Tour de Provence Luberon

From AUD $4,000.00
  • Duration: 7 Days (approx.)
  • Product code: PPWQHR

Tour Highlights

  • The spectacular hilltop village of Gordes
  • Ochre cliffs at Roussillon
  • The lunar landscape of Mont Ventoux
  • Wine tasting in Gigondas and Beaumes de Venise
  • Roman history at Vaison-la-Romaine

Departs: 17 & 31 May, 6 & 20 Sept

Provence, from the Roman Provincia Gallia, lies
between the Côte d’Azur and the Rhône, stretching inland to the Alps. Provence
is more than a geographical area – olive trees, lavender, sunflowers, and
sunshine give it an identity all of its own. The quality of the light in
Provence has attracted artists like Van Gogh and Gauguin who lived in Arles and
Cézanne with his many studies of Mont Ste-Victoire. The cuisine of the region
is as distinctive as the light, with emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables,
olive oil, seafood and the herbes de provence which grow wild on the hillsides.
There are also great wines, such as the grands crus like Châteauneuf-du-Pape
and Gigondas in the Rhône Valley above Avignon.

Luberon tour takes in the Provence made famous in Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in
Provence’, with its lavender farms and olive groves, visiting charming villages
with bustling markets overlooked by apricot-coloured houses with pastel blue
shutters. Menerbes, Gordes, Roussillon with its ochre cliffs, Vaison-la-Romaine
and its Roman bridge – all will entrance you, as will the earthly delights of
the wineries of Gigondas and Beaumes-de-Venise. Dine on seafood from the Mediterranean,
lamb from the high pastures, glorious fruit and vegetables, and culinary
masterpieces suffused with herbes de provence.  The tour is a feast for all the senses as we
take in the sights, sounds, tastes and smells that make Provence so unique.

Day 1

We can pick up from either of the Avignon train stations (the TGV or the
centre ville), any of the hotels in Avignon, or from other nearby locations (eg
Nîmes airport) by arrangement. We arrive at our hotel near the market town of
Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, where bikes are fitted and adjusted to your individual
requirements. Spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool, or take a short trip
into the village, which is famous for its antiques and bric-abrac market and
stores. Early arrivals may wish to ride to the Fontaine de Vaucluse to see the
famous resurgent spring of the river Sorgue. 
In the evening, after a briefing on the week’s ride, we will sit down to
the first of many gourmet meals, washed down with one of the excellent wines
from the slopes of Mont Ventoux, whose imposing profile dominates the region.


Day 2

Today we are heading into the heartland of Provence - the
Luberon - and the picturesque villages depicted in Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in
Provence’. The first, and most westerly of the Luberon’s villages, is
Oppede-le-Vieux, followed by Ménerbes, both perched atop small climbs, with the
corresponding downhill reward afterwards. We will take a leisurely route
through these villages, maybe stopping for a coffee or a pastis. For lunch we
will visit perhaps the most photogenic of the Luberon villages, Gordes, perched
on a hilltop and overlooked by its 16th century Château. We will be
staying an easy roll downhill from Gordes tonight, so the afternoon can be
spent in the village itself, or by the pool at the hotel. There are also
optional excursions to the Abbaye de Senanque - a perfect example of romanesque
architecture dating from the 12th Century, set in a valley amongst
picturebook fields of lavender – or the nearby Village des Bories– a
fascinating hamlet of traditional Provencal dry-stone dwellings. Total
distance: 40km / 57km optional (hilly)


Day 3

Heading north from Gordes, we swing east and south to arrive at
Roussillon, perching above the ochre cliffs. Roussillon was one the major
producers of ochre for paints and pigments, and boasted 17 different colours. A
sign-posted trail leads to the quarries where the shades of red, orange, yellow
and purple rock contrast startlingly with the deep blue Provencal sky.  From Roussillon, we cycle over the Pont St
Julien, a Roman bridge, before crossing the plain on a lovely cycle path and
climbing again into Lacoste, where the ruined chateau of the Marquis de Sade
looms over the village, and Bonnieux, with a few options for lunch and superb
views over the various villages. One more climb all the way out of Bonnieux
takes us over the top of the Combe de Bonnieux and down a picturesque road into
Lourmarin for the night. Home to Albert Camus, and renowned as one of the most
charming Luberon villages, Lourmarin has a well preserved historic centre of
narrow lanes to explore and the chateau, known as the Villa Medici de Provence,
houses an art gallery. Total distance: 44km


Day 4

There is a gentle climb from the start today, going back up the road on
which we came into Lourmarin. A short downhill followed by another easy climb
takes us through a couple of hamlets before descending into the market town of
Apt, where a coffee stop and a sampling of the town’s famous crystallised
fruits should provide the energy for a very steep but short rise out of town.
After a flatter ride past vines and olive trees, we reach St-Saturnin for
lunch, and climb past spectacular gorges and the ancient Chateau de Javon,
before emerging into the lavender fields and sheep pastures of the Plateau
d’Albion, with immense views of Mont Ventoux dominating the horizon. A long,
spectacular, descent takes us to the bottom of Sault before riding up through
the town to the hotel. Sault is a local centre for wild products - wood
mushrooms, pheasant, wild boar and other game – and one or more are likely to
feature on the menu tonight as a reward for the hard work. Before that, a dip
in the hotel pool or spa will help to ease any aching limbs! Total distance:


Day 5

Today can be an easy day, or a tough one! The easy option is to descend
along the southern flank of Mont Ventoux, nearly 50 kilometres of freewheeling
and flat pedalling, into Bedoin. Our route takes us down the spectacular Gorges
de La Nesque where a heart-stopping panorama is around every turn. After coffee
in Bedoin, a climb over the Col de la Madeleine (a modest affair compared to
the monster of the same name in the Alps!) brings us into Malaucène, and from
here it is a few flat kilometres to the hotel. For those who would like a bit
more exercise, and to take home a little piece of cycling legend, we can climb
to the summit of Mont Ventoux.  At over
1,900 metres this is not for the faint-hearted, but the approach from Sault
(which is already at 750m) is very steady until reaching Chalet Reynard at the
tree line. One kilometre from the top stands a memorial to Tom Simpson, a
British cyclist who died here during the Tour de France in 1967, his last words
‘put me back on my bike’. The final approach to the summit, which is devoid of
vegetation, is tough, but the effort is more than worth it as you are rewarded
with one of the most exceptional panoramas in Europe. You will have conquered
‘the Giant of Provence’! The exhilarating descent is another reward as you
reach improbable speeds on smooth roads that are resurfaced every time the Tour
de France comes to the mountain. Total distance: 62km (Gorges de la Nesque) /
55km (over Mont Ventoux)



Our final day in the saddle takes us into the spectacular landscape of
the Dentelles de Montmirail, a range of jagged edged hills edged by prestigious
wine producing areas. The first of these that we visit is Gigondas, home to a
red wine that can equal Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe using similar grape varieties -
principally Grenache, with Syrah and Mourdevre. We stop at a cave in the middle
of the village for a tasting accompanied by goats cheese. We continue south
through the village of Vacqueyras, and begin to head back towards
Islesur-la-Sorgue and back to the Mas de Cure Bourse, our first night’s hotel.  After lunch quiet flat roads pass through
villages, small towns and fields, bringing us back to the Mas de Cure Bourse.
At the Mas we can wash off the dust of the trail with a dip in the pool before
our final celebratory dinner. Total distance: 64km


Day 7

After breakfast, take the opportunity to swap numbers and
e-mails and maybe popping into the village for
the amazing Saturday morning market, we transfer back to Avignon for our onward