France's Langue d'Oc region has always been a border region - between Spain and France, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and, in ancient times, between Rome and northern Gaul. Today it is classic Mediterranean France with vast expanses of vineyards, vestiges of Roman history in Nimes and Narbonne, and a mix of languages that include classic French, traditional Occitan and Catalan.
Join us to bicycle and explore this little traveled region. We pedal from classical Roman Provence in Nimes into the Cévennes Mountains, made famous to the English speaking world by Robert Louis Stevenson in his classic travel book, Travels with a Donkey. Then we are mostly on the Languedoc plain, cycling flat and quiet country roads across the Canal du Midi as we pass wine estates and wine villages.A highlight of this tour is two nights in Carcassonne, perhaps the best preserved Medieval fortress town in Europe. We have two, two night stays on this trip so you can take it easy or explore long extra rides at your leisure. The tour ends with two days in the foothills of the Pyrenees exploring river gorges and plateaus in one of France's most spectacular bicycle regions. As on all of our tours, food is central to this ride and we'll enjoy a mix of French, Provençal and Catalan cuisine with local wines.
***If this sounds great but you'd like a shorter tour, check out our Bicycling Languedoc tour, which shortens this itinerary by 3 days.***
Day 1: Arrive in Nîmes
Highlights: Roman buildings including the amphitheater or "Arena" and the Maison Carrée, a Roman temple in the Center of NîmesOur tour begins today in Nîmes, one of several cities founded along or near the Rhone River by the Romans in the first and second centuries B.C. Take time to visit the best-preserved Roman amphitheater in France, the "Arena" which is still used for Provençal style bull fights and the Maison Carrée, a perfectly preserved Roman temple dating to 16 BC. We'll fit bicycles this afternoon and suggest a warm up ride for those who wish. We have a welcome dinner together this evening. Distance: Warm up rides of 5-15km (3-9 miles).
Lodging: Hotel Imperator Concorde
Day 2: Bicycle from Nîmes to Anduze
Highlights: Mediterranean villages, the smell of lavender, sage, rosemary, Costières de Nîmes wines, unique Bamboo Forest reserveWe ride west into Languedoc through small wine villages of the Costières de Nîmes today. Aromatic drought resistant scrub bushes and plants, including lavender, sage and rosemary, dot the landscape. Our hotel is in the foothills of the Costiéres de Nîmes a few kilometers outside of Anduze. Take time to visit the Bamboo Forest that you'll pass by just before our hotel. It hosts a fascinating collection of exotic, tropical plants including 150 species of bamboo, Sequoia and banana trees. We'll enjoy dinner together tonight. Distance: 55km (34 miles).
Lodging: L'Auberge les 3 Barbus
Day 3: Bicycle from Anduze to Ganges
Highlights: One of our favorite bicycle rides anywhereWe pedal into the foothills of the Cévennes Mountains where you'll have spectacular views and a gentle pace as we explore medieval villages that seem frozen in time. People who have ridden today's route tell us it is one of the prettiest rides on any of our tours. It was in the high Cévennes that Robert Louis Stevenson walked with his donkey, Modestine, and wrote his classic Travels with a Donkey. Enjoy traffic-free roads not much wider than a bike path. Our hotel is located just outside of Ganges nestled between the foothills of the Cévennes and the great plain of Languedoc. Dinner is on your own this evening. Distance: 62km (38 miles).
Lodging: Hotel Les Norias
Day 4: Ride from Ganges to Mourèze
Highlights: The Herault Gorge, St. Guilhem le Desert, Pont du Diable (the "devil's bridge")We leave the Cévennes Mountains behind as we glide downhill through the gorge of the Herault River. We'll pedal to the banks of the river where our canoes await us for an exciting descent into the gorge. As we take in a whole new perspective from the water we'll stop for a swim and lunch before arriving in St. Guilhem le Desert. Here, in 904 AD William of Gellone established a monastery. The village still retains an ancient Medieval atmosphere. Part of the cloister from the monastery was moved to Manhattan in the 1930s and is now "The Cloisters" portion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Those of you who wish to skip the canoeing will have the option of cycling the entire route. Our hotel, with dinner together, is near Clermont L'Hérault tonight. Distance: 55-62 km (34- 39 miles)
Lodging: Auberge de Val Mourèze
Day 5: Bicycle around Lac du Salagou, go for a hike, or relax by the pool
Highlights: Rest day in wine country, swimming pool, optional ride, Cirque de MourèzeWe're in the same hotel tonight so this is your opportunity to take a rest at the hotel, a hike to the fascinating rock formations of the Cirque de Mourèze, a ride around the Lac du Salagou, or a more aggressive ride into the foothills of the Cévennes. We'll support the ride around the lake for those interested and we'll suggested longer rides if you'd like. Dinner is together again tonight. Optional rides from 30-80 km (19-50 miles).
Lodging: Auberge de Val Mourèze
Day 6: Bicycle from Mourèze to Narbonne
Highlights: Roman Narbonne, Narbonne's 13th century cathedral, Canal du MidiWe're on the road again today among vineyards and farmland as we head to the ancient Roman city of Narbonne. Narbonne was built along the Via Domitia, the Roman road that connected Italy with Spain during the second century B.C. when Rome expanded beyond the Alps. We'll bypass the busy city of Beziers and cross the famous Canal du Midi just to the south near the impressive "nine-locks" of Fonséranes. The canal connects Atlantic France with the Rhone River and Mediterranean France. Narbonne was and continues to be a major transportation corridor on the great coastal plain of Languedoc. Distance: 82km (52 miles).
Lodging: Hotel La Residence
Day 7: Bicycle from Narbonne to Carcassonne
Highlights: Flat rides on small country roads, Corbières vineyards, Canal du Midi, CarcassonneOur leisurely ride today takes us across the flat plains of Languedoc to the perfectly preserved late Medieval town of Carcassonne. This corridor between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, bounded on the south by the Pyrenees Mountains, has been an important transportation route since pre-Roman times. Completed in the 13th century, the famous walls of Carcassonne were restored in the late 19th century. Dinner is together this evening. Distance: 74km (45 miles).
Lodging: Mercure Porte de la Cité
Day 8: Loop ride out of Carcassonne
Highlights: CarcassonneTake a loop ride north of Carcassonne today toward the "Montagne Noire." Like the Cévennes, "Black Mountain" is a part of France's central mountains, the "Massif Central." Depending on how far you venture, you may begin to see the transition zone where Mediterranean vegetation begins to give way to a wetter, more Atlantic vegetation zone. Today's ride should leave you plenty of time to wander the Medieval streets of Carcassonne. Dinner is on your own this evening. Distance: 40km (25 miles) or more for those who wish.
Lodging: Mercure Porte de la Cité
Day 9: Bicycle from Carcassonne to Cucugnan
Highlights: Blanquete de Limoux vineyards, Cathar castles, river gorges and beautiful vistas in the foothills of the PyreneesSome vintners in Limoux would have you believe that they produced sparkling wines even before Champagne did. We'll ride through this wine region south of Carcassonne as we enter the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. Today's ride features meandering river valleys, steep sided gorges, and perched Cathar castles. Bicycling has been a part of the local culture since the Tour de France came through here in 1909. Our destination is the small town of Cucugnan and dinner is together tonight. Distance: 87km (53 miles).
Lodging: L'Auberge de Cucugnan
Day 10: Bicycle to Perpignan
Highlights: Queribus castle, Cathar castle ruins, Perpignan CathedralIn Nîmes we were on the border of Provence and Languedoc where Occitan was the historic language. Today we pedal out of the Pyrenees to Perpignan and enter another border region between France and Spain where Catalan is the second language. The bicycling here is exhilarating and the culture unique to this corner of France. In Perpignan you'll want to visit the palace of the Kings of Majorca and St. John's Cathedral, both built by Spanish kings who controlled the region off and on over four centuries. We'll enjoy a final dinner together this evening. Distance: 51km (31 miles).
Lodging: Mercure Perpignan Centre
Day 11: Tour ends in Perpignan
Highlights: Bon VoyageOur tour ends today in Perpignan. Perpignan was once the capital of the Kingdom of Mallorca so perhaps you'd like to continue your travels to that exotic island. Alternatively, Barcelona is not far across the border. Whatever you choose, "bon voyage," or, as they say in Catalan "bon viatge!"
HighlightsNimes, Bamboo Forest Reserve, Canoe down the Herault River, Carcassonne, Great bicycle rides, St. Guilhem le Desert, Canal du Midi, Cathar castles, Kings of Majorca and St. John's Cathedral
Includes"The Usual" plus... Use of a quality 27-30 speed bicycle; 11 days, 10 nights' accommodation; 10 breakfasts, 7 dinners with wine;
Begin/EndNimes / Perpignan
Arrive/DepartNimes Airport (FNI), Marseille Provence Airport (MRS) / Marseille Provence Airport (MRS), Barcelona (BCN)
Total Distance538 - 605 km (332 - 373 miles)
Daily DistanceAverage daily mileage: 54 - 60 km (33 - 37 miles) with options for days off the bike
What to ExpectSouthern France's border region of Languedoc, features wine estates, Roman ruins, the Medieval fortress town of Carcassonne, and two days exploring the river gorges and plateaus in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains.
Mostly flat riding on the Plains of Languedoc with some climbing days in the Cévennes Mountains and the foothills of the Pyrenees