The second week of racing has arrived in this year’s Tour de France and yet again we will have the pleasure of touring around the wonderful host nation of France. This week we head to the west in the Charente-Maritime département before heading all the way across France to the Alps, visiting the Jura and Massif Central in the process.
La RochelleEmbed from Getty Images
The town of La Rochelle is known to many within France and beyond as it plays host to flocks of holidaymakers each summer. Boasting a long maritime history and medieval past, La Rochelle is known for its stunning harbours and picturesque alleyways that provide the perfect setting for any seaside French holiday. In addition, La Rochelle was one of the first cities in the world to launch a bicycle hiring system when the network set sail back in the 1970s.
It acts as the capital of the Charente-Maritime département, a département that we will roll through on the 10th stage of this race. No matter how many groups the bunch will be in, the flying visit through this walled city will be a visual treat for us at home.
CognacEmbed from Getty Images
This heavy spirit is a staple of the West Coast of France and especially in the Charante region. Taking its name from a town en route on the 11th stage of the race, the brandy also known as eau de vie is synonymous with the French apéritif lifestyle.
Made using fermented grapes from the Cognac area, the drink is left to ferment for at least two years in oak barrels as the spirit eases down from 70% to a more moderate 40% alcoholic content. Although the brandy may not be to everyone’s taste, it’s one of the ways to a West Frenchman’s heart.
Puy-de-Dôme VolcanoEmbed from Getty Images
The Puy-de-Dôme volcano will act as the ominous backdrop for the start of the 14th stage in Clermont-Ferrand. The extinct volcano plays an important role within the area, even being the namesake for the département surrounding the mountain. Dramatically piercing out of France’s Massif Central, the Puy-de-Dôme is nevertheless very easy to find on a satellite map of the nation. A former stage finish location on the Tour de France, the volcano also houses one of France’s oldest archaeological sites in the form of the Temple of Mercury which wasn’t discovered until 1873. The climb was popular with the Romans too as an old Roman path provides one of the more popular routes to its summit, where you will be rewarded with impressive views over the Puy mountains that we will visit on stage 13 of the race.
The Culinary Delights of LyonEmbed from Getty Images
Often regarded as the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon will serve as the finishing destination of the 14th day of racing at this year’s Tour de France. The city reaps the benefits of its neighbours in the Alps, the banks of the Rhône as well as the farmland of Provence in this city, giving them some of the world’s finest cuisine. Boasting Michelin star restaurants and top haute cuisine eateries, it’s hard to look past the culinary prestige of this city.
To get the full Lyonnais style at home, I’d suggest rustling up a Coq au Vin using Beaujolais, a local wine, as the base alongside some Lyonnaise Potatoes. If you’ve still got room for dessert, pralines trace their history back to this city so I’d recommend a rich Tarte aux Pralines.
Bugey WineEmbed from Getty Images
Fruit of the labour of farmers from the Ain region for centuries, the Bugey wines are the perfect hybrid between classic Burgandy wines and the different Savoy style that usually comes from the higher lands. As we pass through the Ain on stage 15, a Bugey wine would make the perfect companion to that tough day of racing as the racers head for the summit of Le Grand Colombier.
Known more widely for its white wines, the wine is bound to be dry as 50% of the grapes must be of the Chardonnay type. This is protected under French agricultural law as the region holds the status of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, meaning that the methods and traditions of the Bugey wine are sealed and preserved solely for winemakers in the area.