If we are so modest as to say so ourselves, on our Provence Biking, Food, and Wine Adventure we have a truly spectacular day set up that perfectly combines these three elements.
We call this day “Bike for Lunch” and it involves multiple stops at local food and wine establishments in the morning, where our trip participants are tasked to purchase lunch supplies. Our guides then take the purchases and create a classic French picnic, eaten leisurely in the mid-afternoon.
We start in the morning with a visit to the weekly market of St. Remy-de-Provence, a small town that is our base for two days and whose bustling market takes over the old streets of town each Wednesday. The market has anything and everything one might want: meats and cheeses; specialty items like olives and nuts; fruits and vegetables galore; and a great variety of chocolates and other desserts.
We then head off on our bikes to a local olive oil mill, the Moulin du Calanquet, where we have a tour of the mill and the olive tree groves. On our recent tour, our group found this so fascinating they spent almost two hours at the facility – putting us well behind schedule, except that the schedule was never firm to begin with.
Our next stop, a few miles down the road, is Chateaux Dalmeran, a small winery with an incredible piece of terroir that has been creating wine on site since the times of the Romans. We not only tasted their wines (and bought a few bottles for lunch) but received a tour of the grounds, complete with Roman ruins, by one of the owners.
On to the next stop: a small honey bee farm that produces a wide variety of honey and other products made on site. Le Nectar des Alpilles is run by a husband and wife team and they are eager to show us their products (which also make great gifts).
Our next-to-last stop is at La Fromagerie des Alpilles, a local farm where the fascinating owner, George, raises goats and makes delectable (and of course very fresh) goat cheese. George is a talker and loves to tell us about his farm, the goats, and the cheeses we all get to try.
Finally, we roll into Les Figuieres, our destination for the day. Francis and his wife Jacqueline have been hosting our groups for years and, in fact, it was his idea to do a picnic on his grounds. Francis is passionate about two things: travel and figs. He combines the two by traveling the world to visit fig farms and purchases many varieties to plant at home. He now has over 200 varieties of figs on site!
While Francis gives a tour of the grounds and a tasting of the many fig products he produces (purees, compotes, jams, etc), we guides get to work creating a fire of fig tree branches, producing a glowing bed of coals, and cooking the meats, roasting the vegetables, and grilling the breads people purchased en route. The ultimate feast, topped with fig products from Les Figuieres, is delicous and as fresh and direct-from-the-farm as one could ever want.
One nice thing about this day’s adventure is we also have options for those wanting to do more cycling. In the morning, people can choose to skip the farmer’s market and go on a fantastic uphill ride to the medieval town of Les Baux de Provence. Those wishing to work off lunch can return to our base in St. Remy by bicycle instead of van. There are options for everyone and this day is really a perfect opportunity to get to know the food and wine scene of Provence under your own pedal power.
Thank you to the members of our April 2014 Provence Adventure for the above photos!