Published by Lyn on 7 May 2018
We stayed at Hôtel de France et de Russie in Thiviers at the end of our Flow Velo bike ride from the Atlantic Coast.
We arrived at Hôtel de France et de Russie in Thiviers at the end of a very long day on the bike. It was the final leg of our Flow Velo bike trip and we'd had a day of drama with two punctures in 10 minues leaving us eating our last rations after we missed restaurant/boulangerie hours at our designated lunch stops. We were tired and had the cloud of thunderstorms hanging over the next day's ride. This hotel was a welcome find.
5 things we liked
1. The hosts. British owners Sharon and Adrian were thrown in at the deep end when they bought this hotel a few years back. With little or no French when they arrived, they have created a wonderful local retreat that has stayed true to its origins. The hotel and the restaurant (see below) employ a mix of French and English staff, and all were friendly and knowledgable during our stay. Adrian and Sharon were great hosts and they are keen to see more cyclists stay with them.
2. The hotel. The hotel itself offers the privacy and independence of a hotel but retains the feel and intimacy of a B&B. Sharon and Adrian quickly whisked our bikes away to store them overnight in their laundry, and they had additional storage available for larger groups. Our room was large and comfortable (Nicky said it was the best night's sleep she had all trip), and the shower was hot and beautiful after a long ride. Each room is individually decorated, with the decor sympathetic to the building's roots. Sharon explained they were keen to offer modern and ocntemporary facilities (including super fast wifi), while retaining the character of the building.
3. The restaurant. When Adrian and Sharon bought the hotel, there was a large kitchen and two rooms downstairs not being fully utilised. They quickly teamed up with local chef Nicolas Cousinou, who at the age of 27 was keen to open his own restaurant. And so l'Escapade des Sens was born in the downstairs section of the hotel. The restaurant is simply wonderful, with a menu packed full of classic Dordogne dishes with a modern twist. Nicolas serves only freshly prepared gourmet food cooked with locally sourced ingredients (his family has cattle and duck farms in the area, so many of the ingredients don't have far to travel). He takes care of all the food at the hotel, including the breakfasts. When we requested eggs on the Sunday morning, two perfectly boiled eggs appeared minutes later for each of us.
4. The extra bikey support. The guys work with a local bike hire delivery firm, and regularly host cycling clubs and cycle touring groups. There was stacks of support here for us. I was determined to cycle to Perigueux under my own steam on the Sunday despite the persistent rain. I wanted to check out this route for you guys. However Nicky wasn't so sure. With the rain bucketing down, she had no altruistic notion in mind when Adrian offered to give her (and her bike) a lift to our designated lunch stop in Excideuil (the cyclist-run Gaillard Gourmand cafe), 18km away by main road. She was a very happy fair-weathered cyclist. Adrian explained that he regularly helped walkers on the Compostella route with their baggage, and was more than happy to oblige for cyclists too. He even managed to dig out a spare inner tube for us – just in case ...
5. The area. Thiviers – and indeed this entire area of the Dordogne – is lovely. There is a lot going on with a lively Saturday market (fill up on cheese and baguettes for picnics en route!), as well as local culture and cuisine. The town has a Maison du Fois Gras (8 Place Foch) where you can find out more about this local delicacy. The roads around here are also much quieter than further south in the more touristy areas of the Dordogne. The Saint-Pardoux-la-Rivière to Thiviers voie verte is deadpan flat and ends on the outskirts of the town (and forms part La Flow Velo). Around the town itself routes tend to be a bit hillier, but perfect for road riders and leisure riders wanting fresh air and rural views. A club group from the UK visits the hotel regularly and has mapped a selection of rides in the area. Here is the Saturday market and a shot of the road out of Thiviers on the way to Perigueux. Lovely!
All in all, we loved our stay here and would heartily recommend this Hôtel de France et de Russie to other cyclists passing though. We'd also happily have used it as a fixed base for a longer stay – for example, for a weekend of rides in the area. Sharon and Adrian went out of their way to make us feel welcome and to help make our visit to the Dordogne enjoyable.
Hôtel de France et de Russie
51 Rue Général Lamy, 24800 Thiviers