We’ve been accommodating vegan cycling ever since we opened, but this is the first time we’ve run a dedicated week just for Vegans. The idea is that you’ll be able to ride with like minded people for the week, so it’ll be more than simply the fabulous cycling we have around here.
We’re pretty sure we’re the only provider of vegan cycling holidays in France, maybe even in Europe, and now we’ve put the programme together, it’s easy to see why! The difficulty is lunch stops. France has more and more vegan friendly eateries in cities, but of course cyclists want to ride in the countryside where traditionally there’s nothing on offer for vegans. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to chefs in restaurants over several years, and now have enough places I know will feed our vegan customers well. It was quite a labour of love, but was worth it I think. I’ve written a blog post which goes into more detail on vegan cycling in France here.
We’ll be providing breakfast and two evening meals. For the other evenings we can recommend local vegan friendly eateries (and talk to them for you if your French isn’t up to it), you can self-cater in our guest kitchen, or Natalie might be persuaded to cook for you… Natalie runs a vegan and vegetarian food business and is well known locally for her fantastic cooking, so you can be sure that everything emerging from her kitchen is totally delicious.
Le Cheval Blanc, our base, has a guest kitchen so self catering is also easy if you prefer.
Apart from being vegan, you’ll need to be riding regularly to get the best from this holiday. You don’t need to be superfit because we won’t be covering huge distances, but this part of France has hills (although nothing too extreme) and most of the routes we use are between 80 and 120km. Our customers typically ride most weeks and do the odd sportive – if that’s you, you’ll be fine. Our rides are not training camps either, no-one gets left behind and we ride at the pace of the slowest rider. The scenery is so beautiful here and the medieval villages so perfectly preserved, you wouldn’t want to rush through anyway.
Arrival and settling in. If you’re here early enough I can lend you a GPS which will guide you around one of my favourite short rides. Evening meal cooked by Natalie and eaten, weather permitting, in our medieval courtyard.
This is one of my favourite local circuits taking in two beautiful valleys. We quickly leave the Aveyron valley towards Cordes sur Ciel, an amazing fortified hilltop town. Cordes itself isn’t very bike friendly, but riding past in the valley it’s a spectacular sight. Higher up the valley, the hills close in and we follow a winding road known locally as the cyclists motorway because it’s so nice everyone uses it! We’ll have time for a quick coffee and look around Monestiés with it’s medieval bridge before the climb over to a completely different valley, the Viaur. The Viaur is a narrow steep sided valley which feels very remote, but it’s also a popular swimming spot if you fancy a freshen up. An easy spin down the valley takes us to our lunch stop in the riverside town of Laguépie, from where we join the Aveyron for the ride back to St Antonin.
This promises to be rather indulgent. One of the best markets in the region takes place right outside our house, so we’ll spend part of the morning exploring and buying local produce. Then we’ll saddle up for the short ride to Puylaroque, which has one of the best restaurants in the region. Chef Thierry, who moved here from Paris for a quiet life is typical of a new breed of French chefs who have made this vegan cycling week possible. He doesn’t specialise in vegan food and there’s nothing suitable on his menu, but he’s a really creative chef who loves a challenge and who refuses to allow anything sub-standard to leave his kitchen. He cooks up the best vegan food I’ve had in France (apart from what Natalie cooks, of course!). The ride back can be as long or as short as you like. Some people don’t feel like riding much after such a meal, others use the calories to power them all afternoon. Your choice!
We have a great local train service which we use to get to new places and this is a real customer favourite. The historic line to Figeac runs through the upper Aveyron gorge, which as well as being stunning is only accessible by train. Figeac is a beautifully preserved medieval pilgrim town in the Lot where we’ll stop for a quick coffee. Then we ride almost the whole length of the stunningly remote Célé valley with it’s perfect villages and cliffs. Lunch is at a superb vegetarian and vegan restaurant. Shortly after lunch we reach the Lot valley at the tourist honeypot of St Cirq Lapopie from where we climb gently up to the Quercy limestone plateau. The scenery on the plateau is completely different to the rest of the ride. It’s one of the most sparsely populated parts of France where time has stood still and farmers still eke out a living on the stony soil. We drop down from the plateau down the idyllic Bonnette valley which is reputed to have more watermills than anywhere in France and which brings us back in St Antonin.
Tuesday is a rest day, but if you want to ride I can sort you out with a route and loan you a GPS. Otherwise it’s your opportunity to explore St Antonin in more depth, check out the art galleries, swim in the river or get involved in the endless outdoor activities the town is known for.
Today we’ll be exploring more of the Aveyron valley. We start with an easy spin up the valley to warm up, then a long (but not too steep) climb up to a high ridge which gives fantastic 360 degree views, especially the ruined hilltop chateau of Najac. A white-knuckle descent back down to the valley is followed by an easy ride into Villefranche de Rouergue where we’ll have lunch in a wonderful family run restaurant. We ride back over the green hills above St Antonin.
No cycling trip to St Antonin is complete without a ride down the spectacular lower Aveyron gorge, so that’s the finale of the week. You’ll ride past huge cliffs, through tunnels and chateaux perched precariously high above the water. The second part of the ride takes in the vineyards around Gaillac before climbing up to the former stronghold of the Knights Templar at Vaour. The ride finishes with the spectacular descent down the vertical gorge walls into St Antonin. Right now we’re not certain about eating options on this circuit as our usual restaurant has changed hands. If the new owners aren’t vegan friendly we’ll provide a picnic.
The end of the week, but you can extend your stay if we have rooms available.
Breakfast every day and evening meal on two nights. If you want to eat with us on other nights, let’s talk. All other food and drink isn’t included in the price but we always make sure there’s somewhere good to eat for lunch and dinner.
Airport transfers (although we’ll pick you up from either Lexos or Caussade Station)
Bike hire. If you need a bike, we work with Velo du Lot who will deliver to us.
Prices for this vegan cycling holiday are based on sharing a room, so if you come with a friend, you’ll be able to choose who you share with.
Our house is an award winning recently restored 16th century Auberge. It has 4 ensuite guest rooms which are configured as follows:
We’ll allocate the rooms taking into account people’s preferences but giving priority to those who book first.
Our maximum capacity is 10 people and single or super-king beds are available for all rooms. There are more details on our accommodation site here.
This all sounds great but….
If you’d love to ride with us, but the dates don’t suit, get in touch. If you’re a group of at least 6 we can run this vegan cycling holiday at a time to suit you if we have availability in our accommodation. If you’re a smaller group, we can always do self-guided breaks, and out of season might consider running a guided trip for smaller numbers.
If the riding in this programme is too hard or too easy for you, we’ll consider changing it if there are at least 6 of you, or we could run a bespoke trip another time.
Is €550 per person based on 4 sharing each room. There’s a €50 supplement for 2 sharing subject to availability. If you want a single room, we may be able to accommodate you depending on how many other bookings we get, and there may be a surcharge. Of course if you book as a group you can choose who you share with.
If you sign up 7 friends for this vegan cycling holiday, your place is free. This offer applies all the time subject to us having space for you, so you can claim your free space for a custom holiday at other times.