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Cycling in Provence - our way

Posted 01 Jan 2016

Every year thousands of people flock to go cycling in Provence - many of them with Cycling for Softies. It's easy to see the appeal: sultry days under azure skies; bustling towns filled life and glamour; dishes bursting with freshness and Mediterraean flavour.

We've been organising cycling holidays in Provence for 30 years, so we feel we've got the measure of the place. If you're looking to get the most out of your trip, here's what we recommend: 

1.  What the Romans did for you
As spectaular as the aquaduct at Pont du Gard or the amphitheatre at Arles undoubtedly are, they are many less famous legacies from the Roman occupation that are equally stunning. Our favourite is the remarkable 'lost town' of Glanum, just a kilometre outside our base at St Rémy de Provence. With gigantic arches and the original street layout still clearly visible it's literally a walk through history. Yet it's quite possible you'll be the only person there. 

2. Make the most of the markets
No trip to Provence would be complete without a good browse in at least one of its fabulous markets. Peppery wafts from the barrels of olives mingle with the sweetness of the lavender stalls. Pick up a picnic lunch of juicy melon and peaches, dried ham, spit-roasted chicken with potatoes and beans, and of course a bottle of something local to wash it down with. For presents, look for stalls selling brightly coloured pottery (a potential challenge to carry back on the bike), truffles, or the more portable Provençal linen with their distinctive designs.  

3. Follow the fête
If you're lucky enough to catch a traditional festival while cycling in Provence, we guarantee it will be the highlight of your holiday. In St Rémy, we love the beautiful  and ancient Fête de la Transhumance, when thousands of sheep and goats are brought through the town on their way to their summer pasture in the Alps. The altogether more raucous Feria de St Rémy in August celebrates the area's bovine heritage (without ever killing the bulls). Throughout the region you'll find open-air music and, of course, food and wine feature heavily in the events calendar.  

4. Take time to relax
Brits are used to being busy - perhaps it's part of our relentless attempt to beat the cold. In Provence there is no such urgency. Lunchtime starts at 12 and may continue until 2 or even 3pm. It is perfectly respectable to spend an afternoon in a café terrase, sipping pastis and watching the world go by. Alternatively, find a shady olive tree and be lulled to sleep by the see-saw hum of the cicadas. When exploring Provence by bike we always suggest you do the bulk of your pedalling in the morning before the sun reaches its full strength. 

5. Lose yourself in the Luberon hills
There are many wonderful places to cycle in Provence but a great place to start is the Luberon Cycle Trail. It's a fabulous 236km route that you can pick up at any point. Using tiny back roads in the foothills it encompasses many of the region's best sites and prettiest villages. Cycling is pretty easy as it tends to follow the contours of the landscape but affords you magnificant views across the plains. Make sure you plan your route carefully (our Provence assistant helps our holidaymakers do this) to avoid the occasional big road that cuts across. 

Our gourmet cycling holidays in Luberon and Provence include delightful 3 and 4* hotels, welcome aperitif, gourmet suppers, bike hire, luggage transfers and our expert on-the-spot assistant to make sure everything goes smoothly. For an extra touch of luxury try our special five-night itinerary with 4* hotels and a Michelin-starred meal every night. 

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