Scenic Climbs and Organic Farms Tour
Home is where the heart resides and you’ll get to know our hearts well on this tour based from our home in the Castellane Valley. This is a single location tour, where we return to the same place each day. We’ll share a sprawling old stone mill house alongside a roaring river with a natural swimming basin and elite views of the region’s sacred Mount Canigou. From this mountain paradise, we’ll take you on their favorite climbs and rides with impressive hairpin turns and distant views.
We’ll trade our wheels for donkey ears one day, and hike high in the hills with local guide Pierre with one of his donkey’s carrying our picnic gear. Throughout the week you’ll get to meet some of Mosset’s other interesting neighbors: cattle farmers, shepherds, organic vegetable growers, the village blacksmith, the shopkeeper and bistro owner. You’ll get to see rural village life from the inside, while pedaling some of the best cycling routes in the region.
You should know that Mosset is perched at 700 m (2300 ft) on the road to the famous Col de Jau (one of the minor climbs of the Tour de France some years). That means you’ll be pedaling up and down on a daily basis, and plus some. Notable climbs are the Col de Roque Jalère (991 m, 3251 ft), and of course, we can’t be on a Tour de France climb without attempting it ourselves (1513 m, 4964 ft)!
All this to say, each day’s ride is marked more by climbs and descents than by rolling hills and distance. But that doesn’t mean you have to be an expert rider to join this tour. It simply means you’ll have to learn to appreciate hills.
Avery loves this tour for that very reason. She believes hills are one of the most rewarding aspects of cycling. Not only do you get privileged views at the top, but you get the unequaled exhilaration of coasting down after. Even better, you get to see just what you’re capable of accomplishing. Once you surmount a few hills, you’ll feel ready to ride anywhere. And that’s really the objective on Real Travel France tours. In the end, we simply want you to feel empowered to go wherever you want on two wheels.
For lodging, you’ll have your own private room in a 200-year-old stone house with shared living quarters and shared bathrooms (two full baths for a maximum of six participants). The house is a former flour mill that was once powered by the rushing river flowing just outside your window. The sprawling property has several terraces with tables and lounge chairs for collective or individual relaxing. The home itself retains the charm of its origins with stone floors and the original fire place and pink marble kitchen sink, while gripping onto modernity with contemporary, original artwork and comfortable beds and bathrooms. The natural swimming pool (filtered with plants and pump aeration) and the pristine view of Mount Canigou, make this traditional homestead a perfect haven.
Some dinners will be shared at the estate around the long wooden table or outside under the watch of Mount Canigou. Others will be in rural bistros or at neighboring farm tables. Lunches will be picnics or in casual cafés. All meals will have a farm-to-table theme featuring ingredients from the local producers we meet on our rides.
CLIMBS AND FARMS 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 a shared country estate, 5 farm-to-table dinners with local wine, 5 organic and locally sourced picnics, 5 French-style breakfasts (think croissants and a café)
• 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–we’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 to Challenging +. Need some biking experience, on hills. But don’t have to be a competitive cyclist. Read more about difficulty levels
A word about hills: We learned to travel by bike in the mountains. We know from experience, if you start with hills, you don’t know anything different and they don’t feel so ominous. With the right bike gear combination and a little self-compassion, we believe anyone who determines they’re capable of joining our tours, can climb hills. The worst thing that can happen is you get off and walk. Big deal. In fact, bravo. We salute you for the effort!
LEVEL OF SUPPORT: Trip leaders with daily loop rides from single location, light van support
TO PREPARE: We’ll send you details on packing, planning and preparing once you’ve confirmed your reservation. You’ll get info on how to pack for easy European travel, how you should train on the bike and other pertinent information. Don’t worry if this is your first organized bike tour, we’ll walk you through the essentials.
CLIMBS AND FARMS TOUR ITINERARY:
We’ll meet you in Perpignan, a frontier city with French, Spanish and Catalonian influences. From there we’ll shuttle into the valley of the Têt River and up to our private mill house in the mountainside village of Mosset. We’ll have a light lunch around the natural swimming basin with views of Mount Canigou before our intro bike lesson. Once we’re ready to roll, we’ll take an easy ride to the neighboring villages of Campôme and Molitg where we’ll either visit an organic artisan baker or meet the cattle rancher who raises Rosée de Pyrenées beef, the famous regional calf that must have access to nothing but high mountain wild grasses and its mother’s milk in order to carry the label. Once back at the mill house you can shower, relax and take in the view. We’ll reassemble in the evening for an aperitif before shuttling to one of our favorite rural bistros for dinner. You’ll sleep well in your private room with the sounds of the river as your lullaby.
- Lunch in the garden
- Intro bike lesson
- Meet the maker: free-range cattle rancher or artisan baker
- Aperitifs in the garden followed by a seasonal bistro dinner
- Flowing river lullaby in your private room in the mill house
- 11.2 km (7 miles) by bike, total elevation gain of 240 m (789 ft), total elevation loss of 246.2 m (808 ft)
Scenery—Mount Canigou, traditional rural villages, rolling pastures, stone terraced vegetable gardens, castle ruins, Casltellane Valley
Wake to breakfast in the garden with organic croissants, fresh bread and home-made confiture. Today we’ll roll down into the town of Prades for the weekly outdoor market. Avery and André will introduce you to local producers of organic and artisan fruits and vegetables, cheeses, breads, patés, wines and more. Together we’ll choose the ingredients for our dinner at the mill tonight. Don’t worry, you won’t have to haul our shopping basket up to Mosset on your bike. Our shuttle vehicle will do the transporting, freeing us to continue on our way up into the hills at the base of Mount Canigou.
We’ll ride past the Romanesque abbey of St. Michel de Cuxa and then lunch in the municipal bistro in the village of Taurinya, before climbing up to Fillols to visit a sheep cheese maker. From there we’ll pedal into Vernet-les-bains where the writer Rudyard Kipling often wintered, and where the tradition of ice running began. Runners in the early 1900’s would climb to the snow covered Pic du Canigou and haul blocks of ice back for all the English tourists ordering afternoon aperitifs. In Vernet, we’ll stop in a patisserie for some all-natural sweets before heading back toward Mosset. We’ll enjoy our market fresh dinner at the mill house tonight, “watered” with some of the region’s best reds and whites. Bon appetit.
- Breakfast with a view
- Meet the maker: sheep cheese, all natural patisserie
- Village bistro lunch
- Dinner with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and “watered” with superb local wine catered at mill house
- Second night lulled to sleep in your private room by the river
- 59 km (36.7 miles) by bike, total elevation gain of 1392 m (4568 ft), total elevation loss of 1391 m (4565 ft)
- Scenery— Mount Canigou, traditional rural villages, rolling pastures, stone terraced vegetable gardens, castle ruins, Casltellane Valley, Abbaye St. Michel de Cuxa, Vernet-les-Bains, Outdoor farmer’s market
Rise and shine for another breakfast at the mill house. Or wake early and walk to the village épicerie for your café and croissant. Today we’ll climb the winding 12.18 km (7.6 mile) Col de Roque Jalere (at 991 m high, 3251 ft) with an average grade of 5.4%. The reward is expansive views of the Têt Valley, Mount Canigou and the snow-capped Mount Carlit mountain range. We’ll visit the remote village of Sournia and then make our way to the 12th century Prieuré de Marcevol perched on a plateau above the Têt Valley.
Next, we’ll visit an organic free range poultry farm specializing in duck patés and whole chickens for roasting. We’ll picnic with goods from the farm before coasting down the mount and then pedaling back up to Mosset. You’ll appreciate your hard-earned apres-velo back at the mill house. Tonight, we’ll return to the cattle farm we visited on the first day, for dinner at a hardy farm table.
- Breakfast at the mill house
- Meet the maker: free-range duck farm
- Organic picnic with duck paté from the farm
- Dinner at the farm at Mas Lluganas
- Third night sleeping to the sounds of water in your room in the mill house
- 69.4 k (43.1 miles) by bike, total elevation gain of 1765 m (5793 ft), total elevation loss of 1773 m (5817 ft), Col de Roque Jalère with avg. grade of 5.4%
- Scenery—Mount Canigou, expansive Têt Valley from high, Col de Roque Jalère, Mount Carlit mountain range, 12th century Marcevol Priory perched on a high plateau, rolling pastures, peach orchards
Breakfast at the mill house estate or coffee and croissant at the épicerie. Park your bike shorts and put on your walking shoes because today we’ll join Pierre for a donkey walk up into the hills behind Mosset. Pierre will recount the agrarian story of Mosset, point out wild edible plants and share his knowledge of the geological history of the region as he guides us up on the old donkey trail that once served as the main road between Mosset and the village of Sournia. We’ll walk without back packs, letting the donkey carry our picnic basket. It will be an all day meander before returning to the mill house estate. We’ll eat in tonight around the big wooden table furnished with farm products we’ve collected in the week and accented with our favorite regional wines. Bonne fêtes.
- Breakfast in the garden
- Meet the maker: Pierre and his donkey, wild edible plants
- Organic picnic lunch in the hills
- Dinner catered in made of local, organic farm goods
- Fourth night sleeping at the mill house
- Full day of hiking at a leisurely pace, stopping often
- Scenery—arid hills of wild thyme and scented broom, high mountain grazing grounds, Mount Bugarach, Pic du Roussillon, Mediterranean far in the distance
Fill your plate at breakfast because today we’ll climb the famous Col de Jau that stars in the Tour de France some years. Don’t worry, you can go at your own pace. After a week of climbing up and down the surrounding hills your legs should be ready for the challenge. We’ll pause at the top before turning around to roll back down toward Mosset. On the way down we’ll stop off to see a pig farm that specializes in regional charcuterie, visit a local beekeeper or see a goat cheese operation. Once back at the mill you’ll have the afternoon to yourself to relax by the natural pool, get a massage at the hot springs in Molitg or take a walk around the village. Tonight we’ll walk up to the bistro in Mosset or shuttle down to the restaurant at the hot springs in Molitg-les-bains to celebrate our last night together.
- Breakfast at the mill
- Meet the maker: Charcuterie farm, beekeeper or goat cheese farm
- Organic picnic lunch with a view
- Dinner at the bistro in Mosset or at the hot springs in Molitg-les-Bains
- Last night drifting gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream…
- 29 km (18 miles) by bike, total elevation gain of 950.5 m (3086 ft), total elevation loss of 946 m (3106 ft), Col de Jau with avg. grade of 5.9%
- Scenery—Col de Jau!
Wake for your last breakfast with new friends. Take a morning swim in the natural pool or walk up into the village for one last view of the hills you’ve called home all week long. We’ll shuttle you and your luggage down into the valley for a quick stop at the Saturday outdoor organic market. Then we’ll put you on the regional train to Perpignan where you can continue your personal itineraries. Bon voyage.
- Breakfast and farewells
- Organic Saturday market
- Regional train to Perpignan
- New friends, powerful memories
NOTE: TOUR DETAILS ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE ACCORDING TO WEATHER, AVAILABILITY AND GROUP DYNAMICS. PLEASE KNOW THAT ANY ALTERATIONS WILL BE KEPT TO THE SAME STANDARDS AS OUTLINED IN THIS ITINERARY, WITH THE SAME THEME AND FEEL. WE’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT SHARING THE BEST OF OUR REGION WITH OUR CLIENTS AND WILL MAKE SURE EACH TOUR SHINES.
- 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 10, 2014