For centuries the vineyards, forests, and lavender fields of Provence have attracted artists and authors to this charming corner of southeastern France. It is divided into five departments: Bouches-du-Rhône, Var, Alpes-Maritimes, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, and Vaucluse, and is easily one of the most irresistible parts of the country. Its favorable climate and beautiful vistas also make travelling to this historical region an unforgettable experience.
Provence has been and continues to be a great source of creative inspiration. And now Whole Journeys have come up with a perfect itinerary to explore its nature and lovely villages by bicycle, all the while making stops to sample some of the region’s culinary delights and specialties. Some tastings will even be held at a local chef’s home.
The meeting place for the eight-day tour is Arles, where you will warm up on your bicycle by exploring the city’s Roman monuments. On the next day’s agenda is a local chef-led tour of one of the largest outdoor markets in France for fresh cheese, mushrooms, vegetables and fruits, exotic spices, and local products like baskets and lavender soaps. After the tour you’ll attend a cooking class at the chef’s home, walk through spots where Vincent van Gogh painted, and feast on traditional Provençal dishes.
Day three will put everyone’s taste to the test by pairing chocolates with local wines. You’ll cycle through orchards and olive groves to the village of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where the buildings, language, and culture are well-preserved.
Other highlights of pedaling through Provence are the fortress of Les Baux, the countryside landscapes which served as Van Gogh’s inspiration, the Alpilles hills, the Lubéron Regional Natural Park, the 11th century Cistercian Sénanque Abbey, the vibrant ochre cliffs of Roussillon, and searching markets like the colorful L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue’s market for espadrilles (artisan shoes).
Provence’s culinary delights will be showcased through its organic olive oil, ratatouille – a traditional French Provençal dish, capon, lavender ice cream, the famous melon of Vaucluse, typical French apéritifs, and lots of local wine.
This tour is an ideal one for active foodies. There is a standard cycling route that all participants will follow but there are also optional routes for more advanced cyclists who want to explore further into Provence. And as you will be pedaling for miles, you won’t feel so guilty about feasting on the local specialties.
The next Pedaling Provence tour will take place from May 16th to May 23rd 2014 and again from September 26th to October 3rd.