Bike & Cheeses: Slow Travel and French Culinary Heritage on a Platter
From the saddle to the savours
Earlier this year, we wrote about the culinary highlights of EuroVelo 15 – Rhine Cycle Route (see Après-Vélo – The culinary dimension of EuroVelo routes) and on “lebonpicnic.com”, an online marketplace where locally-made picnics can be ordered when cycling through the French countryside (see C‘est du gâteau! Locally-sourced picnics available for cycle tourists in France).
In this Christmas period, we are addressing the food theme once again – and more specifically, French cheeses! The new project “Bike & Cheeses, to discover the Departments” aims to collect thematic cycle routes visiting local farms, dairy productions, cheese ripening cellars, and so on. This network of labelled cycle routes, still under development, offers tons of ideas for active day trips or holidays combining flavors and learning. So far, 60 itineraries are proposed, with lengths varying from 15 to 315 kilometres. No matter the cycling proficiency, all cheese enthusiasts will surely find a route to their taste!
Origins of the project
Launched in spring 2019 by the Assembly of French Departments, the French Dairy Interbranch Organisation (CNIEL), the “Tourisme & Territoires” network and Vélo & Territoires, the French National EuroVelo Coordination Centre, the project aims to depict the diversity of the French Departments’ heritage and known-how in the cheese production.
“Bike & Cheeses, to discover the Departments” was officially inaugurated on 28 February 2019 at the International Agricultural Exhibition. A call for proposals was then issued to all French Departments to submit “Bike & Cheeses” itineraries. The first eight months of the project were a big success, with 31 Departments being selected after having answered the call.
The first 46 itineraries, selected last June, were unveiled at the occasion of the Tour de France and include cycle routes as varied as MTB tours in Cantal and Ardèche, greenways through fruit farms in the Doubs and the Jura to enjoy delicious Comté and Morbier, or encounters with bio goat farmers in Drôme. Early November, 9 additional Departments joined the adventure with 14 new itineraries, proposing winter rides in many famous cheeses’ homes, such as Tomme des Pyrénées, Caprice des Dieux and Camembert!
EuroVelo & Cheeses
We have good news for you: you can go on a EuroVelo and cheese related cycle trip. No need to choose! With nine EuroVelo routes crossing France and totalling almost 8,300 km of cycle routes, many sections of the EuroVelo network correspond, or connect, to Bike & Cheeses itineraries.
Here are a few examples:
- The 38-km portion of EuroVelo 8 – Mediterranean Route in the Bouches-du-Rhônes Department, starting in Tarascon and visiting 10 cheese-making sites.
- The 78-km cycle ride developed by the Conseil Départemental de la Haute-Marne along the Meuse River, following EuroVelo 19 – Meuse Cycle Route.
- The tour in Pays de Retz developed by the Loire-Atlantique Department and including part of EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route.
The story continues in 2020
With a third call already issued to the Departments, the Bike & Cheeses network will grow even bigger in 2020. The labelling of new itineraries is planned for the next International Agricultural Exhibition, on 25th February 2020. Many new cycle routes could still be designed to link the production places of the 1,200 varieties of French cheeses! It looks like the bicycle and this symbol of French cuisine can look forward to a bright future together.
Get inspired: a few links to find your cheese route
As your legs are probably itching to take you to your favorite cheeses by now, here are a few websites to help you plan your journey. The 46 first selected itineraries are listed in this document, including their length, elevation and estimated ride time, and the cheese-making sites’ addresses. The “Bike & Cheeses” Facebook and Instagram pages provide daily inspiration on the itineraries. Further information on the project and certified Departments can be found on the project’s official page.
Author(s): Florence Grégoire