Friday, May 16, 2014

A Luberon Tour for Foodies (By Bike or Car)

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:

For more info about the Luberon, click here or here.

*Note: Since this story was written in 2014, we've added another version of this bike tour, in and around St. Remy, in the foothills of the Alpilles Mountains. Along the way you'll visit a few of our favorite local artisan food producers: a goat farm where they make delicious chevre and sometimes raise adorable baby pigs; the family-owned olive mill where they make 6 award-winning oils and a wide range of other delicious local products such as tapenade and confiture; a manade (ranch) where they raise bulls and make saucisson; a bee farm to taste the honeys; a beautiful and historic winery, etc. If you choose a full-day tour, we'll break for a casual picnic or have lunch in one of our favorite local cafes or bistros; the cost of lunch is extra. Half-day tours are normally 9 am to 1 pm or 2 pm to 6 pm but variations are possible. The half-day tour price includes electric bikes, helmets, bottled water, all tastings and your foodie guide. Half day: two people, 175€ pp. Then add 50€ per person. Kids prices depend on age. 

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." 


  1. What a fun way to sample good food of the Luberon AND work it off at the same time!

  2. Wow! A bike and food tour combination. This looks so beautiful, so delicious, so enticing. Julie, your relationships and experience in the region convince me you would be an ideal trip planner. I will pass your name along to those traveling there. And now I ask myself: when will I get to the Luberon?

  3. Oh lala! Julie, we have to talk about a tour next year. I will be in St. Remy in June with our Womens Travel Network Provence tour so let's meet for coffee and a chat. I'll email you the date. This day sounds too unique to miss!

  4. Oh this just sounds wonderful! I'd love to do this tour. How many days is it?

  5. Hi Vicki! The tour is designed to be done in a day but if you need more days, we'll make more days! The Luberon is quite large and there's lots to do! All the Best...