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The real attraction of Bordeaux’s countryside for a cycling holiday is not simply that the lower Garonne and Dordogne river valleys offer easy lowland pedaling but that they give access to the wide range of landscapes that host a tremendous variety of wines and wine makers.
Bordeaux central area was awarded its UNESCO World Heritage status for the completeness of its 18th century urban landscape. That architecture has at its core the site of the roman port and around that the medieval walled city which survives in the street plan and many of the narrow streets.
Bordeaux and its countryside include domestic buildings that are an integral parts of the landscape and the local culture. Its unlikely that you would travel far through the rural backroads without encountering a village lavoir – a communal laundry facility where the luxury of cold running water is supplemented by a roof and a stone wash trough.
Because of the region’s renown in the world of wine the bordelais cuisine is often overlooked and greater emphasis is placed on the accompanying wine than the food itself. While Gourmand’s may argue about attributing a particular delicacy or dish to a specific area for most of us the description ‘south-west France’ is sufficient provenance and which side of the Garonne supplied the cepes, lamphrey, or chestnuts matters little.
No region lacks some native sons or daughters who have made it into the history books and Bordeaux is no exception. The roman poet, Ausonius is claimed by Bordeaux as one of theirs. The Romans had arrived in 57 BC and by the 4th century Bordeaux boasted a university at which he taught while enjoying the fruits of a wine-producing estate near St Emilion. His life is honoured by a modest monument at the bottom of the Cours D’Alsace and Lorraine, outside the Frog and Rosbif Public House. As elsewhere, poets and pubs seem to be natural associates.
There seems little point in visiting any part of France and not sampling these best expressions of ‘La vie francais’. Here’s what my personal tour of Bordeaux’s best would include.
Bertrand De Goth the Archbishop of Bordeaux and local Gascon lad was chosen as Pope in 1305 taking the title Clement V. After delaying his departure from his castle at Villandraut for three years he finally settled in Avignon to begin a period of almost 70 years when rival popes reigned in France and Italy.
Useful information for anyone considering a cycling holiday in France.