October is the month to have a self-guided cycling adventure in Provence. An ideal cycling holiday will have perfect temperatures – not too hot, not too cold – beautiful and textured landscapes that fill the eyes with awe, fine roads for cycling with some climbing and some descending to give it dimension, and mouth-watering food, drink, and dessert! Provence checked all the boxes on my October self-guided cycling tour.
Cycling in Provence was truly a dream. Provence was the first leg of our cycling tour to four different locations in France, Spain, and Italy, so my legs were relatively fresh despite a 12 hour flight and drive from Paris. I was very excited to absorb the terrain, the towns, the culture, and the food and drink that would help fuel me during the five day tour. I chose to do the intermediate rides every day, which averaged about 30-35 miles per day with 2000 feet of climbing.
Our first ride was a bit shorter because we arrived later in the day but the cycling route did not disappoint. Following the GPS, we climbed up to the pocket-sized town of Faucon after following a quiet road and stopped in at a winery for a visit and a taste before our descent back into the town of Vaison la Romaine. Our hotel, Hotel Burrhus, was located right on the town square so we had access to all of the shops and stores and restaurants. Vaison la Romaine is an interesting town because it’s split in two via the river running through it. The upper part of the town is more medieval and there’s a climb to get there but it’s worth the visit because any time there’s a climb, there’s bound to be a view!
On the second day of our cycling trip, we rode to Bedoin, which is best known for it’s proximal location to the legendary Mount Ventoux – a beast of a mountain that can be seen far and wide throughout Provence and is every avid cyclist’s dream to climb. Therefore my husband opted for that route while I chose to ride the more moderate Gorge de la Nesque with our local operator Christophe. Stunning views of rocky canyons surrounded us on the gentle but very long climb. Hotel la Garance was a welcome place to rest our weary cycling legs after an arduous day.
On the way to Gordes the next day we enjoyed a long sweeping descent which precluded the climb into Gordes. Gordes is an ancient town up on a hilltop, which had a central plaza with a restaurant (Bastide du Pierre), which had the best French salad that I’ve ever had. Let’s just say that there was a liberal use of marscapone cheese and prosciutto and a carafe of local red wine to wash it down! The views from Gordes were of small roads winding through vineyards and lavender fields and in the morning the sun shone a golden light over the land as if cued for a movie set.
And then the mistral showed up! Cycling in Provence during the mistral is an adventure and as I listened to the winds blow things around outside of my cozy hotel room I had doubts about my grinta that day. As the day progressed, the winds did not die down and I summoned up the little grinta that I had left, donned my cycling kit as fast as I could, and pulled myself out the door for the shortest ride I could manage. Turns out the mistral sounded worse than it actually was. I cycled approximately 20 kilometers around Gordes and the extra wind helped me burn a few extra calories so I felt fine drinking a cappuccino and eating an afternoon croissant when I returned.
The final destination on our Provence cycling tour was Saint Remy, which is a classic Provencal town. The scenery along the routes is humbler than the other towns but it was warm, relatively flat, and great for cyclists who just like to ride.
I hope that every cyclist can have a taste of October in Provence. While the terrain suits intermediate to advanced riders, beginners can also enjoy it with electronic bikes. There’s something for everyone!
Stacey is LifeCycle Adventure’s Head of Sales. She and her husband cycled in Provence during the fall of 2017.