Harvest Between Mountains and Sea Tour
The French table is inextricably linked to terroir—the earth and elements of a particular place that give character to the products cultivated in that place. On this six-day tour we’ll introduce you to the unique and stunning terroir of French Catalonia while we pedal between mountains and sea ( and if we’re lucky it will happen during the grape harvest). Here, the Pyrenees drop into the Mediterranean with no shortage of drama—creating a terroir dominated by extremes—mountains and sea, sun and snow, arid and fertile.
On this tour we’ll skirt the base of the Alberes and Aspres mountain ranges (foothills of the Pyrenees) on the edge of the Roussillon plain. We’ll taste from prolific vineyards on the plain as it spreads out to the sea and we’ll sample complex wines made from grapes grown on hills a little higher up. We’ll taste locally harvested almonds, artisan olive oils and fresh goat cheese. We’ll spread home-made fig confiture on our organic breads, and snack on the cherries and peaches for which this region is known.
We’ll begin in the Aspres mountain range in the foothills of the Pyrenees where we’ll base at a rural inn for two nights. On day three, we’ll pedal over the Col de Llauro at 380 m (1247 ft) into the Tech River Valley in the Alberes moutain range. We’ll base in the artistic village of Céret for a night, before following the Alberes to the Vermillon Coast where we’ll spend our last two days exploring stone-terraced vineyards by the sea.
Each day’s distance ranges from 40 to 65 km (25 to 40 miles) with continuous rolling hills. There are three notable climbs throughout the week, all of which reward with spectacular views. This is a self-contained trip which means you’ll carry all your stuff in saddle bags and arrive at each day’s destination with the self satisfaction of knowing you got there completely on your own. Meals and snacks are arranged along the way, so you’ll only be hauling your personal stuff up the inclines. You can also count on beverages and encouragement at every crest. If you already bike hills, you’ll love the scenic climbs on this tour. If you’re not an experienced hill-climber, this is the perfect tour to learn how to approach them. There are no Tour de France epic mountains on this tour, only picturesque hills that I’m sure anyone with the will can mount.
Accommodations on this tour are a mix of private rooms in rural estates (with swimming pools and tranquil grounds) and basic rooms in traditional village hotels. All are a notch up in comfort level in comparison with the lodges used on the Pyrenees to Plage Tour. Lunches are organic picnics in scenic locations or in casual café’s and bakeries. We’ll stop for one edible discovery each day (wine tasting or farm visit) and incorporate a few cultural visits (Romanesque chapel, medieval village) throughout the week.
The focus of this tour is rural France, where tables that best express the region’s terroir hold more weight than opulent restaurants. Expect to meet the cheese maker, the baker and the vintner and expect to maybe eat around the table with the innkeepers.
TASTE OF TERROIR TOUR DATES:
- • Two passionate bi-cultural tour leaders
- • Scott hybrid bike + helmet + handlebar bag
- • Maps + cue sheets
- • Transport to and from Perpignan train station at beginning and end of trip (by shuttle or train)
- • 5 nights in countryside estates, bed and breakfasts and village hotels, 4 dinners with local wine (one dinner on your own), 5 organic and locally sourced picnics, 5 French-style breakfasts (think croissants and espresso)
- • All tips/gratuities for lodging and meals
- • A minimum of one daily tasting or visit at a local, organic producer
- • A group maximum of six people, insuring a small, intimate group setting
- • Pre and post-trip planning advice–I’ll share local travel tips and contacts for lodging and transport around the trip’s start and finish
- Airfare and/or travel expenses to and from tour beginning/ending location
- Lodging and dining expenses before and after tour start and end
- Any shopping or extras you spend on tour
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Moderate. Need some biking experience, but don’t have to be a seasoned adventure cyclist. Read more about difficulty levels
SUPPORT LEVEL: Trip leaders, inn-to-inn, self-contained.
TO PREPARE: I’ll send you a handbook with details on packing, planning and preparing once you’ve confirmed your reservation. You’ll get info on how to pack light for bike travel, how you should train on the bike, what kind of weather to expect and other pertinent information. Don’t worry if this is your first self-contained adventure, I’ll walk you through the essentials.
HARVEST TOUR ITINERARY:
We’ll meet you at the train station in Perpignan, the capital city of French Catalonia known for its gypsy music and Spanish influences. From there, we’ll shuttle to our first night’s country estate where we’ll have a wine tasting, light lunch, and an introduction bike lesson. Depending on the tour variation, we may attempt our first hill of the week with sweeping views of the Roussillon plain, Corbières mountains and the Mediterranean in the distance. We’ll reassemble in the evening for well-earned aperitifs, dinner and conversation around a quintessential French table where simple, local food and wine reign. Bonne nuit.
- • Light Mediterranean lunch
- • Intro bike lesson
- • Meet the maker: local organic wine or olive oil
- • Aperitifs and dinner at the inn or in a rural bistro
- • Sweet dreams in your private room in the countryside
- • 16 km (10 miles) by bike, and maybe a hill thrown in for fun
- • Scenery–Mediterranean garrigue (habitat), snow-covered mount Le Canigou in the distance, Les Aspres mountain range (Pyrenean foothills), peach and plum orchards, vineyards, olive groves, views of the Roussillon Plain and Mediterranean from afar
Rise and shine for a poolside breakfast in rural southern France. We’ll go over the day’s route and help orient you on your map before setting out for the day. Today will be a loop ride, where we’ll return to the same inn for a second night. We may climb up to the historic Catalonian village of Castelnou to explore it’s winding medieval streets, or we may opt to pedal to Pain d’Eric, a rural organic baker whose chocolatines and natural rise breads will fill our picnic baskets for the week. Other options are visiting an organic wine producing estate or meeting our friends Carmen and Didier who produce organic olive oil. We’ll stop for a scenic picnic lunch somewhere along the way before returning to our peaceful French inn. For dinner, we’ll shuttle to one of our favorite local restaurants for a taste of the region en plein air or in the wine cellar-turned-dining-room. Bon appetit.
- • Beautiful breakfast
- • Medieval Catalonian village
- • Meet the maker: organic olive oil producers, artisan winemaker or rural baker
- • Organic picnic lunch
- • Dinner, local wine and conversation with new friends
- • Second night in your peaceful French inn
- • 53 km (33 miles) by bike, maybe with a notable climb up to the village of Castelnou
- • Scenery–hillside medieval village, Mediterranean garrigue (habitat), peach and plum orchards, Le Canigou in the distance, rolling vineyards on the flanks of Les Aspres, olive groves, Mediterranean and Roussillon plain from afar
Rise and shine for croissants and coffee sur la terrace. Check under your bed for lost belongings before saying au revoir to our innkeepers. Straddle your two wheels and head into rolling vine country. Today we’ll meet a real Catalan family who have been working the region’s vines for generations, or we’ll head to Domaine les Conques where you’ll meet Francois Douville–the president of the region’s impressive organic initiative, and the maker (in our opinion) of one of the region’s best organic white blends (macabeu, grenache gris and grenache blanc grapes).
But go easy on the wine, because we have the trip’s biggest climb to roll over still. You’ll be pleased with yourself and the view when you roll into L’Ermitage St. Ferreol with its 13th century chapel and perched perspective over the Tech River valley. Next, we’ll coast down to the artistic village of Céret, known for its early season cherries and Cubism (Picasso painted here). You’re on your own to explore and dine tonight in this medieval village with an excellent modern art museum and streets punctuated with shops, café’s and galleries.
Our hotel is ensconced inside the village center, walking distance from everything. It’s not a hotel for luxurious wallowing, rather a real provincial hotel with typically small rooms, firm beds and sincere service. Don’t forget to ask the innkeeper about the superb art hung in the lobby and public areas. And we’re eager to recommend our favorite restaurants, make reservations for you or point you to the best place for tapas–so pick our brains freely.
- • Peaceful poolside breakfast
- • Meet the maker: Fine, affordable, organic vintages
- • Organic picnic lunch
- • 13th century chapel perched high above the Tech River Valley
- • Historic Cérét, art center of the valley and birthplace of Cubism
- • Free afternoon and evening to shop and dine at your own pace
- • Classic provincial village hotel room
- • 48 km (30 miles) by bike, Hill Climb (Col de Llauro): 7.3 km (4.5 miles) with an average grade of 3.2%
- • Scenery–rolling vineyards of Les Aspres, green oak stands, olive groves, cherry orchards, Les Alberes mountain range, Mount Pic Neolus, Le Canigou, the Tech River Valley from high, the Mediterranean (and perhaps bits of Spain) from afar.
We’ll meet for breakfast at the bakery around the corner, then pedal off to learn about the region’s cork industry and the cork oak tree stands found only in this part of France. Then we’ll skirt the base of Les Alberes mountains as we make our way seaward. Depending on the season we may stop to taste a local natural wine, or stop off at an organic almond grove to meet the woman who turns the year’s harvest into fine almond oils, almond nougat, candied almonds, roasted almonds and more. We’ll either picnic for lunch or eat at a roadside bakery before pedaling to our night’s lodging—a Catalan estate tucked in the hills with views of the Mediterranean on clear days, or a fine village bed and breakfast with a fantastic restaurant. If the skies are clear, we’ll gather round an outdoor table at the inn for dinner. Bonnes fêtes.
- • Classic provincial breakfast
- • Meet the maker: intro to the region’s natural cork industry (it grows on trees if you didn’t know) or organic almond grove or winery
- • Organic picnic or lunch at a roadside bakery
- • Private room in a classic Catalan country estate or fine Bed and Breakfast
- • Dinner at the inn with local wines
- • 40 to 55 km (25 to 35 miles) by bike
- • Scenery–cherry trees, citrus trees, vineyards of Les Alberes, cork oak tree stands, almond groves, Le Canigou, Pic Neolus, glimpses of the Mediterranean
We’ll breakfast outside on the patio, then mount our bikes and pedal through a majestic cork oak forest on the way to the day’s edible discovery, a goat cheese farm or olive oil mill. Today will either be a loop ride back to the country estate, or a move to another inn on the coast. Regardless, we’ll be dipping our toes in the Mediterranean today. We may attempt the last big climb of the week, or opt to cut the hill short and stop in the coastal village of Collioure, immortalized by Matisse who fell in love with the light here. For dinner, we’ll dine in a fine bistro celebrating our trek to the Vermillon Coast.
- • Breakfast on the patio
- • Meet the maker: organic artisan goat cheese or olive oil mill
- • Arrive at the Mediterranean!
- • Organic picnic lunch with views of the coastline or café lunch
- • Second night in your private room in a classic Catalan country estate or move to a seaside hotel
- • Bistro dinner with local wines
- • 40 to 55 km (25 to 35 miles) by bike, Hill Climb Option (Col de la Serra): 5.8 km (3.6 miles) with an average grade of 4.7%
- • Scenery—cheese farm, seaside vineyards, cork oak trees, the blue-green Mediterranean at your feet, shoreline cliffs, coastal lavender and seaside vegetation, the tip of Spain, medieval signal towers defending the Franco-Spanish frontier
Wake by the sea or with a view of from a distance. Breakfast together, pack your bags, exchange addresses and prepare farewells for your new friends. We’ll finish our adventure in the coastal village of Collioure where you’ll take the regional train back to Perpignan. From there you can make the next connection on your personal itinerary. A bientôt.
- • Breakfast at the inn
- • Matisse’s Collioure
- • Regional coastal train to Perpignan
- • New friends, powerful memories
NOTE: THIS TOUR HAS VARIOUS OPTIONS, DEPENDING ON WEATHER, AVAILABILITY AND GROUP DYNAMICS. PLEASE KNOW THAT ALL VARIATIONS FOLLOW THE SAME STANDARDS AS OUTLINED HERE. I’M COMMITTED TO SHARING THE BEST OF THIS REGION AND WILL MAKE SURE EACH TOUR SHINES ACCORDING TO GROUP NEEDS.
- Active Travel France, Biking, Cycling, Food and Wine, France, French Catalonia, Languedoc-Roussillon, Mediterranean, Organic, Organic Bike Trip France, Organic Food and Wine France, Pyrenees, South of France
- October 8, 2014