So a couple months ago I got a call from a woman coming to Provence with her husband and two daughters in July. She was looking at my list of Delicious Experiences and couldn't decide what to do. "We really want to do the Foodie Tour," she said, "but we also want to bike the Luberon with a guide. And we only have one free day left!"
You can probably guess where this is going, right?
So I got together with my bike-guide friend Jon and we mapped out a wonderful route, the idea being pretty similar to my St. Remy Tour for Foodies but this one designed for two wheels. Not only is Jon a professional bike guide, he's a professional chef too--with 15-plus years cooking experience in Provence and a shiny Michelin star for pastry on his resume. Let's just say that Jon knows a lot about Provencal gastronomy: the ingredients, the purveyors, the dishes and culinary traditions. I mean, how perfect is that? That's how this new tour came about... and it sounded like so much fun we thought other people might love doing it too. Et voila: A Luberon Bike Tour for Foodies!
Biking is hugely popular in the Luberon but not just because of the stunning scenery; many of the most-beautiful roads are often serenely, surprisingly traffic free. The region offers a wide range of terrific routes through rolling hills and lush valleys, with steep climbs up to medieval hilltowns and over pretty pine-covered mountains. Vineyards, olive groves and farms blanket the landscape left and right, their ancient stone farmhouses done up Elle Decor-fantastic or left tumbling literally into the fields. The produce grown in this department--the Vaucluse--is considered among the finest in France. Sound good? All you have to do is book your day (as much in advance as possible, please) and choose your bike--road bike, hybrid or electric--so it can be ready and waiting for you. Then off you'll go on a glorious full-day, food-fueled adventure. Depending on the day of the week and the season, your day might include a local outdoor market, an olive mill, a goat farm for a tasting of fresh goat cheeses, an ancient bread bakery still in use, a studio making superb confitures, the winery made famous in Peter Mayle's movie A Good Year, a tasting of truffle products and who knows what all else.
Plus, you'll experience some of the top historic sites in the Luberon such the Chateau de Lacoste, the former home of that freaky Marquis de Sade (now owned by Pierre Cardin), the Abbaye de Senanques (home to silent honey bee-tending Cisturcian monks) and the hill towns of Gordes, Lacoste, Bonnieux, Menerbes and magical Oppede-le-Vieux.
Since it's only you and your family or friends riding, you can go at whatever pace feels most perfect, but Jon expects to do 60 km (38 miles) or so. The day starts in Bonnieux around 8:30 am and ends about 5 pm. The cost is 350€ per person for two people or 250€ per person for three to six. For larger groups, please inquire. The price includes bike rental, helmets, market tastings, artisan visits, restaurant lunch and any museum entry fees. And if you love the food tour idea but the biking part not so much, we'll happily do the whole thing for you in a big comfy car for 300€ per person, including lunch and tastings. The tour is available pretty much all summer and fall, with a couple weeks off here and there, when Jon is bike-touring groups around France or cheffing in private homes.
For more info or to book, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos: (1-3) The village of Cucuron, fruit in the market at Gordes and goat cheeses in the market at Bonnieux, courtesy of Pamela Goode. (4, 5) The gorgeous winery Domaine de la Citadelle, and the adjacent corckscrew museum, are both owned by Yves Rousset-Rouard, the Mayor of Menerbes. (6-9). Grapes, olive oil, cheese and honey: the four food groups of the Luberon! Cheese and honey photos by Pamela Goode. (10, 11) And the bakery isn't bad either...(12) If there's time, you can pop into the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin, to learn all about two more of our favorite Luberon goodies. (13) When your guide Jon isn't in his biking gear, he's most likely wearing his chefs' jacket. (14) Pretty pinks, just waiting for you to taste. (15) Pull off the road to snap this view of Gordes; everyone does. (16, 17) The Abbaye de Senanques, inside and out. When the lavender is in bloom, this must be the most-popular photo-opp stop in Provence. (18) A splendid view of Bonnieux, courtesy of Linda Bailey Zimmerman. (19) Chateau la Canorgue, which stood in for the winery Le Coin Perdu in the movie "A Good Year."