In the early 1980’s Marilyn & I started having bike tour companies do touring presentations at our store, The Bicycle Outfitter. EuroPeds in particular, specialized in the Dordogne Department in Southwest France. Marilyn, a French student, was particularly interested in that area. So after exhausting what we thought were the best touring areas in the USA, EuroPeds helped us set up our own Self Guided Tour in 1985. We followed the Great Gorges route from the Dordogne to Provence. We and another couple, packed our bikes and panniers and Paris duds, and set off for France. We flew to Paris and stayed for a night. We talked our hotel into keeping our “Paris clothes” there and took the morning train to Les Eyzies in the heart of the Dordogne and the adventure began.
We were lucky enough to be able to spend a few days to acclimate at the home of the mother of the owner of EuroPeds, Betty Boyton. She drove us all over the heart of this amazing area and we were blown away by the beauty, small country roads to cycle on, history, beautiful ancient chateau and fortresses and one beautiful village after another. We fell in love with the Dordogne right then and there. Did I mention the food? Awesome.
Les Eyzies to Rocamadour and Conques, to Rodez, and over the Massive Central and down the Tarn River Gorge and the Ardeche River Gorge into Provence. We stayed a week in Provence cycling the area and even rented a car to extend our range for a couple days. We then returned to Paris for a few days then packed our bikes and flew home to California.
We were sold on France as the most wonderful cycling we ever experienced and knew we would go back one day, especially to the Dordogne, the very best we had experienced. Provence was the rage at that time, but we preferred beautiful green Dordogne.
Business kept us grounded for a few years and then in 1991 Marilyn saw an ad in the Los Altos Town Crier for a farm house for rent in the Dordogne. We were interviewed by the owners, a Los Altos couple, and booked it for a couple weeks in the fall. To make a long story short, we rented the farmhouse each year for 9 years, left bikes there, added a few antiques Marilyn “had to have” and when one of the owners passed in 1999, we bought “Grand Chaquard”, our very own French home. By that time we knew the Dordogne very well and had actually started Outfitter Bicycle Tours in 1996. We ran a self-supported tandem tour for friends and also a fully supported tour for clients using EuroPeds to run it for us. Our very own Dordogne bicycle tours! The rest is history. We (OBT) have been running tours there continuously for 18 years.
There are so many wonderful places to cycle in France for sure, and we did most of them, but the Dordogne was and is our favorite. The pre-history sites are amazing, the food unique and wonderful and many small country roads with very little traffic connecting all the amazing sites. La Roque-Gageac, Domme, Sarlat, Rocamadour and Montignac in the Dordogne and Vezere River Valleys. Also, around our home, the Val de Dronne, the towns of Brantome and Bourdeilles. We discovered small family run hotels in each location and became good friends. Our local guide, Roger Boiling, is a gem and still supports OBT’s Dordogne tours. Look up the villages online and see what I mean. Also, the river valley just south of the Dordogne, the Lot River, is amazing. Rocamadour is actually in the Lot Department, and St Cirq-Lapopie and Chateau Mercues are wonderful destinations which are on some OBT itineraries as well. Search online about the caves of Font de Gaume, Lascaux and Pech Merle. Also the chateaux of Beynac, Castelnaud, and Des Milandes. These will give a good feel for the area.
To this day I believe the Dordogne is the best cycling in the world. I can not tell you how many clients have told us it was “the best vacation” they ever had. If you want to ask me questions I can be reached at DickPowell53@aol.com. You can see OBT’s Dordogne bicycle tours & itineraries HERE.