Having studied the tour route to Avignon we decided to go “off-piste”, cut off a deviation to a pottery museum, and catch up with the route near the small town of St Siffret. This worked well and I re-commenced with the detailed task of noting odometer measures and ticking off every step of the way after St Siffret. It was another hot day and the mistral was still blowing strongly.
Between St Siffret and Flaux, we passed through a village and I took a photo of a house that I thought illustrated the relative poverty and de-population apparent in much of the countryside we passed through.
This was probably the hilliest day of the tour. There was one particularly steep climb out of a town called Tour. Then another 1km climb through wooded country that was followed by a glorious descent into the Rhone valley. Mostly we were passing agricultural land, lots of vineyards but many other crops also including globe artichokes, soft fruit, asparagus and sunflowers. I was surprised by how stony the ground was around the vines.
Around lunch time we reached the small town of Tavel. We stopped for a drink at a small restaurant. At first we were refused service because it was lunch time and we were not eating there. Eventually, after some hand waving and shrugging, we were ushered down an alleyway and allowed to buy a drink and sit at a tiny table. Tavel rosé wine is exceptional, so we were told, in that it can be stored for up to 10 years, unlike other rosés. After our lunch time drink we found a shop offering wine tasting. We met the vineyard owner and had a couple of glasses of rosé wine while he told us that he had been given the family vineyard 3 years ago by his mother. He then went on to give us his theories of social integration and life in general. We spent nearly an hour there and left with two bottles of wine in our panniers.
On our way out of Tavel we stopped in a small park and ate some lunch. The route continued through agricultural land of the Rhone valley but became steadily more built up. We crossed a motorway and the TGV train line and a few kms after the village of Pujaut we crossed bridges over two of what, at that location, are the three arms of the Rhone river. The mistral wind blowing down the river valley made cycling very difficult over the bridges. The first bridge looked like a power station dam but I am not sure if it is. We then met a pair of Americans also on bikes who every 200m or so insisted they had found their hotel only to stop a while then a few minutes later pass us again. Suddenly, in a very unpromising part of suburbia we turned onto a foot/cycle path and came out on the river bank right opposite the old city centre of Avignon with its eponymous bridge. This was a perfect end to the day.
All we had to do was use another bridge to cross the final arm of the river and enter the old city, treat ourselves to a congratulatory beer and locate our hotel. It was very conveniently located just outside the walls of the old city.The manager met us and we unloaded our panniers. Then he took us over the road to a multi-storey car park where he said we should leave our bikes to be picked up. We bade them a fond farewell and took ourselves off for a shower in our room which was a little like a potting shed at the side of a courtyard garden; without aircon the room was on the hot side but we managed! We stayed a further two nights in Avignon and that might be the material for another blog.
I found this an excellent trip, wonderful scenery and wildlife, interesting countryside and historical locations and excellent food and drink. We found the luggage transport arrangements worked perfectly and all the accommodation and arrangements worked perfectly. Our total cycling distance was just over 300kms and was not too arduous.