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Thursday 25 December 2014

Bicycling through Burgundy and other extreme indulgences

A few years ago, more years than I care to acknowledge, actuaIly, I was fortunate enough to be invited on a cycling tour of Burgundy by the up-market company Butterfield and Robinson. 

It was a week of extreme indulgence; sampling fine wines in Puligny-Montrachet, Beaune and other Burgundian villages; eating rich French food and then working off all the excesses by cycling a few kilometres each day. 

It was one of my more memorable assignments and a quick Google search confirms that Butterfield and Robinson still host very similar bike tours, although the itinerary, understandably, has changed somewhat over the years. 
Hotel Dieu, Beaune, Burgundy

My mind was jogged back those days of wine and roses by a recent press release from Five Star PR about a range of cycling holidays in France available through their client Tour de Vines. 

The people at Tour de Vines suggest no fewer than five French regions that are ideal for combining two-wheeled exercise with regional gourmet delights. These are their words, not mine, but having visited all five regions I can heartily recommend them. 

1) Alsace

Traverse a region filled with a rich cultural and historical significance whilst cycling one of the oldest wine routes in France, the Alsace Wine Route. Taste world-renowned wines surrounded by the incredible natural beauty of the French countryside, from picturesque lakes to thick, green forests. Nestled in eastern France on the German border, explore the cobbled lanes of charming Germanic-style villages on bicycle and uncover the region's extraordinary medieval history in the beautiful town of Colmar or take in scenic views of traditional vineyards across the Rhine river. The Alsace Wine Route is a popular gathering place and when travelling by bicycle you can stop and enjoy the various wine and harvest festivals, folklore entertainment, processions and wine-tastings or simply embrace the lively and friendly atmosphere whilst passing through.
2) Bordeaux

With an expert Tour de Vines guide you can visit 'The Pearl of Aquitaine' and all it has to offer. Escape the gridlock of the city in favour of cycling the quiet country lanes and dedicated cycle paths that allow you to enjoy Bordeaux at your chosen pace. With a dedicated cycle lane from the Gare-St-Jean up the river Garonne’s magnificently restored quayside, you will feel content (if not a little smug) exploring this area on a bicycle. An ideal location for wine lovers, sample some of the best wine anywhere in the world straight from the cellar door. Enjoy a stay in one of the regions grand chateaux now transformed into accommodation venues. Wander the historic quarter of Bordeaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or alternatively, venture out and bask in the gentle hills and stunning vineyards of the Aquitaine region. With sunshine, beautiful scenery, fine food, world renowned wine and a culture of joie de vivre, Bordeaux is the perfect destination for a cycling escape.
Beautiful downtown Bordeaux  

3) Loire Valley

Famous for it's sweeping landscapes, luxurious chateaux and exquisite wine, the Loire Valley represents the quintessential French experience. It is also home to the Loire à Vél, an immense 800-kilometre cycle tourism route, like no other in France which is certain to make you want to discover Europe by bike and to make the most of a green, eco-responsible, cultural form of tourism. Castle-hop your way through the lush Loire Valley on board two wheels at a relaxed pace where the toughest decision you’ll have to make all day is which wine to have with your cheese plate before dinner. Designated a World Heritage Site, the Valley is sometimes known as the 'Cradle of the French' due to the array of vineyards, fruit orchards and fields that line the banks of the Loire River. The Loire Valley and the surrounding Touraine region, encompassing historic localities like Angers, Chinon and Orleans, is without doubt an unmissable cycling destination located only a couple of hours away from Paris.
Wine for sale in the Loire Valley 

4) Burgundy 

One of the most popular destinations in France for cycling and wine loving tourists. The Burgundy region is filled with culture and grandeur, stemming from the beauty and history of Dijon that once challenged the French court for wealth and splendou
r and is still famous for its mustard. Travel to traditional medieval towns like Tournus and Beaune or traverse a picturesque countryside of spectacular vineyards, forests, chateaux and hillside villages, complete with world-class food and wine. With dedicated paths specifically for cyclists, travelling by bicycle is the ultimate way to see this area on a picturesque route that goes through a variety of landscapes, past châteaux, vineyards and along waterways.
5) Dordogne
Uncover the hidden gems of the Dordogne region in south-west France, an area steeped in French and European history. With lush green valleys, flowing rivers, and steep sandstone cliffs to travel past, Dordogne is a cyclist’s dream.Visit the ancient but well-preserved, World Heritage listed underground cave paintings at Lascaux, considered among the best of Upper Paleolithic art. Take a trip to Perigueux to see the remains of Roman settlement, including a large amphitheatre, a temple to a Gallic goddess and a luxurious Roman villa. Canoe along the Dordogne river where medieval chateaux line the banks, just some of the 1,500 castles in the area.

# Tour de Vines has seven different cycling tours in France with 32 different dates from June-September to choose from. All Tour de Vines cycling tours in France last seven days and include two guides and support vehicle. They are priced from 3,200. Book before January 31 and Tour de Vines will also include a free guided bike tour of Paris. 

For more information see:

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