In 2005, Great Explorations will be creating a custom trip for Cascade Bicycle Club that will include an opportunity to see the Tour de France. We will be based in Provence, which features some of the best cycling in the country. This region is also known for outstanding food, fine wines and temperate climate. We'll be cycling a route that will include the region's market towns, wine-making villages and medieval cities. We'll taste wine in centuries old caves, see Roman antiquities, visit hill-top castles steeped in history and stroll markets at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and others. We'll be on hand when the Tour comes through the region and will be "front and center" when the peleton passes.
Arrival Day 1: Avignon
We recommend arriving from Paris by TGV train taking just over 2 hours. Your hotel is included on this day, with time for bike set-up and or fitting. We'll have a relaxing first day, but there is time to do a warm-up ride on quiet roads along the Rhône River. For those that prefer to enjoy a walking tour of the historical district and the Palais des Papes, we'll arrange this in the late afternoon, after which we'll enjoy our first night's dinner at a favorite restaurant in town.
Lodging, 1 night: Bristol Hotel, Avignon A very comfortable hotel, ideally located in the historical district of the city center.
Cycling west from Avignon, we'll soon find ourselves immersed in Côte du Rhône vineyards en-route to Tavel, in a region that has made wine for centuries. Afterwards, we'll continue through quaint villages including St. Victor la Coste towards Uzès. On the next day, we'll have an opportunity to watch the Tour and this promises to be a highlight! We'll be watching (and riding) a section of the stage from Miramas to Montpellier as the peleton races across Provence. For those that might like to do extra riding, just north of Uzès there is a pretty village of St. Quentin-la-Poterie where potters invite us to see the unique style typical of this region. Afterwards you might continue to La Roque sur Cèze, known as one of les plus beaux villages en France. The riding is along quiet country roads, amongst vineyards and orchards. In Uzès, we'll stay at a wonderful hotel in the historical center.
Lodging, 2 nights: Hotel Entraigues, Uzès Every room is unique, being part of a collection of chateaux and manor houses that make up this atmospheric hotel with pool. Or Hotel Colombier, Uzès This hotel is located in a tranquil spot on the Gard River, close to the Pont du Gard.
Making our way south, we'll visit the extraordinary Pont du Gard, the aqueduct built by the Romans in the third century and one of the most remarkable sites in Europe. Crossing the Rhône River, we'll continue on to Barbentane, with its Renaissance château and the Abbey de Frigolet, where monks still carry on centuries-old traditions. Arriving to St. Rémy, you'll find it the perfect village to explore, filled with cafes, restaurants and artisan shops. On our second day here, we'll ride to Les Baux de Provence with its remarkable pilgrimage site. In the afternoon, we'll meet with an art historian and walk "in the footsteps of van Gogh" as we visit the asylum where he painted some of his best works. On the next day, we will offer another loop ride as this area has lots to choose from. We'll stay at a comfortable hotel with swimming pool, and private park, enjoying our evening meals in St. Rémy's best restaurants.
Lodging 3 nights: Mas des Carassins, St. Rémy Rated by Trip Advisor as the #1 hotel in St. Rémy, we couldn't agree more. The 19th century mas (farmhouse) and pool are surrounded by gardens and the restaurant is superb. Or Hotel du Soleil, St. Rémy A charming hotel with swimming pool and private park close to the town center.
From St. Rémy, we'll ride east, crossing the Durance River at Cavaillon, making our way first to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, where one of France's best market towns await. Afterwards, we'll continue to Gordes, the quintessential hill-town where we'll stay for two nights. On our next day we'll visit the hill-top villages of Roussillon, Lacoste and Menerbes.
There are lunch spots in each of these to choose between and other sites to see, including perhaps the world's largest collection of wine corkscrews in a wine museum (with tasting) en route.
Lodging 2 nights: Hotel Les Romarins, Gordes A charming boutique hotel with views over Gordes, and an inviting pool and gardens. Or La Gacholle de Gordes, Gordes. Located above Gordes this is one of our favourite hotels in the region.
Departure Day: Transfer to Avignon for onward travel.