25th Anniversary you say? How about cycling around France?

So the plan was hatched, a few days in Paris, a high speed train down to Avignon where we would pick up bicycles and explore the country-side. I love it, perfect!

Since it was our first time on a cycling trip we opted to work with a company to organize everything. We knew we didn’t want a group ride, preferring to be on our own schedule with the ability to modify plans at our own whim. Doing a bit of internet work I settled on Discover France. They would set us up with bicycles, plan the route, arrange hotels, and shuttle our luggage from hotel to hotel. Far from the cheapest option but given our lack of experience it was a good decision for us.

Our trip started in Avignon at the Le Cloitre Saint Louis hotel, a beautiful old building the formally was a 16th-century Jesuit school. In the afternoon we sat down for a trip orientation and setting up the bicycles we would be using for the next week. Feeling comfortable with everything we had a great final dinner before the trip at Fou de Fafa, the bottle of wine went down smoothly and a perfect amount of food fueled us well for the tough day to come…

The next morning we were off before 9:00am. The first bit was a nice mellow ride near the river Rhone, which lasted less than twenty minutes before the climbing started. First up a fairly busy paved road and then a dirt road. Up we went, kilometer after kilometer. Being fresh it wasn’t too bad but it was definitely a workout. Finally we reached the top wiht 22km behind us. The reward was a downhill into our first rest stop in Rochefot de Gard. Then a mellow bit until the climb into Castillon de Gard where we could refill water bottles. IT wasn’t too much further before we locked the bikes up to walk the trails leading to Pont du Gard. A nice lunch next to the river and a short hike afterwards was a welcome break for our legs. And little did we know how much the next 15km climb was going to hurt. Ugh. The last 4km was extremely steep requiring a couple of shorts rests and even one section we had to push the bikes up. To close out the day we learned an important lesson – the bike GPS units provide direction to the Tourist Office and not our hotel – duh! Add on a bit more distance for our already tired legs… But in the end we made it!

In by 2:00pm we were able to do some laundry (we had some concerns about bedbugs from a Airbnb we stayed at in Avignon) and a rest before dinner at Le Comptoir du 7. Since we didn’t have reservations we planned to be there as they opened at 7:15pm. And it was a good thing we did, because after getting a table in a outdoor courtyard the place filled up fast! Our bellies full we stumbled back to our hotel for some much deserved sleep.

One day and 59km down!

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