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Pedaling the Rhone: Provence by Barge and Bicycle

Program Number: 20945RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/4/2013 - 10/12/2013;
Duration: 8 nights
Location: France
Price starting at: $3,142.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Bicycling Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 14; 7 Breakfasts, 0 Lunches, 7 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Vegetarian; Low Salt    

The beauty and fertility of Provence have given rise to flourishing Roman settlements, led the Avignon popes to forsake Rome, enchanted writers like Boccaccio and Hemingway and inspired van Gogh to paint Starry Night. Now it is your turn to be swept away by this storied region as you cycle and ride a river barge from one village to the next along the Rhone River, learning about the bountiful natural and cultural gifts of Provence along the way.


• In Arles and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, experience the Provence that inspired Vincent van Gogh as he painted some of his most celebrated works.
• Cast your mind back to Roman Gaul during explorations of the ancient Pont du Gard and Arles Amphitheater.
• In the Camargue, Western Europe’s largest river delta, learn about this rare European habitat for the flamingo and about the hardy Camargue horse, an ancient breed still ridden by Provencal herdsmen.

Activity Particulars

Bike 15-35 miles per a day in single file at 11 miles per hour, with breaks every 20-25 minutes. Rolling terrain, some flat stretches; secondary roads with some traffic. Weather conditions affect biking difficulty. Walking and standing up to two hours. Personal bike helmet required.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Marseille, coach to Avignon to board vessel, 2 nights; bike/barge to Vallabrègues, 2 nights; bike/barge to Arles, 1 night; bike/barge to Gallician, 1 night; bike/barge to Aigues-Mortes, 1 night; coach to Marseille, departure.

Overnight flight from the U.S.A.
Arrival Marseille
Coach to Avignon to board vessel
2 nights

On arrival fit your bicycle. Bicycle to Châteauneuf-du-Pape to learn about the Avignon popes who shunned Rome for France and helped promote early wine production in this now famous appellation. At the Palace of the Popes, learn about the Western Schism and the second line of Avignon popes, now considered illegitimate in the eyes of the church.

Bike and barge to Vallabrègues
2 nights

A lecture aboard the barge introduces Vincent van Gogh and the influence of Provence on his artwork. Bike to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, home of the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum where van Gogh admitted himself and found a muse for Starry Night. Pedal to Tarascon with its chateau on the banks of the Rhone and to Pont du Gard to explore this preserved Roman aqueduct built in the 1st century.

Bike and barge to Arles
1 night
Bike and barge to Gallician
1 night
Bike and barge to Aigues-Mortes
1 night
Coach to Marseille

Follow the Rhone towards Arles with views of the Alpilles mountains. Arriving in town, explore another Provencal city that inspired van Gogh’s most beloved art and admire the beautifully preserved Roman amphitheater. Learn in a lecture about Camargue Nature Park, then set out amid this immense alluvial plain in search of horses, sheep and bulls guarded by the gardian, the cowboy of the Camargue. Ride to the Mediterranean seaside town of Le Grau-du-Roi, then to Aigues-Mortes to discover the walled medieval town.


The epicurious and the curious find much to admire in Western Europe’s largest nation, whose agricultural riches and terrain of beaches, mountains and fertile fields have drawn residents for thousands of years. The northern region hosts the nation’s Parisian capital, as well as unique Breton culture, while the sun-drenched Mediterranean coast sports the chic beach-goers and the terraced vineyards of the interior.

Cabins aboard the Estello, a barge chartered exclusively for Road Scholar participants. Cabins feature private baths, climate control.
Meals and Lodgings
   Aboard the Estello
  Avignon, France
Vallabrègues, France
Arles, France
Gallician, France
Aigues-Mortes, France
7 nights
 Aboard the Estello
Type: Barge
  Description: This barge is exclusively chartered for Road Scholar participants.
  Ship Information: The Estello: Classic deluxe river barge, measuring 128’ long and 17’ wide. The barge offers 10 cabins for a total of 20 participants. The Estello was built in 1937, converted to a passenger barge in 1981 and refurbished in 2008.
  Contact info: N/A
N/A,   France
phone: + N/A
  Room amenities: Each cabin has closet space, a hair dryer, adaptor plug, alarm clock, bottled water, water glasses, wooden hangers, tissues, hand soap, shower gel, shampoo, towels, insect repellent, make-up mirror, full-length mirror, a fan and a small flashlight with climate control (air conditioning/heat).
  Facility amenities: There are two decks: the upper deck has a saloon where meals are taken, a spacious sitting area, and a bar. There is also a sundeck with fixed awning, tables and chairs. All cabins are on the lower deck with heat, air-conditioning and private bathrooms.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Check in time: 4:00 AM
  Check out time: 9:30 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
12:30 PM transfer from Marseilles Provence Airport to the barge moored in Avignon for bike fitting and testing. You will be staying at Aboard the Estello that night.
  End of Program:
Early morning group transfer to Marseilles Provence Airport for independent flight departures. You will be staying at Aboard the Estello the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. International Bicycle Tours Release & Assumption of Risk Form must be signed.
  Parking availability:
Parking is not available.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: See above
To Start of Program
  Location:  Avignon
  Transportation to site: A group arrival transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air inclusive program and arrive on the group date and time. On arrival at Marseilles Provence Airport, Independent Travelers may take the Airport Shuttle (Navette) to the main train station in Marseilles (Gare St-Charles). Departures are every 20-30 minutes at a cost of approximately €8 per person. The transfer takes 30 minutes. At the Marseilles St-Charles train station, board an SNCF train for Avignon.On arrival in Avignon, you will need to take a taxi to the barge. This transfer is about 10 minutes.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Aigues-Mortes
  Transportation from site: Take a train from the rail station in Aigues-Mortes to the rail station in Nimes. The transfer time is approximately 45 minutes. Transfer to another train which departs the main rail station for Marseilles St-Charles train station. The transfer takes 90 minutes. On arrival at the Marseilles train station, take a shuttle (navette) to Marseilles Provence Airport. Departures are every 20-30 minutes at a cost of approximately €8 per person. The transfer takes 30 minutes. We strongly encourage participants to do the group transfer from Aigues-Mortes to Marseilles Provence Airport.
Equipment Requirements: Participants are required to bring and wear a bicycle helmet while biking each day.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Board an overnight flight.
(Friday, October 4)
 Evening: Board an overnight flight to Marseilles.

Day 2: Arrival Marseilles/Coach to Avignon/Bike Fitting & Testing/Welcome Dinner
(Saturday, October 5)
 Afternoon: Join fellow travelers at the Marseilles Provence Airport for the coach transfer to the barge moored in Avignon. On arrival fit your bicycle and test your biking skills to insure safety and comfort for the days ahead. Meet the crew and listen carefully to the safety instructions from the skipper.
 Dinner: Enjoy a welcome dinner with the other participants aboard the barge.
Accommodations: Aboard the Estello
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 3: Bicycle to Châteauneuf-du-Pape/Palace of the Popes
(Sunday, October 6)
 Breakfast: Aboard the Estello
 Morning: Attend a lecture on safety, rules of the road and the IBT corner system. Barge from Avignon to Roquemaure where we disembark and begin the journey by bike to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, perhaps to buy a bottle of the famous wine from this region.
 Lunch: Sample the local fare in Châteauneuf-du-Pape on your own.
 Afternoon: Bike back towards the medieval city of Avignon for a lecture and field trip to the Palace of the Popes, home to popes during the Papal Schism from 1378 to 1417.
 Dinner: Aboard the Estello.
Accommodations: Aboard the Estello
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4: St-Rémy-de-Provence/St-Paul-de-Mausole
(Monday, October 7)
 Breakfast: Aboard the Estello.
 Morning: Begin with a lecture aboard the barge about Vincent van Gogh and how Provence influenced his artwork. Head south for an excursion to St-Rémy-de-Provence, birthplace of Nostradamus and home of Vincent van Gogh.
 Lunch: Independent lunch in St-Rémy-de-Provence.
 Afternoon: Learn about van Gogh in Provence through a field trip to St-Paul-de-Mausole, the former asylum where he stayed in from 1889 to 1890. It was his view from his room that inspired the famous Starry Night painting that hangs at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Continue biking to Tarascon with its imposing chateau on the banks of the Rhone.
 Dinner: Aboard the Estello.
Accommodations: Aboard the Estello
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5: Pont du Gard/Beaucaire
(Tuesday, October 8)
 Breakfast: Aboard the Estello.
 Morning: Cycle to the Pont du Gard, a well-preserved Roman aqueduct, dating from the 1st century AD. With three tiers of arches, this bridge provided millions of liters of water to citizens in nearby Nîmes. Become versed in the history of this architectural wonder through a lecture and field trip.
 Lunch: Independent lunch at the Pont du Gard.
 Afternoon: Ride south towards Beaucaire where the troglodyte monastery of the Abbaye de St-Roman offers fantastic views of the Rhone.
 Dinner: Aboard the Estello.
Accommodations: Aboard the Estello
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Arles
(Wednesday, October 9)
 Breakfast: Aboard the Estello.
 Morning: From Vallabrègues, follow the Rhone towards Arles with a splendid view of the Alpilles mountains. Van Gogh lived in Arles from 1888 to 1889; see the city that inspired some of his most beloved artwork, such as Starry Night over the Rhone, The Yellow House and Café Terrace at Night.
 Lunch: Sample local fare on own in Arles.
 Afternoon: Independent exploration of Arles. Sit on a terrace and watch the locals (and tourists) go about their business while sipping a coffee at a cafe.
 Dinner: Aboard the Estello.
Accommodations: Aboard the Estello
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7: Arles Arena/Camargue
(Thursday, October 10)
 Breakfast: Aboard the Estello.
 Morning: Commence with a lecture aboard the Estello about the Camargue Nature Park and its wildlife. Spend time in Arles with a field trip and lecture about the beautifully preserved Roman amphitheater. Today, bull fights are held there, but unlike in Spain, the bull is not killed.
 Lunch: Independent lunch in St-Gilles.
 Afternoon: Head south for the Camargue, an immense alluvial plain between the Rhone and the Mediterranean. We may see horses, sheep and bulls, guarded by herdsmen, the gardian. The gardian is the cowboy of the Camargue, watching over his herd, checking on sick animals and selecting bulls for the bull fights.
 Dinner: Aboard the Estello.
Accommodations: Aboard the Estello
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8: Le Grau-du-Roi/Aigues-Mortes
(Friday, October 11)
 Breakfast: Aboard the Estello.
 Morning: More bicycling on the flat terrain of the Camargue. The last ride heads to Le Grau-du-Roi, a seaside town on the Mediterranean, where there is a wooden boardwalk, many marinas and even more boats.
 Lunch: Independent lunch in Le Grau-du-Roi
 Afternoon: Cycle towards Aigues-Mortes (old French for “dead waters”) in the Petite Camargue where there is a field trip and lecture aboard the Petit Train to view the walled medieval town. The village featured prominently during the Crusades of the 13th century as a point of embarkation.
 Dinner: Say au revoir to fellow passengers at the farewell dinner aboard the Estello.
Accommodations: Aboard the Estello
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 9: Departure
(Saturday, October 12)
 Breakfast: Aboard the Estello.
 Morning: Coach transfer to Marseilles Provence Airport for departure.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France

Author: Georgeanne Brennan

Description: Marvelously frank about daily chores and the decidedly unglamorous business of raising goats and pigs, Brennan lards her earthy tale of the rural life with recipes, one per chapter.

A Traveller's History of France

Author: Robert Cole

Description: This fast-moving survey covers the conquests of ancient Gaul through the heady days of revolution to modern times.

A Year in Provence

Author: Peter Mayle

Description: The original best-selling tale of settling down in Provence, told with warmth and a great deal of humor. It offers a wonderful inside look at the charms and quirks of the people and the countryside in the south of France.

Eyewitness Guide Provence & the Cote D'Azur

Author: Roger Williams

Description: This is an illustrated, colorful guide to the art and architecture, literature, history and attractions of Provence. With photographs and site plans, maps and sections on the Riviera, the Var, Bouches-du-Rhones, Vaucluse and the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

Fodor's Provence and the French Rivera

Author: -

Description: A practical guide in the popular series, saturated with valuable information on accommodation, shopping, sights, and dining.

France, A Traveler's Literary Companion

Author: William Rodarmor (Editor)

Description: This collection contains literary gems from all corners of France--not just Paris--by a select group of 20th-century French writers, from Colette to Georges Simenon.

Lonely Planet French Phrasebook

Author: Marie-Helene Girard, Anny Monet

Description: This handy phrasebook focuses on pronunciation, basic grammar and essential vocabulary for the traveler.

Long Ago in France, The Years in Dijon

Author: M.F.K. Fisher

Description: A memoir of Fisher's years in France in the late '20s and early '30s, a time of exuberant discoveries of the glories of French food and French culture.

Michelin Green Guide Provence

Author: Michelin Travel Publications

Description: A comprehensive driving guide, organized alphabetically and featuring detailed maps of each region, city or village.

My Life in France

Author: Julia Child

Description: Child's characteristically ebullient record of Paris and Provence, her many friends, family and memorable meals, in the years after WWII, turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci (as husband Paul).

Nostradamus, How an Obscure Renaissance Astrologer Became the Modern Prophet of Doom

Author: Stephane Gerson

Description: Gerson explores the life -- and afterlife -- of Michel de Nostredame, the seer whose Prophecies have been interpreted, adopted by successive media, and eventually transformed into the Gospel of Doom for the modern age. Born in the South of France, he settled in Salon-de-Provence, where you can still find his home and tomb.

Provence A-Z

Author: Peter Mayle

Description: A companion to all things Provencal, from bouillabaisse to lavender and vinaigre, by the British expatriate and Francophile Peter Mayle.

Provence and Camargue Map

Author: Michelin Travel Publications

Description: A detailed local map in Michelin's ZOOM series, featuring a place name index and insets of local cities and towns. Scale 1:160,000.

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong

Author: Jean-Benoit Nadeau, Julie Barlow

Description: This lively, astute examination by two Canadian journalists tackles the contradictions and complexities of the French character, paying particular attention to the question of why the French resist globalization.

The Most Beautiful Villages of Provence

Author: Michael Jacobs

Description: With an excellent introduction on the history, culture, landscapes and the pleasures of Southern France, this illustrated guide features 34 towns and villages across Provence from the Vacluse to Bonnieux and Gordes, tranquil Alpine villages and southern vineyards.

The Popes of Avignon, A Century in Exile

Author: Edwin Mullins

Description: Grounded in the architecture and papal legacy of Avignon and the surrounding area, this engaging history sets the 70-year period of papal exile in the south of France against the context of Europe's turbulent transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

The Road from the Past, Traveling through History in France

Author: Ina Caro

Description: Time travel through France by way of its finest castles, chateaux, cathedrals and monasteries. This unusual travelogue is an invaluable companion for traveling in Paris, southern France, the Dordogne and the Loire Valley, combining personal observation with large doses of well-presented history.

The Roman Provence Guide

Author: Edwin Mullins

Description: Mullin's succinct history and guide to the many monuments, arches and other antiquities of Provincia Nostra, the first Roman territory outside Italy, covers the must-see archaeological sites of Provence and neighboring Languedoc in detail. With 2 maps and 60 black and white photographs.

Two Towns in Provence

Author: M. F. K. Fisher

Description: Celebrated food writer M.F.K. Fisher contrasts village life in Aix-en-Provence with bustling Marseilles, evoking these two favorite places with anecdote and loving description.

Vanished Kingdoms, How Nations Rise and Fall

Author: Norman Davies

Description: In this marvelously tale of lost civilizations and the shifting fate of nations, historian Norrman Davies presents the stories of 14 now all-but-forgotten European states, including Aragon, Etruria and the Two Burgundies. Not just an intiguing look at history, these tales will also incite wanderlust.

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