France From Inside Cycling and Wine Tours France

Cycling, Wine and Cultural Tours in the Dordogne, Pyrenees and Southwest of France.

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Chateau de Pitray
Chateau de Pitray

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  • The visit to Pitray and the Pyrenees counts as one of the best experiences of my life. The friendship, hospitality and general camaraderie distinguishes this very personal adventure from the strictly commercial varietals. Alan and his family are generous with their time and expertise and insure that this will be a vacation that you will always remember.


    Bill Veen, Mill Valley, California

    Bike Tours France stay at chateau Pitray

    Chateau de Pitray, located in southwest France, in the heart of the Bordeaux wine country, a few miles from the Medieval village and Unesco World Heritage site of Saint Emilion.

    Touring medieval villages, drinking Bordeaux wines = your life at Chateau de Pitray !

    The Chateau de Pitray, located 35 miles east of Bordeaux, is nestled in the middle of its estate grounds, surrounded by fields, woods, and off in the distance its vineyards. In all the estate is 200 acres, and when you are at the chateau you have the impression of being far away from everything in an exclusive setting. The comment I hear so often from friends is that it is a very quiet, peaceful and relaxing place. The splendor and beauty of the property is magnificent.

    Since the 15th century there were two other buildings that stood in place of the existing chateau.  The 15th century feudal manor was rebuilt in the 17th century, and in 1868 General Louis de Simard de Pitray had the present castle built by the architect Blaquieres from Bordeaux.  Today the chateau, a Victorian Gothic style, is surrounded by a park featuring century old oak and cedar trees, planted at the time of the chateau's construction. The mature woods and tree lined allies are what the architect envisioned when he designed the chateau and its grounds. Unique to Chateau Pitray, but by intention and arrangement, the vineyards are not visible from the castle.

    Chateau France Bike Wine Tours

    The view of the backyard from the south facade terrace.

    Some of my favorite memories at Pitray are sitting out on the south patio, sipping wine, and looking at the stars late on a summer's night. Often in the summer the evenings are very warm and the night is dark, almost black, so the sky is alive with stars and constellations. This is what the night sky looks like when it isn't being drowned out by ambient light from a city. I can stay for hours watching for shooting stars, drinking wine and listening to the quiet - not a sound except for the occasional croak of a frog. Time seems to come to a stop. I think of my ancestors who built the chateau in 1868 and how the successive generations must have done exactly as I, enjoying the calm and gazing at the night's sky. It isn't very often that you can stay in a place and feel as though things haven't changed much over the years. At night, on that patio, with all the lights out and any other evidence of 21st century technology turned off, I have nothing other than my thoughts and the surroundings to entertain me, just as it was for my ancestors before me. Marvelous.

    Saint Emilion bike tours

    The medieval village of Saint Emilion

    The region around the chateau is famous for its wine production and history.  This province is called the department de la Gironde and its vineyards are collectively called Bordeaux wines.  Within the Bordeaux wines are sub-regions, and the Pitray wines are part of the sub-region appellation of the Cotes de Castillon.  The countryside is a mixture of mellow rolling hills to the north, and to the south, of the Dordogne valley, so named after the Dordogne River.   This area is rich in history, in large part due to the Dordogne River that functioned as a merchant and business causeway.  There are artifacts and ruins that date as far back as the Roman Empire, or even farther to pre-historic man with the paintings from the Cave de Lascaux. Since the 10th century there were many ancient chateaux built throughout the region, such as the Chateau de Beynac, which was progressively constructed over 3 centuries - 10th, 11th and 12th century. It is fascinating to visit such a structure and to imagine what life was like there 800 years ago. The final battle of the 100 year war, in 1453, took place several miles from Chateau Pitray, in the fields outside the village of Castillon.  Saint Emilion, located 4 miles west of Pitray, is a medieval village,a World Heritage Site, and a virtual museum of time, with roman ruins from the 4th century and parts of the stone walls and ramparts that enclosed the village in the medieval times.

    Cycling gironde dordogne france

    ...heaven for any cyclist enthusiast!

    There is maybe no better way to explore this region than by bike, and if by serendipity the network of small and little trafficked roads is perfectly suited to the desires of an enthusiastic cyclist. What more could an avid cyclist want than undulated curving roads that crisscross the countryside with almost no car traffic. I have spent the better part of every summer for the past 15 years cycling in this region, and it seems as though I have only discovered the "tip of the iceberg," as there are countless country lane roads that I have yet to ride, and each one of these roads offers glimpses of history and hidden sites. This past summer one of my clients professed to me that on a scale of 1 to 10, this place and region for cycling rates as a 9. Why a 9, because per his logic there is no such thing as a 10, otherwise he would rate it as 10. He was in heaven and so was I.

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