Whole Journeys: Pedaling Provence

  • Itinerary Summary

    Join ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours and Whole Journeys - a division of Whole Foods Market® - on a new "Active Foodie" adventure that explores local landscapes through activities like visiting historic villages & cycling through breathtaking countrysides while focusing on the culture and traditions of food in each destination. We have two itineraries planned in 2014; Whole Journeys Pedaling Provence and Whole Journeys Culinary Delights Plus! the Farm.

    With its stunning country roads that wind through vineyards, perched villages, olive groves, and forests, and lavender fields, Provence has become a paradise for touring cyclists and foodies alike. This tour includes some culinary highlights that range from splendid Mediterranean feasts accompanied by Côtes-de-Rhône wines and exquisite olive oils, to Provençal herbs and cheese. France's small country roads will lead you to discover the secrets behind the local artisans' savoir-faire.

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    1. Day 1: Arrival in Arles

      Highlights: Roman monuments

      We'll meet at our hotel in medieval Arles - the home of Roman and Romanesque Monuments listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites - on the banks of the Rhône River around 2pm. Perfectly located in the heart of the historic center, this 3-star hotel has an antique-inspired spa, and a restaurant with one of the most beautiful gardens in Arles.

      The Romans bridged the Rhône here during the first century BC, and today, the city has a well-preserved Roman theater and arena. The arena is still used for Provençal bullfights.

      This afternoon, we'll fit bicycles and plan a warm-up ride to some of the local sites around Arles so we can get to know our bicycles. Welcome dinner as a group tonight together.

      Distance: 25-35 km (15-20 miles) or more.

      Lodging: Hotel La Calendal

    2. Day 2: Explore Arles

      Highlights: market and cooking lesson with local chef

      Aside from its wealth of historical monuments, Arles puts on one of the largest outdoor markets in France on Saturdays. As we stroll the Boulevard des Lices, we'll find vendors selling fresh cheese, white asparagus, strawberries and apricots in the spring, and in the fall; game birds and a glorious array of wild mushrooms. During most seasons, one can find wonderful artisan baskets, exotic spices, as well as lavender-ladened soaps and perfumes. Today, we will have the opportunity to explore and interact with the vendors, accompanied by a local chef, who will then take us back to his home for a cooking class. The lesson concludes with lunch, during which we'll enjoy the fruits of our labor.

      This afternoon, if you wish to head out on a ride to stretch your legs, we'll gladly recommend and mark a route. Dinner is on your own tonight.

      Distance: optional; 30-40 km (18-23 miles)

      Lodging: Hotel La Calendal

    3. Day 3: Cycle to St-Rémy

      Highlights: quintessential French villages, chocolate and wine tasting

      Today we'll enter the heart of Provence where language and culture have been best preserved; the small villages we'll pass through are as authentic as it gets.

      And there's no better place to end today's ride as St. Rémy; bursting with colorful cafés, historic monuments, museums, and restaurants. Upon arrival, we'll sample the creations of a local chocolate maker who uses local and seasonal ingredients - well paired with some local wines. (We'll make it a blind tasting to put our taste buds to the test!) Our hotel for the next two nights is located 300 meters from the town center. An early 20th century family house, it was turned into a hotel in 1952 and has been run by the same family for three generations.

      We'll enjoy dinner together this evening. Distance: 27 km (17 miles)

      Lodging: Le Castelet des Alpilles

    4. Day 4: Loop Ride to Les Baux

      Highlights: olive press visit and oil tasting

      Our ride today takes us to the fortress of Les Baux through landscapes that inspired Vincent Van Gogh while he was living in a sanitarium in St. Rémy. We'll take a short steep climb to get to the rocky crag where the Lords of Baux ruled the valley for 600 years, and will be rewarded along the way by a beautiful route that winds into the Alpilles hills through pine forests, amazing rock formations, and old Roman quarries.

      There will be an opportunity to visit an olive press and taste the oil from the olives grown in the area. There is an extended loop ride available. Dinner is on your own tonight.

      Distance: 20-55 km (12-29 miles)

      Lodging: Le Castelet des Alpilles

    5. Day 5: Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

      Highlights: melon farm, Luberon Natural Park

      Today we pedal into the Luberon Natural Park with its spectacular hilltop villages, and we'll enjoy valley views as we wind down through countryside to reach the village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, built around the mysterious spring of the Sorgue River surging out from underneath a towering limestone cliff. This region is famous for its melon, and we'll tour a local melon farm and chat with the farmers about what makes them so special, while enjoying a taste of some of the best fruit around.

      Our ideally situated hotel for the next two nights was previously an old mill, with a history of wine growing. A tranquil property; you'll find ample space in which to relax after an invigorating day's ride.

      For those more active among us, you'll have the option of riding along quiet, scenic roads to the beautiful 11th century Cistercian Sénanque Abbey this afternoon before meeting for dinner this evening.

      Distance: 60 km (38 miles)

      Lodging: Hotel du Poete

    6. Day 6: Loop Ride to Roussillon

      Highlights: Bories village in Gordes, ochre-colored hills

      We'll see one of the most unique villages in Provence today as we discover the vibrantly colored ochre cliffs of Roussillon. As pretty as a picture; you'll literally feel as though you're in a painting, with a beautiful palette of reds, yellows, and everything in between. We'll take some time to witness how pigments are harvested to make dyes that are exported all over the world and used in village construction.

      Another destination is the perched village of Gordes, one of the most prominent villages of the Luberon. Nestled there is a village of stone huts that is not only an architectural masterpiece, but a fascinating glimpse into the Provence of the past. Dinner on your own tonight.

      Distance: 60 km (38 miles)

      Lodging: Hotel du Poete

    7. Day 7: Cycle to Lourmarin

      Highlights: morning market, picnic at a perched village, dinner in a converted farm estate

      We'll enjoy a more challenging ride today to one of the Luberon perched villages (Menerbes, Lacoste, Bonnieux). We will also visit with a local artisan. We'll stop along the way to visit the L'Isle sur la Sorgue market - one of the most colorful Proven&ccircon;al markets specializing in fresh salmon, ham, bakery goods, scarves, espadrilles (artisan shoes), linens, pottery and of course, organically grown fruits and vegetables.

      Tonight's dinner at our new hotel - an old converted farm estate - will be one to remember; we will meet the chef and his wife who run the hotel, and they will give us a tour of their herb garden, before teaching us how to make a delicious French apéritif. Distance: 48 km (28 miles)

      Lodging: Le Mas de Guilles

    8. Day 8: À Bientôt!


      This morning we have the option of visiting the smaller morning market in Lourmarin for an hour, after an early breakfast. This market is held in a captivating space and offers all the delights of the larger markets in a more colorful, intimate environment. We'll then provide a shuttle to the TGV station in Aix - en - Provence or to the Marseille airport for anyone flying from Marseille.

    • Highlights

      Medieval Arles with Roman and Romanesque UNESCO World Heritage Sites, cooking class with a local chef, Luberon Natural Park, melon farm tour, sample olive oil from a local olive press, bicycle riding through landscapes that inspired Van Gogh
    • Includes

      Use of a high-quality 27-30 speed bicycle, 8 days, 7 nights' accommodation; 4 dinners with wine, 1 lunch, & 7 breakfasts; special visits listed in the itinerary, cue sheets with supplemental chalk-dust arrows in town
    • Countries

    • Begin/End

      Arles / Lourmarin
    • Arrive/Depart

      Marseille Airport (MRS) / Marseille Airport
    • Total Distance

      270-325 km (164-191 mi)
    • Daily Distance

      30-50 km (18-31 mi)
    • Rating

      201 Rolling terrain with some short steep climbs to perched villages and panoramas.
    • Terms

      Terms & Conditions
  • Dates Price Private Room Charge Notes

    * We are happy to match solo travelers who would like to share a room with someone of the same gender. If no match exists, due to hotel pricing, we will charge 50% of the private room charge. This charge will be collected at the time of the final payment. If a roommate assignment is available it will be refunded at the conclusion of the tour.

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