Day 1: Arrival in Villeneuve Les Avignon
Arrive at the hotel in Villeneuve Les Avignon. Most people arrive in Avignon by TGV either from Paris or from London, although there are some direct flights to Avignon and to Nimes. Your first night is spent at the Residence les Cedres with our host, Christophe.
Overnight in Villeneuve Les Avignon
Day 2: Avignon – Orange (27 miles/43 km)
This is a fairly easy day - nice and flat as far as Chateauneuf du Pape where you'll taste the renowned local brew at Domaine de la Solitude. This afternoon you pass over the hill where the best vines are grown and follow quiet roads into Orange.
This was originally a retirement town for retired Roman soldiers and today boasts a truly spectacular Roman Theatre that you'll visit before dinner. You'll also have a look at the huge triumphal arch that dates back to the reign of Augustus. The Theatre and the Arch together are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Overnight in Orange
Day 3: Orange – Uzes (31 miles/49 km)
Today we cross the mighty Rhone, by far the biggest river in France (by volume) and once a source of Royal skulduggery. Avignon, on the Provence side of the river, belonged to the King, as far as the opposite bank. Every time it flooded, the King would move the goal-posts, so to speak, to the edge of the floods. These days it's a heavily canalised and dredged waterway, and at times appears to flow above the level of the neighbouring fields.
You continue on your way to the beautiful medieval town of Uzes, following tiny back roads that take you past Tavel, home of the best rose wines in France. Tonight you stay at the Hotel St Genies just outside Uzes with Rik and his family - like all the best French people, they're actually Belgian. Tonight you eat gourmet-style at the Taverne in Uzes' 'Old Town'.
Overnight in Uzes
Day 4: Uzes – Beaucaire (33 miles/53 km)
This is why you left Provence, to have a look at the spectacular Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aquaduct and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. You get there by tiny, tiny roads. More than anything else I try to make sure that our tours take you on routes that you couldn't find on your own, and this morning's ride is a bit special. But you'll forget all that when you see this amazing aquaduct.
The bridge was built by the Romans to carry water across the River Gardon to carry water to Nîmes. 275 metres long and 48 metres high, it's impossible adequately to explain how amazing the Pont du Gard is, but have a look at the photos and make up your own mind by visiting!
Next to the aquaduct is a rather lovely gift, a stand of three olive trees, each more than 1,000 years old, donated by the Spanish government. The citation offers some explanation about the suitability of such an ancient and spiritual gift to be displayed next to such a monument as the Pont du Gard. Sounds a bit soppy, but in situ it's rather nice, and you don't see 1,000 year-old olive trees everyday.
This afternoon you follow a crafty route of staggering genius to arrive in Beaucaire on the banks of the river Rhone, but en route you'll be in the wilds of the French countryside. Beautiful.
Beaucaire is a port facing Tarascon on the opposite bank. The canal that enters the Rhone will take you all the way through Toulouse and Bordeaux to the Atlantic ocean. That's quite a canal. Tonight you're at the Hotel Les Doctrinaires. You ate beautifully last night - tonight is better.
Overnight in Beaucaire
Day 5: Beaucaire – St. Remy (27 miles/43 km)
Over the Rhone this morning, and back into Provence. After a coffee stop in Fontvielle, we're off into the hills!
A longish climb into the Alpilles brings you to Les Baux de Provence, a fascinating, ruined fortress. Ruled over for centuries by (alleged) descendants of Balthazar, one of the biblical 3 Kings, this fortress was able to wreak havoc throughout Provence and as far afield as Toulouse. Eventually it became part of France, but following a rebellion was destroyed by none other than Cardinal Richelieu of Three Musketeers fame.
Ten years later it was given to Monaco (the current Marquise of Les Baux is Princess Caroline of Monaco) and in the 19th century was the site for the discovery of aluminium ore, hence 'bauxite'.
Astonishingly, Les Baux became such a backwater that it effectively disappeared. Rediscovered after World War II, it's been excavated and restored to what we see today - a ruined fortress surrounded by tourist shops! Don't let me put you off; Les Baux is fascinating and has some of the best views you could possibly imagine.
Les Baux de Provence is also one of the most recent wine regions to be awarded 'Appelation d'Origine Controllee' status, so you'll stop at Domaine Mas de la Dame for a tasting before tackling your final hill of the day which takes you over the top of the Alipilles and down into St Remy.
On the way, you pass Glanum, a ruined Roman town that was inundated by scree falling from the Alpilles over many centuries. It has a huge triumphal arch and mausoleum at one end of the town, and these have always been visible. But not until 1921 did anyone realise that a whole town was buried just yards away.
Right next door to Glanum is the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole Asylum where Van Gogh did much of his painting. Now, there are information points showing where he painted many of his most famous works - surprisingly interesting.
Finally, the downhill run into St Remy and the Hotel Castelet des Alpilles. Although today is just over 40 km, it's a long and wonderful day. You'll have earned your dinner tonight at Le Jardin de Frédéric.
Overnight in St. Remy
Day 6: St. Remy – Roussillon (38 miles/61 km)
Today we'll show you my secret road out of St Rémy, following the spectacular silhouette of the Alpilles as far as Eygalieres, then through Cavaillon to the Lubéron Hills. This was the region where Peter Mayle set his Year in Provence, and although it's inevitably a bit hilly, you'll cycle through the classic Provencale villages of Robion, Maubec and Ménérbes. The highlight is the tiny village of Oppede le Vieux
The Lubéron are the reason many people visit Provence. They don't have the same needle-sharp profile of the Alpilles, but if anything they're more beautiful and much higher. Don't worry, you 'flirt' with the Lubéron more than anything else - this afternoon is hilly, but it could be a lot worse as you cycle through forests and sleepy villages to Rousillon where you spend tonight.
Rousillon is famous for its ochre cliffs, but also for its amazing panoramic views. For me, you can keep the cliffs, but the views are among my favourite on any tour. It's a long climb into Rousillon, so that cold beer gazing over the Lubéron is very well-earned.
Overnight in Roussillon
Day 7: Roussillon – Avignon (38 miles/61 km)
You start with a fantastic downhill - the payback from yesterday afternoon. Sadly, because you're in the Lubéron, there's another climb into Gordes. It's worth it though and rewarded by a very pretty village with some more spectacular views before you head off on backroads to the Fontaine de Vaucluse.
This extraordinary resurgent spring is the source of the River Sorgue, and you follow the Sorgue Valley through to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. This sleepy town, built around the many channels carved out by the Sorgue, has become famous as France's leading antiques market. It's a beautiful town, and you'll have lunch here.
After lunch you do our best to follow quiet roads into Avignon, where you can enjoy a cold drink gazing across the square at the enormous Palais des Papes.
In the 14th Century, fleeing chaotic violence in Rome, Pope Clement V moved to Avignon, which became the base for a total of 7 popes. One of these, Benedict XII, supervised the completion of the largest gothic building in France, the vast, fortified Papal palace. If we get into Avignon in good time we can have a look round, but in fact the most spectacular aspect of the palace is to view it from the outside and marvel at the sheer size of the thing.
After you leave Avignon, we cross the Rhone for one last time and climb the short hill back to Villeneuve les Avignon and the Residence les Cedres. You're finished with Provence - well done!
Overnight in Villeneuve Les Avignon
Day 8: Departure
You will depart individually for your onward travels.