From Papal Palaces to Pink Flamingos and a little Van Gogh in between, this is a spectacular journey from Avignon to Aigues Mortes, through some of the most beautiful parts of France. And we’ve timed it so that you’ll have an opportunity to visit massive fields of blooming lavender, as well as the fields of sunflowers right along our route. Days of scenic cycling will be followed by afternoons and evenings of ukulele instruction and fun with a professional and world renowned ‘ukulele “facilitator.”
Most importantly, we will have the entire barge Caprice to ourselves, which is the key to ukulele happiness since we really are all in the same boat.” So, if you’re looking for an active vacation you can take with your uke in an exquisite part of the world, and make some new friends at the same time, this could be the trip for you.
Here’s a little sprinkling of what’s in store:
We’ll be starting in the ancient walled town of Avignon, an thriving, busy town that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (I scouted this area last year and will, most likely, organize a few optional extra days here to make sure we don’t miss a thing!)
Then after daily bike rides through delightful Provençal villages, vineyards, fields of sunflowers, and the landscapes that were so dear to Vincent Van Gogh, we end our tour in Aigues Mortes, a completely walled town that has changed little in appearance since its glory during the Middle Ages…but not without a visit first to the Carmargue and its black bulls, white horses, and pink flamingos. And after each day of busy riding (or just enjoying the journey on the barge), we can retire to the lovely sundeck, ukes in hand, for a lesson, a sing-along, or both.
Day 1: Arrival in Avignon, boarding at 6 PM.
Day 2: Avignon, round tour, 18 mi. (30 km)
Day 3: Avignon – Aramon, 24 mi. (40 km)
Day 4: Aramon – Vallabrègues, 22 mi. (35 km)
Day 5: Vallabrègues – Arles, 33 mi. (55 km)
Day 6: Arles – Aigues Mortes, 15 mi. (25 km)
Day 7: Aigues-Mortes, round tour, 33 mi. (55 km)
Day 8: Departure from Aigues-Mortes
DAY 1: Individual arrival in Avignon
Individual arrival and boarding of Barge Caprice at 6PM in Avignon. The barge will be moored in Quai de la Ligne next to the famous Pont St. Bénezet. We might be able to add an optional day or two in Avignon to the beginning of this tour to make sure we have an opportunity to visit the lavender fields in bloom.
DAY 2: Avignon, round tour, 18 mi. (30 km)
This is a simple circuit along peaceful country roads through the island Île de la Barthelasse to the other side of the Rhone where our ride takes us between vineyards and orchards and through the typical garrigue landscape of the area, covered with its characteristic low-lying and fragrant shrubs. There are some short climbs before we reach Villeneuve Les Avignon, once known as the town of the cardinals. (The history of this area is just amazing…) In the afternoon we’ll have time to explore the historic center of Avignon, or retire to the lounge or sundeck, ukes in hand. (A tour of the Papal Palace is highly recommended.)
DAY 3: Avignon – Aramon, 24 mi. (40 km)
We travel by barge to Aramon and begin pedalling from there, between rolling hills covered with fine vineyards and ancient villages to the front of the majestic Pont du Gard, a masterpiece of Roman engineering and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This, the best preserved Roman aqueduct in all of Europe, was built around the year 50 to transport water from the Eure spring near Uzès to Nîmes, a distance of over 50 kilometers! You will face a few short slopes in the first part of the stage. In the first part of the stage you will face short slopes. We overnight at Aramon, with a beautiful view over Mont Ventoux.
DAY 4: Aramon – Vallabreguèse, 22 mi. (35 km)
After a short ride on the barge to to Vallabrègues, a pretty Provençal village on the banks of the Rhône, we start our ride along country roads to Barbentane with its castle at the confluence of the Rhone and Durance rivers. From here we cycle uphill to the magnificent Abbey of Saint Michel de Frigolet where we have some time to relax in the lovely quietness that surrounds the abbey before a welcome descent of 4 km and a pleasant country road leading to the medieval village of Boulbon, now just a few kilometers from Vallabrègues.
DAY 5: Vallabreguès – Arles, 34 mi. (55 km)
This stage of our journey brings it all home, and includes, among other things, a visit to the historic village of St. Rémy de Provence, where Vincent Van Gogh painted Starry Night, Nostradamus was born, and Dr. Albert Schweitzer was held prisoner. This is followed by the most challenging ascent of our tour: 4 km from St. Remy to Les-Baux-de-Provence, a town lodged into the rock itself and worth every stroke of the pedal! After Les Baux we have a beautiful 4 km downhill ride amid limestone cliffs and olive trees to the village of Paradou. And at the end of the day we are in Arles and will feel as though we have entered a painting by Van Gogh. A wonderful day to take our time and take it all in.
DAY 6: Arles – Aigues Mortes, 15 mi. (25 km)
This is an easy day with the morning dedicated to visiting Arles, the ancient capital of Gaul, with a professional local guide who will point us to the beautiful Roman ruins still very much in evidence here. After lunch our ride takes us through “Tête de la Camargue”, an area south-west of Arles and delimited by the Petit Rhône, as far as the the lock of St-Gilles where we rejoin the barge and have a 3-hour ride to Aigues Mortes for the overnight stay.T he name of this town literally translated means “dead waters” probably referring to its location in the heart of the marshy Camargue region on France’s Mediterranean coast. But do not be deceived, the wildlife here, including the famous pink flamingos, is astounding and we’ll have ample opportunity to explore it more the following day.
DAY 7: Aigues-Mortes, round trip, 34 mi. (55 km)
What a day! Today we will cycle to the charming fishing village of Le Grau-du-Roi, where we can enjoy a refreshing swim along the beach. We’ll also be cycling along small country roads between canals, lagoons, and small villages
DAY 8: Departure
After breakfast we say good bye to the crew and our new friends then depart and go on our merry ways. But that doesn’t mean the fun has to end. Aigues-Mortes is a delightful, Medieval, walled town, town, with a fascinating history. (Think Charlemagne, the Crusades, the Knights Templar, and so much more!)
Please note this itinerary might change depending on weather and road conditions and water levels. But we will, in any case do our very best to make sure you have a ukein’ good time.
The total cost will be in the neighborhood of $2,000 per person and includes seven nights aboard the barge and most meals, a bicycle guide, and a multitude of opportunities for formal and informal ukulele instructions and loads of play-a-longs. Registration has not yet opened, but if you are seriously interested, please Contact Us to find out how to get on “the list.”