Guest Notes for Episode 283: Provence Cycling Tour

Categories: Active Vacations in France, Provence

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Discussed in this Episode

  • Tour group with guide and luggage service [03:42]
  • Electric bike option [04:18]
  • Steep ride up to Les Baux de Provence [04:50]
  • The tour started in Avignon [05:23]
  • Taking the TGV between Paris and Avignon [06:08]
  • Great hotel in Avignon [07:10]
  • Pont d'Avignon aka bridge to nowhere [08:28]
  • Why you should take the iPad tour at the Papal Palace [08:45]
  • Vibration sound and light show at the Papal Palace [10:15]
  • Riding between Avignon and Châteauneuf-du-Pape [11:06]
  • Riding to Remoulins and the Pont du Gard [12:21]
  • Canoeing under the Pont du Gard [12:35]
  • Hotel recommendation in Remoulins [13:50]
  • Parking situation at the Pont du Gard [14:23]
  • Riding between Remoulins and Uzès [15:07]
  • Is Uzès the best market in France? [15:38]
  • The Duke's Castle in Uzès [16:56]
  • Claustrophobic castle staircase! [17:45]
  • Walking to the source of the acquaduct that fed the Pont du Gard in Uzès [18:43]
  • Hotel recommendation in Uzès [21:14]
  • Ride from Uzès to Tarascon [21:40]
  • La voie verte du Pont du Gard: and old railway line converted into a bike trail [22:55]
  • Chateau du Roi René in Tarascon [24:08]
  • Ride between Tarascon and Les Baux de Provence [24:36]
  • Les Carrières de Lumière in Les Baux [25:33]
  • Is the village of Les Baux de Provence worth it? [27:23]
  • Ride between Les Carrières de Lumière and Arles [28:28]
  • Roman ruins in Arles [28:58]
  • Van Gogh stuff in Arles [29:19]
  • Saint Trophime in Arles [30:55]
  • Arelate festival in Arles in August [31:23]
  • Riding to the Camargue [32:18]
  • Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and Sainte Sarah [32:59]
  • Ride to Montpellier [35:21]
  • Stop in Aigues-Mortes and La Grande-Motte [36:02]
  • La Grande-Motte is popular with French vacationers [36:57]
  • Riding to Montpellier and restaurant recommendation [38:49]
  • What should you have done differently for this trip? [39:18]
  • French people don't deserve their "rude" reputation [41:20]
  • Tour company: Obscure Tours [42:49]
  • Thank you Patrons [44:48]
  • Personal update [47:20]
  • Summary of new announcements by the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe [47:48]

Kiwis cycling in Provence

 

My name is Greer Ball; I am 40 years old and live in Auckland, New Zealand. For my 40th birthday present, my parents gifted me a cycling tour to Provence. How lucky am I? Whilst my amazing husband held down the fort looking after our two daughters aged 5 and 9, I headed off to Provence to join my mother Wendy and her best friend Anthea on their Provence cycling tour. They are owners and tour guides for Obscure Tours, a New Zealand company that specializes in boutique cycling tours throughout France during the summer. Our group of 12 were from New Zealand and our ages varied from 40 through to 70.

Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/ObsureTours/

Although we did spend time in Paris, I would like to talk about cycling in Provence. It was my fourth trip to France and second to cycling trip to Provence.

I have been listening to the podcast for around 6 months prior to my trip and probably listened to every episode at least once. I particularly enjoyed the café culture, food, Paris and Provence episodes. The show notes were super helpful for jotting down the place names and I loved hearing about the history. The Facebook page was also great for seeing people’s trip photos and sharing practical advice on what walking shoes were best or what travel purse they liked. The community is supportive and kind.

Itinerary

Arrived in Paris via the Eurostar from London, spent four days in Paris before travelling by TGV to Avignon where we hired bikes. Remoulins, Uzes, Tarascon, Arles via Le Baux, Les Saintes Maries de la Mar finished in Montpellier. TGV to Lyon where we flew back to NZ via Dubai.

The Tour

The tour cost around 2,300 euro. It was 10 nights and 11 days and included accommodation, all meals, bike hire, activities, walking tours, bike guiding and luggage delivery. We paid for our own wine at dinner and this came to 200 euro each for the 10 nights. Each morning we would assemble at breakfast at 8 am for Wendy’s morning talk, which detailed the plan for the day and some interesting stories about the area. Our bags needed to be in the lobby by 9 am for collection by the van that took them to the next town. Each day, two people were tasked with buying the picnic lunch, which we took with us in the bike paniers. The picnic consisted of baguettes, cheeses, meats and beautiful produce, as well as bottles of rose and a box or two from the patisserie.

  1. Avignon

We all met at Avignon and began with a walking tour through the historic town. Highlights included the Pont d’avignon, the Papal Palace and weaving our way through the medieval streets with cute shops. We did a self-guided tour of the Papal Palace where we were given IPads, which recreated what the rooms would have looked like when the popes were in residence during the 14th century. It really brought to life the palace. That night, we had a beautiful 5-course degustation dinner at the hotel restaurant Saint Louis.

The next day we hired our bikes and headed off for a day trip to Chateauneuf_du_Pape where we picnicked and had wine tastings in the village. https://www.vinadea.com/ later that night we dined at Le Violette, a beautiful courtyard restaurant inside the Lambert Gallery. At 9 pm, we walked to the Papal Palace for the Vibrations show a spectacular sound and light show projected onto the inner courtyard of the palace to music. This runs from the beginning of August until early October. https://avignon-vibrations.com

Restaurants: Saint Louis and Le violette https://avignon-tourisme.com/restaurants/le-violette-collection-lambert/

Bike Hire: Provence Bike, near the train station http://www.provence-bike.com

Avignon tip: the TGV arrives at a separate station, so you need to take a 5-minute train to arrive in the centre of town.

  1. Remoulins and Pont du Gard

Our next stop was Remoulins where we stayed close to the Pont du Gard. We spent the morning kayaking eight kms down the Garden River towards the Pont du Gard. This was a fantastic way to see the Pont in all its glory! We dined at the hotel under the trees.

Kayak Hire: Canoe Collias http://www.canoe-collias.com/

  1. Uzes

We timed our arrival in Uzes to coincide with the Saturday market the next day. The restaurant was in the hotel and was one of the best meals we had. The market was fabulous with lots of shopping and enjoying the atmosphere of the busy streets. The whole town is over run over by market stalls down every street. Lots of fashion, food and pottery. I visited the Duchy of Uzès home and accidently ended up on a guided tour in French, which proved quite hilarious with my zero French. The tower provided wonderful views over the town and countryside. Later that day we walked to the ‘source’ of the aqueduct, a natural spring still going strong to this day. It is awe-inspiring to imagine how the romans built this giant aqueduct almost 2000 years ago. This was a beautiful walk along the tree-lined river.

  1. Tarascon and Le Baux

On our ride from Uzes to Tarascon, we crossed the Pont du Gard by bike and had a wonderful picnic on the bank. It was free for bikes. Our ride to Tarascon was very flat as we travelled along an old railway line that has been converted into a bike trail. Tarascon has an interesting chateau – Château de Roi René. On the day we were there, all French monuments and museums were free to enter. The next day was a particularly tough day on the bike up to the mountain village of Le Baux. We picnicked on the rocks overlooking views of the Camargue. After lunch, we visited an old quarry where there was a spectacular Van Gogh light and music show projected inside the walls of the old mine. The artist changes each year. The downhill journey was a blast but over way too quickly.  http://www.carrieres-lumieres.com

  1. Arles

There was so much to see in Arles, we did a 15 point walking tour where we retraced Van Gogh’s time in Arles, toured the roman remains of the amphitheater and the Arena and visited the beautiful cloisters to name a few. Our hotel was right on the forum where Van Gogh’s famous café has been recreated. It was bustling with many cafes and bars and seemed to be the hub of the old town centre.

Restaurant: le Plaza la Pailotte https://le-plaza-la-paillotte.business.site

  1. The Camargue and Les Saintes Maries De La Mar

The cycle through the Camargue was very different to the Provencal village lanes we had been. We saw wildlife such as the white horses, herds of bulls and interesting birdlife amongst the swamp-like terrain. It was a real contrast to arrive at the seaside village of Les Saintes Maries De La Mar, a small Mediterranean resort with white buildings and seafood restaurants. A few of the tour group made it to the bullfight (no bulls were harmed) others visited the shops and beach for a swim in the Mediterranean.

  1. Montpellier

The ride to Montpellier was the longest at 63 kms. We stopped for coffees at a beautiful fortified village Aigues-Mortes a fortified town and then cycled along the resort filled Mediterranean Sea front for most of the way to Montpellier.

We had our final dinner at a wonderful restaurant called la Diligence situated in a beautifully restored 13th century building with four vaulted stone arches.

Restaurant: La Diligence http://www.la-diligence.com/

 What would I have done differently?

Maybe next time I will bring my husband along if he is lucky. I also wish I had learnt a little more French than the basic greetings and niceties. It was never a problem, but I would have liked to make more of an effort. The only time it was a problem was when I thought I had ordered a coke and I received a beer instead! I drank it of course.

Advice and last words of wisdom: French people are actually very friendly and love to laugh at jokes. We had a lot of fun with the people we met and they liked us joking around making fun of our horrible French. Sometimes kids would shout Bonjour! In addition, even cheer us on as we rode through towns – we felt like we were in the Tour du France!

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Categories: Active Vacations in France, Provence