Biking between two rivers—the Entre-Deux-Mers region
The Entre-Deux-Mers region is located between the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers that feed into the Gironde estuary. The name, though, is “between two seas” or “between two tides” because the rivers have a tidal influence. The Gironde has a large tidal range and during the largest tides, a tidal bore (single wave) will move upstream in the rivers. One of our B&B hosts said her daughter rode it one time!
Like the Saint Emilion region, this region is also characterized by mostly limestone bedrock with thin, clay-rich soils. An agricultural irony is that the poor soils are what make Bordeaux wines so good. When the vines have to compete for limited nutrients and water, the grapes achieve more concentrated and distinctive flavors. (By the way, it is not legal to irrigate the vineyards here.) If you find the Entre-Deux-Mers label on a French wine, you will know it is made with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes, sometimes with added Sauvignon Gris or Muscadelle. They are always white and range from dry to sweet. Red wines are also made here but they must be labeled as generic Bordeaux or (for the better ones) Bordeaux Superior. In contrast, in the Médoc region, only the red wines can have the Médoc label, and white wines must have the generic Bordeaux label. How nice to find a free tasting room along our path.
But our focus in this region is on biking—through the UTracks (Canadian) company we did a 5-day self-guided bike tour from Bordeaux to Toulouse. They supply the bikes and the maps, and we get ourselves to the destination where our luggage and a B&B room are awaiting us. Our travel is mostly on “vélo voies verte”—bicycle green ways—with some scenic back roads thrown in for interest. The first day was a path on an old railroad bed that is named after a French man who won the Tour de France in 1939.
Most of the journey was along the Canal de Garonne, which was built in the mid 1800s as part of a system that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea (see map above). The autumn colors and temperatures made for a scenic, pleasant journey. The scene below was typical, with the path on the canal’s left bank.
There are many locks along the way that are still used by boats. There are nautical stops where people can store their cruising boats. Some of the lock houses have been converted into museums or restaurants. This restaurant, named Le Poule à Vélo (the chicken on a bike), felt particularly welcoming to bicyclists and served a lovely 3-course lunch.
The landscape is dotted by quaint medieval-aged towns that could be explored because of their position adjacent to the canal or just a short distance away. The landscape is relatively flat, except where the rivers have cut down a little. In addition to grapes, there are many other agricultural products. We saw large orchards or apples and kiwis. The photo below is La Reole village.