typical day on a
ROAD BIKING TOUR
most interesting thing about a typical day on a bike tour
is this: Much of the time, you're not biking at all.
are a great way to enjoy your holidays because you can stop
when, and where, and for exactly as long, as you wish. A biking
tour with a small group offers the camaraderie and social interaction
of group travel, but with far more independence. To take advantage
of this flexibility, most bike tours are set in locales that
offer a variety of appealing stops.
site is sponsored by Alyson Adventures, which offers biking holidays
and other active vacations for gay men, lesbians, and friends.
The typical day we describe here is from our popular Provencal
route, in southern France. Other companies may operate differently.
particular holiday begins in the ancient city of Avignon, in southern
France, easily reached on the high-speed TGV train. We bike from
Avignon to Arles, an even older town, where we spend two nights,
with options to explore this fascinating site on foot, or to bike
into the nearby Camargue. The next morning, we continue onward:
up in a small, friendly family-owned hotel that was built
before the USA was founded. Breakfast is included with the trip.
A couple of early risers jog along the Rhone River; others make
their first bleary-eyed appearance at 8:30. Your only deadline
is to have luggage at the van by 9:30, so we can transport it
to the next hotel for you.
guides accompany each trip. One drives the van, transporting luggage
and helping any cyclists who encounter unexpected problems, or
who today realize they should have skipped that last glass of
wine last night. The other guide departs and 9:30 and bikes at
a typical pace with anyone interested. Early in the week, that's
often a majority of the group. As everyone gains confidence, it's
common for groups of 2 to 6 people to bike out independently,
some at a faster clip, so much more slowly.
we're biking from Arles, an ancient Roman capital whose
sights we explored yesterday, to St.-Remy-de-Provence, the
small and charming town where Van Gogh spent his final,
troubled years. But there's much to see in between.
leave Arles on a small rural road. The first couple miles
include several turns, and the guide encourages everyone to stay
together. But in fifteen minutes, we're in the countryside, on
a quiet road with only occasional traffic. The route is easy to
follow from here for those who want to bike at a faster or slower
45 minutes from Arles comes the first stop: Daudet's windmill,
former home to one of France's best-loved writers. Nearby lie
the crumbling remains of a double aqueduct that brought water
to Arles in Roman times. It would be easy to bike right past
the aqueduct ruins if you didn't know where to look, and we're
the only visitors at this fascinating site. .
highlight of the day, however, is yet to come. Set high on a spur
of rock, the medieval fortress known as Les Baux offers dramatic
overlooks -- but lies up a hill. A few riders have expressed concerns
about that hill. It is, indeed, the steepest and longest one we've
encountered. Half the group switches into low gear and bikes to
the top; the rest walk their bikes part way. But even the walkers
get to the top in ten or fifteen minutes: There was nothing to
worry about, after all.
Baux has a rich and colorful history. It was first inhabited
by medieval seigneurs who claimed descent from Balthazar, one
of the Three Wise Men of the Bible. Once a court of love, then
the stronghold of bloodthirsty warlords, Les Baux dominated much
of southern France in medieval times. Cardinal Richelieu had Les
Baux destroyed as he consolidated his power in 1632, but the centuries-old
walls still stand, an evocative reminder of another era.
Les Baux's lower level lies the "Living City," with shops, chapels,
and restaurants. Shops at many tourist sites have little of
interest except to the lovers of kitsch. Les Baux has its share
of the tacky, but here you can also find crafts from some talented
artisans. Then, proceed to the ruins above: A vast sprawl of
walls and rooms open to the sky, a cemetery, and reproductions
of weaponry such as the catapult.
van driver stays at Les Baux long enough to transport any purchases,
then heads for St. Remy, so that your luggage will be in your
room by the time you arrive.
Les Baux, you've got one of the options that are typical of
our bike tours. Those looking for a shorter biking day can take
a scenic route to St. Remy, twisting through the cliffs. Those
who opt for this more direct route will bike a total of about
22 miles today -- less than 3 hours of biking, even at a fairly
eager for more biking can take our Alpilles option. The Alpilles
("Little Alps") are a ragged range of hills running east from
Les Baux. We'll follow a scenic country road along the south
base of the Alpilles, through forest and farmland, to the tiny
village of Eygalieres.
the owner of the corner cafe is already ready to welcome us with
a tray of cold panaches, a delicious if unlikely-sounding
mix of lemonade and beer. Then, we return along the north base
of the hills. This option doubles today's cycling distance. It's
6:30 when we reach the hotel, nine hours after they left Arles.
But 45 minutes of that was at the windmill and aqueduct; 3 hours
at Les Baux, another 45 at the cafe in Eygalieres -- even this
group spent less than five hours in the saddle.
day's not done! Dinner tonight is at Cafe des Arts, where
we'll taste Provencal cooking at its finest. (The Cafe was featured,
in fact, when a leading gourmet magazine wrote about the food
of southern France.) And unlike most biking tour companies, we
include wine with dinners.
dinner, we disperse. A few people enjoy an after-dinner drink
in front of the Cafe. Some head to bed. Others walk off dinner
with a fifteen-minute moonlit stroll to Les Antiques, a well-preserved
Mausoleum and Triumphal Arch built by the Romans two thousand
on this site:
On related sites:
holidays offered by Alyson Adventures.
biking site offers useful
background for less experienced hikers.
about gay life in France,
our most popular biking holiday.
to gay adventure travel home page
our full gay holiday catalog