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Harvest Between Mountains and Sea Tour


organic food, wine and cycling tours

Vineyards of Les Aspres

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.






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.





Day 1
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.


Day 2
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.


Day 3
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.


Day 4
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.


Day 5
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.


Day 6
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.




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