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Best way to tour vineyards on a budget w/o driving

Charlotte, North...
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Best way to tour vineyards on a budget w/o driving

We will be coming from Paris and will want to take in some wine tasting, is it possible to get from a city using a bike to go from vineyard to vineyard, if so any suggestions of cities or ideas here. I know we will need to arrange visits with vineyards and my wife speaks French, so should be easier with that.

Paris, France
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1. Re: Best way to tour vineyards on a budget w/o driving

Yes, you can do what you requested. As you noted, you'll need to make arrangements to visit some of the vineyards that do tastings but just riding around you'll see plenty of signs for dégustation. It depends if you're real wine fans or just want to do some tastings while you ride. Wine is not my area of expertise so I'll leave that part of your question to your French speaking wife and anyone else who wants to comment.

As far as where you'll find the vineyards they are all over the Loire but again, you'll need to research that part of your question if you have a specific one you want to visit.

I can help you with the biking part of your question. The first thing you'll need to do is book train tickets from Paris to the Loire. Since your wife speaks French you can use the French rail website www.voyages-sncf.com. If you're more comfortable in English use the website www.tgv-europe.com for schedules, prices and bookings (it's the English language version of www.voyages-sncf.com). Don't forget to uncheck the box marked "Direct Trains" to see all possible options. If the TGV site redirects you to the RailEurope website then try again and enter "Antarctic" as your ticket collection country. Other countries may also work but just try to find a country that doesn't get you redirected to RailEurope. The RailEurope website often doesn't show all the trains and generally has higher prices but you can check just to compare. For trains that require reservations you can buy tickets up to 3 months or more in advance and the earlier you buy them the cheaper they will be. The discounted tickets are known as PREM tickets but these are non-refundable and can't be exchanged.

Here is a website that will tell you how to navigate the TGV website:

www.nickbooth.id.au/Tips/FrenchTrain.htm

An excellent website to learn all about train travel in Europe is www.seat61.com.

I would imagine you're going to want to arrive in Tours, Saumur or Amboise as these are probably the easiest/fastest to reach from Paris. Find the area that interests you and then chose your arrival point.

Now, you'll need bikes when you arrive and there may be a rental shop close to a train station or you may need to take a taxi to one.

Look at the website below as it is one of the best for info about cycling in the Loire (where to go, where to get bikes etc.).

http://www.cycling-loire.com/

You can look through this website for a wine oriented route or you can create your own route. Either way I recommend having good maps. I do a lot of biking in France and the only thing I ever use to find good cycling routes are the Michelin maps.

You want the ones of the scale 1:200,000 (regional maps) or 1:150,000 (departmental maps, more detailed, cover slightly less area) for whatever regions you visit. A nice feature of the 1:150,000 maps is they show the starred attractions in the corresponding Michelin Green guidebooks. The Michelin maps have icons for all kinds of historically/touristically interesting things such as châteaux, ruins, churches, abbeys, scenic view points, caves, Roman sites, megaliths, designated scenic roads and many other things. Usually when I'm exploring various regions in France I just look at the map and I am able to plan interesting and scenic drives just reading the map. For instance, I usually look for a designated scenic road, which are highlighted in green, and I especially look for towns with the historic church and/or château icon. I also try to make sure the route goes through as many small villages as possible. Usually putting all these things together I find interesting and scenic drives without even knowing where I am going and with no assistance from a guide book. Often these places are never mentioned in guidebooks and remain completely unknown to many tourists.

You can buy the Michelin maps from their website and here is a link to the page that shows you the 1:200,000 scale maps of France:

http://tinyurl.com/4bt96ev

And here is a link to the page that shows you the 1:150,000 scale maps of France:

http://tinyurl.com/6mt4n64

You could also buy them here but then you can't do research beforehand. The maps can be bought in many places such as bookstores, news stands, magazine stores, larger supermarkets, department stores, hypermarkets and in the full service rest areas on the autoroutes, just to name a few.

Let me give you some tips on how to read the Michelin maps of the scale 1:200,000 or 1:150,000 for biking purposes. I generally stay on the small white roads and sometimes the yellow roads while generally trying to avoid the red roads (which carry the most traffic). You will find that the small white roads (country roads) are remarkably traffic free in the countryside. If a road has a hill with greater than a 5% gradient you will notice that such a road will have a gradient arrow superimposed on the road. One arrow means a gradient of 5%-9%, two arrows means a gradient from 9%-13% and three arrows means a gradient of over 13%. Just because a road has no gradient arrows doesn't mean there are no hills but whatever hills there are should not be too strenuous. Twisty roads often mean hilly as well. Areas shaded in white are generally non-forested terrain while areas shaded in green generally mean forested terrain.

I think you've got enough info to start your research but come back if you have any further questions.

Paris, France
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2. Re: Best way to tour vineyards on a budget w/o driving

The other thing I forgot to mention is about using tourist office websites. The tourist office websites will list all the accommodation in their respective towns and environs as well as the restaurants. You can also find out what to see and do in an area by looking at the tourist office websites. They are one of the best resources available for discovering an area. Here are some of the major tourist office websites for the Loire:

http://www.loirevalleytourism.com/

chateaux-de-la-loire.fr/chateaux_of_the_loir…

http://www.loirevalleywine.com/

http://www.experienceloire.com/

http://www.cycling-loire.com/

http://www.amboise-valdeloire.co.uk/

http://www.bloischambord.co.uk/

http://www.tours-tourisme.fr/index_en.php

http://www.chinon-valdeloire.com/

http://www.loches-tourainecotesud.com/

http://www.angersloiretourisme.com/fr

http://www.ot-saumur.fr/

Paris, France
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3. Re: Best way to tour vineyards on a budget w/o driving

Many of the vineyards in the Tourraine are small, family owned properties. Being able to communicate in French really will be required if you want a rewarding experience and the month you travel will make a difference as well.

If you want to rent bicycles, only Tours or Blois will have multiple options and only Tours is available by TGV. There are a good number of trains to Blois which depart from Gare Austerlitz in Paris. Vouvray produces the best known wine in this area but there are scattered produces of Gamay, Cabernet, or Sauvignon Blanc, most are located between Tours and Blois.

You've been given a large number of links already but you might want to check this blog about wines of the region:

http://jimsloire.blogspot.com/

This is my go-to site for information about cycling in the Loire Valley:

http://www.loireavelo.fr/

Paris, France
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4. Re: Best way to tour vineyards on a budget w/o driving

I've never rented a bike in the Loire so I'll trust Sarastro when he says that Tours and Blois have the widest selection of bikes but there are still loads of other places to rent bikes. Many of them, however, may just be renting basic bikes. You can find them on the cycling-loire website I gave you the link for. The loireavelo link he provided to is just the French version of the cycling-loire website I gave you.

cycling-loire.com/organise-stay/location-loi…

Charlotte, North...
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5. Re: Best way to tour vineyards on a budget w/o driving

Thanks so much for your time and links! We are going in September should be great colors!

St. Albans, United...
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6. Re: Best way to tour vineyards on a budget w/o driving

I am doing the same and have booked three days with Loire Valley Wine Tour for early this summer.

Their web site is www.loirevalleywinetour.com

Colin Elliott is the qualified guide and if his blog is anything to go by he seems to know his subject very well. He is English, but I gather speaks good French and takes you around the vineyards of the Loire Valley in his car.

We are going to three different regions over the three days to help us learn more about the wines. We have particularly asked to taste organic wine as much as is possible. Can't wait!

Edited: 6:16 am, February 25, 2013
7. Re: Best way to tour vineyards on a budget w/o driving

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