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Great Runs Summer Road Trip: Azores, Loire Valley, Lyon

Hiking path, São Miguel

This was the Europe summer for Great Runs! It all started with a biking & running road trip to Tuscany in May. We returned to Europe in July for a three-chapter adventure: Azores; a bike trip in the Loire Valley; and some time in the Rhône-Alpes part of France, which included three days in Lyon. Trip totals: 334 miles of cycling, 54 miles of hiking, 27 miles of running, 465k steps, 28k feet of elevation gain.

Azores Landscape. Mark Lowenstein

Azores. Covid restrictions postponed this trip, originally scheduled for April 2020. We were able to use vouchers on Azores Airlines for a six-day stopover on the way to our Europe bike trip. The Azores are fabulous. Fantastic variety of geography, from stunning coastline to lava fields to the lush, mountainous interior. And, €1 beers!  We hiked 50+ miles over six days on the island of São Miguel, on a network of wonderfully waymarked trails

From a running perspective, the Azores are tricky. There are few dedicated multi-use paths, and most of the roads lack a shoulder or sidewalk. And, the interior of the three most visited islands — São Miguel, Terceira, and Pico — tend to be very hilly. So, we’ve done a lot of research to find the best coastal roads with light traffic, and quieter, scenic interior roads that aren’t too hilly. We also found that the hiking trails marked ‘easy’ are suitable for a trail run of easy-to-moderate difficulty. See our running guide to the Azores!

Riverfront, Orléans

Loire Valley. This was principally a cycling trip, but we used it as an opportunity to QA some of our running routes and add some new ones. We were mainly in the area between Orléans and Tours. And, it was hot — temps exceeded 90F nearly every day. The

Rue Nationale, Tours

heart of running in the Loire Valley centers on the extensive paths along the Loire River (which is unusually low due to this summer’s lack of rainfall in France). There’s also a fantastic network of scenic, very low-trafficked roads passing the area’s famous vineyards and farms.

Several of our bike rides included a visit to the area’s iconic chateaux, including Chenonceau, Chamboard, Chaumont, and Azay. We particularly loved the grand allées and fabulous gardens in these castles. Unfortunately, running is generally not permitted on the castle grounds (we asked!).

Among the running highlights of the week were lovely paths along the river in Orléans, a sunrise run along the water in Blois, the wide avenues in Tours and and the extensive Parc Gloriette.  For those looking to enjoy some of the scenic, little-trafficked roads outside the main towns, the Loire à Vélo cycle path is a great resource. We cycled several hundred km of this path, and found that most of the sections would be great for running.

Confluence, Lyon

Lyon. We spent three days in Lyon, which is the third largest city in France. It’s a fabulous place for visiting and great for running. Our favorite riverfront route was along the west bank of the Rhône river out to the Confluence. We also loved the Parc de la Tête d’Or — a classic European park. For a unique, magical, and hilly run/hike, we recommend getting up early and running through the cobbled streets of Old Lyon, then up to the top of Fourvière to see the Basilica (via path or stairs!), followed by some stair repeats in the Roman Ruins, which are open to the public and don’t require a ticket.

Top Museums on the Europe trip: The Leonardo da Vinci museum at the Château of Clos Lucé in Amboise, and the underground Gallo-Roman museum in Lyon.

Old Roman Circus, Lyon

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