And suddenly the final day is upon us and again no need to check Meteo de France, another hot day beckons with Le Mistral blowing a much gentler breeze today. Our hotel was a couple of miles away from the Via Rhona so we found a quite road, past another nuclear power station, to meet up with the path at the small town of Lapalud. We rode through fields and after the small town of Pont-Saint-Esprit we had a short section adjacent to the motorway before following the river for a few miles. We were away from the river for most of the rest of the day though were treated to tantalising views of Mount Ventoux. Talking of treats, after all this flat riding we had a small climb to contend with, max gradient was 10%, to Chateau Mont-Redon, deep in the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, perhaps the most famous appellation of Cotes du Rhone. Our route skirted the village at the centre of the appellation.
We saw a few TGV trains go speeding past, taking Parisians off on their summer holidays, reminding me that though there is a TGV service direct from Avignon to Geneva tomorrow afternoon, we can't use it as bikes are not allowed. We have to travel on the slower, and more expensive(!), normal trains. Soon the countryside was behind us as we entered the suburbs of Avignon and it wasn't long until we cycled around the perimeter wall of the old town for the obligatory photo-stop at the most famous landmark - the half-a-bridge remains of the old Roman bridge - Le Pont d'Avignon. Though some would argue that the Papal Palace is a more famous landmark. 355 miles completed, it was time for a well earned drink. I was wondering why there were so few hotel rooms available in Avignon, it is festival time and there were various street acts providing entertainment for the tourists, of which there are plenty. Just like Edinburgh, only warm.
Overall it was a great route (except maybe for the first few miles out of Lyon); a little bit of climbing on day 1, dedicated cycle paths and very quiet farm roads. We didn't stop for any sight-seeing but there were some interesting looking villages and, if space were available in our panniers, a couple of chances to buy some wine. The puncture-risk sections through forests and gravel stretches suggest that thin 23mm tyres are not a good idea, but we managed to be puncture-free. Jane road her old Trek 1.2 road bike with 25mm road tyres (though with sealant inside the inner tubes) and I had 28mm road tyres (again with sealant) on my gravel bike. We chose to ride around 60 miles a day, many people would choose to do more but you should consider the affects on your schedule of bad weather or mechanicals. t this time of year, temperatures in excess of 30 degrees are to be expected and that does slow you down. The week before it was in the 40s and you wouldn't want to be cycling in that. Plus we were lucky to avoid thunderstorms.
A thank-you too to the Ibis Hotel at Achamps Porte-de-Geneve who let us leave our car in their car park for the week at no charge and kept some valuables safe for us for the week we were cycling.
The Via Rhona is European long distance route #17 and it meets up with other routes of the network. This trip could easily be extended into a two week adventure; rather than starting in Geneva, get the train to Andermatt deep in the Swiss Alps and ride up to the Rhone Glacier. Be careful to descend into the correct valley as you could end up following the Rhine or Po by mistake, and follow the Rhone to Lake Geneva. Here you have the option of the northern (Swiss) or southern (French) shore to Geneva. Rather than finish in Avignon, continue the route to Arles and base yourself here for a few days. You can follow the main channel of the Rhone to the sea at Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhone on one day, explore the secondary channel into the Camargue and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on another. A third day would be a tour of Roman remains at Nimes and Pont-du-Gard and a fourth would be a ride out into Les Alpilles and Les-Beaux-de-Provence.
|The first mention of Avignon - a sign that our adventure is coming to an end|
|Cycling through the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape|
|Arrivé - Le Pont d'Avignon|
|The Trek Checkpoint Gravel Bike is an excellent all-rounder|