France: Bike and Barge - Aigues-Mortes to Avignon
8 Day Barge Tour
Our first bike and barge tour in Italy was so successful that we expanded into France. Join us in Provence and Camargue as we bike and barge through southern France up the Rhone River from the Mediterranean Sea.
The tour still has space. Make your travel arrangements.
Flat terrain on paved roads with a couple short hills. Beginner to moderate cycling level.
7 nights lodging, 7 breakfasts, 6 sack lunches, 7 dinners, cue sheets and maps, rental bicycle, wine tasting, guided walking tour of Arles, and trained bilingual guides.
Step-thru hybrid bike included. Electric-assist bike available for $175.
The closest airports are Avignon, Nimes, Montpellier, Marseille and Lyon. From North America, however, it may be easier and cheaper to fly into the Charles de Gaulle Paris airport (CDG) or Barcelona (BCN) and then take the train to Aigues-Mortes.
DAY 1: We meet at 6:30pm onboard our boat, L’Estello, docked at the pier in a canal just outside the medieval walls of the ancient city of Aigues-Morte. Our home away from home holds 20 guests. Each room has two beds and its own bathroom. After introductions to the crew and an orientation, we’ll enjoy our first dinner together on the barge. 0 miles.
DAY 2: After breakfast on our boat, you should walk into town this morning to experience Market Day. Vendors come from all around the region to set up stalls in the town square and sell their wares. It’s not just a market, but a social event. Be sure to taste test the local lavender honey and bull sausage before starting our bike ride. We’ll cycle through the lagoons surrounding Aigues-Morte, stopping for photos atop Carbonnière Tower. Then we’ll head to the beach for a chance to see flamingoes and take a dip in the Mediterranean Sea before returning to our boat for dinner. 28 or 36 miles.
DAY 3: We’ll start sailing this morning during breakfast up the canal to Saint Gilles. From there we’ll begin our short ride on quiet back roads through rice fields and pastures. Keep your eye out for the white horses and the black bulls that this region of Camargue is famous for. We’ll meet our boat on the Rhone River in the city of Arles.
After lunch, we’ll have a guided walking tour of Arles. We’ll learn about its importance as a Roman capital during the first century and its golden age during the 5c as an important industrial and religious center. It is perhaps best known today for the paintings that the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh produced during his one year here in the 19c. You can stand at the same spot where he painted the beautiful Starry Night Over the Rhone. 15 miles.
DAY 4: Today’s ride is probably the most beautiful of the week. We’ll begin by cycling to Les Baux-de-Provence, voted one of the most picturesque villages in France. When you see the narrow stone-paved alleys lined with quaint terracotta-roofed limestone buildings, you’ll certainly agree. After a visit to the castle ruins for a view over the village, we’ll continue on through the beautiful limestone hills of Les Alpilles. Their rock was used for centuries to build nearby cities. We will stop for the multimedia show that takes place inside one of these hills in the vast empty caverns left over from the quarries. It’s a spectacular display you won’t forget.
From there, we’ll head to the town of St. Rémy. Van Gogh spent a year here in a convalescent home. You can visit the room where he stayed and look out the same window where he saw the fields of wheat he featured in so many of his paintings. We’ll meet our boat in the sleepy town of Vallabrègues. 37 miles.
DAY 5: We’ll ride to the village of Barbentane that used to be located on the river. It was destroyed so many times over the centuries that it was finally rebuilt up on a hill. You can take a self-guided walk through the historic town center or enjoy a café before continuing on your bicycle. Our next stop is the magnificent monastery of St. Michel de Frigolet. Dating back to the 12c, it has an elaborately painted church surrounded by lush gardens.
We’ll end our day with a short boat trip up the river to the town of Aramon. We’ll be able to see Mt. Ventoux off in the distance, a well-known climb in the Tour de France. 23 miles.
DAY 6: After breakfast, we’ll head toward the Pont du Gard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates from the first century. The Romans built the aqueduct over the Gardon River to carry water more than 30 miles from a spring to the city of Nimes. After visiting a fascinating museum about what many consider to be the greatest bridge built in Classical times, you can take a refreshing swim in the river.
We’ll bicycle back to our barge through fields of olive and almond trees. Then we’ll sail to Avignon. 25 miles.
DAY 7: Today we cycle toward Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a region famous for superb wine. We’ll have a private wine tasting and learn how the grapes must be grown without irrigation, fertilizer or pesticide and be harvested by hand.
We’ll finish our bike riding through vineyards and nectarine orchards. Be sure to save some energy to walk around beautiful Avignon after our farewell dinner tonight. You’ll see the Avignon bridge made famous by the children’s nursery rhyme, Sur Le Pont d’Avignon, all lit up and beautifully reflected in the water. 30 miles.
DAY 8: We’ll say our good-byes after breakfast. You can take a short taxi to the Avignon train station or airport for your return home. Bon voyage! 0 miles.