Cycling The South of France: Things I Loved the Most

You can get really spoiled spending three weeks bicycling in Languedoc and Provence! I got up every morning knowing that I was the luckiest person in the world to be exploring the bicycle routes of one of the most beautiful parts of France. From the hill towns of Provence to the famous locks along the Canal du Midi, to vineyards that appeared to never end, to the gorgeous seaside towns along the Bay of Thau, each day was a never ending visual treat.  Add charming and affordable places to stay and incredible food and you have everything you could possibly ask for in a bicycling vacation destination.

While there is no question that I miss many of the towns and villages that we visited and the friends we made, the things that I miss the most are those simple things that made each day so special, so authentically French. Experiencing and savoring these simple pleasures helped me see a side of France that I happily relive every day. Here are some of my favorite South of France pleasures:

So many rose wines to choose from!

So many rose wines to choose from!

No respectable household in the South of France would be without at least one bottle of chilled rose wine in the summer, a custom that I have brought home to the US. After this trip, rose wine will always remind me of summers in the South of France.

The sky of Provence

The sky of Provence

It was amazing to enjoy the sunset during dinner, and have it be barely dark at 10 p.m!

Oysters from the Bay of Thau

Oysters from the Bay of Thau

What I would give for just one more plate of these incredible fresh oysters! No matter how many you eat, it’s never enough.

Try to sample all of them!

Try to sample all of them!

Black, green, with pits or without, preferably with lots of local garlic, olives were a staple of our daily diet when we were bicycling.

Cavaillon Melons

Cavaillon Melons

I will always remember the first time I had a Cavaillon melon.  No other melon will ever compare. Cavaillon melons are regarded as the best in France, and it won’t take more than a taste for you to understand why.

Honey thicker than butter

Honey thicker than butter

The French love honey, and I know why. There is nothing quite like local French honey!  My favorite is the thick variety that spreads just like peanut butter and literally melts into your toast.

Fields of lavender as far as you can see

Fields of lavender as far as you can see

I will always remember the smell of lavender that permeated the air on the days we bicycled in Provence. Fortunately this is one thing that I could bring home in the form of lavender soap and dried lavender.

Decadent olive bread

Decadent olive bread

The perfect blending of two favorites:  olives and bread!  Heaven.

Provence pottery

Provence pottery

Traveling through Provence by bike means that this is something that I can only admire, not purchase as there is no room on my bike for pottery!

Cherries from Provence

Cherries from Provence

I think I almost ate my weight in cherries this trip. I have never tasted cherries like those fresh from the tree in Provence. Our best cherry purchase was the equivalent of three pounds for 2euro!

Noilly Prat

Noilly Prat

Before going to Marseillan, I had no idea what Noilly Prat was. Now it’s one of my favorite summer aperitif.  Called the taste of the South of France, Noilly Prat is a French vermouth and is the main ingredient needed for a perfect dry martini. In Marseillan, it is the most popular before dinner drink at local restaurants.

Ice cream happy hour

Ice cream happy hour

Somewhere between 4:00 and 6:00 everywhere in Europe, ice cream happy hour begins. I don’t know why we don’t celebrate this custom in the US. It’s much more fun than going to Starbucks in the afternoon!

Duck sausage

Duck sausage

Believe me, this stuff is really great!  Once we discovered it(sampling at a local market)it became our favorite emergency food for bicycling, needing no refrigeration, and/or for a pre-dinner snack to have with wine.

Seafood from Languedoc

Seafood from Languedoc

Perfection! Grilled seafood with local garlic. It doesn’t get any better than this!

Green garlic

Green garlic

Speaking of garlic, the Vaucluse region of Provence is the second largest producer of green garlic in France, and it is used in almost everything from eggs to chicken to salads.

Herbes de Provence

Herbes de Provence

Just the smell of this perfect mixture of dried Provence herbs makes you feel as if you are in France, making this the perfect gift for those back home in the states. I use Herbs de Provence in everything from eggs to salad dressing to chicken salad to hamburgers.

I acquired many other favorites bicycling this summer in the South of France, and I know there are many more to be discovered. That’s what makes traveling by bike in France such a perfect way to discover all the things that make it such a special place. I hope that you will consider adding a bicycling segment to an upcoming trip to France!

©2013 Experience France by Bike.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.