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Provence Cycling Guide

Introduction

The following guide is a compilation of  background, safety and day-by-day routes of the area. Complete with restaurant suggestions and “Points of Interest,” this guide will provide you with thorough, applicable travel information for your next cycling tour through Provence. This region is littered with abbeys, castles and Roman ruins. Village life is agrarian and slow-paced with outstanding food and wine at its center. Every turn along the quiet lanes reveals a fresh vista: vineyards, olive groves, deep gorges, and fields of lavender. Provence is a delight to explore for all levels of rider: avid riders will relish climbing the slopes of Mont Ventoux while more leisurely folk will savor riding between villages with their open-air markets.

The Day-by-Day section of the guidebook will preview each days route and scenery or points of interest along the way. It’s suggested that you read this before you head out on the day’s ride. Typically, there are three levels of riding each day: easiest, intermediate and challenge.

We are passionate about cycle touring and believe there is no better way to experience the sights, sounds and scents of an area than on two wheels.

Enjoy!

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Background on the Area

Highlights

LUBERON, VAUCLUSE & ALPILLES The best of Provence: a landscape so vivid and varied that it inspired Van Gogh, Gaugin, Picasso, and Matisse.GORDES Medieval masterpiece: classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France.MONT VENTOUX Must-do climb for avid cyclists.  Mountain backdrop for more casual riders.ABBAYE DE SÉNANQUE A 12th-century monastery in a forested valley surrounded by lavender fields.GORGES DE LA NESQUE Breathtaking views as the road twists alongside this sheer-walled valley.PROVENÇAL FOOD & WINE Dine al fresco in village restaurants with a glass of local Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Overview

Provence is in south-eastern France; extending from the Alps to the Pyrenees.  The landscape, food, wine, and history make this a bucket list destination for many and the quiet lanes and rolling hills make it a Mecca for cyclists.  At the heart of the region is the ‘giant of Provence’: Mont Ventoux.  The area is blessed with sweet-smelling lavender fields, ancient olive groves, hilltop villages, and vast gorges.

Most know of the lavender fields, Mont Ventoux, the bustling markets, and the medieval hilltop villages.  However, visitors are often surprised by the craggy limestone gorges that splice through the area.  The Gorges de la Nesque is a great example of this.

Food, of course, delicious throughout the region.  Provençal cooking is synonymous with the clean, bright simple flavors of the Mediterranean. Indeed, good food is an integral part of life here in Provence.  Olive oil, wine, tomatoes, melons, and garlic are all typical ingredients of the area.

The area also has a rich history and the Ligurians, the Celts, and the Greeks have all left their mark on the area.  The area also flourished during the Roman Empire – in particular during the reign of Julius Caesar in the 1st century BCE.  Indeed, the word Provence comes from the Roman ‘Provincia Romana’.  During the 14th century, the Catholic Church, under a series of French-born popes, moved its headquarters to Avignon to avoid the feuds and fighting in Rome. This led to the most prosperous period in the region’s history.  Provence became part of France in 1481, but Avignon and Carpentras remained under papal control until 791 following the French Revolution.

Provence is also famous for its art.  The landscapes of the area attracted artists such as Renoir, Picasso, Chagall, Van Gogh, and Cézanne.  But they came not only for the landscapes but also for the light.  Matisse describes the Provençal light as ‘soft and tender, despite its brilliance.’  The area still has many art galleries as well as local artists and studios.

Finally, Provence is home to numerous wines; chief among them Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  The Romans first planted vines here 2,000 years ago, but wine growing really took off after Pope John XXII built a castle (Châteauneuf-du-Pape) on the Rhône in 1317.  These vineyards supplied the papal court with wine.  Most Châteauneuf-du-Pape is red (only 6% is white) and rosé is forbidden!  The reds come from 13 grape varieties – Grenache being the major one – and should be age for a minimum of five years.  The full-bodied whites drink well young and make an excellent, mineral-y aperitif that is hard to find outside the region.

Climate

Provence enjoys a Mediterranean climate: hot, dry summers, mild winters, and abundant sunshine year-round.  In the spring and summer rainfall is relatively rare.  Late fall and winter have more rainfall – typically falling in storms that quickly clear.

The best time to visit Provence is late April through early October when the temperatures are pleasantly warm and the risk of rainfall relatively low.  In summer, temperatures are rarely stifling as most of the tour area is on higher ground away from the humidity of the coast.  Spring and fall are great times to ride but the risk of rain rises as you get into October.  We do not recommend cycling here in winter.

The charts below show the monthly average temperatures (in Fahrenheit) and rainfall (in inches) for Gordes, a town at the center of our tours.

What these charts do not show is the influence of wind in the area.  Even in the summer, the area can experience strong winds, which is a curse or a blessing to cyclists depending on whether the wind is at their back in their face.

The Winds of Provence are an important feature of Provençal life, and each one has a traditional name.  The most famous Provençal winds are:

  • The Mistral: a cold dry north or northwest wind, which blows down through the Rhône Valley to the Mediterranean, and can reach speeds of ninety kilometers an hour.
  • The Levant: a very humid east wind, which brings moisture from the eastern Mediterranean.
  • The Tramontane: a strong, cold and dry north wind, like the Mistral, which blows from the Massif Central mountains toward the Mediterranean to the west of the Rhone.
  • The Marin: a strong, wet and cloudy south wind, which blows in from the Gulf of Lion.
  • The Sirocco: a southeast wind coming from the Sahara Desert in Africa, can reach hurricane force, and brings either reddish dust or heavy rains.

The open plains of the Rhône Valley around Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Orange and the higher slopes of Mont Ventoux can be particularly prone to high winds.  If the winds do pick up, it is worth looking for more sheltered rides in the forests.

Vineyards & Wines

Introduction

It was the Greeks who first cultivated wine in the region – in the hills around Marseilles.  The Romans continued the tradition when Provence came under Roman control at the end of the 2nd Century BCE.  Wine production was again elevated with the arrival of the catholic popes in Avignon in the 14th Century.

We list some of the many wineries in the Day-by-Day and the Towns & Cities sections of this guidebook.  However, there are many other wineries in the area – just look for the signs on your route – Dégustation – Vente means tasting and sales.  English is spoken in many of the wineries and they are typically very happy to serve drop-in guests curious about their wines.  At the smaller vineyards, it is best to avoid 12:00 to 3:00 PM as this is their lunch “hour”.

The Local Wines to Look For

Except for Châteauneuf-du-Pape and some Muscat desert wines, Provençal wines do not typically have a strong international reputation.  However, local vineyards turn out a fantastic range of wines: red, white, and, notably, rosé.  The following are some to look out for.

Beaumes-de-Venise

The Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise is a rich and fruity red wine that uses Muscat grape – probably introduced by the Greeks.  Beaumes-de-Venise is can also refer to a sweet white Muscat wine.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is strong (minimum alcohol content 12.5%), full bodied, red that ages well but can drunk both young and aged.  Châteauneuf-du-Pape also produces an excellent white wine. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines have been actively promoted since the 14th century, by the Popes who had their summer palace here.

One of the reasons for the wine’s special properties and color is that up to 13 different grape varieties can be used. Another of the secrets of the outstanding Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine is the stony ground: the large round stones act as storage heaters, soaking up the Provencal sunshine during the day and releasing the heat during the night.

Coteaux de Baux-de-Provence

At the base of the Alpilles mountains, between Arles and Cavaillon, the chalky-white limestone soil is rich in bauxite. The vineyards tend to be organic, using no artificial or inorganic fertilizers.

Côtes du Luberon

The Côte du Luberon wines grow on the slopes of the Luberon Mountains, southeast of Apt. The Luberon vineyards were classed VDQS until 1988, when they received the AOC classification.

Côtes du Ventoux

The Côte du Ventoux wines grow on the southern slopes of the dominating Mont Ventoux. Most of the production is red, but with a little white wine as well.

Côtes du Rhône

Produced just about anywhere in the region, Côtes du Rhône is usually a red made primarily from the Grenache grape. Some white and rosé wines are also produced.

Côtes du Rhône Village

Inside the Côtes du Rhône region is an area of 3,200 ha that produces wines with stricter criteria and of a higher quality than basic Côtes du Rhône.

Lirac

Like Tavel, Lirac is best known for its rosé wines, but more and more red wine is being produced here. The Lirac appellation comes from four villages: Lirac, Roquemaure, Saint-Laurent-des-Arbes (just across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape) and xxx.

Tavel

This is reputed to be the finest rosé wine in all of France.  Much of the land in this area was left fallow following the phylloxera plague. Replanting started in the 1960s, under the initiative of the local cooperative.

Vacqueyras

Vacqueyras are red wines but there is also a fortified wine, Rasteau, that is made from the Grenache grape.

Glossary of Wine Tasting Terms

Both winemakers and cyclists use jargon to confuse non-aficionados.  If you ever struggle to distinguish fleshy from flabby – either in wine tasting or on a bike – this cheat-sheet might be for you.

Did you Know?

Did you know that from one acre of vineyards one can harvest 5 tons of grapes, 13½ barrels of wine, 4,000 bottles of wine or 16,000 glasses of wine?

Towns & Cities

Bédoin

Overview

Bédoin is one of the three gateway towns for riding up Mont Ventoux (Sault and Malaucène are the other two).  It is Bedoinprobably the most upbeat of the three – with numerous cafes, restaurants and shops.  It is also from Bédoin that the ‘classic’ route ascends Mont Ventoux and is packed with cyclists (and some walkers) during the summer months.

This small town (more a large village) is centered around Avenue Barral des Beaux – a shady, plane-tree-lined street lined with cafes and shops.  West of this avenue is a cluster of smaller streets that make for a pleasant wander – though with no formal sites as such. This is also where you will find the somewhat incongruous Spanish-style church that dominates the profile of the town.  The church, Eglise Saint Pierre, was constructed by Jesuits in 1702 and has several elegant altars.  The hill behind the church has great 360 views of the town and Mont Ventoux beyond.

There are a couple of nice wineries within two kilometers of the center of town – see below.

The name “Beduinum” can be found in historic documents from the 10th century CE.  In 1250, Lord Barral des Baux granted the villagers use of the Ventoux for farming.  In the 13th Century, Bédoin became papal land and was part of the papacy until 1791 when it joined France along with Avignon.  However, Bédoin carried on showing its loyalty to the pope and in revolutionary France was declared in a state of counter-revolution.  Subsequently, the village was destroyed and wiped off the map in 1794.  A year later, however, it was restored and prosperity gradually returned.

Eating & Drinking

Bédoin has a few nice restaurants.  For a casual meal, A Table! has fresh, local produce which results in the menu changing regularly.  Address: 121 avenue Barral des Baux, 84410 Bédoin, France.  09 80 85 32 43.  Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7.30 PM – 9:00 PM Mon-Wed & Sat-Sun. Closed on Thursdays all day & Friday lunch times.

Lily et Paul has good food, in a quiet courtyard setting. Address: 414 avenue Barral des Baux, 84410 Bédoin, France. + 33 4 90 12 96 11. Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM Wed-Mon. Closed on Tuesdays.

If you are staying at Hôtel La Garance on the slopes of Mont Ventoux you have a choice of two good restaurants. Either Restaurant La Colombeopposite the hotel (closed on Mondays & Sunday evenings). Address:  Route Mont Ventoux, 84410 Bédoin. +33 4 90 65 61 20. Or Restaurant Le Guintrand which is adjacent to the hotel. Address: Route du Mont Ventoux, 84410 Bédoin. +33 4 90 37 10 08. Closed on Wednesdays.

If you are staying at the Crillon le Brave Hotel there is a choice of excellent restaurants on the site.

Sites and Things to Do

Market Day

Market day in Bédoin is on a Monday.

Sites

Romanesque chapel Notre Dame du Moustier: a beautiful chapel of uncertain origins but dating back to the 6th century. Address: Route Mont Ventoux – One kilometer outside of Bédoin on the LHS of the D974 as you head towards Mont Ventoux.

Wine Tasting

Le Van Organic Wine Estate and Cellar – Bédoin

The organically farmed estate is located at the foot of Mont Ventoux. The winery follows the lunar calendar and favors traditional manual methods, right through to the final bottling stage, producing elegant and complex red, rosé and white wines. The cellars are open all year round from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM – 8:00 PM and can be found two kilometers south of Bédoin on the RHS of the D974 at 1710 Route de Carpentras, 84410 Bédoin. +33 4 90 12 82 56.

Les Vignerons Du Mont-Ventoux – Bédoin

On a visit to this large winery, you learn about the vineyard and its 26 different grape varieties. Open all year round, in winter from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM and in summer from 2:00 PM – 7:00 PM from June to September.  Special cellar tastings by appointment based on themes of your choice such as introduction, local area, matching dishes, etc.  One kilometer south of town on the RHS of the D974 at 620 Route de Carpentras, 84410, Bédoin. +33 4 90 65 95 72.

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office: 1 Rte de Malaucène. +33 4 90 65 63 95. www.bedoin.org. 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM & 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM Mon-Sat & 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM Sunday from mid-June to August.

Stores: There is a well-stocked Carrefour Contact in Bédoin found on chemin De La Garenne. +33 4 90 65 91 91. Open 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM Mon-Sat & 9:00 AM – 12.30 PM Sunday.

Gordes

Overview

Gordes is a stunningly beautiful town standing on the edge of the plateau of Vaucluse.  Its houses of white and gray stone rise up in a spiral around the rock where the village is set.  At the very top is the church and the castle which face out onto the hills of the Luberon.  Due to its privileged position, its exceptional charm and its typical architecture, Gordes has been listed as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (one of the most beautiful villages in France) and many film stars and Gordesartists have properties here.  While the town is busy with tourists during the day, it is blissfully quiet in the evenings.

In the center (top) of the town, you can see the fortified castle enclosing the city hall and the Pol Mara museum, (a Flemish contemporary painter).  And, while the center of the town is totally charming, it is well worth delving deeper (down) into the winding passageways of the village.  The cobblestone streets are typical quiet and a photographer’s delight – small alleyways lined with tall houses with beautiful old doorways and arcades.  At every turn, there are panoramic views of the valley and the mountains of Luberon.

During the Second World War, the village was an active center for the resistance and was both bombed and houses were dynamited in reprisal for the death of a soldier, killed by resistance fighters.

Outside of Gordes, is the Village des Bories – an open-air museum of rural life that includes 20 stone Bories (little round huts built in dry stone and used by shepherds and hunters).   The village is four kilometers south of town – down a small lane on the RHS of the D2; just after the roundabout with the D15.

Eating & Drinking

Due to the large number of day trippers, many of the restaurants in the town are just “okay.”  Of course, okay in Provence is still good but prices can be high for the quality.

L’Artegal, is a family-run restaurant which serves good Provençal food ‘with a twist’. Address: Place du Chateau, 84220, Gordes, France. +33 4 90 72 02 54. Open 12:15 PM – 2:00 PM Thurs-Tues & 7:15 PM – 9:00 PM Thurs-Mon.

Another charming eatery is La Trinquette which has a balcony restaurant that is hard to beat. The food is very tasty with a good vegetarian selection (good for France…). Address: rue des Tracapelles, 84220, Gordes, France. +33 4 90 72 11 62. Open 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM Thurs-Mon.

If you are staying at La Bastide de Gordes (or even if you are not), the hotel has an excellent Michelin-starred restaurant: Restaurant Pèir that serves inventive cuisine prepared by of Pierre Gagnaire in an intimate 8-table dining room.  This is some of the best cooking in the area.  Reservations essential.  Open Wed thru Sunday.  +33(0)4 90 72 12 12 / www.bastide-de-gordes.com 

The La Bastide de Gordes also has a slightly less formal restaurant: La Citadelle.  The food is excellent and you have the choice of sitting on the terrace or in the vaulted dining room.  Open all days.  Reservations recommend +33 (0)4 90 72 12 12 / www.bastide-de-gordes.com.

Sites and Things to Do

Sites

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque. Situated 4 km north of Gordes on the D177, this is a peaceful spot that provides one of the classic postcard images of this part of Provence. The Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque is a graceful Cistercian abbey surrounded by swathes of purple lavender and nestled in a small canyon.  Best times to view these fields are July and August when the lavender is in full bloom. The abbey was founded in 1148 and is still home to a small monastic community. For this reason, visiting is limited:

  • You can walk around the valley and visit the abbey throughout the day.
  • To visit the 12th-century building you join a guided tour (French only). On the tour, you visit the church, the cloister, the chapter-hall, the warming room and the ancient dormitory.  Reservations recommended.
  • Unguided tours are permitted between 9:45 to 11:00 AM (except Sunday). Silence is required.

Modest dress is requested and no cycling gear.  If you are in Gordes on a rest day, there is a pleasant walk to the Abbey along tracks and small trails – see walking map in Town Plans.  04 90 72 05 72.  To buy tickets: use the abbey’s booking website: www.visitesenanque.oxatis.com.

Market Day

Gordes market is on a Tuesday.

Wine Tasting

Domaine Imbert – Chapelle Saint Heyriès: A contemporary, family run ‘cave’ that offers charcuterie and cheese with a glass of their wine in a lovely setting. It is a one kilometer walk (or ride) from the center of town at Les Cousins ​​84220 Gordes. 06 85 76 99 91 / www.domainechapellestheyries.com. Open: 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM Mon-Sat. 9:30 AM – 7:00 PM during July & August.  If you are riding down the D102, look for the winery sign on the RHS of the road.

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office is inside Gordes’ medieval chateau, which was expanded and given defensive Renaissance turrets in 1525. +33 4 90 72 02 75 / www.gordes-village.com. Address: place du Château, Gordes. Open 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM Mon-Sat and from 10:00 AM Sun.

Stores: There is a small local supermarket Utile just past the Post Office a little north of the castle.  Open Mon-Sat 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Can close for lunch on occasion.

In the walls of the castle there is also Le Potager Du Chateau which is great for local, fresh produce.  7:30 AM to 8:00 PM.  +33 4 90 72 56 81.

Around the corner, there is a great bakery: La Boulangerie de Mamie Jane on Route Neuve.  +33 4 90 72 09 34.

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Overview

Saint Remy is a quintessential Provençal town that remains authentic and is much more than just a tourist attraction.saint_remy

Geographically, it is the gateway to the Alpilles Mountains and craggy, limestone cliffs frame the town to the south.  To the north is fertile farmland.

The center of the town is a charming web of narrow winding streets linking peaceful squares with old fountains.  Plane tress provide the shade and restaurants, cafes, and elegant boutiques provide the color.  Market day is particularly festive.  The restaurants here are particularly good and the town has built a solid reputation with foodies.  Among the shops in the old town are a few with some regional pottery including beautiful sunflower plates.

Van Gough is associated with the town having admitted himself to the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint Remy.  Here he painted many works including The Irises.  Many of the works in this series are particularly lyrical with a strong connection to nature.  Saint Remy was also the birthplace of Michel Nostradamus the French physician who published a collection of famous prophecies.

The Roman ruins of Glanum are two kilometers south of town.  Originally a Greco-Roman town, the site was rediscovered in 1921 and has been extensively excavated ever since.

Eating & Drinking

A classic Provençal restaurant is L’Aile ou la Cuisse serving great traditional fish and meat dishes in the atmosphere of a traditional French bistro.  The building was a former convent refectory dating from 1680.  Old-world flavors are reinvented and enhanced with a touch of creativity.  Open 12:00 to 2:30 PM and 7:00 to 10:00 PM.  Closed Monday.  In the center of town at 5, rue de la Commune. +33 4 32 62 00 25 / www.restaurantlaileoulacuisse.com.

Perhaps one of the best newcomer restaurants in St Remy is Fanny Rey’s eatery in the Auberge de la Reine Jeanne (AKA Auberge Saint-Remy de Provence) – on the edge of the oldtown.  Food is authentic and elegant with a focus on local market ingredients.  With Jonathan Wahid as the pastry chef, deserts are also exceptional.  In 2017, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star.  Terrace dining for warmer days.  Closed Wed and Thurs.  12 Boulevard Mirabeau.  +33 4 90 92 15 33 / www.aubergesaintremy.com.

La Cuisine des Anges is often packed with locals and tourists.  This causal maison d’hôte has been around for an age and is still going strong.  Light Provençal dishes are derived from organic local ingredients and served in the interior patio or dining-room. Address: 4 rue du 8 Mai. +33 4 90 92 17 66 / www.angesetfees-stremy.com. Open 12:00 PM – 2:30 PM & 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM Mon, Wed, Sat, Sun, 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM Thurs & Fri.

For a traditional Provençal cuisine with a whimsical twist, head to Maison Drouot, a charming restaurant five minutes north of the town center, opposite supermarket Intermarché on the D5 towards Maillane. This restaurant is found snug in a 19th-century oil mill with a terrace shaded by a beautiful fig tree. It serves contemporary Provençal cuisine – made strictly from local produce – with a creative twist in a thoroughly modern interior. Address: 150 Rte de Maillane, D5. +33 4 90 15 47 42 / www.maisondrouot.blogspot.fr. Open 12:30 PM – 2:30 PM & 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM Wed-Sun. Closed Mon-Tues.

Sites and Things to Do

Sites

archeologique_glanumThe Site Archéologique de Glanum is a spectacular archeological site that dates back to the 3rd century BC. Walking the main street towards the sacred spring around which Glanum grew, you pass the fascinating remains of a once-thriving city, complete with baths, forum, marketplace, temples and houses. Two ancient Roman monuments – a triumphal arch (AD 20) and mausoleum (30 to 20 BC) – mark the entrance of the site, 2 km south of St-Rémy. Located on the LHS of D5, 2 kilometers south of Saint Remy. +334 90 92 23 79 / http://www.site-glanum.fr/en/ Open 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM Apr-Sept, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Oct-March. Closed on Mondays from Sept-March.

Monastère St-Paul de Mausole is a monastery to which Van Gogh admitted himself in 1889. The peaceful asylum’s security led to his most productive period – he completed 150+ drawings and 150+ paintings here, including his famous Irises. A reconstruction of his room is open to visitors, as are a Romanesque cloister and gardens growing flowers that feature in his work. From the monastery entrance, a walking trail is marked by color panels, showing where the art set up his easel. St-Paul remains a psychiatric institution; an exhibition room sells artwork created by patients.  The monastery is 1½ kilometers south of town 500 meters before you reach the Glanum archeological site.  Turn left off the D5 onto Avenue Dr Edgar Leroy and the monastery is in 200 meters.  9:30 AM to 7:00 PM.+ 33 4 90 92 77 00 / www.saintpauldemausole.fr/

Market Day

Wednesday is market day in St-Rémy-de-Provence.

Wine Tasting

Château Romanin: The vineyards here are, biodynamically cultivated.  This is an unusual and majestic winery in a stunning setting.  The cellar is an underground cathedral. Located three kilometers west of the town on D31 on Route de Cavaillon (AKA Chemin de Cavaillon) shortly before Mas-Blanc-des-Alpilles. +33 4 90 92 45 87 / www.chateauromanin.com.  Open 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM & 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM from March to December (Closed on Sundays).

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office is located on place Jean Jaurès. +33 4 90 92 05 22 / www.saintremy-de-provence.com. It is open 9:15 AM – 12:30 PM & 2:00 PM – 6:30 PM Mon-Sat 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM Sun from mid-Apr to mid-Oct. There are reduced opening hours for the rest of the year.

Stores: There are lots of small, local shops in St-Rémy including prized chocolatiers (Joël Durand, 3 Blvd Victor Hugo) and cheese shops (La Cave aux Fromages, 7 Blvd Victor Hugo).

If you need a small supermarket there is a small Casino located 6 Avenue de la Résistance. +33 90 92 24 09. Open 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM Fri-Wed and 3:00 PM – 8:00 PM Fri-Sat & Mon-Wed.

Vaison-la-Romaine

Overview

Built on the Ouvèze River, Vaison-la-Romaine is located in the Haut-Vaucluse region of Provence tucked between seven hills.  Like soccer, Vaison-la-Romain is a game of two halves.  North of the river, is the lively modern town that includes several Roman ruins.  South of the river – perched on a hill – is the medieval town complete with 12th-century castle.  vaison_romaineSeparating the two sides is a deep gorge – crossed by a sturdy Roman bridge.

The town is both popular with tourists as well as serving as the hub for the local agricultural region.  The comfortable blend has led to Vaison-la-Romaine being recognized as one of the Plus Beaux Détours de France (most Beautiful Detours in France).

The town has a long and prosperous history.  It was the capital of the Voconce people that occupied the site before the Romans arrived at the end of the 2nd century BCE.  The town prospered under the Romans but was then partially destroyed in late 3rd Century CE.  By the 5th century CE, it had bounced back and was the seat of a bishopric.  Development now switched to the southern side of the river as the townspeople looked for protection offered by the high ground.  This is also where the Count of Toulouse built his castle.   In more modern times, the focus has switched back to the lower – northern part of the town – leaving the medieval town unspoiled.

Both the lively lower town – with its Roman ruins – and the medieval upper town are well worth taking the time to explore; this is a very authentic Provençal town.

Eating & Drinking

Vaison-la-Romaine has many dining options.  The Bistro du’O makes excellent use of local seasonal produce. Fussy eaters note that the choice of dishes is short – but superb: a perfect reflection of what’s at the market that day.  This restaurant is squirreled away in a 13th century vaulted cellar in the medieval city. Address: La Haute Ville – Rue Gaston Gevaudan, 84110 Vaison-la-Romaine. +33 4 90 41 72 90 / www.bistroduo.fr. Open 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:30 – 10:00 PM Tues-Sat. Closed on Sunday & Monday.

For a high-end experience, we recommend Le Moulin à Huile. The chef showcases gastronomic prowess in a former olive-oil mill with baby-blue shutters by the river. In summer you can dine outside in the peachy garden (go for the upper terrace, rather than the lower one). Address: 1 Quai Maréchal Foch, Route de Malaucène, 84110 Vaison-la-Romaine. +33 4 90 36 04  56 / www.moulin-huile.com. Open 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM Tues-Sat and 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Sundays. Closed on Mondays.

For a local, traditional French option head to Auberge la Bartavelle, a small but atmospheric restaurant off the main square. Address: 12 Place Sus Auze, 84110 Vaison-la-Romaine, France. +33 4 90 36 02 16 / http://www.restaurant-bartavelle.fr. Open 12:15 PM – 1:30 PM Tues-Thurs & Sat-Sun, 7:15 PM – 8:45 PM Tues-Sat. Closed Sun evenings and Mondays

Sites and Things to Do

Sites

Gallo-Roman Ruins. Between the 6th and 2nd centuries BC, there was a Roman city that flourished on the site of Vaison-la-Romaine, called Vasio Vocontiorum. The remains fill two central Vaison sites. The archaeological sites and museum are open from March – December. During the months of March and October: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM. During April and May: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM. During June-September: 9:30 AM – 6:30 PM.

The Cathedral Notre Dame de Nazareth lies just on the other side of the river from the Medieval town. The cathedral and its cloister are open from June-September from 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM.  Price for adults €8 and is a pass to all the town’s historic buildings.

Wine Tasting

Cave La Romaine: Just north of the lower town, Cave La Romaine was created in 1924 as one of the first cooperatives of the Vaucluse. Nowadays, the cellar comprises around 280 wine growers and more than 1400 hectares of vineyards. Address: 95 Chemin de Saumelongue, 84110, Vaison La Romaine. +33 4 90 36 55 90 / www.cave-la-romaine.com. Open 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:00 PM – 6:30 PM Mon-Sat, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Sundays from April – June & Sept – Dec. 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM Mon-Sat & 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM Sundays from July-Aug.

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office: place du Chanoine Sautel. +33 4 90 36 02 11. www.vaison-ventoux-tourisme.com. 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:00 PM – 5:45 PM Mon-Sat all year round & 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM Sunday from mid-March to mid-Oct.

Stores: Plenty of small stores in the historic old town including the Petit Casino, 9 Place Montfort. Open 7:30 AM – 1:00 PM & 3:00 PM – 7:15 PM Mon-Sat.

If you require a larger shop there is a Super U on Avenue Marcel Pagnol. Open 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM Mon-Sat & 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM Sunday.

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Day-by-Day

Avignon to Vaison-la-Romaine

Overview

All today’s routes begin with a van transfer from your tour’s start location.  Where you are transferred to will depend on whether you are doing the Easiest, the Intermediate or the Challenge route.avignon

The Intermediate Route starts with a van transfer to Châteauneuf-du-Pape; a charming village at the center of one of the world’s greatest wine growing regions.  From here you ride through the Rhône Valley past several wineries to the market town of Orange with its Roman ruins.  The Roman theater and the triumphal arch are UNESCO World Heritage sites.  After visiting Orange, you return to rolling countryside that is carpeted with the vineyards of the Côtes du Rhône.  The quiet lanes link a series of pretty, unspoiled villages and the whole region is peppered with wineries.  The terrain gets a little hillier as you approach Vaison-la-Romaine but your efforts are rewarded with fine views.  Your overnight town of Vaison-la-Romaine is set on either side of a deep gorge.  The medieval old town is set up on the hill on the south side of the river.  The lively new town is, on the lowlands, north of the river.  Confusingly, the Roman ruins are in the new town.

If you are wanting a shorter ride, today’s Easiest Route has you transferred to Orange where you can explore the town before joining the Intermediate ride to Vaison-la-Romain.

Those wanting more miles will take a van transfer to the stunning Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct – west of Avignon.  This avignonChallenge Route adds 40 kilometers and doubles the amount of climbing compared to the Intermediate Route.  It also has a busy section at the start of the ride before taking you onto quiet twisting lanes through the Malmont Forest.  After you cross the Rhône you join the Intermediate Route at Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This ride begins in Orange; at the 1st-century Arch de Triomphe on the Via Agrippa.  Restored in 2009, the arch’s striking reliefs commemorate Roman victories in 49 BCE including carvings of chained, naked Gauls.You head northeast from Orange on small roads that take you through vineyards and past wide, open fields with vast views of the surrounding countryside.  Cairanne is the first potential lunch spot.  There is also a delightful village shop ‘A la Petite Jeannette’ which sells your basics i.e. fruit, veg, meats, and cheese.  The route then climbs gradually with a moderate bump up to the small town of Rasteau.  cairanne

Rasteau has a pleasant town square complete with village shop – Au Bouquet Gourmand – and makes a nice stopping point before the final push to Vaison-la-Romaine.

Another good lunch option today is in Roaix where there is a popular bar/restaurant: Restaurant L’As de Coeur that is usually packed with locals. A great spot for pizza, salads and local specialties.

Intermediate Route

The Intermediate Route begins in Châteauneuf-du-Pape – a small town at the center of one of the world’s great wine-growing regions.  Your ride start at the ruined remains of “the château”, which was once the summer residence of the Avignon popes.  It was dismantled for stone after the French revolution and bombed in WW2 but, with its 360-degree panoramas of the Rhône Valley, this is a great place to start your Provençal adventure.From the château, the route winds down through the town and into vine-carpeted countryside. The rolling terrain affords orangeglimpses of the 10th-century Château de L’Hers on the banks of the Rhône.  The quiet roads lead you up onto a plateau where you have views of Mont Ventoux to the west.  This “Giant of Provence” will dominate the horizon for much of your tour.  The route continues to undulate all the way into the center of Orange.

With its medieval streets and pleasant squares, Orange is well worth taking the time to explore.  “Must-see” attractions include the Roman theater and the triumphal arch – both UNESCO World Heritage sites.  After visiting Orange, you join the Easiest Route – described above – for the ride into Vaison-la-Romaine.

Challenge Route

This route begins at Pont du Gard, one of the most impressive examples of Roman engineering.  The first 10 kilometers can be busy – particularly on the D6086 – but once you turn off the main road (after the charming town of Valliguières) you ride on quiet roads that climb up through vineyards and then through the Malmont Forest.  After a scenic, winding descent, you cross the Rhône and join the Intermediate Route at Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

If you want to avoid the first ten miles, just ask to be dropped at Valliguières.  With this option, you miss the busy start – though you also miss the Pont du Gard.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend largely on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Châteauneuf-du-Pape:  For a traditional French lunch Le Verger des Papes is perched beneath the Châteauneuf-du-Pape château.  This “Popes’ Orchard” has nice views of the Rhône from its stone terrace.  Specialties include rack of lamb for two, plus entrecote of beef, served with macaroni-and-cheese spiked with cèpes (a type of mushroom). Address: 4 Rue Montée du Château, 84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. +33 4 90 83 50 40 / www.vergerdespapes.com. Open for lunch 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM. Closed on Monday.

In Orange:  Orange is a large town with many options for lunch.  For a bistro lunch, Les Artistes  is a hybrid drinking/dining establishment with a chic contemporary interior and a vast pavement terrace on a pedestrian old-town square.  Meal-sized salads, homemade burgers and other brasserie fare are great value.  Address: 3 Place de la République, 84100 Orange. +33 9 81 99 05 49.  Open 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM Tues-Sat, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Sun. Closed on Monday.

For a more traditional option, try Au Petit Patio whose menus include wine and coffee. Great service and a charming outdoor terrace (hence the name). Address: 58 cours Aristide Briand, Orange. +33 4 90 29 69 27. Open 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM Mon-Sat, 7:00 PM – 9:15 PM Mon-Wed, Fri & Sat.

In Cairanne: Le Tourne au Verre is a great option for a tradition Provençal lunch. A popular choice for the locals, there is a lovely shaded terrace out the front of the restaurant on which to enjoy an unhurried plats du jour along with a glass of the local wine. Address: 5 Route de Carpentras, 84290, Cairanne. + 33 4 90 30 72 18. Open: 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM Tues-Sun. Closed on Monday.

In Roaix Restaurant L’As de Coeur is usually packed with locals. A great option for pizza and  salads as well as local specialties. Address: Route d’Orange, 84110 Roaix. +33 4 90 46 16 89. Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Tues-Sat. Closed Sun & Mon.

Points of Interest en Route

Wineries

Château Mont-Redon is very close to Châteauneuf-du-Pape (on the intermediate route it is located at 6 km from the start of the ride) and set among sweeping vineyards.  It is one of the larger vineyards and caters to drop-ins. Tastings free. Address: Chemin de Maucoil, 84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. +33 4 90 83 72 75 / www.chateaumontredon.com. Open 9:000 AM to 7:00 PM April-September. Reduced hours rest of year.

Caves du Verger des Papes in Châteauneuf-du-Pape sits beneath the town’s namesake château. These small but magnificent wine caves date back 2000 years. The bar in the caves carries 80 of the town’s 250 labels and English is spoken. Address: 2 Rue Montée du Château, 84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. +33 4 90 83 58 08 / http://www.caveduverger.com/visiter-la-cave.html. Open 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM daily through July-Aug, but reduced hours rest of year.

Cave de Cairanne/Maison Camille Cayran in Cairanne showcases a number of wines from the Rhône Valley.  There is also a small museum and tours available.  The tasting room is close to the cycling route on the D8 just west of Cairanne.  +33 4 90 30 82 05 / www.maisoncamillecayran.com.  Open: every day from 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM and 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM.

Cave de Rasteau is a relatively new winery (opened in 2008) with tasting tables, an art gallery, educational videos, lovely artefacts to do with wine, and a big tasting room. Located on the cycling route as you turn onto the D975 shortly after the village of Rasteau.  Address: Route des Princes d’Orange, 84110 Rasteau. +33 4 90 10 90 14. Open: 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM and 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM every day.


Galots

While riding though the Rhône Valley, you may notice a thick layer of large pebbles scattered atop the red clay soil.  These are known as galotsand are thought to be the cause of the lusciousness of these wines.

When glaciers receded, they left a thick layer of ‘galots’.  These rocks trap the heat from the Provençal sun, releasing it to galotsthe land after sunset. This helps grapes ripen with a steady warmth.  The Romans first planted vines here 2000 years ago, but wine growing really took off after Pope John XXII built a castle in 1317, planting vineyards to provide the court with wine.  From these papally endorsed beginnings, wine production flourished.

Most Châteauneuf-du-Pape is red; only 6% is white (and rosé is forbidden).  Strict regulations – which formed the basis for the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system – govern production.  Reds come from 13 grape varieties – Grenache is the biggie – and should age five years minimum.  The full-bodied whites drink well young (except for the all-roussanne varieties) and make an excellent aperitif that’s hard to find elsewhere.


Stores

There is a Petit Casino supermarket in the center of Orange. Address is 16 Rue de la République, 84100 Orange. It is open 8:00 AM to 12:30 PM Tues-Sun and 3:30 PM to 7.30 PM Tues-Sat. Closed on Mondays.

In Cairanne there is a small but delightful village shop, ‘A la Petite Jeannette’ which sells your basics i.e. fruit, veg, meats, and cheese. Address: 55 Allée des Travers, 84290, Cairanne. +33 4 90 30 82 55. Opening hours: 7:30 AM – 12:30 PM & 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM Mon-Fri, 7:30 AM – 12:30 PM Sat, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Sun.

In Rasteau there is Au Bouquet Gourmand. Address: 206 Rue de la Fontaine, 84110 Rasteau. Open: 7:00 AM – 12:00 PM Mon-Fri & 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM Mon-Sat (closed Weds & Sun afternoons).

Sights

 Orange: Théâtre Antique. Orange’s Roman theatre is among France’s most impressive Roman sites.  It is believed to
have been built during Augustus Caesar’s rule (27 BC to AS 14) and was designed to hold 10,000 spectators.  The 103m-wide, 37m-high stage wall is one of only three in the world still standing in their entirety (others are in Syria and Turkey).  Admission includes audio guide and access to Musée d’Art et d’Histoire. Address: rue Madeleine Roch; adult/child 9.50/7.50 Euro; 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM Jun-Aug, to 6:00 PM Apr, May, & Sept, 9.30 AM to 5.30 PM Mar & Oct, 9.30 AM to 4.30 PM rest of the year.


Pont du Gard

The triple-tiered Pont du Gard is an awe-inspiring aqueduct.  At 50 meters high, it is the world’s highest Roman pont_du_gardmonument. It was once part of a 50 km-long system of channels built around 19 BCE to transport water from Uzès to Nîmes. The scale is huge: 48.8m high, 275m long and graced with 35 arches.  The bridge was sturdy enough to carry up to 20,000 cu meters of water per day. Each block was carved by hand and transported from nearby quarries – no mean feat, considering the largest blocks weigh over 5 tonnes. Amazingly, the height of the bridge descends by a minute 2.5 cm across its length, providing just enough gradient to keep the water flowing.

You can walk across the tiers for panoramic views over the River Gard, but the best perspective on the bridge is from downstream, along the 1.4km Mémoires de Garrigue walking trail.

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Vaison-la-Romaine Loop Day

Overview

Today’s Intermediate Route takes you out along the Ouvèze River – a tributary of the Rhône.  The terrain is hillier here and you ride through some stunning, steep-sided valleys.  The terrain is a mix of forests and arable farms.Vaison-la-Romaine

The halfway point for the ride is Buis-les-Baronnies.  Legend has it that Hannibal watered his elephants here.  Today it is still a charming place to stop and rest – situated in a sheltered hollow among prairies, olive groves, and orchards.  You will also see some of your first lavender fields of the trip.

The ride back takes you through a string of picturesque villages.  You are far enough off the beaten track that there are few tourists and you get a real sense for the peaceful and bucolic Provençal lifestyle.

The Challenge Route, continues into the hills past Buis-les-Baronnies and across the northern flank of Mont Ventoux.  The pretty spa town of Montbrun-les-Bains is the turnaround point on this ride.

The Easiest Route is a short loop to the village of Faucon – halfway to Buis-les-Baronnies.  From the village, there are outstanding views of Mont Ventoux and the Pre-Alps.

Route Options

Easiest Route

On exiting Vaison-la-Romaine you are quickly thrown into the winelands of the Cote-de-Rhône, riding through beautiful rolling roads that move steadily from vineyard to orchard and back again. You ride up to the village of Faucon, a small medieval village where most of the houses have been built using local stone. This architectural unity gives the village a distinctive character.Faucon is a good place to stop for lunch and there is enough interest in the medieval passageways and church to justify lingering a little after lunch.  There is also a market if you’re there on a Saturday or Wednesday afternoon.  The village also has a nice tradition of a communal baker’s oven that is available for inhabitants who want to use it to bake bread.

From Faucon you turn left towards Puyméras and descend back into Vaison-la-Romaine through endless vineyards, olive groves and orchards. The surrounding views of the orchards and the vast open vistas are stunning.

Intermediate Route

The Intermediate Route follows the same route as the Easiest Route from Vaison-la-Romain to Faucon – a great place to have a morning coffee at the Boulangerie.  After a thrilling descent out of Faucon, you take a sharp left and climb up a narrow country lane that snakes through yet more vineyards.  You are now in La Drôme.  The department of La Drôme is thought of as the northern gateway to Provence.  The locals will tell you that this is where the weather changes: the sun replaces the rain, and the clouds give way to a clear blue sky.  You will also start to see lavender fields and hear the tell-tale sounds of the cicadas.Your route takes you to the town of Buis-les-Baronnies where most riders enjoy lunch.  The town is in a beautiful setting: in a fertile valley on the river Ouvèze.  The surrounding fields have vines and lavender as well as olive, lime and apricot trees.  All-in-all, this is a remote and restful little town.

The ride back to Vaison-la-Romaine is equally as beautiful and includes the Col de Propîac – two kilometers of steady climbing through multiple switchbacks.  However, once you have cleared the col, you enjoy over 10 kilometers of descending into Vaison-la-Romain with open views.

Challenge Route

The Challenge Route follows the same route as the Intermediate Route to Faucon, however, after the descent from Faucon, it heads west to Mollans-sur-Ouvèze – a quiet, market town that was fortified in medieval times and still has a ruined fortress.  From here, you have six kilometers alongside the scenic Ouvèze River on the relatively busy D5 before getting back onto quieter country roads.The climb over to Montbrun-les Bains takes you deep into La Drôme and the riding is remote through scenery dotted with pines, broom, vines and cherry trees as well as limestone cliffs.  There is also plenty of climbing.  Either Reilhanette or nearby Montbrun-les Bains make a good lunch stop.  The fortified spa-town of Montbrun les Bains is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France complete with ramparts and ruined fort.  The town is also a thermal resort famous for its sulphurated waters used to treat rheumatism and other ailments.Faucon

After lunch, the climbing continues as you ascend the stunning Gorges du Toulourenc to the Col d’Aulan. The gorge begins following the river with high rock faces on either side.  You pass the Château d’Aulan on your left two-thirds of the way up.  The descent to Buis-les-Baronnies is your prize; a 25 kilometer ‘peddling’ descent.

The ride from Buis-les-Baronnies back to Vaison-la-Romaine is along the Intermediate Ride described above.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend largely on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Faucon:  Faucon has only a couple of options for lunch – it is a very small village.  For a gastronomic lunch head to Domaine Roche Buissière.  It has vineyard views. Address: Route de Vaison, 84110, Faucon. +33 4 90 46 49 14 / www.gastrobar.fr. Open lunches and evenings, closed on Wednesday and Saturday lunchtimes.

For a coffee stop or a simple plats du jour try the Boulangerie des Tilleuls. Address: Le Village, 84110 Faucon. +33 4 90 36 12 91. Open 7:30 AM – 3:00 PM Tues-Sun from 1st Sept-14th June. 7:30 AM – 11:00 PM Tues-Sun from 15th June-31st Aug. Closed Mondays.

Buis-les-BaronniesIn Buis-les-Baronnies:  Buis-les-Baronnies has many options for lunch.  For a traditional lunch, Restaurant La Fourchette is good – in the old center of town.  Address: 9 Place du Marché, 26170 Buis-les-Baronnies.  +33 4 75 28 01 31.  Open 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM & 6:30 PM – 10:00 PM Tues – Sat, 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM Sunday. Closed on Mondays.

In Reilhanette:  Reilhanette has one option for lunch at La Claveliere.  The food is traditional, local and reflects the seasons. Meals can be enjoyed on the terrace looking at the surrounding views or if it is colder then inside by the wood burner. Address: Le Village, 26170 Saint-Auban-sur-l’Ouvèze. 04 75 28 61 07 / www.laclaveliere.com. Open: 12:00 PM – 14:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Closed on Mondays excluding bank holidays. Open 7 days a week between 14th July- 15th August.

In Montbrun les Bains: L’O des sources has good traditional, elegant French cuisine. Address: La Platriere, A cote des Thermes, 26570, Montbrun-les-Bains. www.o-des-sources.com /  +4 75 27 11 09. Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 9:0) PM every day.

Another option is the bar/restaurant at the Hotel des Voyageurs.  In the center of town at the corner of the D542 and D189,  +33 4 75 28 81 10

Points of Interest en Route

Wineries

Domaine du Faucon Doré is a in Faucon village and is an prized, organic winery producing red, white and rose wines. The winery is just off the cycling routes on the D205 just north of Faucon.  Address: Chemin du Jas – 84110 Faucon (France). +33 4 90 46 46 01 /http://faucon.dore.free.fr/gb/. Open 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM & 2:00 PM – 7:00 PM. Closed on Sundays.

Stores:

As you ride into Buis-les-Baronnies there is a SuperU Express on your LHS. Address: Avenue Boissy d’Anglas, 26170 Buis-les-Baronnies. Open: 8:30 AM – 7:30 PM Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.

There is a small Carrefour Contact in Buis-les-Baronnies. Address is place Des Platanes, 26170 Buis-les-Baronnies. Opening times: 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM Mon-Sat & 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM Sun.

There is a SuperU Express on the way into Montbrun les Bains on the RHS. Open: 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM & 3:00 PM – 6:30 PM. Closed on Sundays.

Sights

Market days in Buis-les-Baronnies are on a Wednesday and Saturday.


Lavender

The lavender fields around the base of Mont Ventoux are some of the most iconic you will find however when shopping for lavender, it’s worth knowing what you’re looking for. The most sought-after product is lavende fine (fine lavender) which is what’s used in perfume. Don’t go for L. latifoila (spike lavender) or L. hybrid (a hybrid lavender) which are both high in camphor and used in detergents and paint solvents.

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Vaison-la-Romaine to Bédoin

Overview

Twisting backroads is the theme of today’s Intermediate Route you ride along tiny lanes between picture-postcard Bédoinvillages.

You are back among the vineyards but the terrain is a little more rugged with villages perched atop rocky outcrops.  Forests separate the vineyards and the scenery is constantly changing; one minute you are riding alongside a river in a steep-sided valley, the next the view opens up and you can see for miles down the valleys to the Rhône plane.

Malaucène is the largest town along the route but there are also several other charming villages including Le Barroux, Caromb, Saint-Pierre-de-Vassols, and Crillon-le-Brave.

The Easiest Route start also starts out along small country lanes to the town of Malaucène but from there, rather than heading west on a detour into the hills, the Easiest Route takes the direct – but still very pretty – road to Bédoin.

There are two Challenge Routes today.

The first Challenge Route takes you straight over the top of Mont Ventoux.  While not long (at under 60 kilometers) you climb 1,500 meters in the 20 kilometers after Malaucène.  From the top on Ventoux, it is an almost continual 20 kilometers of descending.  Note that high winds can make this route un-ridable so check the forecast the night before.

The second Challenge Route has a little less climbing but more miles.  It’s also a good alternative if high winds make the Mont Ventoux route un-ridable.  Rather than going over the top of Ventoux, this route circumnavigates the mountain via the mountain town of Sault.  This route is just as scenic as the direct assault and you pass through more towns and villages.

Bédoin is your overnight town.  This charming agricultural village claims to have sunshine nearly every day of the year.  Typically, the town is abuzz with cyclists and hikers.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Beautiful, undulating roads meet you out of Vaison-la-Romaine as you ride through tiny villages along narrow lanes. The bridge across the Ouvèze before Entrechaux is particularly picturesque, as is the castle as you enter the village of Entrechaux.  The town of Malaucène is a real cycling town – it is one of the three base points from which to climb Mont Ventoux (the others being Bédoin and Sault).There is a short climb out of Malaucène and then you turn onto a smaller road at the winery Caveau Beaumont du Ventoux. You then climb again – through forests – up to the high-point of the route at Col de la Madeleine.  From here, you have views through the trees across the plains seeing occasional vineyards and olive groves.  It is then an easy cruise down into the center of Bédoin.

Intermediate Route

This Intermediate Route, follows the Easiest Route to Malaucène after which it heads west up the Col de la Chaîne into the Dentelles de Montmirail– a jagged chain of limestone mountains famous for their scenery and wine.  These mountains are also a haven for rock climbers.There is a short descent into Suzette – the halfway point and a good lunch stop.  The views, for most of this ride, are of orchards, vineyards and tree-lined roads.

Le_BarrouxYou also have a great view of Le Barroux as you descend to this charming village with a château perched atop the village.  Within 15 kilometers of Bédoin, Le Barroux is another good lunch stop.  The maze of medieval streets dotted with fountains also make for a good post-lunch stroll and you can visit parts of the château.

Open fields across rolling terrain take you the rest of the way to Bédoin via the quaint town of Caromb (well worth a stop) and the charming hamlet of Crillon-le-Brave.

Challenge Route (via Mont Ventoux)

Like the Intermediate Route, the first of the two Challenge routes also follows the Easiest Route to Malaucène.  But, that is where the similarity ends.  After Malaucène, you head east and climb steadily for over 20 kilometers.

Malaucène is one of the three towns from which cyclists ascend Mont Ventoux and it is often busy with excited cyclists.  It is also the last chance to take on food and water – so stock up and enjoy a late-morning pastry or an early lunch!

The ride peaks atop Mont Ventoux at 1,912 meters and the climb has an average gradient of 7.5%.  You can see the iconic tower at the top of the mountain from several kilometers out.  Kilometers that it can take a surprisingly long time to reel in.  On clear days, you can also see the Alps on the northeastern horizon.At the hairpin, six kilometers from the top, you pass the stunningly-sited Chalet Liotard. Open for lunches 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM but drinks and snacks are available throughout the day.

At the top of the mountain there is a small store which sells very expensive water and Cokes – which you will very-likely buy.  You will also be joining a herd of like-minded riders admiring the view and taking in their achievement.

WARNING: The final 10 kilometers of the climb are out of the trees and very exposed.  Winds have been recorded in excess of 300 KPH and windblown rocks are not unheard of.  It can also get significantly colder as you climb.  Before attempting this climb, please check the weather forecast and take enough food, drink and clothing for the conditions.  Do not attempt the ride unless you are confident you can complete it safely.

From the top of Mont Ventoux, it is almost pure descending into Bédoin with many switchbacks but no real turns to navigate.  After six kilometers, you pass Chalet Reynard at the turn off to Sault.  Chalet Reynard has much the same lunch options as Chalet Liotard (although businesses are not related).

Challenge Route (via Sault)

The second Challenge Route is a fantastic tour around the base of Mont Ventoux.  It is longer but less severe than the Mont Ventoux ascent route above.  It is also more protected making it a good choice if the forecast is for wind.

This route follows the Easiest Route to Entrechaux after which it heads east towards the Vallée du Toulourenc – a quiet valley that narrows into a scenic limestone gorge as you climb.  You pass by Saint Léger, Brantes and Savoillans – the three villages of the Toulourenc that are well worth a short detour off the main road if you want a coffee or a rest. You leave the Toulourenc river at Reilhanette – another good coffee (or early lunch) stop – and pass through another narrow gorge before arriving at Aurel: a pretty village perched on the hillside with steep streets carved through the rock.  A 12th-century church and 13th-century chateau sit at the top of the village.  As you ride on to Sault you will pass several lavender fields.  Sault is also the most obvious place for lunch. Sault

With post-lunch-legs, the climb out of Sault can be a bit of a slog.  Depending on the time of day, this section of the route can also be a little traffic-y.  However, after five kilometers most of the of the riding is downhill so you tend to notice the traffic less.  You also enjoy open views across classic Provence lavender fields.  The ride finishes with gently rolling roads into Bédoin.  Both Villes-sur-Auzon and Flassan make pleasant stopping points on the final leg.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Malaucène:  Malaucène has several good options for lunch.  For a traditional Provençal lunch try Chez Laurette. Address: 29 avenue de Verdun, 84340 Malaucène, France. 04 90 65 24 88.  12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM every day.

Le BarrouxIn Suzette: Auberge de Suzette has simple Provençal food.  Surrounded by vineyards, one can eat delicious dishes on the terrace such as lamb with anchovy butter and salt-cod aioli. Not to forget the homemade ice-cream. Address: Le Village, 84190, Suzette, Vaucluse. +33 486 382 858. Open Thursday to Tuesdays from 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM. Closed on Wednesdays.

In Le Barroux: One of our favorite lunch spots for today is Les Géraniums.  The food is traditional French and has a fantastic terrace with stunning valley views. Address: Place De La Croix, 84300 Le Barroux. 04 90 62 41 08 / www.hotel-lesgeraniums.com. Open 12.25-2:00 PM & 7:15 PM – 9:00 PM June-Oct.

In Reilhanette:  Reilhanette has one option for lunch at La Claveliere.  The food is traditional, local and reflects the seasons. Meals can be enjoyed on the terrace looking at the surrounding views or if it is colder then inside by the wood burner. Address: Le Village, 26170 Saint-Auban-sur-l’Ouvèze. 04 75 28 61 07 / http://www.laclaveliere.com.  Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Closed on Mondays excluding bank holidays. Open 7 days a week between 14th July- 15th August.

In Sault: Le Provencal has probably the best food in town with a good variety of dishes as well as fantastic set menus for a reasonable price. The outside patio on a quiet side street is a bonus.  Address: rue Porte des Aires, 84390 Sault, France. 04 90 64 09 09 / Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Mondays, 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Weds-Sun. Closed on Tuesdays.

O Pichoun is good for a casual lunch which has a nice terrace at the back with exceptional views of Mont Ventoux.  Address: Avenue de la Promenade, 84390 Sault.  04 90 64 15 93.  Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Mon-Sat. 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Sun.

On market day, the food truck Pizza Bruno has a simple-but-good lunch and is typically found on the Avenue de la Promenade, 84390 Sault. Hours can be unreliable; more of a “grab it when he’s there” meal.

Chalet Reynard is located on the Sault/Bédoin side of Mont Ventoux, 6 KM from the summit, and is hugely popular with cyclists. Many ascend the climb from Bédoin and visit Chalet Reynard on their descent, taking the opportunity to sit outside, basking in the warm sun, swapping war stories about their Ventoux ride. The restaurant is open all year, lunches served between 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM, drinks and snacks from 11:00 AM. Address: Route du Mont Ventoux, 84410, Bédoin. +33 4 90 61 84 55.

Chalet Liotard is the ‘Chalet Reynard’ of the Malaucène side. Also 6 KM from the summit, open for lunches 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM but drinks and snacks available throughout the day. Address: Station du Mont Serein, 84340 Beaumont-du-Ventoux. +33 4 90 60 68 38.

Points of Interest en Route

Wineries

Caveau Beaumont du Ventoux in Malaucène is a small cooperative cellar located on the hills of Mont Ventoux. On the Easiest Route, where the route turns on to the D19.  Address: 2480 Route de Malaucène, 84330, Le Barroux. +33 4 90 65 11 78 / www.beaumont-ventoux.com. 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM every day.

Domaine Saint Amant, is signposted from your route at approximately 21 KM. The winery has incredible views over the Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail and has winetasting for visitors. Excellent wine with friendly hosts. Address: Domaine Saint Amant, 84190, Suzette. +33 4 90 62 99 25.

Stores

Most of the villages on your ride have stores in them that abide by the ‘closed-for-lunch’ rule.

There is a Super U in Malaucène that is open every day from 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM & 2:30 PM – 7:30 PM apart from Sundays when it is open from 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM. As you turn left onto the main street it is located on your left-hand-side.

Sights

Abbaye Notre-Dame De L’Annonciation is an interesting convent close to today’s Easiest and Intermediate routes – just outside Malaucène. The community was born of the desire to lead the Benedictine life in the footsteps of Dom Gerard, the founder of the monastery of Sainte-Madeleine at Le Barroux.  Many young women came knocking at the door to be a part of the convent.  After using provisional accommodation (a farmhouse, caravans, etc.) they decided to build a more permanent convent (1986-2005).  There are now nearly thirty nuns that follow the sixth century Rule of St. Benedict in a life of prayer and work, withdrawn from the world.  The abbey shop sells products of the nuns’ craft workshops. Located right off the D938 just after Malaucène.  Open: Daily mass at 10:00 AM (open to all). Abbey shop 11:15 AM – 12:15 PM & 2:30 PM – 5:15 PM Mon-Fri and 11:30 AM – 12:15 PM & 3:30 PM – 5:15 PM Sundays.

Abbaye Ste Madeleine is another Benedictine abbey on today’s intermediate route.  This Benedictine Abbey is described as ‘a place of silence and peace’ and was founded in 1970.  If you go there on a weekday, you will probably see the monks working in the fields, driving a tractor or working on the roads.  If you visit on a Sunday for high mass there are many locals there and can be quite an atmosphere.  The church itself, a relatively new structure, is beautiful in its simplicity; the alter being particularly so with its muted colors used to depict the 12 apostles and the small stained glass windows.  Like most monasteries, it has a gift shop. To get to the abbey, take a left turn before you arrive in Le Barroux.  You will see signs for ‘Abbaye Ste Madeleine’. Address: 1201 chemin des Rabassières, 84330, Le Barroux. +33 4 90 62 56 31.

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Bédoin Loop Day

Overview

Bédoin sits at the base on the mighty Mont Ventoux.  Even if you do not plan to climb the mountain (see below) the views during your riding are dominated by its presence.Gorges_de_la Nesque

The highlight of today’s Intermediate Route is the spectacular Gorges de la Nesque.  The road through this sheer-walled valley sits high above the River Nesque and affords breathtaking views as you twist though a series of tight turns and tunnels.  The mountain town of Sault is the perfect place for lunch.  There is also an excellent restaurant in the nearby hamlet of Monieux.

The Easiest Route today takes you via Flassan to a nice lunch stop in Villes-sur-Auzon.  The return ride to Bédoin is gentle and along very quiet little country lanes.

Today’s two challenge rides include a ride to the top of Mont Ventoux.  The First Challenge Ride is a direct assault on this mighty “Giant of Provence.”  From Bédoin, you ride directly to the top and then straight back down.  The Second Challenge Ride sneaks up on the mountain via Sault.  This, second, route is far longer but the gradients are less severe.  You also ride up the Gorges de la Nesque on the outward leg.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This route is a gentle ride around the Vaclause area with Mont Ventoux as your epic backdrop. It winds its way through the local farming terrain with orchards, small vineyards on country lanes with minimal traffic.The route leaves town along D974 – the road that goes over the top of Mont Ventoux.  However, you turn off this road two kilometers outside of Bédoin and head across to Flassan – a far gentler climb.  Flassan has a population of just 400 and is nestled in the shade of Mont Ventoux.  Indeed, this is the starting point for some of the most popular hiking routes up the mountain.  The ochre facades of the houses give the village a warm and welcoming feel.  From Flassan, you descend to Villes-sur-Auzon – the gateway town to the Gorge de la Nesque and a nice coffee stop.

From Villes-sur-Auzon, you continue descending to Mormoiron – the largest town on today’s circuit (but still with only 2,000 inhabitants).  The village has narrow lanes, numerous covered passageways, and beautiful fountains.  Sitting on a small hill, it has sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.  There is also a small Museum of Geology and Archeology.  The ride back to Bédoin is gentle and along quite country lanes.

Intermediate Route

At 75 kilometers and with 1,200 meters of climbing, today’s Intermediate Route could also be classified as challenging.  However, you are richly rewarded for the effort as you return via the stunning Gorges de la Nesque.This Intermediate Route follows the Easiest Route described above as far as Flassan.  After Flassan the climb steepens as the road twists up to the plateau of the Grand Adrenier.  The thin, dry forests allow plenty of opportunities to glimpse Mont Ventoux on the horizon.  Near the top of the climb, the forests thicken and you arrive in a deserted plateau.  These roads see little traffic.  The decent into Sault is fast with views of the lavenders fields spreading across the land.

Sault is a pleasant work-a-day mountain town with several good options for lunch.Sault

After lunch, you retrace your steps a little before turning off towards the Gorges de la Nesque.  Les Lavandes, in the hamlet of Monieux, is an upmarket lunch option but it is best to call ahead as this is your last chance for food before the gorge.  If you do plan to have lunch in Monieux, you could choose to shorten the ride by taking a steep shortcut from the D1 directly to Monieux.  If you do this, you will reduce the ride by ten kilometers and skip the visit to Sault.

The Gorges de la Nesque is a Provençal must-see.  It is a 20-kilometer, sheer-walled, limestone canyon.  In this direction, you are descending so you can relax as you enjoy the impressive views.  You exit the gorge at Villes-sur-Auzon from where it is a relatively easy cruise back to Bédoin through Flassan.

Challenge Route (Ventoux Direct)

The First Challenge Route tackles Mont Ventoux head on.  For many, this ascent from Bédoin is the classic way up the mountain. You can think of the climb in three sections:

  1. On leaving Bédoin you begin climbing but the gradient is not severe as you roll past vineyards and olive groves to Saint-Estève.
  2. After Saint-Estève (a mere dot on the map with a switchback and a restaurant) you enter the forests and the mood of the climb changes. From Saint-Estève to Chalet Reynard, the average gradient is over 9%; pitching up to 12% or higher in places.
  3. From Chalet Reynard (a great place for a coffee or hot chocolate on your way up or down) you leave the forests and the gradient eases. In this, last section, weather is the major determinant of enjoyment.  If the wind is calm (or at your back) the climb is quite manageable – even though it takes a surprisingly long time between seeing the top of the mountain and arriving there.  However, the winds in this section can also be severe making the final climb at best an exposed slog and at worst unsafe and unmanageable.

At the top of the mountain there is a small store which sells very expensive water and Cokes – which you will very-likely buy.  You will also be joining a herd of like-minded riders admiring the view and taking in their achievement.Mont_Ventoux

WARNING: The final 7 kilometers of the climb are out of the trees and very exposed.  Gusts have been recorded in excess of 300 KPH and windblown rocks are not unheard of.  It can also get significantly colder as you climb.  Before attempting this climb, please check the weather forecast and take enough food, drink and clothing for the conditions.  Do not attempt the ride unless you confident you can complete it safely.

You return to Bédoin the way you came – though probably a lot faster!

Challenge Route (Via Sault)

If you are someone who likes to warm up before a big challenge, you might prefer this Second Challenge Route.  With this route, you also get to climb up the Gorges de la Nesque.The first ten kilometers of the ride follow the easy route through Flassan and on to Villes-sur-Auzon.  After Villes-sur-Auzon, head into the Gorges de la Nesque – 20 kilometers of pleasantly-graded climbing alongside a sheer-walled, limestone canyon.  You enjoy impressive views as the road clings – precipitously in places – to the walls of the gorge.  As you exit the valley of the Nesque River, Les Lavandes, in the hamlet of Monieux, is an upmarket lunch option.  A little, further on, Sault has more options for lunch as well as views of the mountain you are about to climb.

The ascent from Sault is said to be the easiest of the three popular ascents of Mont Ventoux (the other two are from Bédoin and Malaucène).  There are two reasons for this. Firstly, Sault is simply higher than the other starting towns.  Secondly, you climb over a greater distance making the gradient more manageable.  For example, the section from Sault to Chalet Reynard has an average gradient of just 4%.

Mont_VentouxChalet Reynard is a nice coffee stop – or a late lunch.  This is also your chance to cut the ride short and return directly to Bédoin if either the weather or your legs are not cooperating.  If you choose to continue the climb, from Chalet Reynard, you leave the protection of the forest and the weather becomes the determinant of your enjoyment.  If the wind is calm (or at your back) the climb is quite manageable – even though it takes a surprisingly long time between seeing the top of the mountain and arriving there.  However, the winds in this section can also be sever making the final climb at best an exposed slog and at worst unsafe and unmanageable.

At the top of the mountain there is a small store which sells very expensive water and Cokes – which you will very-likely buy.  You will also be joining a herd of like-minded riders admiring the view and taking in their achievement.

WARNING: The final 7 kilometers of the climb are out of the trees and very exposed.  Winds have been recorded in excess of 300 KPH and windblown rocks are not unheard of.  It can also get significantly colder as you climb.  Before attempting this climb, please check the weather forecast and take enough food, drink and clothing for the conditions.  Do not attempt the ride unless you confident you can complete it safely.

Your ride from the top of Mont Ventoux back to Bédoin is 20 kilometers of almost pure descending!

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Mormoiron:  Mormoiron has few options for lunch due to its size.  For a casual lunch try L’Aventure which is known for its pizzas.  Note, this restaurant is on the roundabout before you turn right and enter the main part of the village. Address: 31 Route de Carpentras, 84570 Mormoiron, France.  04 90 40 16 54.  Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7.:30 PM – 9:00 PM Weds-Sun. Closed on Mondays & Tuesdays.

In Sault: Le Provencal has probably the best food in town with a good variety of dishes as well as fantastic set menus for a reasonable price. The outside patio on a quiet side street is a bonus.  Address: rue Porte des Aires, 84390 Sault, France. 04 90 64 09 09 / Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Mondays, 12:00 – 2:00 PM & 7:00 – 9:00 PM Weds-Sun. Closed on Tuesdays.

O Pichoun is good for a casual lunch which has a nice terrace at the back with exceptional views of Mont Ventoux.  Address: Avenue de la Promenade, 84390 Sault.  04 90 64 15 93.  Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Mon-Sat. 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Sun.

Another simple-but-good lunch spot is Pizza Bruno, a parked pizza van with a great reputation, also found on the Avenue de la Promenade, 84390 Sault. Hours can be unreliable; more of a “grab it when he’s there” meal.

MonieuxIn Monieux: The outdoor terrace at Les Lavandes in the small hamlet of Monieux is a lovely setting for a great meal – Provençal cooking using mostly local ingredients.  Truffles are a specialty.  However, this is not casual dining but an experience with starched-linen tablecloths and a relatively pricey menu.  Great for foodies but not a place to grab a quick bite.  Address: Place Léon Doux – 84390 Monieux.  04 90 64 05 08 / www.restaurant-les-lavandes.fr.  Reservations recommended.

Chalet Reynard is located on the Sault/Bédoin side of Mont Ventoux, 6 KM from the summit, and is hugely popular with cyclists. Many ascend the climb from Bédoin and visit Chalet Reynard on their descent, taking the opportunity to sit outside, basking in the warm sun, swapping war stories about their Ventoux ride. The restaurant is open all year, lunches served between 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM, drinks and snacks from 11:00 AM. Address: Route du Mont Ventoux, 84410, Bédoin. +33 4 90 61 84 55.

Points of Interest en Route

Wineries

Château Persquié is located in Mormoiron. On arrival, you’ll enjoy a wonderful view of the village and the Ventoux region. Take time to admire the castle’s architecture which dates back to the 18th century and the driveway lined with three-hundred-year-old plane trees. Open Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to midday and 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Open weekends and public holidays from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Open Sundays from Easter to end September. The garden and wine-grower’s trail are a wonderful way to relax. There are free tasting sessions, where visitors can sample wines, olive oils and regional products. Just off the cycling route on the D184 outside of Mormoiron.  Address: Château Pesquié, 1365B, route de Flassan, 84570. 04 90 61 94 08.

Museums

Musée de Mormoiron describes the geology, paleontology and archeology of Mormoiron.  Located in the center of Mormoiron at the northern end of Route de la Mairie. In 1987, on the initiative of the municipality, the library and the museum of Mormoiron were built. The museum was built in new rooms adjoining the library and in the vaulted rooms of a house dated 1694 by an inscription engraved on a door lintel. An association, the Association for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historical and Archaeological Heritage of the Terraces of Ventoux, was created to organize and manage the museum. Lacated in the center of Mormoiron.  Address: Route de la Mairie, 84570 Mormoiron. +33 4 90 61 96 35. www.mormoiron.com/le-musee/. Open every afternoon from April 15th-Sept 30th.

Stores

There is a small but good supermarket a little way out of Sault (but easily ridable). Ecomarché is located Route de Saint-Trinit, 84390 Sault and is open 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 3:15 PM – 6:45 PM Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.

Bike shop. Next to Ecomarché is Albion Cycles which is a very good bike shop in case you need anything. Open: 8.30 AM – 7:00 PM Mon-Sat.

SightsLuberon

The lavender fields around Sault are not to be missed. Fragrant lavender fields bloom from June to August in the Luberon, around the Mont-Ventoux, in the region of Sault; such amazing scenery and atmosphere make the lavender fields a must-see in the summer in Provence.


Mont Ventoux

A difficult climb for the best of them (it regularly features in the Tour de France), this col is not to be underestimated. Visible for miles around, Mont Ventoux (1,912 m), nicknames le géant de Provence (Provence’s giant), stands like a sentinel over northern Provence.

The summit of Mont Ventoux is accessible by road between May and October (the white ‘cap’ you see in summer is lauzes, broken white stones, not snow), and on a clear day, vistas can extend to the Alps and the Camargue. Because of the dimensions of the mountain, every European climate type is present on its slopes, from Mediterranean on its lower southern reaches to Artic on its exposed northern ridge. As you ascend the relentless gradients, temperatures can plummet by 20 degrees Celsius, and there is twice as much precipitations as on the plains below. The relentless mistral wind blows 130 days a year, sometimes at a speed of 300 KPH.

This climatic patchwork is reflected in the mountain’s diverse fauna and flora, now actively protected by Unesco Biosphere Reserve status. Some species live nowhere else, including the snake eagle and several other birds as well as butterflies.

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Bédoin to Gordes

Overview

There are two rides today – an Intermediate Route and a Challenge Route.  Both are relatively easy for their categories.  There is no Easiest Route but we can transfer you along the Intermediate Route, if you would like to shorten your ride.Abbey_of_Notre-Dame_de_Sénanque

The Intermediate Route starts with a cruise to Venasque.  After that you climb through a gorge to the isolated Abbey of Notre-Dame de Sénanque.  After another climb, you reach the pretty village of Gordes.

The Challenge Route has more climbing and more miles.  You first head west out of Bédoin and ride via Flassan to Sault.  After lunch in Sault, you head south past lavender farms and then descend through a limestone gorge before climbing up to the hilltop town of Gordes.  If you want to visit the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Sénanque, you could add this on as a ten-kilometer in-and-out ride on the D177.

Route Options

Intermediate Route

Today’s ride starts with a relatively flat/rolling route through Mormoiron all the way to Venasque where the road climbs steeply to the village and the character of the ride changes.  Mormoiron is a good place for an early morning coffee stop.   After Mormoiron, you ride past more vineyards with sweeping views across to the mountains before reaching the hilltop village of Venasque.  This first part of the ride is on quiet roads with a couple of short, busier sections as you leave Bédoin and as you leave Mormoiron. At just over halfway along the route, Venasque is the perfect place to stop for lunch.  This village clings to a rocky outcrop and is a perfect example of a village perché.  (Village perché means perched village and they typically have impressive views across the surrounding countryside as well as being historically important defensive positions.  They often have narrow steep streets winding steeply up through medieval houses to a castle at the top.)  Venasque also has a famous baptistry – one of the oldest in France.

The route out of Venasque climbs through a limestone gorge, on silky smooth tarmac; the 2016 Tour de France followed Venasquethis route and the road was repaved for that.  It is a steady climb but the high walls and forested valley below provide a scenic distraction as you climb over the Col de trois Thermes (574m).  From here, you enter the Luberon National Park where you have a lovely descent to the Abbey Notre Dame de Sénanque.  Framed by lavender fields, this twelfth-century monastery is one of the most photographed sites in Provence.  Note that cycling gear is not allowed inside the abbey.

After the Abbey, there is a one-kilometer climb before a two-kilometer descent down into Gordes.

NOTE: In the summer months there is typically a “No Entry” sign shortly after the Abbey Notre Dame de Sénanque.  The sign is there to stop cars driving the narrow D177 road to Gordes.  Cyclists are also not allowed to ride past the sign and may be fined if they do.  However, you are allowed to walk past the sign and up the road for ½ KM where the road is two way again.

If you do not want to walk past the sign, return north from the Abbey back the way you came on the D177.  At the top of the hill (after 2½ KM), turn right onto the D244, signed to Gordes.  At the stop sign (after a further 2½ KM) turn right onto the D15 and follow this road into Gordes.

Challenge Route

This route climbs for the first 15 kilometers out of Bédoin.  For the first six kilometers up to Flassan, the climb is gentle enough.  After Flassan the climb steepens as the road twists up to the plateau of the Grand Adrenier.  The thin, dry forests allow plenty of opportunities to glimpse Mont Ventoux on the horizon.  Near the top of the climb, the forests thicken and you arrive in a deserted plateau.  These roads see little traffic.  The decent into Sault is fast with views of the lavenders fields spreading across the land. Sault is a pleasant work-a-day mountain town with several good options for lunch.After Sault you ride up to the Plateau de Vaucluse, which has magnificent views of Mont Ventoux surrounded by lavender fields.  There is also a lavender shop around 43 KM, signposted just 100 m from the main road.  On the descent from Sault, you pass Javon château: an enchanted-looking 16th-century renaissance chateau that sits in a clearing in the forest.  The chateau is privately owned (and lived in) and not open for visits but it is well worth slowing for and, if the resident stone sculptor is there, he enjoys talking about his work and about the chateau.

You then descend La Grande Forge: a classic, limestone gorge and a famous WWII battle site.   As you exit the gorge, the views open up across the Luberon.  On the left-hand side, huddled under a large cliff (the cliff of the Madeleine in Lioux, which is 7 kilometers long and 80 meters high), is the village of Lioux – worth the short detour if you see the turn in time.

The run in to Gordes flattens out as you pass more vineyards and more lavender fields.  You also start seeing more examples of the white stone houses that make up the towns and villages in this area.  The sting in the tail is a 2½-kilometer climb up to the village of Gordes.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend largely on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Venasque:  Venasque has two good options for lunch.  Restaurant Les Remparts offers filling lunches and an incredible view.  There is both a varied choice of foods and fixed menus. Built on the ramparts of the medieval village their traditional Mediterranean cuisine is served with a panoramic view overlooking the valley. Address: 36 rue Haute, 84210gordes Venasque, France.  04 90 66 02 79 / hotellesremparts.com. Open 8:00 AM – 11:00 PM every day in season.

Cote Fontaine also has good food including several options for vegetarians. Address: 21 Place de la Fontaine, Venasque, 84210. 04 90 66 64 85 / www.restaurant-cotefontaine.fr. Open 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Thurs-Mon. Closed Tues-Weds.

In Sault: Le Provencal has probably the best food in town with a good variety of dishes as well as fantastic set menus for a reasonable price. The outside patio on a quiet side street is a bonus.  Address: rue Porte des Aires, 84390 Sault, France. 04 90 64 09 09 / Open: 12:00 – 2:00 PM Mondays, 12:00 – 2:00 PM & 7:00 – 9:00 PM Weds-Sun. Closed on Tuesdays.

O Pichoun is good for a casual lunch which has a nice terrace at the back with exceptional views of Mont Ventoux.  Address: Avenue de la Promenade, 84390 Sault.  04 90 64 15 93.  Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Mon-Sat. 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Sun.

Another simple-but-good lunch spot is Pizza Bruno, also found on the Avenue de la Promenade, 84390 Sault. Hours can be unreliable; more of a “grab it when he’s there” meal.

Points of Interest en Route

Wineries

Château Persquié, located in Mormoiron: On arrival, you’ll enjoy a wonderful view of the village and the Ventoux region. Take time to admire the castle’s architecture which dates back to the 18th century and the driveway lined with three-hundred-year-old plane trees. Open Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to midday and 2:00 – 6:00 PM. Open weekends and public holidays from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM and 2:00 – 6:00 PM. Open Sundays from Easter to end September. The garden and wine-grower’s trail are a wonderful way to relax. There are free tasting sessions, where visitors can sample wines, olive oils and regional products. Address: Château Pesquié, 1365B, route de Flassan, 84570. 04 90 61 94 08.

Domaine Chapelle Saint Heyriès: A contemporary, family run ‘cave’ that offers charcuterie and cheese with a glass of their wine in a lovely setting.  Just as you climb to Gordes on the Challenge route you will see a sign for the winery on your LHS. The LEFT turn is immediately after the enter ‘Gordes’ road signs. On the turn there is a signpost on the wrong side of the turn. Address: Chapel saint Heyriès Les Cousins ​​84220 GORDES. 06 85 76 99 91 / www.domainechapellestheyries.com. Open: 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM Mon-Sat. 9:30 AM – 7:00 PM during July & August.

Stores

There is a small but good supermarket a little way out of Sault (but easily ridable). Ecomarché is located Route de Saint-Trinit, 84390 Sault and is open 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 3:15 PM – 6:45 PM Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.

There is a small greengrocers in Venasque called Cerises2B. Address: 30 Place de l’église, 84210 Venasque. Technically open 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM everyday (but not totally reliable).

Sights

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque. See Gordes in the Towns and Cities section of this guidebook for information about visiting this 12th-Century abbey.

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Gordes Loop Day

Overview

Today’s Intermediate Route heads south to the forests and rural farms of the Petit Luberon – an area made famous by Peter Mayle in his memoir A Year in Provence.  Four pretty hilltop villages punctuate the route: Ménerbes, Lacoste, gordesBonnieux, and Roussillon.  Each is a maze of terraced switchbacks with stunning views at every bend.  In the afternoon light, Roussillon is particularly striking, sitting as it does atop ochre cliffs.

The Easiest Route is a shorter loop that dips down to the pretty-but-unassuming village of Goult before circling back to the striking village of Roussillon.  Goult has a café on the man square for the perfect coffee stop.  Roussillon has many restaurants – several with great views – for the perfect lunch stop.

The Challenge Route is an epic ride of 125 kilometers with plenty of climbing.  Both the start and the end of this route are the same as the Intermediate Route.  What is different is that, at Bonnieux, rather than heading directly for Roussillon you head into the Luberon Mountains.  The extra villages on this route include Lourmarin (where Peter Mayle now lives) and Vaugines (where Jean de Florette’s house was in the movie of the same name).  After the mountains, you return to Gordes via Roussillon.  This is a stunningly beautiful and, at times, quite isolated ride and should not be undertaken lightly.

See the Gordes section in Town & Cities for details of visiting Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque.  It is either a ten-kilometer out-and-back ride on the D 177 or a pleasant, six-kilometer walk along tracks and small trails.

Route Options

Easiest Route

You start this ride with a fast descent out of Gordes before setting out across the relatively flat plain of the Calavon Valley to the village of Goult.  Goult is a pretty and unspoiled village complete with archways, cobbled streets, a nice church, and a picturesque windmill.  There are some ruined old ramparts and the d’Agoult family chateau (privately owned and not open to the public).  More practically, there is a pleasant town square complete with shade-giving trees and a café; a great place to enjoy a morning coffee while watching the world stroll by.From Goult, it is a steady climb up to Roussillon past vineyards and small farms.  After visiting Goult, the “must see” village of Roussillon can seem very busy.  But it is worth ignoring the crowds to admire this beautiful village with its red rocks, colorful buildings and tile roofs.  Inside the village, the central “square”, the town hall and the 19th-Century clock are all noteworthy.  Equally impressive are the views from the clifftop terraces at the back of several of the restaurants on the main square.Roussillon

Roussillon was once the center of local ochre mining and is still unmistakably marked by its color.  To help maintain its charm, villagers are required to paint their houses according to a prescribed palette of 40 tints.  The village is also known for being the hideout for the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett during WWII.  He helped the local resistance by hiding explosives at his house and occasionally going on reconnaissance missions

There is an Ochre-Walk (Sentier des Ocres): a natural park of jagged cliffs of ochre on the edge of the village.  The entrance to the park is on the small hill facing the village – on the southeast side of the village.

Roussillon is the best place on the route for lunch.

From Roussillon, you have a long descent on quiet lanes before a two-kilometer climb back up to Gordes – the sting in the tail!

Intermediate Route

After a quick descent out of Gordes, you cross the relatively flat Calavon Valley before climbing up to the first of the hilltop villages – Ménerbes.  Ménerbes is a classic Provençal village complete with town hall, renaissance mansion, 14th-century church and 13th-century fortress.  It is also famous for the views; you can see both Gordes and Roussillon across the valley and Mont Ventoux on the distant horizon.After a brief descent out of Ménerbes, you climb up and over to the village of Lacoste.  En route to Lacoste, you will pass Abbaye Saint-Hilaire, a 13th-Century convent that is a gracious building in a stunning location.  It is 500 meters off the road and if you are visiting we recommend walking rather than riding on the rough track.

The village of Lacoste is another classic.  Both the 17th-century belfry and 42-room chateaux are impressive – and visible from miles away.  The latter of these once belonged to the Marquis de Sade.  The village is also home to the Savanah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  So, if you see a gaggle of young, American students making a documentary in the sunflower fields, they are probably from SCAD.Bonnieux

The final village in this Luberon trio, is Bonnieux: another pretty hilltop town that it is worth taking time to explore.  It is also a good place for lunch.  Bonnieux was settled during the Roman era and preserves a strong medieval character with intertwining alleyways, cul-de-sacs and hidden staircases.

After descending out of Bonnieux, you cross the Calavon River on the Pont Julien.  This Roman bridge dates from the 3rd-century BCE.  The supporting columns are notable for openings to allow floodwater to pass through.  After the bridge, you climb up to Roussillon.  See the Easiest Ride, above, for more information about Roussillon and the ride back to Gordes.

Challenge Route

This route follows the Intermediate Route to Bonnieux.  From Bonnieux, you head south through the Combe de Lourmarin – a dramatic limestone gorge that cuts through the Luberon Mountains (La Montagne du Luberon).  The road through the gorge can be a little busy but you are descending so the traffic is not too obtrusive for experienced riders.  You emerge from the gorge at Lourmarin.  The Château de Lourmarin dominates the town and is clearly visible as you descend towards the town.  As well as the château, Lourmarin has many café and restaurants with something of a sophisticated feel about it.  Several writers have made their home here including Peter Mayle (A Year in Provence).  The town can get busy but it is still a pleasant place for coffee or an early lunch.You leave well-visited Lourmarin and skirt along the southern side of the Luberon Mountains through rolling foothills and pass through numerous classic Provençal villages: Vaugines, Cucuron, Cabrières-d’Aigues, Saint-Martin-de-la-Brasque, and Peypin-d’Aigues.  Of these, Cucuron, with its large pond and olive oil mill, is a particularly good place for a coffee stop.

After this string of villages, the riding gets more remote and a lot hillier as you head up the Col de l’Aire Dei Masco – a dramatic climb up a small, twisting road that takes you over the Luberon ridge to mountain town of Céreste.  On the descent into Céreste you get incredible views of the snow-capped Alps on the southern horizon.

CéresteCéreste is, perhaps, the best place for lunch; you will have broken the back of the ride and the small town is well worth taking the time to explore.  The town dates to Roman times – when it sat on an important trade route – and there is still a Roman bridge.  Restored houses line the medieval street many with intricate gargoyles.  There is also a great ice-cream store: Scaramouche.

After climbing up to Viens – yet another hilltop town with great views – the route becomes more rolling and soon you are enjoying a spirited descent past open fields of lavender with views of the surrounding mountains.  It is worth a short stop at Saint-Saturnin-lés-Apt to see the last of the open views before rolling down to Roussillon.

See the Easiest Ride, above, for more information about Roussillon and the ride back to Gordes.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Roussillon:  Roussillon has many options for lunch.  A nice choice for a bistro lunch is Cafe Des Couleurs.  A good, traditional lunch menu.  Located on the main “square” opposite the town hall they have seating on the square as well as a terrace at the back of the restaurant with great views. Address: Place de la Mairie.  +33 4 90 05 62 11.  Open 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM.  Sunday 9:00 Am to 2:00 PM.  Closed Monday and Saturday.

A little further into the town, another good lunch choice is Le P’tit Gourmand.  Food is well prepared and service attentive.  The menu is small but good.  Place de Abbe Avon.  +33 4 90 71 82 58.

On the LHS of the road as you ride through the town, La Grappe de Raisin is authentic cooking at reasonable prices – for the town.  The terrace above the restaurant is pleasant but the views are limited.  Place de la Poste.  +33 4 90 71 38 06 / www.restaurant-lagrappederaisin-roussillon.fr/.

In Bonnieux: L’Arôme is good for a pricy but prestigious lunch.  The chef uses around gourmet ingredients with impeccable local origin, with spices and surprises – and the romantic stone-walled setting is a winner. Address: 2 rue Lucien Blanc, Bonnieux. 04 90 75 88 62 / www.laromerestaurant.com.  Open 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Fri-Tues, 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM Thurs-Tues.Bonnieux

Le Fournil (‘The Oven’) serves rich, delicious Mediterranean dishes, making use of the chef’s homemade jus concentrés (concentrated sauces). They also run an ice cream shop on the same square. Address: 5 place Carnot, Bonnieux. 04 90 75 83 62 / www.lefournil-bonnieux.com. Open 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM Weds-Sun. Closed Mon-Tues.

In Céreste:  Céreste is relatively small and therefore has fewer options for lunch.  Restaurant La Pastorale has local, well-presented food.  The menu can be quite small as it depends on local availability but is well thought-out and the hosts are very attentive.  Address: Cours Aristide Briand, 04280 Céreste. 04 92 79 08 00 / Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Fri-Tues. Closed on Weds-Thurs.

After lunch, you might want to go to Scaramouche, an artisan glacier, for a post-lunch treat. Address: Cours Aristide Briand, 04280 Céreste. 04 92 79 48 82 / www.glaces-scaramouche.com. Open: 2:00 PM – 7:30 PM Weds-Sun 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM Sat-Sun. Closed on Mon-Tues.

Points of Interest en Route

Wineries

Cave de Bonnieux: Sample wines at this grand cellar, 5 KM from Bonnieux on the D36. Address: La Gare de Bonnieux. 04 90 75 80 03 / www.cave-bonnieux.com. 2:30 PM – 6:00 PM Mon, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:30 PM – 6:00 PM Tues-Sat.

From the Easiest route: head south from Goult on the D105.  After 250 m, at the roundabout, turn LEFT onto D145 signposted ‘8 Bonnieux’. After 1.9 KM, at the roundabout, continue straight onto the D36 signposted ‘Bonnieux’. The winery will be on your LHS in approximately 1 KM.

From the Intermediate or Challenge route:  At 22.2 KM, instead of turning right into Bonnieux, turn left onto the D194.  Continue on this road for 4 KM (the D194 becomes the D36). The winery will be on your RHS.

Domaine Chapelle Saint Heyriès: A contemporary, family run ‘cave’ that offers charcuterie and cheese with a glass of their wine in a lovely setting.  As you climb to Gordes on the D102, you will see a sign for the winery on your LHS. The LEFT turn is immediately after the enter ‘Gordes’ road signs. On the turn, there is a signpost on the wrong side of the turn. Address: Chapel saint Heyriès Les Cousins ​​84220 GORDES. 06 85 76 99 91 / www.domainechapellestheyries.com. Open: 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM Mon-Sat. 9:30 AM – 7:00 PM during July & August.

Stores

As you enter Roussillon there is a small Casino on your right-hand-side. It is open 8:15 AM – 12:30 PM Tues-Sun & 3:30 PM – 7:00 PM Tues-Sat.

Bonnieux – Pottery shop: Ceramic Artist Christine Denniel produces stoneware inspired by the Puisaye region (near Paris) and works with a range of clays, colors and textures. Address: Route de la Gare, 84480, Bonnieux, Luberon. + 33 4 90 75 91 43. www.christine-denniel.fr/ Open: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.

Sights

Roussillon Market is particularly lovely and takes place on Thursdays.

Musée du Vitrail Moulin des Bouillons: located on the Intermediate Loop at approximately 3.2 KM This museum on a Gallo-Roman site which has held human occupancy for over 2000 years. The Bouillons mill is an olive oil mill called a “blood mill”, which means it used human or animal power to drive the mill. It is a registered Historical Monument. Open 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM, 1st April to 31st October. Closed on Tuesdays.

The Abbaye Saint Hilaire was officially named a Monument Historique (Historic Monument) in 1975, in part to protect the surrounding land against property developers.  Today it welcomes around 20,000 tourists and pilgrims a year, yet Abbaye_Saint_Hilaireretains an aura of intimacy and privacy. The abbey has a fascinating history; the Carmelites originally lived in caves on Mount Carmel in Palestine.  When unrest in the Holy Land forced them to flee in the 13th century, some of these hermits ended up in Provence, attracted, perhaps, by the rolling hills carpeted with vines and olive trees which reminded them of their homeland.

After the French Revolution, the property fell into private ownership and eventually became a farm for nearly a century.  When renovations began in 1961, not much remained of the monastic life.  The chapel was a barn, the refectory was a sheepfold and the kitchen was a stable.

You can take a guided tour of the Abbaye Saint Hilaire by appointment.  But it’s easy to go around on your own and most people do this. The abbey is compact so you’re unlikely to get lost and a leisurely visit, including the grounds, would take around half an hour.

The Abbaye Saint Hilaire is open from the weekend before Easter until the All Saints’ feast day (La Toussaint) at the beginning of November. Open 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 1:30 PM – 5:00 PM Tues-Fri. 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Saturdays. Closed Sun-Mon. There’s a very small admission change of €2.50 per person. Note that from 1 July to 15 September there is no access to the Abbaye Saint Hilaire on days of “exceptional fire risk” but these are very rare. http://www.abbaye-saint-hilaire-vaucluse.com/ Address: (At approximately 14.5 KM on the Gordes Loop A Intermediate route) 2950, Lacoste road (D109), 84560, Ménerbes. +33 4 90 72 21 80.

Musée de la Boulangerie in Bonnieux is a Bakery Museum laid out in a 17th century building around an old bread oven that was used up until 1920.  Acquired by the General Council of the Vaucluse in 1983, it retraces the history of different technologies in baking, from the cultural practices of agrarian civilizations, the tools, flour mills, milling, bread-making to marketing techniques.

A collection of tools, an iconography of drawings, engravings, advertisements, posters and archives, from the late 17th century to the present, revives the life of the craft guilds as an indispensable testimonial to understanding the behavior of our modern society. Address: Musée de la Boulangerie – 12, rue de la république – 84480 Bonnieux. + 33 4 90 75 88 34. www.vaucluse.fr / Open: 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM Weds-Mon.

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Gordes to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Overview

Small lanes and easy terrain are the themes for today as you leave the Luberon and head down to Les Alpilles – an area rich in castles, Roman ruins, olive groves, vineyards and chic restaurants.Les Alpilles

The Intermediate Route takes you on a series of small lanes through orchards before reaching Cavaillon.  Cavaillon is not a particularly attractive town and you need to ride some busy roads to get across it.  However, once you cross the Durance River, you are back on small lanes as you head south to Orgon.  After Orgon, the scenery improves and you pass olive groves and numerous vineyards.  Most of today’s riding is across flat and open terrain; there is relatively little climbing on this route.

If you choose the Easiest Route, you take a van transfer to Orgon and ride the Intermediate Route to St-Rémy from there.

Today’s Challenge Route takes you south through the Luberon Mountains – via Bonnieux and Lourmarin.  Both towns are very pretty and well worth a stop.  The gorge that links Bonnieux to Lourmarin is also stunning.  From Lourmarin, you head east – paralleling the Durance river through more quaint villages.  The road that crosses the Durance can be a little busy and exposed but we soon get you back on the smaller lanes.  The riding is then tame – flat – until you reach Eyguières after which it gets interesting – hilly – as you ride through the unspoiled Alpilles Regional Park and on to St-Rémy.

Route Options

Easiest Route

On this route, you arrange for a van transfer to Orgon – a quiet, unassuming market town with an interesting 14th-century church (the choir and the nave are out of alignment).  The town can trace its roots back past the romans to Neolithic times.  Orgon has lunch options, if you made a late start or you can ride through the forests and past vineyard to Eygalières where there are better places to eat.  Eygalières is also prettier than Orgon: perched on a modest hill with stone From Eygalières, the route descends onto a large, open plain with broad panoramas.  You ride across this fertile plain to St-Rémy – stopping in at Mollégès en route.  Mollégès is not listed in the guidebooks, but this unpretentious village has its own charm: narrow streets, old stone buildings, colored shutters and flower-filled window boxes.  The ride from Mollégès into St-Rémy is pleasant, and flat across open agricultural land.

Intermediate Route

This route starts with a long descent out of Gordes.  The road can be busy but the fact you are descending means that you soon reach the turn-off to the small lanes that take you to Cavaillon.  These lanes pass orchards and small market gardens but there is only one village of note: the small-and-charming Cabrières-d’Avignon.There is no avoiding Cavaillon – a town that is a little sprawling and rundown.  But it is not a bad place to take a coffee or to buy a melon.  The town is known throughout France for Charentais: a type of cantaloupe melon.  These melons are relatively small, pale green with dark green stripes. Their flesh is bright orange and very sweet.  They say the heavier ones are sweeter and juicier.  They also recommend you eat them the same day they are picked.

The route out of Cavaillon is busy – particularly as you cross the Durance River and ride for a kilometer on the busy D99 divided highway.  On exiting Cavaillon, be very careful to choose the cycle-path options to cross the river as the roads here can be busy and difficult.  After a U-turn around the roundabout on the D99, you turn off onto small lanes that take you past more vineyards and small farms to the unassuming town of Orgon.

From Orgon you join the Easiest Route to St-Rémy – described above.

Challenge Route

This route heads south from Gordes, through Goult to Bonnieux on the opposite side of the Calavon Valley.  Bonnieux was settled during the Roman era and still preserves a strong medieval character with intertwining alleyways, cul-de-sacs and hidden staircases.  From Bonnieux, you head south through the Combe de Lourmarin – a dramatic limestone gorge that cuts through the Luberon Mountains (La Montagne du Luberon).  The road through the gorge can be a little busy but you are descending so the traffic is not too obtrusive for experienced riders. Lourmarin

You emerge from the gorge at Lourmarin.  The Château de Lourmarin dominates the town and is clearly visible as you descend towards the town.  As well as the château, Lourmarin has many café and restaurants with something of a sophisticated feel about it.  Several writers have made their home here including Peter Mayle (A Year in Provence).  The town can get busy but it is still a pleasant place for coffee or an early lunch.From Lourmarin, you head west through the villages of Lauris and Mérindol.  Both are pretty and the latter makes for a good lunch stop.

Crossing the Durance River takes you from the Department of Vacluse to the Department of Bouches-du-Rhone.  The river crossing is a little busy and exposed but, once across the river, you turn onto quieter lanes.  Skirting the edge of Mallemort and heading for Eyguières via Sénas, the route is flat and a little monotonous but the kilometers pass quickly through a mixture of agricultural fields and trees.

After Eyguières the riding becomes more interesting as you climb up into the unspoiled Alpilles Regional Park (Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles).  The park is a stretch of wild countryside with 1,000 plant varieties and more than 90 species of bird including Bonelli’s eagles and rare vultures.

From Eygalières, you follow the Easiest Route, described earlier, to St-Rémy.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend largely on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Orgon: there is a good boulangerie on your left turn into the village: Romest de Boulangerie. Simple sandwiches, nice pastries, and great coffee, this is an easy option for a quick, tasty lunch before moving on. Address: Place Albert Gérard, 13660 Orgon. +33 4 90 73 04 89. Open: 6:30 AM – 7:00 PM Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.

Your other option in Orgon is Le Côté Jardin, directly next to the Boulangerie when you turn into the village. A warm welcome and a relaxing terrace this restaurant serves typical Provençal cuisine with a touch of originality. Address: Alpilles Natural Regional Park, 4 Place Albert Gérard, 13660, Orgon. +33 4 90 73 31 07. Open: every day from 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM. Closed: Mondays all day, Sunday & Thursday evenings.

In Eygalières:  For a delicious, Provençal lunch head to Sous les Micocouliers  for a creative menu with fresh, local produce. Service can be slow and lacking in ‘personal care’ but the food and the fabulous outdoor seating area should make up for it.  At the end of a side street on the RHS off the main high-street. Address: Traverse Montfort, 13810 Eygalières, France.  04 90 95 94 53 / www.souslesmicocouliers.com. Open 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Tues-Sun & 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM Tues-Sat. Closed on Mondays.

At Chez Laurent service is great, food is traditional but un-fussy, and there are great views of the village. Address: Alpilles Natural Regional Park, 1 Rue de la République, 13810 Eygalières. +33 4 90 94 60 80. Open: 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 11:00 PM every day.

In Mérindol: A nice option for a Mediterranean lunch is La Terrasse Des Cigales. Great pastas, lots of barbequed meats and fresh, crispy salads. There is a pleasant garden at the back.  Address: 21 rue des Cigales, 84360 Merindol, France.  +33 9 80 42 66 49. Open 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM every day.

Points of Interest en Route

Wineries

Domaine de Valdition is located at approximately 31km into the intermediate route (approximately 4km into the shorter route). This winery is in a beautifully renovated building, offering delicious local wine and olive oil, and with great service. There is also a nice gift-shop. Address: Route d’Eygalières, 13660 Orgon. +33 4 90 73 08 12. Open: 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM & 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.

Stores

In Cavaillon there are plenty of shop options including a Monoprix and a Carrefour (opposite each other) on Cours Victor Hugo as you ride through the town. Hours for both 7:00 AM – 10:00 PM Mon-Sat & 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM Sunday (Monoprix is closed on Sundays).

In Eygalières there are a couple of small grocery stores including Epicerie and a boucherie/ charcuterie (butchers/ delicatessen) located on Rue de la République. Hours changeable but more reliable in the mornings.

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Saint-Rémy-de-Provence Loop Day

Overview

Today is about exploring the unspoiled Alpilles Regional Park (Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles).  The park is 170 square kilometers of wild countryside south of St Rémy.  The park protects the Chaîne des Alpilles a chain of low mountains that rise up as sheer limestone cliffs from the flat Rhône valley.  The countryside of the Alpilles is one of arid limestone peaks separated by dry valleys.  The park is also home to over 1,000 plant varieties and more than 90 species of bird including Bonelli’s eagles and rare vultures.St Rémy

Today’s Easiest Route is a pretty in-and-out ride up to the fortified village of Les Baux-de-Provence.  The twisting climb through a limestone canyon is well worth the effort once you see the castle clinging precariously to a ridge of rock.  The adjoining village is one of the most picturesque in the whole of France.

The Intermediate Route is a more circuitous route to Les Baux: taking a clockwise loop through Mollégès, Eygalières, and Maussane before attacking the climb up to Les Beaux from the south – a three-kilometer ascent up a twisting road.  After Eygalières, you are riding in the heart of the Alpilles Regional Park – on quiet roads through unspoiled wilderness of the Alpilles Mountains.  Despite the climb up to Les Beaux, the overall ride is relatively flat.

The Challenge Route stretches the Intermediate Route out a little by adding in the villages of Mouriès and Fontvieille.  This route is relatively flat for a Challenge Route and the level of challenge being determined as much by the wind as by the hills.

If you want a rest from cycling, the Roman ruins at Glanum are just two kilometers south of St. Rémy and make for a good half-day excursion.  Glanum was a fortified town founded by a Celto-Ligurian people called the Salyes in the 6th century BCE.  In 2 BCE, it became a Roman city after the capture of Marseilles by Julius Caesar.  A triumphal arch was built outside the town between 10 and 25 BCE as well as an impressive mausoleum of the Julii family; both still standing.  By the 2nd century CE it, Glanum had a new forum, temples, an aqueduct, extensive baths, and impressive shrines to the Emperors.  The town was destroyed by Germanic tribes in 260 CE and thereafter abandoned as the influence of Rome declined.  Excavation of the site began in 1921.  Nearly 100 years of ongoing excavation has revealed major sections of the old city as well as a large collection of Greco-Roman relics.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This route is an in-and-out excursion to the town of Les Baux-des-Provence.  The ride starts out climbing up a limestone canyon into the Alpilles Mountains – a range of hills that separate the two grand rivers of the region (the Rhône and the Durance).  The area is famous for producing excellent olive oil. Your first glimpse of Les Baux is from about two kilometers away as you round one of the last switchbacks on the road up.  This is a great point from which to appreciate the spectacular location of the village: in the heart of the Alpilles mountains, set atop a rocky outcrop that is crowned with a ruined castle overlooking the plains to the south.  The name refers to its site: in Provençal, a “bauç” is a rocky spur.  The name bauxite (Aluminum ore) is derived from the village name when it was first discovered there by geologist Pierre Berthier in 1821.  It has been named one of the most beautiful villages in France and has over 1.5 million visitors per year.  By contrast the upper part of the village has only 22 inhabitants.

As well as a stunning setting with expansive views, Les Beaux also has an 11th-century castle, preserved village and subterranean gallery.

  • The castle – sitting at the top of the peak – is now a ruin but the views alone make it worth exploring this rambling citadel. There is also a collection of medieval weaponry.
  • The old village – above the main village and accessed by a turnstile – is a long, narrow cobblestone street that runs up the hills between restored medieval churches, chapels and mansions. Many of the buildings are now museums, souvenir stores and restaurants.
  • The subterranean gallery is the Carrières de Lumières. An abandoned bauxite quarry where there are continuous audiovisual shows that include projecting famous art-works onto the cavernous stone walls, floors and ceilings.  Quite a spectacle but bring a sweater as it is cool in the literal sense too.

You return to St Rémy back the way you came.

Intermediate Route

This ride starts heading east out of St Rémy past orchards and fields of corn.  The route to Mollégès is flat.  There is not much in Mollégès to detain you and you soon start a gentle climb up to Eygalières – which is prettier and worth a coffee stop.  In Roman times, the town was the source of spring water that supplied the city of Arles 40 kilometers away.You are now into the Alpilles Mountains (really more hills) where olive groves and vineyards dominate the agriculture before the countryside gets wilder as you climb away from Eygalières.  You get a great view of the Alpilles ridgeline as you ride towards Maussane-les-Alpilles where you, briefly, return to the flatlands with open fields and small farms.Maussane

Maussane is a beautiful, unspoiled old town with a large central square lined with cafes and several good options for lunch.  After Maussane, you enjoy a short, twisting climb up to Les Beaux.  We would suggest allowing extra time for exploring Les Beaux – see the Easiest Route, above, for more details about visiting this hamlet.

After Les Beaux, you return to St Rémy by descending down a limestone canyon that takes you out of the Alpilles Mountains and back down to the St Rémy on the Rhône plain.  1½ kilometers out of Les Beaux – at a tight switchback – look back for outstanding views of the city perched atop the cliffs.

Challenge Route

This route follows the Intermediate Route to Eygalières.  However, after the climb out of Eygalières, you continue south to the village of Mouriès. The village is at the heart of olive oil production for the surrounding area and is France’s premier oil-producing municipality with more than 80,000 olive trees and three mills all of which are open to the public.  There is a bullring next-door to the elementary school though it is typically closed.  Mouriès also makes a nice coffee stop.After Mouriès you continue west with a fast, flat ride across to Fontvieille.  On the way to Fontvieille, just before the D33, you ride through an ancient roman aqueduct.  It is a ruin but still quite interesting to explore.  Further up the D33, you pass the Alphonse Daudet’s windmill – made famous as the symbol of the writer’s book of short stories: Letters from My Windmill.  Look for signs and parking lot on the right-hand side of the road (Le Moulin d’Daudet).

Fontvieille is one of the larger villages in the area with winding lanes and ancient houses built of stones from the local quarries.  The same stones used to build much of Arles including the Roman amphitheater.  There are several lunch options along the narrow lanes.Fontvieille

On exiting Fontvieille you head east and back into the Alpilles mountains.  You are now climbing for ten kilometers with short sections of relief.  You can see your target – the citadel village of Les Beaux perched on a cliff-top – ahead of you for much of the climb.  See the Easiest Route, above, for more details about visiting Les Beaux.

After Les Beaux, you return to St Rémy by descending down a limestone canyon that takes you out of the Alpilles Mountains and back down to the St Rémy on the Rhône plain.  1½ kilometers out of Les Beaux – at a tight switchback – look back for outstanding views of the city perched atop the cliffs.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend largely on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Les Baux-des-Provence: An option for an incredible but expensive lunch today is L’Oustau de Baumanière, a 2 Michelin Star restaurant. A legendary table beneath vaults, L’Oustau serves rarefied cuisine, with many ingredients plucked from the organic garden. The lunch menu begins at €90 per person. Please note this restaurant is not directly in the village. If you do not take the left turn up to the town but stay on the D27 the restaurant is 100m further on your RHS. Address: Mas de Baumanière, 13250, Les Baux-de-Provence.  +33 4 90 54 33 07 / www.oustaudebaumaniere.com.  Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Thurs-Tues & 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Mon & Weds.

For a more relaxed lunch at a family-run restaurant try Restaurant de la Reine Jeanne in the Hostellerie de la Reine Jeanne. It serves good, traditional food including fish & local meats that is well presented and reasonably priced. Address: Hostellerie de la Reine Jeanne, 13520, Les Baux de Provence. +33 4 90 54 32 06 / www.la-reinejeanne.com. Open: 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM & 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM, every day.

In Eygalières:  A popular option for a Provençal lunch is Sous les Micocouliers  with a creative menu featuring fresh, local produce. Service can be slow and lacking in ‘personal care’ but the food and the fabulous outdoor seating area should make up for it.  At the end of a side street on the RHS off the main high-street. Address: Traverse Montfort, 13810 Eygalières, France.  04 90 95 94 53 / www.souslesmicocouliers.com. Open 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Tues-Sun 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM Tues-Sat. Closed on Mondays.

In Maussane-les-Alpilles:  Another popular option is Restaurant La Fleur de Thym.  The excellent menu is reasonably Maussane-les-Alpillespriced, the food is well presented, and expertly flavored, with attentive wait staff. This restaurant is located on the D17 100 m after where the route turns right off the main road through the village (the D17).  Address: 15 avenue de la Vallee des Baux, 13520 Maussane-les-Alpilles, France. +33 4 90 54 54 00/ www.restaurant-lafleurdethym.com.  Open: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Tues-Fri & Sun, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Tues-Sat. Closed Mondays & Saturday lunches.

In Fontvieille: Le Bel Oustau serves a traditional French/Mediterranean lunch.  The food is simple but well-presented and full of flavor. There is great service and a friendly atmosphere. Address: 159 route du Nord, 13990 Fontvieille, Arles, France. +33 4 90 93 33 24 / www.lebeloustau-fontvieille.fr.  12:00 PM – 2:00 PM & 7:15 PM – 9:30 PM Weds-Sun. Closed Mon-Tues.

Points of Interest en Route

Wineries

L’Oustau de Baumanière in Les Baux-des-Provence holds half-day wine-discovery workshops (€190), during which you delve into L’Oustau’s amazing cellars packed with 60,000-odd bottles and taste the best vintages from the region, accompanied by lunch. +33 4 90 54 33 07 / www.oustaudebaumaniere.com. Classes from 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM followed by a food and wine paring lunch.

On the Intermediate and Challenge Routes, Domaine de la Vallongue is an estate located below a long valley (hence the name ‘la Vallongue’).  In ancient times, it was on the main road linking Rome to Spain.  With patience and a lot of hard work, Paul Cavalier has created 93 acres of vineyards from this tough terrain.  He converted all the vineyards to organic farming in 1985.  Located on the D24 just before the intersection with the D25 (on the RHS heading south).  +33 4 90 95 91 70. Open: 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:30 – 6:00 PM Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.

Further along the Intermediate Route is Du Mas de Gourgonnier (at approximately 27 KM). Owing to the unrivalled location and because of the long family tradition, Nicolas Cartier and his sons, Luc and Frederi, have developed the production of excellent red and rosé wine, awarding them the A.O.C. Les Baux de Provence (Protected Designation of Origin). They also produce a subtle, fresh, fruity white wine and a delightful olive oil. Located on the RHS of D78 about 1 KM after joining the road from the D24. +33 4 90 47 50 45. Open: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM Mon-Sat. 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 3:0 PM – 5:30 PM Sundays.

Stores

Les Baux-des-Provence has an interesting deli store, Maison Bremond 1830. Amongst other things you will find olives oils from Provence and the Mediterranean, specialties with truffles, tapenades, terrines, sweet and savory biscuits, confectionery and calissons (traditional French candies). It is located on Grand Rue in the small town and is open 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM every day.

Sights

Château des Baux crowns the village of Les Baux, the dramatic maze-like ruins date back to the 10th century. Largely destroyed in 1633, during the reign of Louis XIII, the clifftop castle is a thrilling place to explore. The towers have fantastic views and the dungeons are disused and fascinating. There is medieval-themed entertainment and hands-on action galore in summer. +33 4 90 54 55 56 / www.chateau -baux-provence.com. 9:00 AM – 8:15 PM Jul & Aug, 9:00 AM – 7:15 PM Apr – Jun & Sept, Reduced hours the rest of the year.

The cavernous Carrieres de Lumieres is a subterranean gallery in an abandoned bauxite quarry.  There are continuous audiovisual shows that include projecting famous art-works onto the cavernous stone walls, floors and ceilings.  Quite a spectacle but bring a sweater as it is cool in the literal sense too.  Located on the LHS of the D27 just before Les Baux riding in the direction of Les Baux.  http://carrieres-lumieres.com/en  +33 4 90 54 47 37.  Open from 9:30 AM to 7:00 PM.

See Saint Remy in the Towns and Cities section of this guidebook for details about visiting the Roman ruins of Glanum.

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Saint-Rémy-de-Provence to Avignon

Overview

After a relaxing morning in St. Remy (or after enjoying a morning ride) you will be met by your guide for your transfer to the end of your tour.

If you have enough time before your transfer, you might choose to explore the Roman ruins at Glanum.  Over a century of archaeological excavation on this site has revealed some outstanding ruins and recovered a fantastic collection of architectural relics.  You can see both Greek and Roman influences with buildings dating from the 2nd century BCE.Glanum

Those with more time might choose to do a loop ride to Les Baux (one of the most picturesque villages in the whole of France) or even further afield into the Alpilles Mountains.

See previous day’s ride “Saint-Rémy-de-Provence Loop Day” for more details about loop rides and visiting Les Beaux.

See the Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more details of things to do and see in St Rémy including details about visiting the Roman ruins of Glanum.

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Safety and Enjoyment

Your safety is our first priority and should be yours, too! Here, we share some ideas on helping you get the most from your cycling tour – safely and while having fun.

Riding Safely

We have a few simple rules we ask you to follow:

    1. Always wear a cycle helmet fastened securely while cycling.
    2. Do not ride at night or in the dim light of dawn or dusk.
    3. Ride in single file and with the direction of traffic.
    4. Carry identification, details of your medical/travel insurance and emergency contact details.
    5. Sign an accident waiver indicating you are fit to ride and understand the risks.
    6. All cyclists under 16 years of age:
      • Must wear a florescent safety triangle or high visibility clothing.
      • Need to be accompanied by an adult over the age of 21 who is responsible for their safety at all times while cycling.

Daily Bike Checks

Your rental bikes are checked and tuned before every trip.  However, it is useful to do some regular checks just to keep things running smoothly. These checks should take less than five minutes to do.  Of course, if you’re in any doubt or have any concerns, give us a call and we’ll have a guide come out to you.  If they can’t fix a problem they’ll arrange for a new bike.

Brakes: 

  • Do both brake levers engage the brakes smoothly?  This test is best performed first on a stationary bike and then on a moving bike.
  • Are the shoes spaced evenly on either side of the wheel and the brake blocks close to but not rubbing on the wheel rims?
  • Are cables OK – not frayed – and under tension?

Handlebars & stem:

  • Check alignment – does the wheel point forward when the handlebars point forward?
  • Holding front wheel between legs check for lateral movement when flexing/twisting handlebars.
  • With front brake engaged, move bike back and forth to check for any rocking.  If there is movement, the headset may need tightening.

Gear changing.  This check is easily done as you set out at the start of your ride:

  • Check all front gears engage/change smoothly
  • Check all rear gears engage/change smoothly
  • Are cables OK – not frayed?

Chain:

  • If you’ve been riding in rain or on wet roads, you may want to wipe off your chain and apply a little lube the night before.  In the morning, run a clean rag over the chain to remove any excess oil.
  • But don’t overdo it; an over-oiled chain just attracts dirt.

Wheels & tires:

  • Inflate front & back tires to recommended tire pressure which should be written on the side.
  • Check front & rear wheels spin smoothly with little friction or noise and are true (no wobbles).
  • Check there are no loose or broken spokes in either wheel.
  • Check tires including sidewalls for cuts or other damage.
  • Check tires for any foreign bodies embedded in the tires and remove / replace tires as needed.
  • Are the quick-release mechanisms secure, correctly engaged and pointing backwards?

Frame:

  • Check for cracks and alignment in the frame, the headset & the handlebars – especially if you accidentally dropped the bike.
  • Pay extra attention and feel for problems in carbon forks and carbon rear stays where fitted.
  • General check for any loose parts.

Riding Safely

Here are our favorite top tips to help you have a safe trip.

  1. Ride predictably in smooth lines and avoid weaving or wobbling. When you stop – for example to check your map – we recommend that you move off the road. The more people there are in your group, the more important this becomes.
  2. Stay alert, be aware and anticipate; anticipate what other vehicles will do, anticipate what gear you will need to be in after you stop and anticipate the approaching road surface – do you need to avoid gravel, potholes or broken glass? Should you dismount to cross railroad tracks?  [FACT: 50% of urban accidents happen solo.  That is, people just fall off of their own accord.  A little anticipation would work wonders here.]
  3. Be as visible as you can be. Our fluorescent triangles are available to all guests and we recommend that riders of all standards wear them.  [When riding with our florescent triangles, we have noticed that cars give us a noticeably wider berth as they pass by.]
  4. Choose a safe riding position on the road. Stay as close as is safe to the right-hand side of the road as possible but do not be cowed into a dangerous riding position.  For example, avoid riding on grit, or dangerously broken pavement or where you are at risk of being hit by an opening car door.
  5. Obey the law. Drivers will give cyclist more respect, and you are far safer, if you obey all the traffic laws – including stopping at stop signs, riding on the right-hand side of the road and not riding under the influence of alcohol.  [FACT: 10% of ‘cyclist at fault’ accidents are caused by cyclist using the wrong side of the road.]
  6. Ride assertively but defensively. At intersections, make eye contact with drivers.  Assertive riding is easier for drivers to predict, but cars are bigger and harder than we are, so we always try to avoid getting into confrontations with them.  [FACT: 63% of cyclist collisions occur at intersections.  The most common cause of accidents, where the driver is at fault, is the driver’s failure to yield the right of way.]
  7. Check out your bike and make sure you are confident that it is roadworthy. Everyday check brakes, tires, quick release mechanisms, pedals and headsets.  Everything should fit snuggly and move smoothly.  Whether you are riding your own or a rented bike, the roadworthiness of that bike is your responsibility.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Cyclists

[Apologies to Stephen Covey]

As well as having a safe tour, we are keen for you to enjoy cycling and achieve a real sense of accomplishment.  This is likely to include riding within your limits and not exhausting yourself before lunch.  Here are some thoughts on how to stay happy on your bike.

  1. Eat before you are hungry. Even moderate cycling burns around 300 calories per hour so eat plenty of snacks such as power bars or trail mix.  We need to eat in enough time to allow our bodies to process the food and get the fuel to our legs before the fuel gauge reaches on empty.  Recovering from a fuel deficit is very difficult and will leave you tired for the rest of the day.  So, indulge yourself.  [Everybody’s metabolism is different, but when riding extended distances, it is typical to need to eat something every 45 minutes.  A nice big bowl of pasta the night before and a carbohydrate rich breakfast in the morning also help.]
  2. Drink before you are thirsty. It can get very hot on the bike in this area.  As you sweat, you will lose both water and essential salts.  You will not notice the effects until it is too late.  Drink plenty of water before you start to ride and then take regular sips en route.  [A good target is to drink either water or a sports drink at least every 30 minutes.]
  3. Ride at a pace that feels comfortable. Even when climbing hills, it is good practice to be able to keep a conversation going without being out of breath.  This means changing down to a low gear, keeping your cadence high and taking things easy.  If you are a slow rider riding with fitter friends, have them ride at your pace rather than you struggling to keep up with them.  This will also help them avoid sore legs the next day.
  4. The sun can get very intense, especially in the middle of the day so keep your shirt on and use a high factor sunscreen. [Watch for being burned through the gaps in your cycle helmet.  Many of the best helmets have extra wide gaps for better ventilation.  A bandana under the helmet can make all the difference.]
  5. Relax and change your hand position regularly. This helps avoid shoulder cricks or back aches.  Drop handlebars are better for being able to do this than straight handlebars.
  6. Check your bike. A sticking brake or skipping gear stops you relaxing and can be dangerous.  If you are unsure, talk to your guide, who will be happy to help you check things out if you have a concern.
  7. Smile, you are on vacation!

Seat Height Adjustment

Seat height adjustment is more craft than science.  The most important thing is that you feel safe and confident on the bike.  However, getting your saddle to the right height will also help you stay comfortable on longer rides, avoid saddle sores and conserve your energy while you pedal.

Bike fitters can spend hours getting your fit just right, but here are some simple rules of thumb.

  1. Stand and hold or prop yourself up against a wall.
  2. Position the pedals so the pedal cranks are vertical (one pedals at 12 o’clock and one pedal at 6 o’clock).
  3. Get on your bike and place your feet on the pedals. Move your foot so that your heel is on the pedal at 6 o’clock.
  4. When your seat is at the correct height, your leg (of the foot at 6 o’clock) should be straight but your knee shouldn’t be locked (technically, there should be a 25-30-degree flexion in the knee when the pedal is at the bottom most point).

If your seat is too low, it will make it harder to pedal and you may get knee pain at the front of the knee.  Too high and your hips will go from side to side which will make you tend to ride in too high a gear and you may develop pain at the back of your knees.

Saddle Sores

Saddle sores are the great unmentioned subject of cycling.  However, if you have not been riding much recently and start doing a lot of miles on a bike, you may well become just a little too familiar with this phenomenon.

To prevent sores, it’s helpful to know what they are.  Definition: A saddle sore is a skin ailment on the buttocks due to, or exacerbated by, riding on a bicycle saddle.  It often develops in three stages: skin abrasion, folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles) and, finally, abscess.  If it’s not obvious from the definition, it is better to stop the sores in the early stages than try and treat it in the final stage.

The best cure of all is to not get them in the first place.  The best way not to get them is to gradually build up your riding mileage and get used to your bike seat.  Doing rides before you come on the trip will help with this.  Other good preventative measures include:

  • Reducing the friction due to bobbing or swinging motion while pedaling, by setting the appropriate saddle height – see above.
  • If you have a favorite saddle, bring it along and we’ll fit it to your rental bike.
  • Wearing good cycling shorts, with a high-quality chamois insert.
  • Use petroleum jelly, chamois cream or lubricating gel on the chamois to further reduce friction.
  • Do not sit around in damp bike shorts after your ride and thoroughly wash and dry the affected area.
  • A friend who guides extreme mountain biking trips in the Colorado Rockies swears by putting hemorrhoid cream on the affected area. If all else fails, it’s worth a try!

There are pharmacies in all the main towns you’ll stay in if you need medical treatment.  Our primary message would be, if you think you have them, don’t ignore them.

Fixing a Flat

Of course, we hope you won’t ever need this skill – but just in case here is a checklist for fixing a flat – or repairing a puncture in your tyre as the English would say!  If it seems as though there are a lot of steps, you may be reassured by the fact we have seen all these steps completed in just over a minute

Remove the wheel. Sounds simple, but a couple of hints might make this easier.

  • If it’s the rear wheel, first put the chain on the smallest cog. This makes it easier to remove and replace the wheel.
  • Undo the quick release.
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to unscrew the quick release a little to get it over the lips on the fork – they’re known as lawyers’ lips!
  • You may have to loosen the brakes a little to get the tire past the brake blocks if there is still some air in the tires. On hybrid bikes this usually means squeezing the brake calipers together and unhitching the cable.  On road bikes there is usually a release mechanism on the caliper itself (or on the brake lever).
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel just drops out under gravity.

Let the air out of the tire.

  • For Presta valves, loosen the small nut at the top of the valve and press down.
  • For Schrader valves (like the valves on car tires) press the tip of a tool or stick onto the valve tip.

Before doing anything else, spin the wheel to see if you can find out what caused the flat. If you find it, either remove it now or mark it so you can remove it when you remove the tire.

If you’re very lucky, you’ll now be able to ease the tire off the rim with your bare hands. But to do this you may well need bear’s hands. Alternatively, you’ll need to use tire levers (irons):

  1. Insert the curved end of two tire levers under the edge of the tire about two spokes apart.
  2. Lever back the first tire lever to take the tire off the rim being careful not to pinch the inner tube and so add an extra hole to patch! Hook the free end of the lever around a spoke.  This leaves your hands free to lever back the second tire lever.
  3. Keeping the hooked lever stationary work the other lever around the tire until one side of the tire is completely removed from the rim but leaving the other side still seated on the rim. If a tire is very tight, you may need to engage a third lever.  When the third is in place, the middle one can be removed and re-inserted farther over.
  4. Remove the valve stem of the inner tube first then pull the rest of the inner tube from the tire. Try to keep the inner tube oriented with the tire so that when you find the hole you can navigate back to the same point in the tire and double check that what caused the flat isn’t still embedded.
  5. Look over the external and inside of the tire for damage and embedded debris. Remove any objects.  Then run your finger around the inside of the tire (carefully!) to detect any glass or thorns.  As a final check, inflate the tube and locate the puncture hole.  Check the tire at the corresponding place to ensure the offending object has been removed.  If you skip this step or are just a bit sloppy you may have another flat five minutes after getting back on your bike!
  6. Hopefully, you have a spare tube that your nice tour company gave you at the start of your ride. If not you’ll need to repair the hole in the old tube using a patch kit.
  7. Place some air in the new (or repaired) tube – just enough to give it some shape. Insert the valve stem on the tube into the valve hole in the wheel and then ease the rest of the tube into the tire.  Then ease the tire wall so the tube is sitting in line with the wheel not hanging outside of the wheel.

Now the tricky part.  Starting at the valve, work the tire back onto the rim using your thumbs or the muscle in the palm just under the thumb (actually the abductor pollicis brevis though knowing this won’t help you get the tire back on).  If the last section is hard to get on, try these things:

  • Ensure that the tire that is inside of the wheel is sitting well into the rim.
  • Hold the wheel horizontally against your stomach with the section of wheel without the tire on furthest away from you. Then use your abductor pollicis brevises to roll the tire onto the rim.
  • If none of this helps, use tire levers to work the bead onto the rim. However, if you resort to this there is a real risk of pinching the inner tube and creating another hole and being back to Step 4 above!

Inflate the tire.

As you inflate ensure that the tire is sitting evenly in the wheel.  If not, let out a little wire and reseat the tire in the rim.

When inflated, spin the wheel to ensure there are no bulges or wobbles. If there are, deflate the tire, reseat the tire on the rim and re-inflate.

Replace the wheel. (This is pretty much the reverse of Step 1.)

  • If you didn’t need to loosen the brakes to get the deflated wheel off, you may find you need to do it now to get it back on. A tap with the palm of your hand can also do the trick to ease the tire past the brake blocks.  DON’T FORGET TO RETIGHTEN THE BRAKES BEFORE HEADING OFF!
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to retighten the quick release a little after getting it over the fork lips before reengaging the quick release. The pressure needed to close the quick release should be enough to leave a small mark on the palm of your hand but not so much you need to apply all your strength and all the strength of your cycling partner to close it.
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel drops into place.

My Customized Itinerary

If you’ve made it this far, there’s likely an Oregon cycling trip in your future. We’d love to create the perfect custom itinerary for you! Please submit your request below for a no-obligation personalized cycling vacation to be created for you.

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