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Nomad's Notebook

Stop Time By Biking Through The French Countryside

After convincing girlfriends last year to bike with me in the Swiss Alps, I hesitated to make my next request. But who could resist France's Loire Valley and a bike tour lead by the crème de la crème of biking outfitters, Butterfield and Robinson? Fortunately for me, a resounding, “yes,” was the hoped-for answer.

Starting our trip in Paris was a must, and we chose a perfect location on the famous Left Bank, Madison Hôtel, which is located opposite the historic church of St-Germain-des-Prés, near legendary Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. This chic boutique hotel specializes in personal service delivered through a friendly staff. Private tour to Monet's Giverny? Musée d'Orsay? Dining reservations? Your wish is their command. Exploring this area fires up the imagination—famous intellectuals roamed along Rue Bonaparte, and Jean-Paul Sartre and Ernest Hemingway were locals.

After our Parisian jaunt, we spent a few short hours on a TGV speed train from the glamorous City of Lights to the Garden of France. B&R created an itinerary surpassing expectations for the Loire Valley, a serene countryside of rolling hills producing the sweet nectar of famous vineyards—Chinon, Sancerre, Vouvray, Pouilly-Fumé. The Loire Valley abides by the INAO, co-founded by Chateauneuf-du-Pape producer, Baron Le Roy. Our wine sommelier, Vincent Naudinet, explained that the organization is a bit like the wine police of France, instructing how to prune grapes, giving a certain date of when to start picking from vines. Amazingly, irrigation systems are forbidden. Fines are imposed for disobeying.

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Biking

Beyond the vines, the spectacular chateaux were designed and financed by the wealth of French kings. Landscapes were designed by Italian gardeners, architects and artisans who imported an Italian-renaissance style to France. Our first rendezvous with B&R was Domaine de Tortinière, a chateau that has been in the same family for generations with acres of grounds blanketed by lavender and white cyclamens, stunning trees and pathways to explore.

Riding along the Touraine countryside was exceptional, as well as the Manse valley. Every possible detail imaginable was organized, from extraordinary culinary experiences, to refreshed water bottles prior to every ride (let's not forget your preference of fresh lemons and limes), to musicians greeting us as we approached our last dinner together. B&R's philosophy of “slowing down to see the world” brings the whole level of biking up to the highest standard.

French Countryside

- Love soufflés? One of the best in Paris is served at Astier, a local favorite since 1956 that's considered one of the “fathers of Parisian bistro cuisine.” Also try an amazing cheese board; restaurant-astier.com.

- Must try Loire Valley dessert? The Tarte Tatin—a famous caramelized apple pie.

Contact Gloria Stuart at gloria@gulfstreammediagroup.com or 954.683.5337

France's Loire Valley

The Tarte Tatin