All that you’ve heard about France, and much that you haven’t. Biking through the world’s most precious vineyards, sampling their produce. 15th century villages, canal tow paths, dramatic castles, some of France’s best cuisine. Beyond vineyard biking, our Burgundy route spends a lot of its time “off the beaten track,” in wild and undiscovered scenery or pastoral farmlands, far from famous wine towns and tourist crowds.
Day 1: Our trip assembles in Dijon on Sunday morning. However you get there, Dijon is one of France's most interesting cities. Burgundy’s gastronomic, as well as political, center, a perfect introduction to our route. The region’s four most famous products are well-displayed: mustard, cassis (black currants), wine, and snails. Mix and match them according to taste (editorial comment: yuck). Visit the old town, the medieval Cathedral, the Palace of the Ducs de Bourgogne. Or perhaps dabble in a wine tasting.
Vineyards of the Côte de Nuits: Then we set off on the bikes. Enter the grape greenery at Burgundy’s heart. Cycling through vineyards is one of our favorite pastimes. As you get used to it, you start to feel the special rhythm of this unusual agricultural domain. We pass through Marsannay-la-Côte, Fixin, Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée... along the Route des Grands Crus (loosely, the “Great Wine Road”) on our way to Nuits-St.-Georges. Names familiar from any great restaurant’s wine list. The town of Nuits lends its name to the whole area: the Côte de Nuits. Surrounding us tonight are arguably the world’s best red wine vineyards, producing the elixir so carefully tasted by the Brotherhood of the Knights of Winetasting in Vougeot (no, we are not making this up). (25km but it feels like so much more)
Day 2: Beaune, Meursault
More vineyard biking today, and more famous names. After a climb to a ridge above the valley for a spectacular view of the whole hillside and the Saône River basin, we pass into the southern half of this famous wine-producing region and to Beaune, the center of the Burgundy wine trade, and center of the appropriately-named Côte de Beaune. Pause for lunch, visit the 15th-century hospital or the wine cooperative, wander through the walled town. Pernand-Vergelesse, Aloxe-Corton, Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet add their prestigious names to yesterday’s wine list. At the end of the day, a little side valley takes us into the Hautes Côtes de Beaune, and to Nolay, a charming 17th century market town. (55km)
Day 3: La Rochepot, the Côte de Beaune
Depending on how you feel, today could be as short as a trip to a local swimming hole. But there is a lot of good biking at your door. Santenay, at the base of the hill where our hotel sits, is another of Burgundy’s great crus. There’s a nice waterfall at the Cirque du Bout du Monde (“hole at the end of the world”), in case your room doesn’t have a shower. And La Rochepot offers a jewel of a fortified castle, restored stone by stone by former French President Sadi Carnot. Add to this some beautiful views and as many wine towns as you can drink, and you’ll have plenty of inspiration to encourage you to cycle out. (15-80km)
Day 4: The Côte Chalonaise
A beautiful ride through the hills of the Côte Chalonaise, but also including 40 flat k on a rail-to-trail bike path. The best! Givry is the most prestigious wine town along the way, Buxy is the prettiest lunch stop, and Cormatin has a castle out of a fairy story. The silliest game of the day is chasing each other through it’s maze. Cluny was long the center of medieval spirituality, but our favorite thing about the town is that the central tower is called the Tour des Fromages — Tower of Cheeses. More things should be named after cheese. (65km)
Day 5: The Saône Valley and the Mâconais
We drop down to the Saône Valley after a morning climb over the ridge... Stop for a picnic in one of the glens of the forest of Chapaize. Or just make straight for Tournus, whose 11th c. abbey is named for an obscure nut. Or maybe the reverse. End the afternoon lounging by the river, watching the teens cruise the bridge on their scooters. Then a quick train ride undoes your work of the past week, and carries you back to Dijon for dinner. Trips ending with this route disband upon arrival in Dijon at the end of the riding day. (45km)
- Trip price includes the bike!
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