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Cycling for Softies' prettiest French villages

Posted 01 Jan 2016

It could be the pretty bistro patios with their window boxes spilling with flowers. It could be the narrow, labyrinthine streets. Or perhaps it's just the smell of warm baguettes, carried on the light breeze. Whatever it is, French villages exude an inimitable charm. On your French cycling holiday, you're bound to discover countless idyllic villages, but here are five of our firm favourites. They're the best places to take a break from the bike and enjoy a crisp glass of white wine (or two).

Les Baux-de-Provence, Provence

A listed heritage site, Les Baux-de-Provence is nestled in the heart of Alpilles Natural Regional Park. Its position among rocky hills and rugged battlements gives it a distinctive, armoured appearance – in fact, this unique location is rumoured to have inspired 'Inferno' in Dante's The Divine Comedy. The medieval streets here are strictly car-free, making it a peaceful place to explore on two wheels during a Provence cycling holiday.

Coulon, Venise Verte

The pretty little village of Coulon is situated at the heart of the lush Marais Poitevin marshland, and is characterised by the numerous nearby rivers and waterways that give the region its name – 'Green Venice'. Cycle along the banks to discover the green countryside and wetland, the second largest in France. Coulon has a rich history and heritage too, from a well-preserved customs house to medieval mansions.

Eguisheim, Alsace

The aesthetic and architecture of Eguisheim is typical of the more Germanic Alsation region of France. This is a place that feels timeless, with charming, half-timbered houses still lining the old cobbled streets today. On an Alsace tour you can sample the renowned wine – such as Crémant d'Alsace, a fresh and fruity blend of several grape varieties – or pay a visit to the stork sanctuary at the edge of the village.

La Roque-Gageac, Dordogne

This picturesque village in southwestern France peers over the north bank of the Dordogne River and is backed by steep cliffs that were once part of a 12th-century fortress. It's well known for its pale yellow houses with their distinctive grey roofs. For a fairly small and modest village, you'll also find some impressive examples of neo-Renaissance architecture here during your Dordogne cycling holiday – the imposing Château de la Malartrie is a particular highlight.

Noyers-sur-Serein, Burgundy

Noyers-sur-Serein is a medieval jewel in the Chablis countryside and one of the most picturesque villages in northern Burgundy. The streets here are full of history – just walking through the town centre will take you past the 17th-century town hall, a 15th-century church decorated with gargoyles, and through arches dating from the 13th to the 19th centuries. It's the perfect spot to pull up an alfresco table, order a coffee and watch the world go by during a Burgundy cycling holiday.

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