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Tour de France Champion Cadel Evans Offers his Favourite Places to Bike and Stay in Provence

June 26, 2013 Hotel Deals No Comments Email Email

521264With the Tour de France upon us, we are all dreaming of being trackside as the cyclists whizz by in France. Now you can create your own “Tour de France” holiday, with an itinerary designed by the first ever Australian cyclist to win the Tour, Cadel Evans.

Cadel dreamt about cycling through France ever since he was a child – long before he became a world champion cyclist. Now, having spent thousands of hours cycling through the French countryside throughout his career, he recommends his favourite places to stay, dine and cycle.

As a guest during his training of the Relais & Châteaux hotel La Coquillade, he mapped out his own “Route du Bonheur” in the region, or what we might call his “Road to Happiness” – a trail of magnificent restaurants, local attractions and charming private hotels in the French countryside. Follow him on his journey through France and you can create your own “Route du Bonheur”.

521261“I discovered Provence thanks to my bike, as you might imagine. When I was in Australia, I used to dream about the Tour de France and when I had the opportunity to take part in it, I was bowled over by the region, its hills and vineyards, its sun and the hospitality of the local people,” Cadel says.

“I was really fascinated by Mount Ventoux, which is a very difficult climb for cyclists and yet so beautiful and majestic when you observe it from a distance, with its cap of white stones.

“This is how I discovered that Provence has long been a paradise for the amateur cyclist, with its quiet, winding roads, and its villages perched on rocky outcrops where you can stop for a break.

“There is an infinite choice of different trips through the area and this route is typical – country hotels where you can stop, and the opportunity, in some of the Relais & Châteaux properties along the route, to hire a bicycle and set off wherever your heart takes you.

“I am proud of having come to know the region well, as I was lucky enough, in 2010 and 2011, to stay at the hotel La Coquillade for training and to relax. It was, in a sense, a kind of heaven on earth.”  

FOLLOW CADEL EVANS’ ROUTE DU BONHEUR

Stage One: delightful Occitan

HStart at the Hotel Crillon Le Brave.  This is more than a hotel: it is a small village with seven stone houses. After tasting its delightful Provence dishes, a visit to the village of Beaumes de Venise is a must. The route that takes you there runs along the Dentelles de Montmirail and its vine-clad slopes.

“I can recommend the Muscat of Beaumes-de-Venise, a famous fortified wine that you can taste in one of the cellars in the village,” says Cadel. “Then there is Mont Ventoux. The two routes up it are, to my mind, amongst the nicest in France, whether you take it  by car or by bike,” says Cadel.

Between Mont Ventoux and the Luberon a road winds along the Nesque Gorges, between Sault and Villes sur Auzon with its lavender fields.

Stage Two: Haute Provence, in a garden full of fragrances

Bastide de CapelongueIn Mane, Le Couvent des Minimes & Spa, a former 17th century Franciscan convent welcomes you for a break surrounded by fragrances of lavender. Enjoy the delights of the Mediterranean inspired cuisine and the L’Occitane Spa which makes you forget all your efforts on the bike.

“The Prieuré de Salagon is the next stop. I suggest that you park your bike for a visit to the museum of the ethnological heritage of Haute Provence and a stroll through the gardens of Salagon,” says Cadel.

On the route to Saint-Michel, some small domes dotting the prairie-like landscape catch your attention. They are part of an astronomical observatory set up at the end of the 1930s because of the very clear skies. A wonderful opportunity to learn more about the mysteries of the stars.

Stage Three: nature, vineyards and fine dining

Perched on a Luberon hill, in a former hamlet that has been turned into a prestigious hotel is La Coquillade.

“This has become one of my favourite hotels: it has a huge charm and great views,” says Cadel. “Its stunning wines are produced on the estate of the hotel making it a dream stop for a wine tour. And if you want relaxation there’s always the pool, massages, the tennis courts and of course bike rides along the country roads of Provence.”

Racing and mountain bikes are available at La Coquillade to enjoy a 60 km ride through the ochre landscapes of the Roussillon, the tiered houses in Gordes (Cadel’s personal favourite) and the Ménerbes attractions. On the way, vineyards and orchards will confirm that you are indeed in the heart of the land of plenty.

For the real pros, La Coquillade and the famous Swiss high-end bike brand BMC offer a 200sqm space dedicated to bike-related activities.http://www.provence-cycling-paradise.comand  http://www.bmc-racing.com/int-en

“Before you reach Lourmarin, I can recommend you try out the restaurant at the Bastide de Capelongue in Bonnieux,” says Cadel.  The inventive and spirited cuisine is created by Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef Edouard Loubet.

521330Final stage: or “farniente” in the Nostradamus provence

In the middle of the “garrigue”, the region’s typical landscape, overlooking the Provence countryside, the former convent, the Abbaye de Sainte-Croix, seduces all with its architecture, its cosy rooms, its huge terrace overlooking Salon and Mount Sainte-Victoire. Its gourmet restaurant offers the opportunity to sample an inspired cuisine and a more lively counterpart is offered by La Passerelle, the attractive wine and tapas bar under the stone vaults.

The Abbaye de Sainte-Croix has some astonishing recumbent bicycles available for hire. From the hotel several itineraries are proposed either to charming little villages or better known villages in the Alpilles, such as Eyguières, Maussane and Aureille.

Between Salon and Aix, you should not miss the Domaine de Château-Bas in Cazan, a very fine wine growing estate with the Roman remains of a temple to the goddess Diana.

Arrive in Aix-en-Provence and you will be charmed by its elegant town houses, delightful squares with fountains at their centre, café terraces and markets – the quintessence of the Provençal “art de vivre”.

CREATE YOUR OWN “CADEL EVANS’ ROUTE DU BONHEUR”

To create your own Cadel Evans “Route du Bonheur” cycling tour of Provence, phone 1300 121 341 or visit:  Cadel Evan’s Provence Itinerary with Relais & Chateaux

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