TELLURIDE – In Alsace, French vineyards producing touted Rieslings and Gewürztraminers mingle with World War II battlefields and ancient villages. It is where one might find a historic bunker, now doubling as a wine cellar, or an epicurean gem hiding as an old bierstube. As Telluride local Bertrand Marchal describes it, “There’s a village in every valley, and a castle on every hill. It is truly a beautiful, authentic place. ”
He would know. Although Bertrand Marchal has resided in Telluride for the past 20 years, he was raised in Alasace, and Alsace is where this French transplant and his wife, Laura, will return for one year beginning this August to start a new business, Cobbles and Corks Cycling, a bike tour company.
“It has everything,” says Marchal, an avid biker himself, of the terrain in his home region of France. “Flat riding on roads with little traffic, small hills dotted with vineyards, some tough climbs” – in other words, some of the best cycling in a country renowned for it.
The Marchals expect their bike trips to be just like Alsace itself: authentic, hospitable and unforgettable. “What we’re trying to do is make a bike tour that is different” than any other type of cycling trip, Marchal explains. His wife, Laura, adds that having a local Alsatian guide helps give Cobbles and Corks an authentic touch that most other tour companies lack. The main tour is six days and nights; guests stay at just three different hotels, each within about 25 miles of each other. “But because of the landscape and all the different routes, we can shape a ride each day that is as long as you want: 25 miles or 100 miles,” Bertrand says.
Staying two nights at each hotel enables riders to really get a feel for the villages they are visiting, and also offers plenty of opportunities for exploration out of the bike seat.
Although Cobbles and Corks is a bike tour company at heart, to call it strictly that would be to miss a major aspect of what the Marchals bring to Alsace. Because he grew up there, Bertrand knows not only the best places to eat and most scenic vineyards to visit, but even where to find the most exquisite tablecloth in all of Alsace.
“These are places that are literally dripping with ambiance,” says Laura, who has been visiting the region with her husband for more than a decade, of the villages, hotels, restaurants, shopping, and other sights on Cobbles and Corks’ agendas. “There’s always a bakery or restaurant on route – you’re never going to have a Power Bar on this trip,” Bertrand predicts.
You can take probably take him at his word: he is, in fact, not only a French-trained chef himself, but has made his living as the owner of a catering business in Telluride for the past two decades. What’s more, Bertrand is also the son of one of Alsace’s most prestigious hoteliers in his hometown of Trois Epis, where his family still resides. With his mother acting as general manager and his father donning the toque, Marchal was literally raised in the hospitality business, a fact not lost when he created Cobbles and Corks. He expects his background to figure heavily into the company’s tours, where clients will accompany him to his friends’ gourmet restaurants, drink wine with lifelong locals, and even dine with his family in his mother’s home.
For more information on tour dates and trip details, visit cobblesandcorks.com or call 970/708-2661.