Cycling the French Wine Region

A bike parked outside a wine shop in Libourne. A sign reads, 'Cognac only.'

Not far from Bordeaux

Bordeaux is one of France’s famous wine regions. French wine is a delicacy that anyone hoping to encounter the nation’s culture must delight in. French wine production is second in the world league tables, and cycling French wine regions is certainly great travel activity.

On the periphery of Bordeaux, sits the Libournais wine region which is named after the beautiful medieval town of Libourne. Geographically, Libourne sits on the banks of the Dordogne river and played an important part in the shipping of French wine.

I visited and stayed in Libourne during my French travels. I soon found that the best way to travel around Libourne was to cycle. There is nothing more relaxing than a slow cycle through ripe vineyards, past medieval town buildings and quaint French villas. Green country rolls out beyond you and well-kept cycle routes connect Libourne to surrounding French wine destinations. The roads are beginner-friendly and from Libourne, it’s only 5 miles to Saint Émilion – the oldest, and most charming wine producing town in the Bordeaux region!

Libourne on Sundays

Beginning our tour, my two friends and I ended up landing in Libourne for a Sunday. On Sundays, Libourne’s market comes to life and wandering the streets up from the town square, you can step into history. Smelling fresh oysters and purchasing local fruits gives you the sense that you are retracing the steps of medieval locals and participating in the preservation of Libourne’s market-town heritage.

Fortunate to be hosted by local friends, we observed life as those in Libourne play it on Sundays: up early, stroll the markets, and stop for a coffee (or a glass of French wine) in the indoor market café. It’s simple yet wonderful!

A girl in a red bathing suit paddling in the Lac de Daqueys

Our friends then headed off to a local wine bar to join friends for a bread & cheese lunch – something the locals enjoy alongside some French wine to continue good friendships. We picked up some bread at the market and jumped on the bikes to continue through Libourne.

A 20 minute gentle cycle along cycle paths landed us at Libourne’s local lake, Lac de Dagueys. This large, man-made lake is the perfect pic nic spot and place for an afternoon swim. You can cycle round the lake to a beach area and other attractions also sit along the perimeter, including a water park which opens during the summer. Since everything closes and life ‘halts’ on Sundays, the lake is by far the best way to relax and live like the locals!

Pedalling the French Wine

Experiencing French wine often comes by tasting, buying, smelling and perhaps visiting vineyards. We found another great way – cycling the French wine region! Pedalling through the countryside and quite literally rolling past grape fields on your bike gives a new perspective. Each vineyard is part of the network of the Libournais production. Besides, it’s just incredibly relaxing!

From Libourne, cycle routes will take you out of town and beyond the railway. From there you can follow quiet country roads, past a number of vineyards and a couple of wine museums. The route is a total of 5 miles (approximately 40 minutes at gentle pace) to Saint Émilion, and flat most of the way. [See the route here.]

Saint Émilion – A French wine must-see!

Built into a hillside, Saint Émilion is a beautiful medieval city to meander through. Rest from cycling and park your bike by the Saint Emilion church and take a look inside. You will find a beautiful mural in the cloisters!

Then, I advise you walk around the corner to the office desk tourisme where you can pay €2 to climb the tower. Here you get stunning views out across the region. Look back on where you cycled from, or absorb the green scenery; I enjoyed watching people wander through the lanes below you.

Saint Émilion Recommendations

Back on the ground, take a day to explore French wine! There is no set way to do this, other than to meander and experience as much or as little of the wine shops and bars ass you like. However here are some suggestions from our French Wine cycling trip:

  • Cloitre de Cordeliers: a beautiful converted church and cloister, now selling French wine & gifts, offering tasting, and a coffee shop in the cloister gardens.
  • Find an art gallery: there’s one here.
  • Sit in the square outside the Ermitage de Saint Émilion: Have a glass of French wine from one of the cafes, or enjoy a picnic.
  • Walk along the Rue du Convent: Here you can enjoy some beautiful views of Saint Émilion and continuing past La Tour du Roy, you can venture towards the cities old wine tunnels – where barrels of wine are stacked up and stored in the heritage network of underground caves.
view of Saint Emilion from the rue de covent, with the church spire in the distance

End your French Wine tour well!

After a delightful day, you can pause to stop for an ice cream right where you parked your bikes! This place has some delicious flavours and a private courtyard with a water feature to sit in, if you enter and pass through the back door of the store. What a dream – French wine and ice cream, and well deserved after that cycling!

Cycling the French wine region of Libournais is a wonderful way to slow down and soak up culture! We added a trip into Bordeaux onto our 48 hours and it was definitely worth it. Whilst we took a 40 minute train from Libourne, there definitely would be an option to hire bikes and cycle along Bordeaux’s river to.

Thinking of planning a holiday? Cycle the French wine region of Libournais!

More on France? Click here!

Want more cycling ideas? Take a look at this cycle tour of Helsinki.

Street Photography | People in Paris

A collection of street photography: portraits of strangers on corners or through windows.

Some people people-watch, sitting on street corners or at cafe tables. A select few reach for a note book and sketch away, creating characters with stories and adventures imagined. Yet, I find there is a frustrating sense of inactivity involved in this process, feeling stuck and still with one single frame in which to capture.

Thats why I take to the streets. I walk and delight in the split-second moments that a 50mm lens affords me to capture. With street photography, I’m no longer observing but stumbling upon a moment – an exchange and interaction. Some of my subjects notice. Others will maybe never know. All are captured with the intent of dignity.

The French, I find, are more expressive of their personality. Each individual follows a fashion of their own style and lives out their unique moment, perfectly intertwined within habitual routine.

All street photography images subject to copyright –  © Eleanor Hyde 2022

More from France here.

More street photography: ‘Humans of Japan’ here, or Camden Streets here.

A French artist wearing a beret sketches a portrait in the street
a woman in a pink dress walks a large grey Great Dane dog through a large French square

*Disclaimer: One or two of these were shot in Bordeaux, although the majority were from the streets of Paris.

Pompidou | Paris

Graduating Architecture via the Pompidou

picture of a red road sign and the Pompidou Centre on the right
photo of the Pompidou Centre eco-skeleton with a zig-zagging staircase hanging on the exterior

Home to a large public library and the Centre National d’Art et de Culture, the Pompidou Centre in Paris is well worth a visit. An artistic statement in itself, this high-tech influenced piece of Architecture is a must see on anyone’s Paris bucket list. Having just finished my Architecture degree, I headed to France as a well-earned break, whilst awaiting results. I made a B-line for the Pompidou.

About the Pompidou

Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, the Pompidou Centre 1971-77 is revolutionary to this day. To state the obvious, this high-tech statement was a successful expression of an ‘inside-out’ concept. All the structure, mechanics, circulation, vertical cores and ducts were placed to the exterior. This colour-coded system of pipework, structure and access encased an open interior, free of clutter and perfect for functional program. The result was a cocoon-like array of fabricated scales.

It was not just the form of building that launched its presence in Paris and global fame. The building houses more than an art museum: a library, theatre, music venue… As a result, the building became an exciting hub transforming the idea of what a museum could be. The Pompidou was and is the precedent of a museum that engages with the city on diverse levels, offering social and cultural exchange beyond the idea of ‘museum’ in the 1970’s. The Pompidou had ‘everything,’ and could not be defined as a single type of building – it had multipurpose.

Image through the structure of the Pompidou. On left Sid of image, you see an external view of Paris. On the right, the image looks internally through a glazed viewing corridor

Views from the Pompidou

Image of view of Eiffel Tower from Pompidou
Image of view of Sacre Coeur from Pompidou

Today, many visit the Pompidou and entry into the art museum’s exhibitions only costs you €16. Additionally, due to the building’s diverse range of function, the concourse is publicly free to enter. A grand open centre inclusively offers bookshops, toilets, information and temporary displays. More so, ascending the famous exterior escalator is free to all and arrives at a public viewing terrace.

The corridors stretch along the same line, one floor above the viewing terrace. Along this axis, you are given one of the best panoramic views in Paris. Along a single linear route, you can see both the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur. It really is a must see! Although on a hot day, I advise finding the external terrace quickly, because the 1970’s glass tubes are really nothing more than unpleasant greenhouses…

The Backstreets

The backstreet regions around the Pompidou are also worth a stroll. Located adjacent to Le Marais, you will find colourful pocket galleries, street art, artisan shops and more! Perhaps you’ll spend an evening strolling avenues or enjoy a bite in one of the many Brassieres or Creperies.

Heading to Paris? Add it to the itinerary!

Want more French inspired blogs? Check out the France series over the next month or so.

Previous Travel Series: Japan; Canada; Italy