I returned a few days ago from running two bicycle tours in Provence. I have to say the area is really special for bike touring.
In fact, my co-guide Giovanni, who runs our Italian tours and is ardently pro-Italian whether it be wine, food, or coffee, was salivating over the Provencal food, wine, scenery, and culture.
Our tour completes a 360-degree loop around the fantastic city of Avignon, at one time home to the Popes and currently a beautiful walled city with streets closed to traffic and full of life. We spend several days in the heavily agricultural area of St. Remy-de-Provence and then several more days in the Cotes-du-Rhone wine area.
But one of the most special aspects for Giovanni and me was how flat most of the roads are. Our short and medium routes on four of the six days are essentially flat with only minor rolling hills. If you want nice, easy riding complemented by fantastic food and wine, this is the tour for you. On the other hand, on two of the days we have hills to climb while on several more we have extra long route options, most of them hilly, making it perfect if you like a workout as well.
Let me give you just one example of how this will work; this is Day Two of our 2012 itinerary:
We start the day from our hotel in St. Remy-de-Provence at around 9:00. We have a flat loop ride that heads through the local agricultural areas with planned stops at an olive oil mill, a winery, a honey bee farm, a goat cheese farm, and a fig farm. The group purchases items at each stop for their lunch under the fig trees at the end. While the group is tasting fig jams, syrups, and tapenades, we guides create a bonfire and roast local sausages, chicken, and vegetables over the coals. A feast!
In the afternoon, the group cycles back to the hotel.Those seeking more riding complete an uphill climb to the beautiful town of les Beaux while others wander around town, visit the sanatorium where Van Gogh stayed, or tour the Roman city of Glanum.
We love days like this because they provide the right amount of cycling for any one person and mix in a load of local culture, food, and wine. And that is all before dinner!
(Thanks to Nancy Card for the photos on this page.)