Imagine how the relaxing rhythm of chainset and spinning wheels on sun-kissed Provençal asphalt will soothe away workaday stresses. It’s time to explore the Côtes du Rhône and sample its delicious wine and cuisine on one of our cycling holidays in France.
If you love France, sunshine and leisurely cycling, what could be more fun than total immersion in the culture, history and wine-making heritage of one of Europe’s renowned areas of viticulture? It’s a region of vineyards, sunflowers, olive groves and beautiful villages as far as the eye can see. And they’re all waiting to be explored on two wheels or on foot....
From discovering hilltop Châteuneuf-du-Pape to humming ‘Sur le Pont d'Avignon’ at the famous Pont Saint-Bénézet, cycling tours of Provence don’t come much better…
Transfer by minibus, taxi or train to our base hotel in Mazan.
After breakfast, we personally equip you with your choice of bike and make sure it fits perfectly for your forthcoming adventures in Côtes du Ventoux and Côtes du Rhône.
What better way to get onto French time than to explore Mazan, an appealing little town of narrow streets, ancient houses, churches – including lovely Chapel Notre Dame of Pareloup – and fountains backdropped by the verdant valleys of Vaucluse.
Nearby Carpentras – market-town capital of the Comtat Venaissin and focal point for the Ventoux wine region – is an easy excursion. It’s perfect to warm up for the adventures ahead. A gentle ride west from Mazan, Carpentras beckons with the France’s oldest synagogue, atmosphere-laden medieval ramparts, gorgeous Cathédrale-St-Siffrein, a history-packed old fortress and archetypal Provençal facades. The markets here are perfect for pottering around – try the candied fruits and signature bonbons berlingots. Then, pockets crammed with goodies, pedal on to Pernes les Fontaines. There are supposed to be 40 bubbling ancient fountains on the village’s fountain trail – including the famous ‘Gigot’ and ‘Cormoran’. How many will you find before returning to Mazan?
You and your bike have found your rhythm; now you enjoy another day’s cycling across the gently rolling countryside. It’s as if the mother lode of Rhône wines is drawing us inexorably closer. We’re riding west through cornfields and the vineyards producing acclaimed Côtes du Rhône and AOC Ventoux wines. Today’s destination is world-famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape...
Let your curiosity (and our clear route maps) guide you through this fabled heartland of French viticulture. Maybe you’ll pause in pretty Loriol-du-Comtat for coffee or a local pastis before admiring its wonderful châteaux and eye-catching Romanesque church.
A few kilometres on, lies Beaumes-de-Venise. Nestling at the foot of the spectacular Dentelles de Montmirail, at the south end of the Courens plateau, the town gets its name from the Provençal word ‘bauma’ – meaning ‘cave’ or ‘grotto’. Many such Iron Age caves still perforate the surrounding hillsides. The town is also renowned for its delicious fortified Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, so make sure to visit the cellars on Avenue Raspail and sample their wares.
Later, wander flower-lined alleys to the ruins of a twelfth-century château. Then relax by the eighteenth-century fountain with its intriguing ornamental mascarons. If time allows, visit the spectacular chapel of Notre-Dame d’Aubune too – it’s another must-see Romanesque treasure. By the way, the hillside stroll behind the chapel also comes highly recommended…
When the road calls again, we pedal towards our destination – via idyllic Courthézon, a tranquil village on the gently flowing River Seille. It’s perfect for a lazy lunch stop and packed with wonderful architecture. Don’t miss the Porte des Princes and well-preserved twelfth-century ramparts – and the refreshing bubbling of its 15 fountains...
Then it’s on to Châtauneuf-du-Pape, described by wine experts Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson (in The World Atlas of Wine) as ‘the renowned centrepiece of the southern Rhône’…
This attractive village, set amid some of the Rhône’s most esteemed vineyards, was originally built for Pope John XXII in the fourteenth-century. The town is dominated by the still-imposing remains of his summer palace – originally built from local stone as well as materials from Courthézon that we rode through yesterday. The climb to this imposing belvedere, with vineyards in every direction, always rewards with unforgettable views over the Comtat plain.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is best known for Côtes du Rhône Cru – the French wine with the highest alcohol content (officially 12.5% but often exceeding this). Almost every street or alley, it seems, has wine merchants who will eagerly offer you a tasting. Later, if you can resist the temptation of a snooze in one of the town’s shady corners, let’s pedal along the Rhône to Avignon. There’s lots to do there, as well as checking out a great café and restaurant scene. Start with the Palais des Papes, the park around Rocher des Doms and the remaining four arches of Avignon's famous bridge – the Pont Saint-Bénézet. Will you be able to resist humming ‘Sur le Pont d'Avignon’ while exploring? We think not…
After yesterday’s full day of exploration, today’s ride takes us further east into the heart of Côtes du Rhône, along the quietest, most atmospheric, vineyard-flanked lanes. Our destination? Gigondas, another gorgeous town beneath the spectacular Dentelles de Montmirail.
En route, sun-kissed Camaret-sur-Aigues invites us to stop for a leisurely lunch. Before starting off again, make sure to browse the stylish boutiques of the Cours du Levant, as well as the historic sites of this large, circular, walled village. Highlights include the thirteenth-century Saracen tower and the ‘Horloge' (clock) gate, with its crowning wrought-iron campanile. Both are photographers’ delights.
If time permits, we deviate to Vacqueyras – another archetypal Haute Vaucluse village. It’s on an impressively chiselled mountain bedecked with Aleppo pines, vineyards and other characteristically Mediterranean vegetation. Park your bike and climb the narrow streets to the defensive ramparts of the château and the church, with its elegant Provençal bell tower. Later, back down in the village, relax under Cours Stassart’s cooling plane trees, visit the renowned Mediterranean botanical gardens and sample the town’s vintage Côtes du Rhône – Vacqueyras earned its own wine appellation in 1990. Then cycle on happily to Gigondas to round off another amazing day with a delicious Provençal supper and a great night’s sleep. You’ve earned it!
What better way can you imagine to round off your time in the Côtes du Rhône than exploring Gigondas – one of the region’s loveliest wine-producing villages. It’s a must-see for wine lovers – the local vineyards produce superb, robust, powerfully flavoured wines. On two wheels or à pied, the character-packed streets will surely have you rejoicing (the Romans called the town ‘Jocunditas’, or ‘joy’) all the way up to St Catherine’s church. From there, the adjacent square, or the remains of the centuries-old feudal château, the panoramic views towards the Cevennes are unforgettable.
From Gigondas we can also ride to Vaison la Romaine – via Séguret – officially one of the prettiest villages in France. Vaison, renowned for its perfect location on the Ouvèze River, is one of the jewels of Roman Provence, with plenty of Gallo-Roman sites to explore. Nowadays, this is a popular bolthole for chic Parisians. Explore the old town and check out the Archaeological Museum Théo Desplans. Then watch the world go by over coffee, lunch or another glass of rosé at one of the stylish pavement cafés on Place Montfort – while relishing the contrasting ambiences of this fascinating town.
Today, it’s a fond ‘Au Revoir et à bientôt’ to Provence and our new Provençal friends as we transfer from Gigondas to Avignon, Nîmes or Marseilles airport by train, taxi or minibus.
Mazan, Provence – located in the broad Auzon Valley beneath legendary Mont Ventoux, it’s the perfect base for exploring the Côtes du Ventoux and Côtes du Rhône.
Our equally perfect choice of hotel is the exquisite combination of eighteenth-century Provençal house and authentic château – the stunning Château de Mazan, on sleepy Rue Bernus, close to the Auzun.
On arrival, or returning after your latest cycling adventure, your Mazan Pied à Terre has an inviting outdoor swimming pool and quintessentially Provençale rooms with views over landscaped gardens and the floral terrace.
Each room is decorated in a unique, ‘quirky’ (in a good way) style that tastefully combines contemporary and classic Provençale décor. Each is equipped with a roomy private bathroom, air conditioning and satellite TV – some have views of Mont Ventoux, the ‘Giant of Provence’…
After a long day exploring, it’s a joy to spend time in the château’s gardens amid carefully selected ornamental features. Then relax with a drink in the hotel bar and check tomorrow’s route on the free Wi-Fi before sampling traditional Provençale cuisine in L'Ingénue restaurant. Dining on the terrace is a sublime delight before a wonderful night’s sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s continuing cycling adventures.
Picture a romantic castle with crenulated battlements silhouetted against the setting Provençal sun. It’s romantic, stylish and wonderfully located for exploring this esteemed wine-producing area of France – this is the Hostellerie du Château des Fines Roches and it’s your base for exploring Châteauneuf-du-Pape, just north of Avignon.
As you arrive after your day’s cycling adventures, you’ll immediately appreciate the castle’s authentic Provençal décor and proximity to the vineyards that produce Chateuneuf’s delicious wines. Its rooms are beautifully decorated in vibrant colours. They complement the region’s rich palette and stunning cerulean skies. The views from well-appointed rooms with names such as ‘Mistral’, ‘Magali’ and ‘Manon’ include the town’s hilltop Papal palace, Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles. You’re in for a treat…
A peaceful, always-relaxing sojourn lies ahead – complete with those stunning panoramic views, a refreshing swimming pool and the promise of delicious culinary delights in the gourmet Restaurant gastronomique Provençal, overlooking the surrounding vine-packed slopes. Will you resist the temptation of mouth-watering Filet de Canette de Barbarie, Gratin Dauphinoi et Sauce Porto, followed by Tiramisu au Spéculos – savoured of course with something from the hotel’s superb wine menu? Of course you won’t…
Pull in off the Rue des Dentelles and dismount after another day’s cycling. You’ve arrived at the Hotel Les Florets. It’s a gem and it’s your base in enchanting Gigondas.
Provençal charm and complete relaxation are the essence of this hotel and restaurant tucked away amid the renowned vineyards of Gigondas – the local wines are legendary and the wine cellar at Les Florets will surely delight. As will the delicious buffet breakfast before you set off for another day’s adventures.
On arrival, or on returning from a day exploring, settle into your comfortable room with private bathroom, flat-screen TV, satellite channels, hairdryer and free toiletries. Later, cool off in the inviting pool, sip a glass of wine (or two) on the terrace and dine in authentic Provençal style. The high-end (2-Toques Gault & Millau-rated) restaurant is a treasure trove of culinary treats. Local produits du terroir dominate the menu. Try Sarrians pigeons, Ventoux pork and the incomparable strawberries from Carpanteras. Delicious!
Naturally, if you need Wi-Fi, it’s there for you; or maybe you’ll resist technology’s siren call and relax in the garden with a glass of something magical while looking up at the wooded slopes of the enchanting Dentelles de Montmirail…
|May 27, 29||£1045|
|Jun 4, 6, 12, 14, 20, 22||£1045|
|Sep 3, 5, 11, 13, 19, 21||£1045|
|Jun 6, 14, 22||£775|
|Sep 5, 13, 21||£775|
Prices are per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room without flights and transfers.
Triple room: £10 per third person per night.
Infants under 2 years: Sharing bed with parents FREE. Additional expenses e.g. food or cots, to be paid direct to the hotelier.
Children under 12 years: £15 off per night.
Single room: £50 per night.
E-Bike: £20 per day (number of days charged will be one less than the number of nights of your tour).
Tandem: £15 per day (number of days charged will be one less than the number of nights of your tour).
£250 per person
Our experts shall be only too pleased to research the most convenient and best value flights for you and, to arrange your airport transfers. Please call on 01568 780777 for an individual quotation, which will be sent to you by email. On acceptance of our quotation, we shall be pleased to book all arrangements for you.
Holidays booked together with a flight are protected by The Travel Trust Association’s ATOL (number: 10300).
Flights and transfers are charged at cost, plus a £20 per person booking fee to cover service and ATOL fees.
If you wish to extend your holiday, with perhaps a short stay in a nearby city of interest, please call our experts on 01568 780777 for help and guidance.
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