The annual Tour de France bolts out of the starting gate on Saturday for three grueling and beautiful weeks of bike racing. The TV and online coverage, on a sports channel called Versus, amounts to a vivid travelogue with sweeping helicopter shots of aqueducts built by the Romans, crumbling medieval ramparts in the Pyrenees, and green, undulating countryside.

Honestly, all the chatter of blood-doping drama and steroid scandals is muted by the boisterous glory of the French (and, briefly, Spanish, Andorran, Dutch, and Swiss) landscape. Watch just one stage of the race and you’ll find yourself planning a tour of your own and craving a chilled glass of Sancerre.

Ann Shields is a senior online editor at Travel + Leisure.