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 – St Remy de Provence (22 miles/35 km)
Today you'll get your first glimpse of the Rhone River! An easy day, cycling-wise, to get into the swing of things. We'll take advantage of a cycle path to follow the River Rhone almost as far as Aramon, where we cross the river and continue our way to St Rémy de Provence. In St Rémy we'll visit the Roman town of Glanum just outside the town.
Dating from 27 BC, Glanum was part of the Romanisation of Provence, but was abandoned 300 years later after the town was overrun by the German Alamanni tribe. By the time the population left Glanum for St Remy, just a mile away, they had built two huge monuments, a mausoleum, and a triumphal arch. The town itself, with its underground water systems broken and blocked, became submerged in mud and scree sediments from the nearby Alpilles, so until the 1920s Glanum had disappeared, there were just two huge Roman monuments next to the road which is now the D5. It wasn't until 1921 that anybody realized that on the other side of the road was a hidden Roman town. It's great, fascinating, and we'll go and have a look.
On the way, we'll pass the asylum where Vincent Van Gogh voluntarily committed himself after his tempestuous time in Arles (remember that ear!).
St Remy itself is a very pretty town, lots of nice bars and restaurants. We'll stay at the Castelet des Alpilles, and we'll eat in the heart of St Rémy.
Overnight in St Remy de Provence
Day 3: St Remy de Provence – Cavaillon (30 miles/48 km)
Explore this beautiful route through the Alpilles. You'll face a tough climb to incredible views from Les Baux de Provence, visit an olive farm and our first vineyard, ending up in Cavaillon.
We set off due west and turn onto the D27 to cycle through the Alpilles to Les Baux de Provence. This road was reason enough for somebody to invent the bicycle! We follow the little river, the Gaudre de Valmouriane, winding through spectacular scenery as the Alpilles begin to build either side of us. Truly beautiful--maybe we should just cycle up and down this road all week?
We have a decent climb into Les Baux, 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 aluminum 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.
Today we'll visit an olive farm at Maussane Domaine Plaines Marguerite, and after lunch we'll go wine-tasting at Domaine de la Vallongue, proud producers of AOP Les Baux de Provence, one of France's newest Appellations. Tonight we finish our day in Cavaillon in a delightful old quarter of the town at the Hotel de Parc.
Overnight in Cavaillon
Day 4: Cavaillon – Monteux (29 miles/47 km)
Leaving the Alpilles behind, today we’re in the Lubéron National Park. We'll visit the beautiful village of Gordes and the iconic Abbaye de Senanque. Michelin describes the area "... beautiful, isolated Cistercian Abbaye de Sénanque surrounded by a sea of lavender."
Leaving the Abbey we're still climbing a beautiful road through stunning Lubérion scenery, and we'll earn our spectacular descent into Carpentras. We stay just outside Carpentras in Monteux, and we'll enjoy stunning views of Mont Ventoux, The Giant of Provence, which we definitely don't have to cycle up!
Overnight in Monteux
Day 5: Monteux Loop Ride (25 miles/40 km)
We’ll visit three notable appellations, Beaumes de Venise, Gigondas and Vacqueyras, with wine-tasting at Domaine de Durban and Caveau Gabriel Meffre. There's some more climbing today, but less than yesterday and the scenery is beautiful. Loop back to your hotel in Monteux for another night in this town.
Overnight in Monteux
Day 6: Monteux – Orange (18 miles/29 km)
We leave the hills of the Lubéron behind. Today is a day of two halves. In the morning we stay on tine roads as we head towards Courthezon, and we'll visit a very interesting vineyard, the Caves Jamet. The motorway cut this vineyard in half, and as a result, the owner produces Chateauneuf du Pape, and Vin de France (the lowest classification available). It's the same wine! He's a fascinating and funny guy; you'll enjoy Caves Jamet.
In the afternoon we arrive in Orange. Until recently this town was home to the French Foreign Legion, but it's more famous as a retirement town for retired Roman soldiers, and today boasts a truly spectacular Roman Theatre - we'll visit before dinner.
We'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 7: Orange – Villeneuve-les-Avignon (22 miles/35 km)
A pretty flat day, just a short climb at the end of the day. Leaving Orange, we have a short ride on back roads to the world-famous wine village of Chateauneuf du Pape. It's a thriving place, completely devoted to its famous wines, and we'll visit the Domaine de Nalys to find out what the fuss is about. We'll also learn about olives in their beautiful olive groves, where we'll picnic when weather permits.
After lunch, we'll cycle along a series of islands in the Rhone as far as Avignon. We'll have plenty of time to explore Avignon, it's a wonderful place. Completely surrounded by its 3-mile wall. In the 14th Century, fleeing chaotic violence in Rome, Pope Clement V moved the papacy 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. We'll have time for 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. There's a marvelous atmosphere in the center of Avignon, open squares full of cafes, restaurants and street performers.
Leaving Avignon, we cross the Rhone for one last time and climb the short hill back to Villeneuve les Avignon and the Residence les Cedres. That's it, one final dinner together at the Hotel Les Cedres, and tomorrow we part company.
Overnight in Villeneuve Les Avignon
Day 8: Departure
You will depart individually for your onward travels.