by wire transfer. For Cancellation within 15 days, the entire deposit is non-refundable, and additional cancellation penalties may apply, up to 100% of tour costs. No refunds shall be made once the tour starts. There are NO EXCEPTIONS to this cancellation policy, including but not limited to reasons related to force majeure (see paragraph below), weather conditions, family or medical emergencies or any circumstances beyond our control.

Pre-Departure Cancellations or Changes by Discover France: We reserve the right to cancel any tour prior to departure for any reason. In the event of such cancellation, a full refund will be issued to you via bank transfer, which shall constitute a full settlement. In the event that, prior to departure, we make any significant changes because of a problem with a supplier, for example a hotel bankruptcy, we will, as soon as reasonably possible, notify you of available alternatives. Such changes may generate a supplemental payment from you or possibly a refund. No refunds under this paragraph will be issued due to cancellations or changes due to Force Majeure .

No Reimbursements due to Changes or Cancellations: We will not reimburse Participants for any personal expenses such as airline tickets, other travel or hotel expenses due to changes in itineraries or tour cancellations.

Update: November 2020

EXCEPTIONAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS LINKED TO COVID-19 - TOUR DE FRANCE -

Booking:

The booking is effective only upon receipt of your deposit and after confirmation from us of availability. For guided tours, a 50% deposit is required at the time of booking and for self guided tours a 30% deposit is required at the time of booking, after which a confirmation will be sent to you. For VIP access only and Tour de France days trip the full amount is due upon booking. All tours and access are fully refundable untill May 26th, 2021.

Payment of the balance:

The balance will be requested on May 26th, 2021. On receipt of the balance, an email will be sent to you with all the practical information concerning your stay or service: meeting places, times and means of access...

Cancellation:

Once you have paid the deposit, you may cancel the service at any time for any reason until May 26th, 2021. If you wish to cancel, you must send us your request in writing (email). 100% of your deposit is refundable until May 26th, 2021.

If the cancellation takes place after May 26th, 2021, the deposit is no longer refundable unless you find someone to replace you. No refund is possible once the stay or service has begun.

No-show at the meeting place, abandonment on your part during the stay or the service, do not entitle you to any refund.

In case of cancellation on our side, you will be notified in writing. As far as possible, a replacement will be offered to you. In case of definitive cancellation, you will receive a full refund from us.

Update: November 2020

  • An American driver's license is valid for Americans driving in France. Have another ID document with you like your passport.
  • Insurance is highly recommended, be sure you are set before you leave home.
  • The legal age to drive in France is 18.
  • Trucks – except with special authorization – are not allowed to drive on Sunday.
  • Seat belts must be worn at all times – children under 12 must sit in the backseat
  • Park your car only where it is authorized, fines arrive quickly! And cars are often towed away.
Car rental
The legal age to rent a car is 21– but most companies require being 25 years old.
See our links page for companies, and insurance options.

Gas
Taxes on gas are very high in France, which explains the price of the liter:
On the petrol pump Sans Plomb means unleaded petrol. Gas stations along highways are open 24 h / 7 days. French usually get gas at large stores like Carrefour, Leclerc, Casino, etc… You can go at any time, help yourself and use your credit card.

Types of roads
Interstate toll way / Motorway = A + the number of the road / 130km/h is the speed limit. This is also a toll road, you can pay tolls with a credit card; this is the fast way to travel, but is not cheap! Every 20 km you have restaurants, gas station, sometimes shops, restrooms… National road = N + number of the road / 90km/h. If you are not traveling too far or if you have plenty of time, then the more scenic and free way to go is on the National roads. A famous road in France is the National 7 / N7. There is even a song ? about that road sung by Charles TRENET! Department road = D + number of the road / 50km/h. Great for seeing the back country of France; very slow going. TOURIST OFFICES

There are many convenient locations within Paris:
  • Carrousel du Louvre: 99 Rue de Rivoli, 75001. Metro: Palais Royal / Louvre (1,7)
  • Montmartre: 21 Place du Tertre, 75018. Metro: Abbesses (12)
  • Gare du Nord: Metro / RER (B,D,4,5)
  • Tour Eiffel: Metro / RER: Champs de Mars / Tour Eiffel (C), Bir-Hakeim (6)
  • Gare de Lyon: Metro / RER (A,D,1,14)
  • Opera – Grands Magasins: 11 rue Scribe, 75009/ Metro: Opera (3,7,8) / RER: Auber (A)
Train Stations in Paris:
  • Gare du Nord: North of France, Belgium, Eurostar to London, UK
  • Gare de L'Est: Champagne, Alsace / Germany
  • Gare de Lyon: Southeast, Provence – Cote d'Azur / Italy
  • Gare Austerlitz: Loire Valley, Southwest France
  • Gare Montparnasse: Brittany, TGV to Loire and Southwest
  • Gare Saint Lazare: Normandy, western coast
More detailed travel information is available at the French Governement Tourist Office Website at www.franceguide.com
Tips to buy your train tickets in France:

We suggest that people either buy in advance or in country! What other choice is there? The way to think about it is like this:
If you have a very popular route on the TGV; we recommend advance purchases. Usually TGV tickets with specific seats cannot be purchased more than 60 days in advance. A TGV ticket is almost pointless without the actual seat. They are 2 different things! A ticket between Paris and Avignon, for example, might be valid on any train in a certain time frame, but doesn't entitle you to a seat on any train. You have to also buy a seat reservation.

We recommend advance tickets with seats for the city pairs:
  • Paris-Avignon/Aix/Marseille
  • Paris-Bordeaux/Tours/St Pierre des Corps
  • Paris Lyon
Rail Passes: usually a good deal when you travel on the TGV at least 3 times, but often still a good deal if you even use it only 2 times. See the France Rail Pass at Rail Europe. A new pass/ticket option being offered by Rail Europe is the Anywhere Anytime France program of E-tickets. This also looks to be a very useful option, depending your travel plans.

Buying in country, or if you are very confident, then buy online direct from SNCF, the French national railroad: www.voyages-sncf.com They have English language available, but you may have to go through the French language only site to make certain purchases. If a rail pass isn't the best deal for you , then perhaps you can get a 'PREMS' deal on SNCF directly.

Other tickets: TER and regional trains for 1 way or simple/short round trips. We believe it is almost always best to buy them through SNCF, usually by walking into any station or at a kiosk when in France. Unless you travel with a rail pass, then your pass is good on these trains too. But, we don't recommend buying point to point tickets on regional trains through Rail Europe. Shipping fees and even seat assignments add up to too much. NOTE: Regional trains do not require seat reservations, so don't pay for them. Just sit in any open seat in your ticket class of service.

First of Second Class? Look at the prices! Sometimes there is little difference. On the train, there are no added privileges like larger seats or massages , etc in 1st class. What you usually have is a wagon that tends to be a bit quieter with business travelers or adults without children.