Feature Article #1

Welcome to Bicycle Gourmet.com

Thanks for resting your eyeballs here for a moment.(They are resting, right?) If you rest them a little longer, you may learn some interesting,(hopefully)entertaining, and, yes, ocassionally BIZARRE things about French Country life. (more…)

| June 24th, 2009 | Continued

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French Country Travel Life Double Queen




The French Country Travel Life Double Queen is a unique slice of French History. Which, as you may remember from THIS POST pretty much takes the cake(with the cherry on top) in the  Historical Uniqueness Sweepstakes.

The Queen in question was able to accomplish something no other lady of her day was able to do. Become Queen of France, twice. And, unusual (and unique) as that historical milestone was, she did it in the usual way. Marrying two Kings. (Seperately, bien sur.)

The lady’s name was Anne de Bretange. And our riverting drama begins when Anne, at the tender age of 14, marries King Charles 8. (can you say: “King’s have more fun?”)

As you’ll recall from “expanding your empire 101″ the quickest way to..well…expand you empire, was to have a female of your family – or your cousin’s/uncle’s family…or barring that….your gardener’s family…marry someone noble with lotsa land.

The preferences in order of star rating being a duke, a prince, and, at the top o’ da ladder – a King.

So – no flies on Anne de Bretange!

While not implying that love did not bloom in Anne’s union with Charles, the “arranged marriage” concept was pretty much the “business as usual” m.o. of (royal, and wannabe royal) matrimony back in the day.

However, Anne’s situation was somewhat, DA BG doth say,(again) “Unique.”

Anne became the Duchess of Brittany(Bretagne) following the death of her Father, Francis, who fell from his horse.

This resulted in a second war between France and Brittany. So, Job no. one for Anne was obviously to marry someone (preferably anti-French) who could help hold her Duchy(the territority of Brittany) together.

Maximillian the first of Austria was recruited. Anne’s marriage to him(by proxy…which means they probably never slept in the same bed) wasn’t received positively by the French. As you can well imagine.

More blue meanies: Anne’s presumed allies were too busy with their own wars to lend a sword or two.

The French, led by Charles 7 were banging on the gate.The turning point came when Anne, having received no aid from Hubby Max. saw her captial of Rennes fall into French Hands.

Those of Charles 8, to be precise.

Anne became engaged to Charles there. Despite the howls from the Austrians – because she was already “married” to Max. – and because Charles was supposed to hook up with Max’s Daughter, Margaret.

“tant pis” (too bad) for the Austrians.

Charles and Anne were married in the Chateau de Langais on December 6, 1491

Part Two of  French Country Travel Life Double Queen - next time.

’til then.you might enjoy this slice of “Anne-o-rama”


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French Country Travel Life Loire Wine Lowdown



The vineyards of Sancerre in the Loire Valley

  • The vineyards of Sancerre in the Loire Valley Julian Elliott Ethereal Light

The  French Country Travel Life Loire Wine Lowdown was hinted at  in my last post…or rather my last post by a guest scribbler…the beautiful, talented and ever chic Karen Schwartz.

Therein, DA BG detailed the two major wine varieties of the ab/fab Loire. That there valley where the Kings of France did seriously party down.

Now, picking up that liquid thread, that esteemed  UK journal , the times…waxes poetic on the subject. And gives us some palette tingling info…


“It’s funny how one small detail can remind you of a whole holiday. It might be the smell of fish on the barbecue, a particular bird song or the sight of a tandem bicycle. For me, it’s hollyhocks; they were growing everywhere when we visited Touraine in the heart of the Loire Valley in France.

As soon as we arrived in Tours, we dropped our bags at the hotel and took a drive through the countryside. The roads between villages are lined with birch trees. Some stand alone, others are grouped in geometric grids; the sun flashes through the gaps as you whizz past. Not only is the Loire Valley an incredibly pretty region, but it also freed me from my pinot grigio wine rut.

We stopped in a bar for a simple lunch of goat’s cheese salad. My glass of Touraine Sauvignon Blanc was a perfect match; its crisp, citrussy style isn’t overtly fruity so it worked well with the food. Sauvignon Blanc was a recurring theme during our trip; it comes in so many styles in the Loire Valley, from clean and pure to more tropically fruity, but always dry and fresh, which means it goes really well with fish.

The next day we took a relaxing cruise on a small flat-bottomed wooden boat. The mighty Loire relaxes in summer, becoming languorous and shallower. The pilot gave us a glass of sparkling wine made from the chenin blanc grape. It refreshes like a crisp green apple, but has a toastiness that gives it depth and intensity. We soon figured out the best way to get around was by bicycle.

We decided a picnic would be fun, so stocked up on bread, tomatoes and charcuterie at the food market that morning and packed a bottle of Touraine gamay, a light, bright red that shares many characteristics with other Touraine wines: fresh, elegant, relatively low in alcohol and versatile with food. We cycled back slowly along quiet roads banked with hundreds of wild flowers, with a few lazy bees to attend to them all.

On our last night we treated ourselves by booking a table at a nice restaurant in a village beside the river. We started off with a Touraine rosé, a delicate redcurrant-scented wine with a little spicy kick. For dinner, we chose duck and lamb, so decided to go for some deeper reds.

We tried the local malbec, then a cabernet franc, which is like a chilled-out version of cabernet sauvignon, with blackcurrant aromas but lighter on its feet. It was still warm outside as we finished our meal, so we watched trilling swallows dance around a pastel-pink sunset.

The beauty of Touraine is that it’s a unique wine region that’s easy to get to know. If you like crisp, aromatic whites, try one of the many different Sauvignon Blancs – the signature grape variety of the region. And for reds there are light Gamays,through medium-bodied Cabernet Francs to robust Malbecs. Not to mention rosé and sparkling wines.

And it’s not just French dishes they pair with – try Sauvignon Blanc with baked white fish like cod or plaice; simple salads; or as an aperitif to whet the appetite with salted cashews and olives. For pizzas and light Thai curries choose a fruity Touraine Gamay; for more powerful flavours like chilli con carne or chargrilled steaks, try Touraine Malbec. They’re easy to find back home in off-licences and supermarkets, and they don’t cost the earth. So I guess it’s not just the hollyhocks that take me back to our holiday in Touraine; it’s drinking the wines too.

An introduction to Touraine

The wines of Touraine at the heart of the Loire Valley are some of the most attractive in France. The verdant countryside supports a wealth of different styles. In whites, the main variety is crisp, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc; but rich, honeyed Chenin Blanc also features. The classic Loire red is smooth and fruity Cabernet Franc, whilst there is also bright, berry-scented Gamay and darker, tannic Malbec.”

Read more HERE

See More  HERE.


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French Country Travel Life Loire Bicycle Adventure

bicycle gourmets photography course workshop france 2014


The French Country Travel Life Loire Bicycle Adventure can be yours. Assuming, bien sur, you ARE in the fantastic, ab/fab Loire valley. One of  DA BG’s  fav cruisin’ spots.
Famous, as you surely recall, for it’s wine. Noteably – Touraine(Gamay grape) and Chinon and Samur Champigny (Cabernet Franc grape) and dontcha be forgettin’ them there storybook chateaux’s, wherein all manner of love, treachery, deciet, murder and other uber cool elements of French History did pass.
Cyclists make out like a bandit here..owing to the abundance of “piste cycleables”(bike trails)…but that abundance can also be a pain in the GPS. especially when ya don’t got a gps. As my fellow scribbler Karen
Schwartz found out…..
Bikes sit parked in front of a cafe

We’d been trying to cycle the 17 miles from Chenonceaux to Chaumont, but kept getting lost. We even asked directions from a passing motorist who was certain she knew which way the bike route went, then sent us to the wrong town.

Now we were at a Y-intersection on the outskirts of Chaumont; facing two green-and-white bike path signs mounted on the same post, but pointing in opposite directions.

Perplexed, we took a guess and went right, eventually reaching our bed-and-breakfast from the back of town. Perhaps the other fork would have led to the front. Perhaps not.

Despite the misadventures, cycling in the Loire Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is thoroughly enjoyable. With 500 miles of bike routes, there are countless options depending on interest and ability.

Our five-day trip took us through farmers’ fields where we helped ourselves to fresh peas, and through shaded forests that surprised us with deer. We cycled along mostly flat pathways, paved roads, cobblestones and occasional gravel.

While the biking wasn’t nearly as challenging as the navigation, that isn’t why one cycles the Loire. It’s about the food, the wine, the scenery and the history. Indeed, the easy riding and fairy tale castles make this an ideal trip to take with older children and teens.

Each town we visited — Amboise, Chenonceaux, Chaumont, Chambord and Blois — was built around an ancient chateau. Although few were ever fully inhabited and all were emptied during the French Revolution, they are architecturally interesting and historically intriguing.

Our favorite was the Chateau de Chenonceau and its beautiful gardens. It has not only been refurnished, but the wing built spanning the river Cher has been turned into a gallery that recounts the 16th century love affair between King Henri II and his much older mistress — along with the revenge his wife, Queen Catherine de Medici, eventually enjoyed.

It was also the site of our best meal, on the terrace of our hotel, La Roseraie, a simple 18th century inn that claims it has hosted Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Winston Churchill among others.

We planned our self-guided trip with the help of Maggie LaCoste, who runs ExperienceFranceByBike.com. In Amboise, we passed two group cycling trips, one run by Backroads and the other by Butterfield & Robinson. They both offer six-day guided trips, but visit different towns.

Any feeling of superiority I had as we passed the riders in matching jerseys on those organized trips quickly vanished after a few wrong turns. Still, I liked the spontaneity of not keeping to a fixed schedule, and at one point, we hopped the train to Blois with our bikes and checked out a bustling Saturday market.

Spring and fall are the most popular cycling times as summers can be hot. Our trip in June coincided with several festivals, including a popular music event held outside the massive Chateau de Chambord, one of the biggest and most striking chateaus in France, and a garden festival on the castle grounds in Chaumont that continues until Nov. 2.

We rented our well-maintained Trek hybrids from a chain called Detours de Loire because it offered a network of drop-off options, allowing us to pick up our bikes in Amboise and leave them in Blois. There is an additional fee for this seasonal service, which varies with distance between locations.

We also hired Detours de Loire to drive our luggage from one hotel to the next for about $50 per transfer. We sometimes arrived before our bags, and on our last day, the driver forgot completely. It took several frantic phone calls to get them delivered in time to catch our train.

Read More HERE


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