France is, without question, one of the most essential elements in the development of European (and World) culture over the years.
Cities like Paris stand as prime examples of not just stunning architectural efforts by French creatives and labourers, but also as a testament to the rich history of the country, and the history it shares with its neighbours.
Tourists - especially cyclists - have known this for decades. Moving from one city or town to another, they’re able to fully immerse themselves in the land, its culture and its traditions, as opposed to merely scratching the surface as most visitors do.
Part of this is the varied and revered food and drink on offer in France. The French have helped produce some of the most beloved and iconic dining options the world over, including of course their plentiful donations of drinks like wine and Champagne. But, there’s so much more to French cuisine than the alcohol for which they are famous.
So, the next time you’re on a Cycling Holiday in France, be sure to expand your taste horizons and try a few different menu options. Maybe even some you don't fully understand! With this in mind, here are our top 5 foods & drinks to try while cycling in France:
Soupe à l’oignon
If you’re familiar with French cooking in any way, shape or form, you’ll no doubt be familiar with French Onion Soup.
Originally recognised as a peasant’s dish, the soup has evolved to become one of the most sought-after and tasty delights for both French natives and tourists visiting from other countries.
A combination of beef broth, onions, croutons and melted cheese in its most traditional form, the dish dates back all the way to Roman times, although its current incarnation began to turn up around the 18th century as far as we can tell.
What makes the soup really stand out from others (apart from the addition of melted cheese) is the intense flavour brought forth from slow cooking the onions and glazing them with alcohol, usually brandy, for that added sweetness to cut through their natural acidity.
While the dish is popular across the country (and particularly popular in the United States) you’ll find the most delicious versions being served in fine restaurants in the country’s capital city.
If you’re looking for the perfect comfort food while you’re cycling in France, or something that’s going to give you tons of energy for your journey, Cassoulet is the meal for you.
It’s a stew-like dish that consists of white beans which are slow-cooked with a meat of your choosing, although this is usually pork or duck and can stretch to goose or mutton.
Hugely popular in the Toulouse area of France, its name derives from the dish it is served in - a ‘Cassole.’ A regular feature in many French kitchens, it’s undoubtedly a meal that will warm your soul and your heart.
The carbohydrate content from the beans, along with the protein offered from the meat, make it an ideal meal to replenish your energy levels after a long, hard day of cycling.
While the original name for this dish roughly translates as ‘Cake’ from Flemish, when you look at it and taste it, you’ll realise it’s anything but. Actually, it’s savoury!
Finding its roots firmly in the north of France, close to the border with Belgium, it is a crust consisting of puff pastry and is filled with an assortment of cheeses and vegetables. On the face of it, it’s not totally different to a pasty, but has also been compared to quiche for its texture and flavours.
The traditional filling is leeks and cream, but countless people have made their own delicious variations, it's almost impossible to nail it down to just a few fillings.
The Southern variant also has anchovies, olives and onions.
You must have heard about our next choice…
It may have become one of the most famous desserts known to man, but life didn’t get off to a quick start for the humble Tarte Tatin. In fact, it shouldn’t exist at all!
The Tarte was created when its originator, Stephanie Tatin, left her apples cooking on the stove for too long! Rather than throwing them away, in a bid to save them she threw some pastry on top, hurled it in the oven and served it upside-down as a sort of topless pie dish.
Needless to say, it was a hugely happy accident, and the dessert is now served in every region of the country as a classic. The perfect finale to a late post-cycling supper.
We know we said it wasn’t all about the wine, but if we’re talking about France it needs to be mentioned!
This particular red wine was born in the heart of the Loire Valley and is made from the freshest Cabernet Franc Grapes.
A medium-bodied wine, this one is very easy to drink and is a perfect accompaniment to a whole range of cheeses or red meats.
But why just read about it? Discover the true cuisine of France on your next cycling holiday with Freewheel Holidays!
If you’d like to see what we have to offer, you can find our selection of amazing cycling holidays in Europe here.