Stage 1 – Avignon to Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Distance: 27.01 km

Time: 1 hours 32 minutes

Average speed: 17.5 kph

Ascent: 99 m

Yesterday morning we dismantled the tandem, wrapped it in bubble wrap and put it back in the car before our journey to Avignon. We’d really enjoyed our time in Le Bourg d’Oisans, despite the inclement weather, it is a friendly, bustling place with some spectacular views (perhaps they are even more spectacular on a sunny day).

The rain continued to pour down while we drove south to Avignon. It took us only two attempts to negotiate the one way system and find the car-park, I’m going to claim that as a success. It was one of those car-parks, common to France, with a tight spiral ramp descending from street level. We took it slowly.

Our hotel was on a narrow street adjacent to the sort of square where one can imagine sipping wine and enjoying cuisine at an outside table. The weather put paid to this, in fact it continued to rain heavily for the rest of the day, so we abandoned our plans for a pleasant stroll around the old city and a visit to the Pont d’Avignon.

Today, when we opened the remote-controlled shutters (what, no “Alexa”?!) the sky was uniformly blue, and after breakfast we enjoyed a short stroll around the area, admiring the pale honey-coloured buildings which matched the stone of the city walls. It looks like a good place to spend some time, so it’s a shame that we had plans to move on – perhaps we will revisit at the end of our cycle journey.

We were a little concerned about negotiating a long stay for our car in the car-park, despite having checked that this was feasible via email. We need not have worried, though, the chap in reception was friendly and helpful, and before long we had acquired the necessary abonnements for the extended stay. Time, then, to carry the tandem up to street level (in pieces, as we had to use the small lift), remove all the bubble-wrap and reassemble it. This achieved, we were left with no excuses, it was time to depart. We left through the fine city walls.

Unusually our navigation through the streets of Avignon went flawlessly, and soon we were stopping on the road bridge to admire the views of the Pont, of Mont Ventoux, brooding in the background and of the Palace of the Popes, back across the bridge.

We crossed this very bridge during our tandem trip from Calais to Spain in 2011, we even spotted the restaurant where we took lunch on that occasion. Despite the feelings of achievement after our Alpe d’Huez ascent we were not even slightly tempted to perform a second ascent of Mont Ventoux – once was definitely enough.

Once across the bridge we turned onto a quiet riverside road, lined with fragrant Broom. The road surface was smooth and the tandem felt great. Our legs seemed to have recovered from all the climbing on Monday and we soon settled into a good rhythm, enjoying the bright sunshine and the chattering of chaffinches (very Gallic-sounding ones).

After a while we turned onto a cycle path next to the levée, which was surfaced in gravel of varying grades. Readers familiar with our previous journeys will recall that the Stoker hates this kind of surface with a passion! However, I can report that she bore the ensuing six kilometres of gravel path stoically, if not entirely enthusiastically.

When we joined the gravel track there was an important-looking warning sign reading “Troupeau!”. Worried that it might be important we checked. It means “herd”! This is the herd.

When we were approaching the turn-off for Châteaneuf-du-Pape we rejoined the road, crossing the very wide Rhône before turning south towards our destination.

Soon we were almost completely surrounded by vineyards.

By now it was most definitely lunchtime. In the centre-ville we dismounted and had a very good lunch, with some white Châteauneuf-du-Pape to help it down (we’re saving the red for this evening). While not wishing to offend any Geordie readers I have to say that the translation of its name (to “Newcastle-of-the-Pope”) does lessen the glamour somewhat.

After checking in to our AirBnB we walked up the roads and steps to the eponymous château, almost completely ruined after being sacked and burned down by the Huguenots.

It occupies a spectacular setting, with views of Mont Ventoux to the east, and of the Rhône valley to the south and west.

Like many important wine towns it’s an attractive place. Vintners occupy almost every building (we asked a local where we could buy some milk, and he said it would be much easier if we wanted to buy wine!). Our initial difficulty in finding the supermarket led us down some beautiful streets, but we were becoming a little footsore before we found it.

Tonight we intend to dine in town and to sample some of the red, purely for research purposes. Tomorrow we re-cross the Rhône to the start of the Ardèche gorge. It promises to be spectacular.

Here’s a video of today’s route:

and today’s track:

2 Replies to “Stage 1 – Avignon to Châteauneuf-du-Pape”

  1. Well done in the curly car park . And with the cycling of course! 8 years since Calais to Collioure?! Where did that go? X

    1. Yes, we were talking in the restaurant last night about how the eight years have flown past! Cycling across the same bridge in Avignon was an odd sensation… Xx

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