Classic Provence: Self-Guided

Olive groves, quiet roads, vineyards, fields of lavender and sunflowers, French country cuisine… Welcome to Provence! Experience the landscapes and culture described in Peter Mayle’s best seller, “A Year in Provence,” and discover the region’s Roman heritage on a scenic cycling adventure in an area of exceptional natural beauty! Provence’s characteristic relaxed rhythm of life and art of living will immediately win you over and there are many art and music festivals to be enjoyed during the summer. This moderate to challenging cycling itinerary takes place on quiet country roads with little traffic chosen for the beauty of the landscape, historic cultural sites and the enchanting villages where you can stop along the way. The changing topography can also mean gradients which are not always easy. The steep hills however are usually short and can be walked if one chooses. The tour starts and ends in Cavaillon, easily reached by train from the Airport in Marseille or from Paris over Avignon. Check www.sncf.fr for more information.

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Cavaillon
Arrive at your leisure in the Provencal town of Cavaillon, which for most French people means first of all “melons”, grown in the rich and bountiful farmland outside of the city. But Cavaillon has a rich cultural heritage as well, which you’ll discover while strolling through the old city. Besides many charming little streets and squares decorated with flowers you’ll find the most beautiful synagogue of Europe (18th c) and its museum, a twelfth century cathedral and cloister, a first century Roman arch, and many lovely old homes.

Day 2: Cavaillon – Cadenet – 28 miles (45 km)
While biking though a variety of enchanting landscapes you’ll admire the picturesque mountains of Aix and Alpilles before reaching Lauris and its 12th century chateau built atop a rocky spur and dominating the Durance River. There’s time to visit this ancient village often compared to an open-air museum. Then cycle on to lively Cadenet. There’s not much left of the ancient chateau at the top of the cliffs overlooking the village, but you’ll have a fantastic view across the entire countryside.

Day 3: Cadenet – La Bastide des Jourdan – 22 miles (35 km)
Beautiful biking today through the dramatic southern hills of the Luberon National Park, sprinkled with a number of authentic villages seemingly “lost in time”. You’ll be impressed by lovely Lourmarin, Vaugines and Curcuron before you reach the small village of Vitrolles and your cozy guest house for the night.

Day 4: Bastide des Jourdan – Manosque – 19 miles (30 km)
Today you will ride through the AOC vineyards of Pierrevert, where you could visit its wine museum before pedaling on to the city of Manosque, the largest town in the “Alpes de Haute Provence” area. Manosque is best known for its shopping, lodging, dining and quaint buildings and ancient doorways.

Day 5: Manosque – Forcalquier – 19 miles (30 km)
Today you’ll cycle between the two most important towns of Haute Provence. First discover the eastern part of the area known as “Luberon Oriental”. Then ride along the Durance Valley before reaching the town of Forcalquier, a major attraction in Haute Provence between the mountains of Lure and Luberon. The old city is lovely with its narrow streets, shady squares and elegant 13th and 15th century houses.

Day 6: Forcalquier – St. Michel de l’Observatoire – 12 miles (20 km)
Enjoy your comfortable hotel and its swimming pool before starting today’s short itinerary in the direction of the Largue Valley. Enjoy a panoramic view over Aubenas les Alpes where the fragrance of distilled lavender is heavy in the air during July and August

Day 7: St. Michel de l’Observatoire – Apt – 28 or 31 miles (45 or 50 km)
During today’s morning ride you’ll notice a real contrast in the local agriculture – with lavender in the hills and melons in the valley. Later you’ll reach the areas of the Luberon famous for its hilltop villages before arriving in Apt, a larger town, not a village. Visit the old town, centered around the 11th century Cathedral, on what was once an island between two branches of the river. Walk in the narrow, paved streets with its vaulted passages.

Day 8: Apt – Cavaillon – 29 miles (46 km)
Today you pedal through a necklace of beautiful and famous Provence villages (such as Lacoste, Meneres and Oppède le Vieux), where again time seems to have stopped, in the “small” Luberon. This last day of biking will remain in your mind as the “Real Provence”. Departure at the end of the day with a possibility of an extra night in Cavaillon.

Getting There

TGV train leaves from Paris (Gare de Lyon) to Avignon. The train ride takes almost three hours and tickets for the TGV have to be reserved. From Avignon take a TER train to Cavaillon Station. From Marseilles there is also a direct train to Cavaillon. From the train station in Cavaillon you will take a taxi to the first hotel. Cost is about 12 euro. For train schedules and information, visit www.sncf.com.

Meals

All breakfasts and dinners.

Prices and Dates

Check out our Tour Calendar

Tour Length

8 days/7 nights

Included
    • – Accommodations in small, family owned two and three-star hotels and guest houses, all rooms with private shower and toilet.
      • -All breakfasts and dinners.
    • – 27-speed bike rental, helmet, panniers, lock, repair kit, odometer, and map holder
    • – Luggage transportation – pieces of luggage limited to 2 p.p. & 32 pounds per piece.
    • – Very detailed maps and hotel access in English. Plus a road book in French! Please note that the bike route is well marked.
    – Emergency service phone number 7 days a week.
Departure Dates

Daily departure from March 1 to October 31

Bicycles

Bikes are included in the price of the tour. Bikes are well maintained 27-speed men’s and ladies bikes, equipped with a saddlebag, repair kit, odometer, and lock. Bike Helmets are included. Bikes are delivered to your hotel and you will test them at your convenience.

Level of Difficulty

Moderate to challenging. The cycling itinerary takes place on quiet country roads with little traffic. However, the changing topography can also mean gradients which are not always easy. The steep hills are usually short and can be walked if one chooses.

Excluded

– Air fare
– Beverages
– Lunches
– Other items of a personal nature

Weather

This region is known for its mild climate, warm days and cool nights. Average daytime tempuratures: April and May 65-75, June, July and August 75-85, September/early October 65-80. The average rainfall is 10 days per month, with more rain in the spring and less in the summer.

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