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France

Activity
Cycle
Duration
n/a days
Grade
Grade 1

About the challenge

En route this week we will take in the Roman town of Arles and the Camargues, and finish at the impressive fortified town of Carcassonne. This is a varied route, with predominantly flat coastal roads, rolling Provençal scenery and more strenuous hills in Languedoc. With long days in the saddle, it’s a demanding challenge and we’ll be glad to see the castle of Carcassonne on the horizon!

The itinerary

Day 1: Meet Nice

On arrival in Nice you can check into our hotel and we’ll spend some time ensuring all the bikes are properly assembled and comfortable. Spend your free time (flight-times dependent) wandering along the famed Promenade des Anglaises or around the harbour – or go to the beach! We meet up in the evening for dinner and a detailed trip briefing before getting a good night’s rest in preparation for tomorrow’s efforts. (Lunch not included)

Day 2: Nice – Brignoles
Cycle approx. 135km (83 miles)

After an early breakfast we set off, heading out of Nice along the beautiful Côte d’Azur. This is a lovely way to start our ride; the roads are fairly flat and the coastal scenery is lovely. The road starts to undulate gently as we reach Fréjus, and then heads inland, again on flattish roads for a while. Our first real test comes not far from the end, when we climb for roughly 10 miles, though it’s a relatively gentle gradient. We then descend most of the way into Brignoles, a lovely old town which was the summer residence of the counts of Provence. Night hotel.

Day 3: Brignoles – Arles
Cycle approx. 140km (86 miles)

Today is a hillier day as we cross the rolling landscapes of Provence. Although the hills are more frequent than yesterday’s, they tend to be short, steep climbs followed by lovely long gentle descents, making for very rewarding cycling! The scenery is very picturesque and we pass ancient towns with castles and beautiful old churches, with olives and vines growing amongst the wheatfields. We descend to Salon-de-Provence, a Roman town with one of the biggest castles in Provence; Nostradamus lived and is buried here. The last part of our route is flat as it takes us west to Arles, known for its Roman amphitheatre and other monuments which are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Night hotel.

Day 4: Arles – Lodève
Cycle approx. 132 km (82 miles)

Leaving Arles, we head west, crossing part of the beautiful Camargue area of wetlands. The Camargue is famous as a habitat for flamingoes and thousands of other birdlife, and the beautiful wild white Camargue horses. We ride through a string of attractive small towns and villages, most dating back to Roman times. Our morning is fairly flat, but as we head further inland, passing north of Montpellier, the terrain starts to change. Our afternoon is quite hilly by comparison, with a long (though fairly gentle) climb taking us up to the lovely old village of Viols-le-Fort, with its striking bell-tower. Our road continues to undulate through wooded hills and small villages as we ride further into the lovely Languedoc hills, until we reach the town of Lodève. Night hotel.

Day 5: Lodève – Carcassonne
Cycle approx. 135 km (83 miles)

Our last day of cycling is a very varied day as we ride roughly southwest towards Carcassonne. We load up on energy at breakfast as our day starts with our steepest climb so far as we head out of Lodève. Rolling roads then take us for miles through the Orb valley, a lovely area of the southern Cevennes with fabulous views over the rocky cliffs, craggy peaks and winding rivers of Languedoc. We pass lovely villages tucked away in the wooded hills and some small towns with picturesque buildings. Our last significant climb lies around the day’s mid-way point, as we ride up through the small town of Saint-Pons-de-Thomieres, with its 10th century abbey, and into the hills beyond. A fabulous descent takes us through the Minervois wine region, and down to the lower slopes of the Aude valley. From here our last section is predominantly flat as we pass through more villages and cross the River Aude. As we near Carcassonne we catch glimpses of the fortified ancient city dominating the lower town from its hilltop; it’s a fabulous sight and a wonderful place to celebrate the end of our challenging ride. Night hotel. (Dinner not included)

Day 6: Carcassonne; depart

After a leisurely breakfast, you are free to explore the fabulous castle and surroundings until it’s time to transfer to the airport. (Lunch not included)

Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.

Detailed information

What's Included?

The cost includes all accommodation as well as transfers and all meals except three as specified in the itinerary. It also includes full trip support of experienced Discover Adventure leaders, drivers and mechanics. Transfers between hotel and airport at the start and end of the trip are also included. We will provide at least one transfer (depending on group size) and will provide you with further details on registration. If you are not able to arrive in time for the included transfer, transportation will be at your own cost.

What's Excluded?

The tour cost does not include flights, personal travel insurance, three meals as specified, or a bicycle. It also does not include entrance fees to any optional sites or attractions you may wish to visit.  Bear in mind that airlines are likely to charge a fee for bike carriage. Remember to allow extra for meals, drinks, snacks, souvenirs and other personal expenses. Please note that costs may fluctuate and we have no control over any changes. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.

Flights & Transfer Information

We do not arrange group flights for this challenge, enabling you to take advantage of the many competitive fares between Nice and Carcassonne and different UK cities. Airlines to Nice include British Airways, Air France, Flybe and Easyjet, while RyanAir fly direct from Carcassone to several UK cities. We recommend you book flights that arrive and depart in the morning. You should allow plenty of time as a buffer on your outbound leg in case your flight is delayed. The best deals are usually open to those who book early, but bear in mind that we do need a minimum number for this trip to run, and booking your flight before you are advised the trip is guaranteed is entirely at your own risk. Please be aware that the best deals usually allow little flexibility if you need to change them. Please ensure that you inform your airline that you will be travelling with your bike when you book. It may not be possible for them to guarantee bike carriage at a later date. Most airlines charge a bike carriage fee, which you are responsible for paying. We can provide you with guidelines on packing a bike for flight, but it’s best to check the airline’s specific instructions. We will arrange at least one transfer between the airport and hotel, depending on the group size. Exact time(s) may be determined by the times of the majority of the group and will be communicated nearer to trip departure. This also applies for the end of the trip.

Accommodation

Accommodation is in 2-3* hotels, picked for their proximity to our route. The hotels are comfortable with en suite facilities; standards may vary between the hotels.

Food

All food is included except three meals where specified. Depending on your flight arrangements, you may be in-flight for the two lunches that are not included. Lunches when cycling are generous buffet-style with plenty of energy food to keep you going! Dinners are generally eaten in the hotel.

Dietary Requirements

Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Bear in mind that being vegetarian is not generally well-understood in France, so meals may not be as varied as you are used to. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Please feel free to ask us for advice. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities where you are free to explore and find something to suit every budget.

Trip Support

Discover Adventure Crew

Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. They are also trained in expedition first-aid. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.

All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are.
The number of crew and support vehicles looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but the team will be looking after every aspect of your trip whether that’s transporting your luggage, ensuring your route is well-marked, making you lunch and sorting out any mechanical problems. At Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: cyclist ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.

Luggage

Support vehicles are with the group all of the time. All luggage and spares will be carried in them. Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft sailing bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. Bikes can be transported on flights in bike bags or – a much cheaper option – cardboard bike boxes: ask your local bike shop if they have any. You should also bring a small daypack or waist-pack to carry items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening.

Trip Safety

Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency mobile phones, first-aid kits and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency back-up in the UK. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate. Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.

Preparing for the challenge

Cycling Information

Terrain

Our route is varied, with large stretches on predominantly flat valley or coastal roads, long rolling hills, and more notable ascents and descents. We ride mainly on small quiet roads. Traffic is light most of the time but you must be vigilant for traffic and other cyclists, especially in poor visibility or on narrow twisting roads in the hills. French drivers are generally far more considerate to cyclists than here in the UK. Distances are fairly long, averaging 80-85 miles per day; you should make sure you are fit enough to manage these distances. We are always happy to talk through the trip in more detail with you if you are worried about your fitness at any stage.

Bikes

We strongly recommend that you ride a road/racing bike (rather than a mountain bike) for this trip due to the long distances involved on well-surfaced roads. It’s really important that you ride the bike you have been training on so you are used to it. Although training in the gym is useful, there is no substitute for getting out into all weathers and really getting to know your bike – especially the range of your gears as you climb.

Bike Repairs

There will be a range of spares in the vehicle along with a full tool kit. However it is impossible for us to carry spares for every eventuality so it is vital that your bike it is in good order before departure. It is a condition of travel that you supply your own helmet and wear it at all times while cycling, with the straps done up.

Clothing & Equipment

We could be exposed to bad weather at any time even in the height of summer so be prepared for all weathers and temperatures and remember that conditions can change quickly in the mountains. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list, and you are entitled to useful discounts as a Discover Adventure customer. 

Weather

It can be very hot, and cold! Rain is always a possibility and it may be windy on flatter terrain or by the coast. The weather and temperature can change dramatically with elevation. The weather can change rapidly.

Fitness Levels

Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race. For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.

Passport & Visa

A valid ten-year passport is essential for travel in France and Switzerland and must be valid for at least 6 months from entry. Your passport must be carried with you at all times in the mountains. There is no visa requirement for UK citizens or other EU members. Other nationalities should check entry requirements.

Vaccinations

We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the last ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio. You should always check with a GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.

Worldwide Sustainable Tourism

Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through.  AITO, our Trade Association, has recognised the work we do in this area and has awarded us 5 stars as a Responsible Tour Operator.

Discover Adventure Projects

We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up.

Carbon Offsetting

We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them. Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with The Conversation Volunteers and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at http://www.tcv.org.uk/volunteeringor call 01302 388883.

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