Are you familiar with the Bordeaux area?

Aug 19th, 2016, 09:20 AM
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Are you familiar with the Bordeaux area?

We will be there in the first half of October and plan (hope) to do a cycle tour arranged through an agency. While looking for agencies and self-guided tours, I came across this trip on a 70 passenger boat and would like some feedback. This is a boat and bike trip with biking from the boat every day. We have never done anything more than a two day/one night boat trip before so aren't even certain this would be us, but I am intrigued enough to ask for comments on the stops and the area.

day 1 Embarkation--mooring location of the boat near the Canal des Deux Mers at Castets-en-Dorthe, located in the middle of the Garonne Valley.

Day 2 (Sun): Castets-en-Dorthe – Sauternes (21-32 mi /35-50 km) | Castets-en-Dorthe – Cadillac
Part of the route follows the winding banks of the Ciron river, whose icy waters flow into the warmer waters of the Garonne. The country roads are dotted with picturesque chateaux whose elegant turrets rule over an ocean of colorful vines. In the late afternoon, back on board again, the tour continues by ship, heading downstream along the Garonne River to reach Loupiac or Cadillac, a small town with a towering castle.

Day 3 (Mon): Loupiac/Cadillac – Entre-Deux-Mers / Graves round tour (25 miles / 40 km) | Cadillac – Bordeaux
The cycling itinerary today leads through this “Premieres Côtes de Bordeaux” wine growing area. There is an opportunity to visit the former residence of the writer Francois Mauriac and Malromé castle, house of the painter Toulouse-Lautrec, built in the sixteenth century. Wine tastings are offered here! Once back on board, you will sail the Garonne River towards the enchanting city of Bordeaux.

Day 4 (Tue): Bordeaux: Bordeaux bike tour (10 miles / 15 km)
The tour guide will propose a city tour of Bordeaux to discover its architectural gems on two wheels: this short cycling tour, mainly over cycling lanes, along both sides of the Garonne river in the cycling capital of France offers beautiful panorama views of the waterfront and the city. In the afternoon, enjoy the UNESCO sites of Bordeaux during a walking or cycling tour.

Day 5 (Wed): Bordeaux – Lamarque | Lamarque – Margaux (Médoc) round tour (25 miles / 40 km) | Lamarque – Bourg
In the morning the ship cruises from Bordeaux to Lamarque in the Gironde estuary, to start your cycling tour in the famous Médoc wine area. Winding your way through vineyards, you will discover some of Médocs most beautiful castles and prestigious wineries. You can stop at one of these great wine estates for a visit / tasting (optional) and learn everything about classifications before returning to the boat. In the late afternoon, the ship will cruise the wide Gironde estuary to the jetty of Bourg, a picturesque little town near the conjunction of the Gironde and Dordogne rivers. The old city center overlooks the Gironde estuary.

Day 6 (Thu): Bourg to Blaye Fortress and vineyards round tour (21 – 32 miles / 35 – 50 km) | Bourg – Fronsac/Libourne
Cycling from Bourg you will enter the Côtes de Blaye vineyard. You will be surprised to see what this region holds in secret behind its hilly landscape covered with endless vines and dotted with scattered fairy tale chateaux and elegant manor houses. In Blaye, take a short loop through the Vauban Fortess (on the UNESCO World Heritage List) to admire this military masterwork of the architect of Louis XIV, the “Sun King”, before you return to Bourg by cycling part of the ‘Corniche’, a scenic, quiet road along the Gironde estuary. In the evening you will sail to Fronsac / Libourne on the Dordogne river.

Day 7 (Fri): Fronsac/Libourne, Pomerol & Saint-Émilion vineyards (21 – 32 miles / 35 – 50 km)
In Libourne you can stroll to the picturesque city square, lined with buildings dating as far back as the 16th century. You can visit the weekly market on Friday mornings, before starting your exploration of the famous Pomerol and Saint-Émilion wine areas. Pedaling the countryside, bristling with vines, you will enjoy riding through this unspoiled UNESCO World Heritage landscape. Cycling the landscape provides a unique view of the village’s medieval lanes and surrounding vineyards. Take some time to visit beautiful Saint-Émilion. Your ride will continue on small picturesque back roads and paths where you will get a glimpse of Saint Émilion’s most famous châteaux.

Day 8 (Sat): Fronsac/Libourne: Disembarkation and (optional) transfer back to Bordeaux

I know we'd want to stay in Bordeaux at the end or beginning of the trip to see more of the city.

What are your thoughts about this itinerary for this area? We are not hard core cyclists or hard core wine enthusiasts (that is not to say that we don't enjoy our evening wine). Since we are getting older, we are looking for a fairly easy-going route that offers us a diversity or experiences in scenic areas. The company has already told me that the cycling on day 3 is hilly (probably hillier than I'd want) but the rest should be doable for us. And, I also don't know if just a regular cycling trip from hotel to hotel might be a better way to see the area. I can find lots of other trips in the area--some Bordeaux only, some up into the la Rochelle area etc.

If you know this area, I'd love to hear what a real person (not someone who is trying to sell me a trip) thinks.

Thanks much.
julies is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 09:47 AM
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I live about 2.5 hours from Bordeaux and am there often. Just came back Monday from our latest excursion in the area. I am definitively NOT a cyclist and not even much of a fan of Bordeaux wines compared to many others in France, so my opinion is probably, well, just my own. I do not find the area particularly attractive, and apart from Bordeaux itself (a wonderful city these days) and the coast, do not enjoy spending time around there. I'm always really happy when we get back home to the Périgord Noir, which I find 10 times more beautiful than anyplace around Bordeaux. Among other things, there is a huge amount of pretention on these types of tours ("fairy tale castles and elegant manor houses" - please, those are a dime a dozen in France).

And don't even get me started on "beautiful St-Emilion." We were there last Sunday and it was shoulder-to-shoulder selfie-taking tourists quaffing 38-euro glasses of Château Georges Montague - a 20-cl glass! Parking was a nightmare, and prices for everything were astronomical. Libourne, IMO, is pretty much a dump.

I could go on in further detail, but I'll stop now and have a glass of Pécharmant.
StCirq is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 10:21 AM
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Well, yes, Périgord Noir is certainly more scenic than Bordeaux, and the wines such as Pécharmant and Monbazillac are very good indeed and a much better value than comparable Bordeaux wines. However, I suspect that you will find quite acceptable Bordeaux wines for less than 38€ for a 20cl glass.

However, for people who describe themselves as "not hard-core cyclists", the terrain in Bordeaux is much friendlier as it is much less hilly than Périgord.

I think the trip sounds like fun, and the daily distances are quite doable for a casual cyclist. I like the idea of staying on the boat while travelling to various areas for the daily rides.

if you like it, then you might want to plan a village to village tour in the future. I have good friends love cycling in France and who do a 3-week cycling trip there every 2 years. Over the years have covered much of Southern France. But they are hard-core cyclists who do all their own planning and take their own bikes, assembling them at the airport (usually Toulouse) and ride off into the countryside.
laverendrye is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 10:56 AM
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This is exactly the type of feedback from various perspectives that I am looking for. St Emilion as tourist hell is something I have heard mentioned here before, and places of that type really turn us off. For me, Carcassonne immediately comes to mind.

We also took a look at the Dordogne as a locale for a cycling trip and quickly realized that it would be way too hilly and difficult for us. I guess I should also mention that we are now late 60s and are at the point in our lives where we are doing the "while we can still do it...." type thinking and itinerary planning.

We have enough time on this trip that we plan to visit the Dordogne/Perigord Noir area with a rental car. But, that planning needs to wait until I get this entire cycling trip thing sorted out.

StCirq--you mention the coast as being a favorite of yours. I have also bookmarked some trips that are in and around la Rochelle in more coastal areas. Do you think those are more attractive areas that would offer some diversity in landscape and sightseeing? This is one example:

"This cycling holiday will take you from the Atlantic coast to Médoc vineyards through a great diversity of landscapes.

From La Rochelle, ancient fortified harbor, you ride on the Atlantic cycle route "Velodyssey" alternatively along beaches, through marshes or pine forests. You discover the city of Rochefort and its “Corderie Royale”, Brouage citadel built by the French engineer Vauban, the marshes of Marennes, the oyster-farming port of La Tremblade and the costal town of Royan.

You cross the Gironde Estuary by ferry to Le Verdon and continue your bike trip across Médoc peninsula. You cycle along the seashore then through the vineyards where they grow numerous "Grands Crus” such as Mouton-Rothschild. You reach Pauillac before getting to Bordeaux by train with your bikes to discover this historic and lively city."

Thanks again to all who can give their candid opinions.
julies is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 11:31 AM
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You will be visiting Bordeaux in early October, and while there will be tourists in St. Emilion, bien sûr, I doubt that it will be anything like the scene one would encounter on a Sunday in August. That was certainly the case on my last visit on a Saturday last October--it was actually quite pleasant to stroll around.

I might also note in passing that a week or so later Saint-Cirq-Lapopie in the Lot, which is notorious for the hordes of visitors clogging its streets, was almost deserted.

So I wouldn't worry about crowds at that time of year.
laverendrye is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 11:50 AM
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julies, the trip in/around La Rochelle sounds lovely to me. I love that area. Les Marennes has possibly THE best oysters on the planet. Just had some yesterday. Rochefort, Le Tremblade, and Royan are lovely, IMO, much better than the area around Bordeaux itself.

I wasn't promoting a bit doing any cycling in the Périgord Noir, just making a contrast between it and the area around Bordeaux.
StCirq is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 12:00 PM
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Isn't the wine harvest over by the first half of October?
tomboy is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 12:43 PM
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I just recently became reconciled with Bordeaux itself after not liking at at all for many years. It may take a bit longer for me to appreciate the rest of the region, but I am not giving up hope.
kerouac is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 01:29 PM
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Not a lot of overwhelmingly enthusiastic endorsements for the area, other than the city of Bordeaux itself. I read elsewhere that the countryside to the north of Bordeaux and west of the Gironde isn't really very interesting. Would you all agree?

Yes, I am assuming the harvest would be over, maybe. Frankly, we are not at all that interested in visiting the wine estates and chateaux but are instead interested in an easy, scenic trip with lots of diversity of interesting and charming places to stop, and being in an area where we definitely know we are in France rather than a modern area that could be pretty much anywhere in the world. These do not need to be biggies or major tourist attractions as we can be happy with just the little and lesser-known things. We know from past experiences that the places that everyone knows the names of are not always really the nicest or most interesting or best places for us to visit.

Rather than the boat trip I initially inquired about, StCirq was much more enthusiastic about a trip I found that went south from la Rochelle to Pauillac from where we'd take the train into Bordeaux. Now I also found a different tour that covers both the east and west banks of the Gironde Estuary from Bourg sur Gironde to Royan and the to Pian Médoc. Between these two, which do you think would be most interesting?

Thanks again.
julies is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 03:34 PM
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You might want to look at tours run by the British company, "Cycling for Softies". They offer self-guided tours throughout France, with pre-booked hotels and luggage transfer. Most of their routes follow gentle terrain and the distances between hotels are not long (avg 50km). They have several tours in the area of France which interests you. My hard core cycling friends, while not having taken them, have recommended this company to many others.
laverendrye is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 03:51 PM
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lavendrye--Thanks. I just took another look at the Cycling for Softies website. Other than Provence, which ends on Oct. 15, apparently their tours anywhere shut down after the end of September.
julies is offline  
Aug 20th, 2016, 09:32 AM
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I still think the trip from La Rochelle to Paulliac would be better. But have you considered a bike tour in Alsace? IF I were a biker, which I am most definitely not, I think I would really enjoy biking between, say, Strasbourg and Colmar. Plenty of wine there, too, though yes, the season will be over.
StCirq is offline  
Aug 20th, 2016, 10:05 AM
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October may be a bit late but not bad, we did a La Rochelle to Bergerac bike tour which worked out well, the good news is the Euro Velo (6?) route which is what the coastal route is is very flat. may interest
bilboburgler is offline  

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