Ah, picnicking in Provence: what better way to enjoy food than in the fresh air of southeastern France? This part of Europe is regarded by many as a perfect Mediterranean escape. And when you're cycling past perfectly purple lavender fields, which fill the air with that unmistakable, sweet aroma, it'll be hard to disagree.
Maybe you'd like to share a blanket with some chilled wine and grapes in the shadows of some ancient Roman ruins? Or perhaps you prefer the lull of the sea's waves as your backdrop. Snacking on moules (mussels) next to the twinkling azure coastline is certainly a winning combination.
There are so many potential picnic paradises, you'll be spoilt for choice. Here are some of the most spectacular and relaxing places to enjoy a slap-up spread in Provence – and they're all accessible by bike.
Parc National des Calanques
Start your visit in Marseille and you'll be close to the Calanques national park. These soaring natural cliff formations hide all manner of cosy coves and magical, solitary beaches: ideal for a quiet bite to eat while you absorb the impressive views. Take a hiking tour, or follow the trails on two wheels until you find the perfect spot for a snack of fresh baguette and creamy local cheese.
Alternatively, see the Calanques by sea – you can take boat tours from either Marseille or Cassis. There's nothing to stop you enjoying a snack on the boat, as long as the sea's swell is calm, of course. If you're feeling really adventurous, take a flask of coffee and some fresh pains au chocolat from the nearest patisserie and hire a kayak for the morning.
Pont du Gard
An imposing reminder of the genius of Roman engineering, the towering aqueduct of Pont du Gard, not far from Nîmes or Avignon, spans the sapphire waters of the Gardon River. The comforting rush of the water and lush, open landscape make it the ideal spot for a laid-back al fresco feast. There are shops and a restaurant on site, too, so you can travel light and pick up a sandwich or crêpe once you're there. Keep an eye out for events in the summer, including live music.
There's plenty to discover here if you're a history buff as well. The museum has some fascinating insights into Roman technology, including centuries-old examples of underfloor heating and advanced plumbing.
Cirque de Navacelles
This large circular basin, formed by natural erosion over thousands of years, delivers some truly breathtaking vistas. From its steep cliffs mottled with lush green to the tiny pastel yellows and reds of the hamlet below, there are few places in Provence with such impressive natural beauty.
Soaking up this natural landscape over some fresh, local fruit and well-deserved wine is a real treat: grab some fresh bread and other supplies before you head up. Make sure you take the time to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the hamlet itself.
Getting to the Navacelles by cycle alone is quite the trip from Nîmes. Even if you travel the bulk of the journey by car, it's worth taking your bike so you can access the quietest, most picnic-worthy spots once you're there.
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