Provence Biking, Food, & Wine Adventure

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”
Rudyard Kipling

Provence, in the southwest of France, is a land of rugged landscapes, sun-drenched fields, and charming hilltop towns. The intense colors and pleasant climate at one time drew the best painters in the world, including Van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Cézanne, and Picasso. It is – we think you’ll agree — also the perfect place to engage in an active food and wine tour via bicycle. Our six-day trip is centered on the historic city of Avignon, located on the banks of the Rhône River and during the 14th century the actual seat of the Pope and Catholic Church. We visit nearby towns including Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Gordes, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape on a neat 360-degree loop surrounding Avignon.

France is probably the premier bicycling country in the world, thanks to the scenery, the hospitality, and the policy of paving even the smallest country road. The many small side roads often allow us to bicycle side by side, taking in views of lavender fields and passing through small farming villages. We cycle mainly across flat valleys with optional climbs to hilltop towns, perfect for those wanting more challenging rides each day. As always, we have two or three biking routes each day (short, medium, and long) and a support van that is always there if you need it.

The area is a literal breadbasket with cuisine that is fresh and seasonal: seafood and lamb; fruits and vegetables such as melons, apricots, and asparagus; and olive oil and tomato-based sauces that supplant the traditional rich French cooking. We spend hands-on time with the local foods, visiting craft cheesemakers, an olive oil mill, a honey farm, and a fig plantation. We also sample a host of wonderful wines of the Côtes de Provence: we start in the Luberon area with whites and lighter reds, move into Vacqueyras and Gigondas with their deeper, flavorful varieties, ride through renowned Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and finish with the most famous rosé wines in France, near Tavel.

Trip Favorite Moments & Reviews

“Very well thought out with special moments architected and wonderful experiences.”

Mary Lynn Y.

“Other than the physicality of the biking, I loved the cooking class, eating outside beneath the stars, and talking to the chef and Angelique and Natasha in my fractured French. Also, I really liked it on the last day that we were offered a chance to wait an hour for the van, or bike the distance. Being pushed to finish the day’s long route was such fun, knowing we could do it. I think Zephyr has a way of raising my own expectations of what I can do, and not hand-holding too much.”

Penny M.

Details

  • Cost Per Person: $2,800
  • Optional Single Supplement: $700
  • Private Tour Minimum: 8
  • Activities: Biking, Food, & Wine
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Guides: TBD

Other Info: Bike Rental €25/day

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Trip Highlights

  • Cycling uphill to Gordes, one of “the most beautiful villages of France,” and enjoying the views earned from the town’s ramparts
  • Tasting the famous red wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the rosés of Tavel after riding miles to get there!
  • Shopping at a local farmer’s market and area farms for lunch to be cooked over an open fire by your guides
  • Walking or cycling in the town of St. Rémy-de-Provence along the Van Gogh painting tour, sites where he painted some of his famous canvases
  • Toasting the trip’s success at the pope’s palace in Avignon at tour’s end
DAY 1

We meet you at noon in Avignon, in the heart of Provence. You can choose to arrive the night before and stay in our preferred Avignon hotel or take the TGV high-speed train down from Paris or Geneva that morning. After introductions and a quick explanation of the tour, we are off on our bikes! We’ll ride on a flat road along the Rhône River through quaint villages to St. Rémy-de-Provence, home of Nostradamus and the site where Van Gogh painted Starry Night.  Once we settle into our hotel, we take a short walk to dinner and hear about French food from Patrick, the owner of our favorite local restaurant.  Distances: 19 or 39 kilometers

DAY 2

We start our day by visiting the incredible Wednesday morning market in St. Rémy-de-Provence, where we suggest you buy lunch for a picnic later today (your guides will use all the products to create an amazing barbeque cooked over an open fire).  We then do a loop ride that highlights local artisan food producers, visiting an olive oil mill, winery, honey bee farm, sheep’s cheese farm, and fig tree farm. The medium route will head to the majestic Château de Barbentane while the long route will head south through thickly forested lands up into the Alpilles Mountains, reaching the medieval, cobblestoned village of Les Baux-de-Provence, built right into the mountainside. If you have extra time in St. Rémy this afternoon, you can visit the Saint Paul de Mausole psychiatric institution where Van Gogh was voluntarily held and the ancient Celtic (and then Roman) city of Glanum.  Prior to dinner, you’ll be treated to a cooking class by an award-winning local chef and then get the opportunity to eat what you’ve created.  Distance: 18, 35 or 49 kilometers

DAY 3

Our ride today is mostly on rural roads through agricultural lands, passing bountiful orchards of fruit, pear, and cherry trees.  We head northeast through the town of Noves and cross over the Durance river into Caumont sur Durance. Here you can park your bike and explore the winding streets of the old town on foot, choosing one of the many small cafes for lunch. In the afternoon, we ride on rural roads through agricultural lands and a forest of cedar trees to the town of Cabrières d’Avignon, another picturesque village. Depending on the route you choose today, you can stop at a rural cheese shop with over 100 varieties of cheese for sale, at a local winery, and to the ancient Fontaine de Vaucluse, France’s most powerful underground spring before arriving at our hotel.  We might have a hard time dragging you away from the sauna, jacuzzi, and outdoor pool but you’ll be happy we did when you taste the outstanding cuisine at Restaurant l’Estellan tonight.  Distance: 37, 48 or 57 kilometers

DAY 4

Our first stop in the morning is the fantastic town of Gordes, awarded “one of the most beautiful villages of France.”  Park your bike and walk through the old streets, up to the castle and the Abbey of Senanque. We then ride through the Domaniale de Venasque forest, rising on what is one of our hillier roads. But the effort is worth it, as we exit the forest into the town of Venasque, our second “most beautiful villages of France” town of the day. Perched on a hilltop with magnificent views of the plains below, Venasque is a great lunch stop. In the afternoon, we cycle through the towns of Saint-Didier, Carpentras, and Aubignan on our way to our next hotel in Vacqueyras. We are now in the heart of wine country and will have a pre-dinner wine tasting to sample the local grape varieties. For the long route today, you will add an extra morning loop taking you to Pont Julien (a Roman bridge dating to 3 BC and named for Julius Cesar) and lovely Roussillon. This is a hilly day but the short route option includes a ride up and over the steepest parts. Distance: 37, 55 or 79 kilometers

DAY 5

Today we cycle through the vineyards, first crossing the Ouvèze River as we head into the wine town of Violès and continue across the flat plain to Jonquières and Courthézon, with its 12th-century city ramparts and 12 fountains.  It’s a beautiful morning ride through the heart of wine country. We stop along the way for a tour of a pastis factory (the typical Provencal workman’s drink) and then reach the famous village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (one of the most famous producers of red wine in all of France) for lunch and perhaps a walk up to the fortress relic or a sip of wine in one of the many wine shops. The short route will end with a van pickup here while the medium route continue to the towns of Lirac and Tavel, considered two of the best rosé wine producing regions in the country.  We finish our 360-degree loop by riding back into Avignon, where we’ll toast our success by sipping a glass while perched on the ramparts of the Palais du Papes – the palace of the popes. Distance: 17, 47 or 73 kilometers

DAY 6

You have several options on this, our final morning. You can choose a 15-kilometer ride on a flat island in the middle of the Rhone River near Avignon, which wows those who partake with its smooth, quiet roads. Alternatively, you can put your bike aside and explore the town of Avignon on your own. Plus, you always have the option to sleep in late!  Our tour ends at noon and you can choose to stay another night in the city, rent a car to explore other nearby areas, or jump on the train back to your departure city.

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Trip Accommodations

NIGHTS 1 & 2 >> HOTEL LE CASTELET DES ALPILLES / ST. REMY-DE-PROVENCE

Located in St. Remy, a wonderful walled town of 10,000 people that is big enough to offer excellent sights and shopping but small enough to explore on foot.

NIGHT 3 >> LE MAS DE LA SENANCOLE / LES IMBERTS

A modern hotel converted from a farmhouse and now boasting a beautiful swimming pool, sauna, and bocci (petanque) course might entice you to stay put for the afternoon once you arrive.

NIGHT 4 >> HOTEL MONTMIRAIL / VACQUEYRAS

A real chateau just outside one of the premier wine towns in the region. The hotel has a formal dining room that produces what is usually the best meal of the trip.

NIGHT 5 >> HÔTEL CLOITRE SAINT LOUIS / AVIGNON

This four-star hotel is just a 10-minute walk from Palais des Papes and a 2-minute walk from the train station. The property dates from the 16th-century but features an outdoor pool with a large terrace. Our rooms are in the historic portion that features archways and vaulted ceilings.

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Arrival & Departure

We meet you in Avignon at noon the first day of the trip. You can arrive the night before and stay in our Avignon hotel or take the TGV high-speed train from Paris or Geneva that morning.

On the last day, we will end in Avignon at noon, and you can choose to stay another night in the city, rent a car to explore other nearby areas, or jump on the train back to your departure city to head home. We will send you full travel details upon booking.

WHAT'S INCLUDED?
  • You will have at least two Zephyr guides, with a third guide added if necessary.
  • Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay an optional single supplement to have your own room.
  • All of your dinners and breakfasts are included. Gratuity for these meals is also included. We leave lunches open so that you have time to explore and enjoy the local flavors en route.
  • Some wine and food tastings are included and some are optional and “on your own.” We will specify this for you each day.
  • All your transportation is included once you meet your guides on the first day.
  • NOT INCLUDED: Beverages, desserts, lunches, gratuities to your guides, personal expenses and travel to and from the destination. If you will be renting a bicycle there is a rental fee of 25 Euros per day.
Different Location Every Night

We will be covering as much ground as possible, which in turn means that we will be staying in four different hotels. We will have to pack up every day but this allows us to bike from hotel to hotel.

Route Directions

It’s all about the adventure! (It’s even in our name) We wouldn’t want to disappoint by providing a guide with you the entire way, holding your hand. We will provide detailed route directions before each day’s ride as well as have GPS units available. Our guides will be on the trail with you but you won’t need to worry about staying with the pack or keeping up with faster riders.

Bicycles

We have available for rent very nice 27-speed touring bicycles that are suitable for the road conditions we encounter on this trip. You have your choice of drop down or upright handlebars and standard or SPD pedals. You can also rent a road bike for an extra charge. Bicycle rentals come with a front handlebar or rear bag and a lock but you must bring your own helmet.

Changes to Your Itinerary

While everything under “What is Included” will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance! We will attempt to keep our website itinerary as current as possible and communicate any major changes with you in the weeks prior to the tour.

 

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