I AM sure there are many people who would like to check the tyres on their racing bike and head off around the back roads of France.
Well US-born video film maker Christopher Strong has done just that with his Bicycle Gourmet's Treasures of France tour, which fulfilled his dream of cycling around the country visiting interesting places and meeting entertaining characters.
Here Christopher writes a Q&A style piece outlining the travels he undertook around France, which took in total just over two years.
What is Bicycle Gourmet’s Treasures of France?
BGTOF, is a lifestyle/adventure TV series that profiles the lives of the people of all nationalities who live in the French countryside.
Imagine you have 100 relatives in the French countryside; and you’re their favourite American cousin. When you visit, you take along your digital camcorder and record the fun. That’s BGTOF.
So, it’s not a cooking show?
No, but since food is at the head of the table in French country life, pun intended, we couldn’t very well leave it out, could we?
And that’s why you included the word 'gourmet' in the title?
Exactly; because the Bicycle Gourmet is 'tasting' the land and the people as well as the food and wine.
How many episodes did you film? , and how long did it take?
Currently, there are 13 episodes; with 13 more in post-production. This represents roughly 25 months of shooting spread over five years. So, basically, I’ve visited almost every region.
What’s your favourite spot?
That’s like asking a Father which kid he likes best.
OK. Provence is great, and justly so, but, the Luberon National park, within Provence, studded with hilltop villages, is definitely worth a visit.
Further south, touching the Mediterranean, the department of Languedoc-Rousillon has some great undiscovered wines, and a long historical connection with Spain.
My indelible memory of the Gers region, in the South West, is of fields of sunflowers tumbling into a cobalt blue sky.
But, I guess one of my favourite places is the Cantal. The French call it la France profonde or the deep France, because of its rural character and traditions still guide everyday life.
In a nutshell, it’s France twenty years ago. Definitely off the beaten track.
How did it all start?
Well, I’m an outdoors person, and a cyclist. My dream was to cycle the French country roads. With no timeline, no fixed itinerary. Just, as the French say, au pif, following my nose. I realized that dream.
But I’m also a film maker. And so, I was inspired to return and record, in the same way, as authentically and spontaneously as possible, France’s treasures; human, culinary, cultural, scenic and historic.
So, Bicycle Gourmet began as a personal adventure that turned into a shared one?
Exactly. Like so many things in life.
What was the greatest challenge you faced filming BGTOF?
You mean other than searing heat, glacial cold, gale force winds, malfunctioning camera, dead batteries, misleading road signs and flat tyres?
Yes, if there was one.
Absolutely there was one. The same challenge anyone proposing something new faces. Getting the money.
Convincing investors that your project will fly. Contrary to popular opinion, most investors, particularly in the entertainment industry, aren’t interested in innovative new projects.
They’re looking for innovative imitations of current successes. So, here I was with a series that wasn’t cooking/travel/celebrity lifestyles.
Then, how did you finally get the money?
The old fashioned way. Kept knocking on doors. Kept showing the reel. And, positive letters from some TV programmers.
So, in the end, you succeeded.
By the standard definition of success – yes.
And you have another definition?
It’s not just me. I’m sure you’ve heard, 'success is the quality of your journey'? Well I’ve had, and continue to have, a journey of unimaginable quality.
Do you feel that’s your greatest treasure?
Absolutely. But, there are three elements to that quality.
One, like the song goes, 'I did it my way' no accountants telling me that shot didn’t work. Two, I have friends all over France that I can, and do, visit often.
Three, I live here. Outside a tiny, perfect village that I cycle to each morning for just baked bread. I buy five litres of great local wine for the price of a pizza. Now, that’s success – n’est-ce pas?
And all because you cycled to, and through, your dream.
And you travelled exclusively by bicycle?
99% of the time. One per cent by train during bad weather.
Then, how did you co-ordinate with your crew?
Effortlessly. Because there was none. Just me, bike, camera, tripod, and, of course, a spare inner tube.
The word is – exhausting – and also, exhilarating. Because by putting myself out there with no safety net, and an unshakeable faith in human kindness, I was rewarded with unimaginable experiences.
Such as staying in the converted monastery of one of France’s most celebrated winemakers.
Tasting fresh Cantal cheese with the cheese makers at their mountain top farm; floating in a canal boat, over a canal bridge spanning the Loire river.
Watching the river flow below horizontally, while you, also on water, hundreds of feet above, cross vertically.
But one of the most memorable, was being invited to the birthday lunch of a 73 year old French vegetable gardener.
This guy had energy to burn, which was good, because he had a 50 year old English girlfriend.
His adult kids, and their new baby also live in the same happily isolated village. Their lives maintaining the same authentic rural rhythm. No traffic lights. No problem.
Sounds like you could write a book.
I could, and guess what, I did. It’s called Gliding to the Bonheur and is a behind the scenes look at the filming of BGTOF.
You can find it, with a free sample chapter at soulmuse21.com, along with a free trailer and DVD’s of BGTOF.