- Travel the Provençal countryside by e-bike
- Discover the historic rural villages of Upper Provence
- Sample regional wines with the help of a local expert
|Day 1||Explore Marseille, France's Oldest City||Marseille|
|Day 2||Avignon, City of the Popes||Avignon|
|Day 3||Bicycle and Wine Tour of Upper Provence||Chateauneuf du Pape|
|Day 4||The Luberon by Bicycle||Apt|
|Day 5||Cycling tour of the Western Luberon & the Alpilles||Saint Rémy de Provence|
|Day 6||Return to Avignon via La Montagnette||Avignon|
|Day 7||End of the Cycling Tour/Departure|
Day 1: Explore Marseille, France's Oldest City
Welcome to Provence! Upon arrival at Marseille's airport or train station, you'll transfer to your hotel. After checking in, you can head out and explore this historic city on the Mediterranean coast. "Historic" might even be an understatement—with 2600 years of history under its belt, this is France’s oldest city. It's so old, in fact, that it was founded on the site of the Ancient Greek colony of Massalia around 600 BCE.
We recommend visiting the city's most impressive and historic neighborhoods, like the colorful district of Le Panier. This is the "Old Marseille," where the city was founded. It's a working-class enclave on the central port and is the picture of Mediterranean beauty, what with its old plazas, ancient churches, and brightly colored facades of the tenement buildings. You'll also find street art on the walls in the form of colorful frescoes.
Other must-visit areas of Marseille include the city center, the waterfront, the hilltop basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde, and the roman monastic foundation of Saint-Victor Abbey. You can also follow a walkway to Fort Saint-Jean, a fortification dominating the port that was built in 1660 by Louis XIV. Be sure to pay a visit to the fascinating Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM), which features permanent exhibits devoted to the history of these regional societies from ancient times to the present day. You should end the excursion in Vieux-Port, in the heart of the city, where you can finish the day by enjoying a good pastis or beer as the sun goes down.
Day 2: Avignon, City of the Popes
Around noon you'll travel from Marseille to Avignon via high-speed rail. A shuttle service will meet you at the train station and take you to the lower end of the Rue de la République (the city's main street), where your hotel is located. You'll then have the rest of the day to explore this fascinating medieval city.
There's quite a bit of history here, as this is where Pope Clemente V moved his court in the 14th century, and for several decades thereafter it was the seat of the Catholic popes. You'll visit the Unesco Heritage Sites of Le Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) and the Pont Saint-Bénézet medieval bridge, which is the subject of the famous song Sur le Pont d’Avignon, composed back in the 15th century. For dinner, you'll head to the city's well-preserved historic center for a meal at a fine local restaurant.
Day 3: Bicycle and Wine Tour of Upper Provence
Let the cycling adventure begin! After breakfast, you'll embark on your e-bike journey through Upper Provence, which is one of the most singularly beautiful areas on the European continent. Running from the Rhône River, in the west, to the eastern Italian border, it encompasses many diverse areas, including the endless lavender fields of the Valensole Plateau.
Today's "gates of Provence" e-bike tour follows an 18-mile (30-km) route from Avignon along the Rhône River, where you'll pass through other medieval cities and towns like Roquemaure. This bike tour culminates north of Avignon at the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This is the area where, during the papal schism, the Avignon Popes encouraged the development of viticulture. In other words, it's a historic winemaking region.
Here, our expert oenologist will lead you through an amazing tasting experience where you'll sample the renowned varietals of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, such as Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. You will learn quite a bit about the various expressions of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines and even glean insight into the region's history.
At the end of the day, you will overnight in a charming B&B guesthouse near Châteauneuf.
Day 4: The Luberon by Bicycle
After breakfast you'll continue your cycling journey, heading west through Provence and the Côtes du Rhôn (Rhôn Valley wine region) and traveling the windy roads over iconic Mont Ventoux. Near the craggy mountain chain of the Dentelles de Montmirail, you'll pass the villages of Vacqueyras and Baumes-de-Venise, two hidden gems of the Côtes du Rhôn.
At around midday, you'll reach the Luberon. This region of Provence is famous for rolling green hills dotted with vineyards and cherry orchards stretching as far as the eye can see. Perched atop many of the hills are postcard-worthy villages and little market towns where local farmers come to sell regional produce like herbs, garlic, basil, olive oil, truffles, figs, and honey.
And of course, there's no shortage of delicious wines from the southeast of France!
You will travel alongside these landscapes until you reach the hilltop village of Gordes , which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered to be one of the most beautiful towns in France. Continuing westward in the direction of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region, you'll stop at the Estate Le Puy, where you'll enjoy another wine tasting. The options here are composed essentially of the Syrah and Grenache grape varietals, which are harvested by hand in the tradition of the Ventoux region.
At the end of the day, you'll stop in either the village of Roussillon or Apt (the capital of the Luberon), where you will check into your B&B or apartment and enjoy dinner in town. All told, the day's cycling journey covers 46 miles (75 km).
Day 5: Cycling tour of the Western Luberon & the Alpilles
You'll leave from Apt in the morning and embark on a heavy day of cycling that covers 46 miles (75 km) as you continue your bike journey through the Luberon and towards the foothills of the French Alps. Along the way, you'll pass by more medieval villages, such as Bonnieux and Ménerbes. This truly is the old Provence, and the stone walls and cobbled streets of these towns represent a culture and history that dates back to antiquity.
After crossing the village of Cavaillon, in the Durance Valley, you'll reach Alpilles Natural Park, one of France's newer national parks (it was established in 2007). There you'll cycle through the unspoiled landscapes. In between the pine and oak forests, you'll pass over fertile plains blooming with lavender, herbs, and wildflowers.
In between the Alpilles villages of Eygalières and Saint Rémy de Provence, you'll take a break at Estate La Vallongue. This winery comprises 95 acres of prime vineyards located in the basin of a valley amid pine trees and olive groves. Your guide will lead you to the estate's ancient library, which now serves as a tasting room and shop. Here you'll sample some of the estate's premium varietals.
Afterward, you'll travel the short distance to St. Remy de Provence, where you'll overnight. This is a beautiful and evocative town with a rich history. It's the birthplace of Nostradamus in the 16h century, and it also inspired Van Gogh's masterpiece, the Starry Night. Not only is this medieval town a well-preserved gem, but on its outskirts, you'll find the ruins of the Roman city of Glanum.
Incredible sites aside, after almost 105 miles (170 km) on your bicycle, you're likely ready for some relaxation. Not to worry, because to cap the evening you'll enjoy a gastronomic treat in town in the form of a dinner cooked specially by chef Fanny Rey, elected Woman Chef of the Year 2017 by the Michelin guide.
Day 6: Return to Avignon via La Montagnette
Today your journey comes full circle as you return to the city of Avignon. This day's 18-mile (30-km) ride follows a route that will take you from the Alpilles to the hills of Montagnette. These hills are covered with little more than wild thyme and rosemary but they're quite the tourist draw. That's because in the heart of them you'll find the Abbey of Saint Michel de Frigolet. Known for its ornate twin steeples, this 10th-century monastery even now allows guests to stay up to eight days for the express purpose of seeking solitude and silence.
Nearby are two other medieval gems of the Bouches-du-Rhône department: the village of Boulbon, which is known for its imposing chateau-fortress, and Barbentane, whose 14th-century Tower Anglica stands 91-feet (28-meters) high and looms over the town.
By the time you ride up the final section of the Rhône River and enter Avignon, you'll have traveled about 124 miles (200 kilometers) through Provence, which is no small feat. After checking into your hotel you'll drop off your e-bike and enjoy a celebratory dinner in town.
Day 7: End of the Cycling Tour/Departure
In the morning you'll transfer to the TGV station in Avignon. This is a high-speed rail journey from Avignon to Paris (2.5 hours), at the end of which you'll transfer to the airport and catch your flight home. Au revoir!