A new season is very nearly upon us, more glorious cycling, with great wine and food, in some of the most beautiful parts of France.
Our first tours start in June:
June 16th – 23rd: Provence
June 23rd – 30th: Dordogne
Both these tours will be led by my good friend Pete McGee, and over the next few weeks our guiding team will start arriving in France. This summer, that means Toby King, my youngest brother Gerard, and me.
Provence and Dordogne are our two most popular tours. What should I tell you about them? Don’t forget, click on these thumbnails to see a larger image. And at the bottom of the page you’ll find links to some videos of The Chain Gang in Dordogne and Provence, courtesy of Roberto Peixoto.
They’re both beautiful, the two most scenic of our French tours. In the Dordogne, there is a contrast between lush, green river valleys and the gorges and cliffs of the limestone causses. Provence, of course, has the Lubéron Hills, and there can’t be many more beautiful places in Europe.
There’s a real contrast here. Provence is fabulous for food, probably the best food of any of our French trips. There are lots of fresh vegetables, herbs and beautiful, local olive oil. Vegetarians especially will find themselves spoilt for delicious choice in Provence, which is not often the case in France!
The Dordogne boasts a very distinctive cuisine. At the right time of year you’ll find truffles, strawberries, walnuts and cepe mushrooms everywhere, but most of their regional dishes are based on duck and goose. For me, that’s perefct as I love Périgord cuisine (the area we call Dordogne, the French call Périgord, so when you see the label ‘Périgordin’ it means Dordogne-style).
The best known dishes would be foie gras, magret of duck, confit and cassoulet, but it’s a fertile region and there’s lots of salad and fruit.
More interesting than you might think. On our Dordogne trip there is no wine – when the phylloxera epidemic spread through France in the late 19th Century, there simply wasn’t the manpower or the economic incentive to replant Dordogne vineyards. But the region is bordered by the vineyards of Bergerac, Monbazillac, St Emilion and Cahors. The transition throughout our week from the claret-style wines of St Emilion and Pécharment to the ‘black wines’ of Cahors is fascinating for any wine-lover.
In Provence, on our very first day we cycle through Chateauneufdupape, the Daddy of Côtes du Rhône wines. But there’s much more of interest here, the classy syrah wines of Gigondas and Vacqueyras, the new appellations of Les Beaux de Provence and Mont Ventoux, the famous white wine appellation of Cassis and the Rosé wines of Tavel, by popular repute the finest rosés in France.
4. How difficult are they?
People can’t hate hills that much, because these two are the hilliest of our French tours, and the most popular. Perhaps this supports the assertion of a previous Chain Ganger that ‘no hills means no views’.
I have always resisted attaching levels of difficulty to our tours. I believe that if you can cycle one of our tours, you can cycle all of them. Some training wouldn’t hurt, and I think most Chain Gangers are regular exercisers in some form or another. But we have all day, we’re always on our way to somewhere beautiful or fascinating, we’re allowed to walk up the steep bits, our bikes all have low gears when you need them, and if you really need help, we’re there.
In the Dordogne, beware of the climbs to Domme and Rocamadour, and in Provence the Alpilles and the Lubéron Hills offer a challenge, but all of these places are beautiful and spectacular, so don’t be put off.
5. Explore a bit more.
Roberto Peixoto, everybody’s favourite Brazilian cyclist, has been on both our Dordogne and Provence tours, and made a video of his holiday. You can find both Roberto’s videos on Youtube here:
In fact, Roberto has lots of videos on Youtube, and many of them feature Chain Gang tours. If you want to explore more of Roberto’s videos, Chain Gang or otherwise, have a look here.
Once you’ve watched Roberto’s videos, don’t forget to send in your booking form!