Having cycled in Provence over a decade ago, we had fallen in love with this region & were drawn to recapture that experience and add some new sites to what we had visited before.
We had the advantage this time of having a Garmin, which we loaded with our own route maps we had created in “Map My Ride”, as well as the advantage of previewing some of the ride on Google Maps.
We planned a circuit that started and ended in Avignon, which is easy to access by train.
Our ride was in July and Avignon was packed with those participating in or attending the month long Theater spectacle. It is a spectacle, with performances, parades and people everywhere. Even if you don’t attend a ticketed venue, the city itself is a performance.
This walled city is fun and walkable, with the Palais de Pope a must see, along with the gardens behind & the remains of the bridge (Pont Avignon).
Stage One: Avignon to Uzès 46,9 km
We exited the wall & away from Avignon over one of the Rhone River bridges. After switching back under the far end of the bridge, there is an unpleasant ride on the D2 for 12 Km. There really is no bike lane & this road is very busy with plenty of cars & large trucks. We had hoped that the path along the riverside would be cycleable; however, we found the rocks & ruts too much for us & returned to ride the road. This really was the only unpleasant part of the whole ride & we hope that at some point that dike path will be made cycleable.
After turning off from the D19, we had a pleasant ride to the Pont du Gard aquaduct & Visitors Center. Don’t miss this. You can actually cycle right over this, which we did. This was a good lunch break for us & we picnicked & took our fill of pictures. This Roman site carried water from a spring near the hilltop town of Uzes, about 50km to Nimes. Quite a design feat.
From Pont du Gard, we moved on to the final climb that brought us to Uzes.
We deserved the refreshing drinks we earned for our climbing, as well as a tasty dinner. This is not a large town; but, there is a Palace, still inhabited. The views from this hill town are lovely.
Stage Two: Uzès to Nimes 28,7 km
The following day we were on our way to Nimes. We found a route that avoided the heavily traveled roads. Soon we were passing sunflower fields & vineyards & enjoying the quiet.
Just outside St. Anastasie, we cross over the narrow bridge with the Gard river far below.
Then today’s climbs begin. Make sure you have plenty of water with you as it was over 100F on our ride & there were no towns until we reached the outskirts of Nimes. This back way into Nimes passed by a large fenced Military area, marked with no trespassing & keeping the area somewhat deserted, except for the chicadias chirping away. We only had a handful of cars pass on this scenic route. This made for an easy approach as we drop down to the old city of Nimes. This was a favored retirement community for the Roman soldiers who had served in Egypt; hence the logo for the city: a crocodile & palm tree.
Of course the two tiered Arena is a must see; but, there are other monuments & a large park that climbs up the hillside & is topped by a tower & scenic view back down to the city.
Stage Three: Nimes to Aigues-Mortes 40,2 km
I think I lost count of all the roundabouts on the route out of Nimes on our way to the ancient walled town of Aigues Mortes. Eventually, we make our way onto quieter roads & the last segment is along a canal path that was marked on our information as cycleable. When we reached this, it was marked as “Passage Interdit”. We conferred & decided to take it ANYWAY. It was warm & dry so we could pick our way along the rutted dirt path. This would not be a good option in wet weather, as the mud would be pretty much impassible. We were beside the canal and soon seeing some of the famed Camargue marshes. As the walls of Aigues Mortes come into view, the canals fill with boats and then it’s over the bridge & through one of the portals into the walled city.
At one time this had been a port & the exit point for the 7th Crusade in 1248. It is easy to walk the walls & view the salt mining beyond. The streets are a grid & the central square is filled with appealing restaurants.
We could not be so close to the Mediteranean without riding the few kilometers to Grau-du-Roi, so we could dip our tires into the sea. We opted for the canal path for the return & this segment was in much better shape than the one we took into Aigues Mortes.
Stage Four: Aigues Mortes to Arles 49,7 km
The ride from Aigues Mortes to Arles is flat as we cross the Camargue region on quiet roads. This is the marshy Spanish influenced region, known for its white horses, pink flamingos and the bulls.
The final approach to Arles is on a bike lane that takes us back across the Rhone River to ride the river wall on the approach to our hotel.
Arles was where artist Vincent Van Gogh spent lived & worked; producing some of his most well known painting in the light of Provence.
Arles has plenty of Roman ruins, including a slightly smaller arena than the one in Nimes. Their Antiquities Museum, just outside the central town is one of the finest museums we have ever visited. Plan on spending a few hours here. Also, if you are in Arles on Market Day, this wraps itself around the city wall & you can shop for about anything.
Stage Five: Arles to St-Remy 24,5 km
The route from Arles to St-Remy starts on Avenue de Stalingrad, a fairly busy road; but there is a space for cycles and you will most likely see other cyclists on the road today. After 13.7 Km, the road narrows to a tree lined stretch before we turn off to a designated Piste Cycleable through groves of olive trees, pastures and fields on our approach to St Remy.
The Roman Ruins and remains of Roman Glannum, just outside town are well worth seeing.
Also, check out the Van Gogh walk (or ride) in our case, takes you past a number of places where he did paintings; complete with replications in paintings he did in those spots. The well appointed Tourist Information office can supply a route map.
Stage 6 St-Remy to Avignon 22,0 km
This last ride takes us back to Avignon, where we began. There are many busy highways that intersect this area, and our goal was to find less traveled routes. We chose a different route than a decade ago and avoided some climbs. Last time we took a route through the pine forests; climbing past St Michel de Frigolet, which is a nice alternative if you don’t mind the climb. We chose the lowlands this time and the roads were not heavy with traffic. We ride through the town of Rognonas, with the striking Joan of Arc statue in the town center.
Traffic does pick up soon as we get closer to Avignon and cross the Rhone on a different bridge than when we left town. The buses and large trucks can make the narrower bridge a bit intimidating; however, there is a walkway and you can always use it to walk your bike across. From this point we found some suburbs for a route to avoid the autoroute and easily made our way to the area of the TGV train station where we found a system of faded; but, marked bike lanes that took us to the Avignon wall, where we rode through one of the portals and to our hotel.