Pedaling Through Provence & the French Riviera with Backroads
June 15, 2018
I’ve been on many active trips, hiking in the Italian Dolomites, heli-skiing in deep Canadian powder…but up until recently I have never been on a cycling trip. With so many bucket lust location choices, it was tough to choose which trip to go on. I was tossed between many options on my travel list but ended up picking the luxury Provence to French Riviera bike tour with Backroads. This active travel company has been on my radar for years now and it was time to check it out.
Choosing a Backroads Trip
The selection at Backroads is extraordinary. Not only can you travel around the globe, but there are also choices for whom you want to travel with. You can choose between couples (the one I was on), singles, private and custom itineraries. On some trips, there is also a choice for Premiere Hotels and Casual Hotels. The cost is quite a bit higher if you want to go super luxury. I’ve heard both options are great, though I opted for Premiere. The other thing to note is activity level, Backroads explains this in great detail for each trip as well. The trip I was on is a level 2-4, I opted for a mid-mileage ride each day.
I urge you to look at the weather in the region you would like to tour before you book. I don’t do well in extreme heat, so September was the best time for me to visit the South of France. If you would like a multi-adventure trip they offer plenty of those as well.
As much as I enjoy the active parts of a trip, I also love my down time by the pool or in the spa.
Being on a Premiere Hotel trip is both extravagant and fabulous! Tucking into high thread count sheets after a day of climbing hills on the bike was a real treat. I took advantage of spa visits when I had the time. The food was always exceptional ~ great bites are always on the top of my list when I choose trips.
Our first stop was at Hotel Les Lodges Sainte Victoire in Aix en Provence. This property sits at the foot of the mount Sainte Victoire which you might recognize as the muse of French artist and Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne. I loved this boutique hotel and made sure to spend plenty of time at the infinity pool with views overlooking the Provence countryside.
As always, I shopped a lot on this trip…after all, who can refuse French fashion?! This dress is from Sandro Paris. A chic boutique for contemporary fashion & accessories.
After staying 2 nights at the Hotel les Lodges, we rode to Lourges and stayed at the beautiful Relais & Chateaux property Chateau de Berne. You can read my story about that HERE. A spectacular property!
Our final stop was Cannes where we stayed at the glamorous Hotel Barriere le Majestic. My room had a lovely little balcony overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. The hotel is located right on the famous Promenade de la Croisette. If you need to find something beautiful and luxe to wear to dinner or to the beach, you can find it within a few steps from the hotel.
Provence and the French Riviera
As much as I loved the parts of Provence that we visited…I really fell in love with the Côte d’Azur/French Riviera ~ especially St. Tropez!
We cycled through so many beautiful villages on this trip. It was awesome to ride through iconic inland vineyards, then to end up next to the sparkling Mediterranean sea in the Côte d’Azur. You can see from my photos just how diverse this itinerary was. Beautiful visual treats around every single bend in the road.
Colorful Provencal villages included: Aix-en-Provence, Contignac (my favorite!) and Lourges. We ended in St. Maxime on the sea. From there we took a ferry to St. Tropez, stay tuned for a post on this haute spot. We wrapped the trip with a night in glam Cannes.
In Contignac we had time to shop the outdoor market. I will never forget that colorful & tasty excursion…I will write a separate post on that. It was that amazing! The details are in the photos I took there, I can not believe the abundance of goods at these french markets.
The pedaling days start super early, so that means you gotta be careful with all that delicious wine! If you are a typically a late riser, plan to train your body to wake up early! We started each day with a gorgeous breakfast spread and then it was time to ride. When you greet the group outside the guides have your bike set up & waiting for you.
Each bike has a saddle bag so you can pack a lightweight waterproof jacket, small camera, drinks, and snacks. They have lots of snacks and drinks available & I can’t emphasize how much you will need these! I ate many m&m’s, peanuts and pretzels on the daily tours.
Backroads guides are true pros. Not only are they awesome cyclists, but these know the routes inside and out. They can answer all kinds of questions and if they don’t know the answer they will find it out quickly. Our two main guides Lulu and PY had such fun personalities, look for them if you plan a Backroads trip.
When the group meets, the guides discuss the route options for the day. You can choose from a few itineraries and then program your Garmin GPS to the desired route. You WILL rely on this device. I took a whole lot of photos on the ride, so it was hard to stick with the groups pace. Once I learned to trust me GPS I felt a lot better about taking these photo breaks. The support vehicle will also help to keep you on track.
Food, Drink and Snacks
Cycling burns a whole lot of calories, which is a great thing when you want to enjoy all the foods of France. Not only were all the restaurants phenomenal, but our guides made sure we were well fed on the road too. Each morning there is a wonderful spread of snacks to pack in your day pack. If you run out, the Backroads support van will have plenty more to share.
The guides also packed some goodies from the regions we traveled too…this nougat was to die for!
A few things you need to know to make the most out of your trip…
- Make sure your handlebars and seat are set properly! I was in agony on day #2 when a fellow bicyclist noticed that my seat was set to high. My lower back and shoulders were so messed up. With a few tweaks, all was better almost immediately.
- Bring cycling clothes and clothes for the evening dinners.
- Bring layers and rain gear.
- Go at your own pace to enjoy every bit that this special trip has to offer!