Back to the Beginning in Langon

I’ve just about completed my giant Bordeaux loop … 998 miles in 19 days, with one to go: Back to Bordeaux (the city), another 45 or so miles tomorrow.

I’m in Langon tonight, which was my first stop after Bordeaux way back when. It’s kind of cool to come back to a town I’ve already visited. I know how to find the hotel, the staff at the hotel recognized me (the crazy bike guy), I know where to eat, and where to do a load of laundry.

Plus, the couscous place I thought was closed for good: Is open! Just got back from a delicious – and very filling dinner.

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One thing about couscous: It tends to continue to expand in your stomach for an hour or two after you’ve finished eating. So, be careful. Another thing: It’s one of those perfect-combination meals that incorporates a grain, veggies, meat and sauce, plus raisins and chick peas. And some hot sauce if you’re up for the challenge (the little dish to the upper left).

Because I’ve been here before and ridden in this region (the Sauternes sector of Bordeaux), I was able to go on a Best Of Ride today, incorporating all my favorite sights and routes, villages and castles.

Here it is, in photos: 50 great miles, even with some rain the last 10K.

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Yes, the Route des Vines … I’ve created my own. A few minutes – and hills – after you head out of Langon, the Sauternes and Graves grapes begin to appear. To say they’re everywhere is a bit of an understatement. And, grapes seem to love growing on hills, which means lots of ups and downs.

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The cathedral in Uzeste is our first official stop. It’s one of the larger and more ornate churches in the region, and yet another example of a tiny, tiny village with a huge, giant church.

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Then it’s on to the remains of the castle in Villandraut, which dates back to Pope Clement V and the 1300s. This time, the gate just past the drawbridge was open and I could walk into the large “courtyard.” There’s something about the ruins of an ancient castle that stirs the imagination.

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Headed out of Villandraut and saw this…

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I know, it’s almost as cool as the Pope’s castle ruins.

It’s the roadside advertisement for Le Roi Kysmar … and I have one question: What the heck is the dad doing? Is he in the middle of a cough? Does he have some sort of breathing or lung disorder? Is he hiding something in his hand? Is he about to blow a poisonous dart at me?

I have no idea what the heck was the giant-plastic advertising artist was thinking. Maybe he had a little too much Sauternes and things got out of hand.

After another few Ks … Couldn’t help but notice the name of this mini-village…

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Perhaps this is a warning to all cyclists: Drink up and stay hydrated.

The setting of the ruins of the castle just outside Budos are perfect…

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The old castle is below the town, surrounded by vineyards. I came at it from three or four different directions and each time the view of the castle as you approached was pretty darn amazing.

FYI: The harvesting of the grapes has begun.

OK, we’re nearing the end of our perfect ride. This is about the time it started raining. I was heading back, but instead of turning left, toward Langon, kept going straight so I could see…

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The castle at Roquetaillade. It’s set a little ways back from the road, so it’s hard to tell from this picture how big it is. Trust me: It’s huge.

There was a guy just a little bit to the left of where I shot this from, sitting in a chair in front of his camper … sleeping.

Why not? It’s a pretty awesome view. Maybe he too had a little too much wine. I’m working on this situation right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Noble Rot Effect in Bordeaux!

Got rained on today during my ride … which means more fungus on the grapes, which in turn makes them sweeter, more valuable and a perfect match for a chocolatey dessert.

It’s all due to the Botrytis cinereal, a fungus they call the “noble rot.” Ah, the noble rot … sort of sounds like a movie title or what’s going in in Washington, D.C.

I know what you’re thinking: “Steve, you’re such a wine expert!”

grapes1Well, not exactly … but I am here in Bordeaux and you do pick up a few things. For example: about 90 percent of the wine produced in Bordeaux is red.

The white stuff?

They do a big chunk of the 10 percent in the Sauternes region, which is where I rode today … in the rain, surrounded by plump white grapes and lots and lots of fungus. Somehow this particular fungus makes the grapes sweeter. Don’t worry, I took a really good shower when I got back to the hotel. And, I do feel a little sweeter than I did this morning.

My first stop was Chateau Yquem, which is probably the most famous producer of Sauterne. Wow, this place is impressive … and a little intimidating. Some of their wines sell for more than $1,000 a bottle.

I bought two (only kidding … I got a case!).

While I would have loved to sample a few Yquems, drinking wine while I ride makes me groggy and sleepy. Instead I took a few photos … and may have plucked a couple grapes off a vine and eaten them. They may not have been as sweet as I expected.

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Then it was on to the town/village of Sauternes … where I think you need some sort of documentations to get a glass of wine at the official Office of Degustation.

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On to Budos … where there are the ruins of a medieval castle surrounded by vineyards. The Chateau Budos dates back to the 1300s … and looks it. As you may have noticed if you’re a regular reader of this blog: I love ruins. I think it’s because you get to use your imagination to “see” what they looked like in their prime. Do you think there were vineyards – and fungus – here in the 1300s?

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And then it began to rain … a mist at first, and then a steady drizzle. I found some cover in Illats … and waited it out. Unfortunately, the sky was dark and formidable in every direction for as far as the eye could see through my fogged-up sunglasses.

What to do?

I don’t mind riding in the rain. Once you’re wet, you’re wet and you can’t really get any wetter … and it’s not so bad. Decided to cut short my planned route and head back to Langon. And then, after about 5 Ks … the rain slowed and stopped. Was it enough moisture to make the fungus happy? I’m hoping 2018 is the best vintage ever.

Decided to keep riding and explore Sauternes. Rode back to Budos to stare at the old castle, then back to Sauternes to have a snack in the park, then over to the village of Bommes then back to Sauternes and … round and round.

Wound up riding 51 miles within the relatively small Sauternes region and now know this area as well as any American ever. If only I could find and afford a bottle of Chateau Yquem … it would be the perfect ending to a great day of riding.