Alpilles area (overall: 8.5/10; cycling 8/10)
The Alpilles region is a 300 sq. mile triangular area south of Avignon, border by the Rhone and Durance rivers to the NW and NE and by the badlands below Arles to the south.
This triangle is bisected by a mountainous ridge running east-west and anchored on the north by picturesque St. Remy-de-Provence and on the south by only slightly less charming Maussane les Alpilles.
Route Variety 8/10 (St. Remy side); 6/10 (Maussane side)
The terrain north of St. Remy is a triangle of flat farm land criss-crossed by irrigation canals and a variety of recreational routes are possible. At least four interesting 100km routes radiate from St. Remy.
South of St. Remy, however, there are three moderate (but inescapable) hills (200-275m/ 650-900ft) which can be woven into more challenging rides. The ride up to the breathtaking perched medieval village of Les Baux de Provence is one of the classic rides of Provence but is also perfectly manageable by cyclists of all skill levels.
Due to its relatively compact surface area, compared to some other cycling regions, the Alpilles has less cycling variety. You will find yourself retracing some routes over the course of the week (though many of those routes are breathtaking and so well worth a return ride.)
Hills: 6/10 and 9/10
There are only three hills in this area, but they are all manageable measuring just 225m, 200m and 260m alt each. But they can be knitted into a challenging and distractingly scenic routes.
The quiet back road D27 from just west of St. Remy weaves up to les Baux de Provence (elevation 225m).
For non-hill riders, the area between St. Remy and Avignon is flat farm land, crisscrossed by paved tractor tracks and irrigation canals.
To get from the north to south side, however ,you are almost obliged to ride up and over the Alpilles.
Cycling Safety 8/10
Safety is not a significant concern in the Alpilles region AS LONG AS cyclists avoid the main “D” Departmental roads. Particularly dangerous is the D99 running west towards St. Etienne de Gres and Tarascon. This road is lined with platanes trees which, while making a picturesque alley, leave no room at all for a safe riding shoulder.
Similarly the D99 east to Orgon is a bottleneck and main artery busy with relatively heavy traffic.
Fortunately there are enough alternate routes that these risky roads can be largely avoided.
That said, this area is more densely inhabited than some other areas and so you will find yourself more often hitting towns and populated areas.
Non-cycling Interest: 9/10
In terms of non-cycling activities, the Alpilles region is one of the jewels in the crown of Provence. The Wednesday morning market in St. Remy is a feast for the senses, a riot of colors, smells and tastes. The larger centers of Avignon, Arles and Nimes are all close by. There are excellent restaurants and wineries in the area plus shopping almost as chic as you would find in Paris.
Weather and Seasons 9/10
In a nutshell, the weather in the Alpilles is typical of Provence, which is the most reliable in France. The cycling season therefore is the longest in France too.
While summers are really too hot for comfortable riding, good weather can be had from April until the end of October. And even into November.