I’m old enough to remember when I first acquired dial-up internet and my new Nokia 3210 was the best thing since sliced bread; and ever since then life has been a whole lot easier. Much like most millennials, I rely on technology to do just about everything from ordering my next hot meal to answering burning questions like whether starfish have eyes. But sometimes traveling takes away this luxury (if only because 4G chews up too much data and battery.)

On a sunny afternoon in early June though, instead of letting the absence of technology get in the way of what I knew was going to be an epic adventure, I decided to buy a second-hand Michelin map of the South of France and navigate my way old-school through the countryside – on a bicycle.

This is what it's like to explore the South of France with nothing but a paper map and a bicycle!

Avignon – Pont du Gard

My journey started in Avignon where I found a used bike for sale equipped with a harness for my backpack and rode approximately 30kms to Pont du Gard. Built by the Romans in the year 20 BC, this UNESCO world heritage site is a three-tiered aqueduct which is incredibly well preserved and visited by thousands of tourists every year.

This is what it's like to explore the South of France with nothing but a paper map and a bicycle!

Pont du Gard – Nîmes

My next destination was Nîmes which my map told me was another 25kms ride southwest. Arriving late on a Sunday morning, I parked my bike and explored the local Market Hall, strolled through the streets of the old town and rested in the Gardens de la Fountain. Nîmes is a city not to be missed. Steeped in history, its Roman influences can be seen in the architecture, particularly the Place des Arenes, an ancient Roman amphitheatre.

Nîmes – Tarascon

Consulting my map in the morning, I decided I could ride to Tarascon through Beaucaire. The ride through this part of southern France is breathtaking. The cobblestone streets of the tiny villages boarded by lush green countryside and incredible buildings ensure that I am constantly stopping my bike to take photos. 20kms further along is St-Remy-de-Provence, a town which has inspired many painters including Vincent van Gogh.

Wondering in and out of the small shops, buying postcards and sampling as much of the local cuisine as I could stomach, it is easy to see why this town influences and attracts artists and tourists alike.

This is what it's like to explore the South of France with nothing but a paper map and a bicycle!

Tarascon – Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – Perres-les-Fontaines

Biking back North-East, I explored both Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Perres-les-Fontaines which are both encircled by the Sorgue river and are often known as the heart of Provence. Famous for their antique shops, crystal blue canals and Baroque architecture, the towns truly give tourists a glimpse of what it means to indulge in ‘Le Vie Francaise.’

From Gordes to Rodes and everywhere in between, I clocked up a serious amount of ground on my bike and with only a paper map to guide me through the windy roads, I surprised myself when I managed to make it to my daily destination without getting completely lost (or ending up in Italy.)

This is what it's like to explore the South of France with nothing but a paper map and a bicycle!

Roussillon

Roussillon is a village that sets itself apart from the typical Provençal charm of other towns in the area due to the deep red colouration of its cliffs and ochre buildings. While mining has ceased in Roussillon, the incredible uniqueness of the village draws crowds of tourists all year round.

Bonnieux

Bonnieux is another must-see town in this area. Dating back to 972 AD, if you can conquer the steep ascent to the old church you will be rewarded with a magnificent view over Provence. If you have the time, you should pay the 1,50 € to visit the Boulangerie Museum to discover the art of bread-making in France throughout history, because only in France would they dedicate a whole museum to bread!

Liberian mountains – Aix-en-Provence

This area is surrounded by the Luberon mountains and much to my dismay, most of the cities are only accessible by a steep incline. Luckily there is always a reward of delicious French cuisine and remarkable wine waiting for me at the top.  Aix-en-Provence was my last destination before ending my bike riding adventure in Marseille. A town swarming with tourists, Aix-en-Provence is a charming quintessentially provincial town with cafes, galleries and an abundance of parks and shops.

A bustle of activity constantly surrounds the Cours Mirabeau, as locals and visitors alike take aperitif, sitting back in rickety chairs lined up outside cafés and indulge in France’s age old institution of people watching.

This is what it's like to explore the South of France with nothing but a paper map and a bicycle!

Aix-en-Provence – Marseille

Where Aix-en-Provence exudes luxury and grandiose, Marseille feels rustic and bohemian in comparison. One of the oldest and largest cities in France, riding in after 10 days of cruising around small Provençal towns was daunting. Once settled, I instantly gravitated to the ‘Quartier du Panier,’ winding in and out of the cobble stone streets and eventually reaching the ‘Notre dame de la Garde,’ a neo-Byzantine church which sits at the highest point of the city. The harbour area is where to venture for nightlife and restaurants, but really you could discover something new and exciting every time you visit Marseille.

If time permits, I would highly recommend venturing out of the city to the Calanques; an area extending about 20kms along the coast towards Cassis which is made up of valleys, mountains, inlets and rich vegetation. Perfect for hiking and enjoying the views of endless crystal blue waters, it is easy to spend the day exploring the breathtaking expanse of natural beauty in this region.

This is what it's like to explore the South of France with nothing but a paper map and a bicycle!

At the end of my self-guided biking journey through southern France, I guesstimated that I had clocked up over 400kms in 10 days. All with the help of one trusty very-worn Michelin map and I would encourage everyone to embarking on the challenge of a Google-less adventure because in fact, as I discovered, we don’t need to rely on technology to get us from A to B.

Have you ever done a trip on your bicycle? Where do your legs take you?


This is a guest post by Maria Fedele.

A 28 year old Australian native hailing from the beautiful South Australia, Maria is a free-spirited adventurous traveler who loves nothing more than purchasing a one-way ticket and seeing where life takes her. A university graduate with a degree in International Relations and Foreign Politics, Maria takes more than just an interest in cultures, but has often found herself moving countries in order to truly get a feel for how the locals live. From living in Australia to Paris and now London, Maria has also backpacked her way through Europe, volunteered in Nepal and spent days surfing in Morocco. Perpetually in search of sun, surf and sand, she can’t help by feel a little restless when she isn’t planning her next holiday.