After a busy tourist season, Glenn & I decided to take our cycling adventures overseas for the winter. After many, many months in the planning (flights, bring bikes or no?, where to visit, etc…) we solidified our plans ~ 5 weeks of cycling through France.
We decided to combine our love of cycling and wine (hence, VeloVino) and planned on visiting the Loire Valley, Burgundy and Alsace. I had never really cycled in Europe, and Glenn did some (30?) years ago, so we were excited to check out the trails and also taste some amazing wines. Initially, the excitement quickly changed to frustration, as we had to maneuver our oversized bike bags (yes, we decided to bring our own bikes) through airports. Not the easiest to do in the best of times, but add North American summer vacation crowds into the mix, and you have a full-blown bottleneck at every turn. After working through 24 hours of brain fog traveling and a map-filled lost iPad, we finally landed at our starting point ~ Nantes, in the Loire Valley. The Loire valley trail is a total of about 800km long, and we ended doing about 650km of that. While not the easiest first week of our cycling (flat tires & signage frustration abounded), the trail is mainly flat and meanders through quaint small villages that are surrounded by poppy and abundant wheat fields. We enjoyed some amazing wines (Reuilly sauvignon blanc, Chinon reds) and cheeses (chavignol goat is a fave)along the way and really loved the region.
Next, we made our way to Burgundy. At this point the weather was really heating up (35-38*C) and we wanted to make the most of our time on the bikes, so we took the train from Nevers to our destination village, Beaune. Known as the ‘Cote d’Or’ (gold hills ~ the colour of the vineyards at harvest), we decided to place ourselves in the Cote de Beaune (Beaune) for 5 nights and then the Cote de Nuits (Nuits St George) for 4 nights so that we could really DO the ‘VeloVino thing’ in each sub-region: spend a day cycling around the tiny villages and stop for tons of photo/go-pro video ops, and another day just relax around the towns and taste the amazing Burgundies I’ve been missing! The region is as beautiful as I remember from so many years ago, except that it has grown and expanded. It was quite a decadent treat to drink the luscious Chassagnes-Montrachets, Pommards and Vosne-Romanees and eat the stinky cheeses again (can you sense a pattern here?…..) It was hard to leave Burgundy (although my wallet and cholesterol-laden heart were more than ready!) but Alsace awaited us, and as an ‘Alsatian newbie’ I was ready for the next adventure.
Alsace is about 140km long, and we started in the southern city of Colmar and worked our way up to Strasbourg. Unlike the Loire and Burgundy, Alsace is very germanic in design and also hilly. We had plenty of time in the area, so while we enjoyed the many challenging hill rides and were pretty strong by this point, around every bend were flower-filled quaint villages and wineries to visit, and we took full advantage of them! The food is hearty (think choucroute, sausages and sauerkraut), and the (mostly) white wines are fruit-driven, rich and refreshing. I personally loved the pretzel stands and took full advantage of them anytime I could!