A Biker's Reverie

Rhone River - History and Geography
  |  Gorp.com
Roman Arena at Arles
The well-preserved Roman Arena at Arles is still used for spectacles.

The Rhtne River is the major river spilling into the northwestern Mediterranean. With its source at a gushing glacier in south-central Switzerland, the Rhtne flows west through Lake Geneva (which is no more than a deep mountain catch basin) and the lower Alps of France to Lyon and then turns due south. After Avignon, it opens out into a wide agricultural delta known as the Camargue before mingling with the Mediterranean's Gulf of Lion 505 miles from where it began.

The French end of the Rhtne south of Lyon is best known for the region through which it flows: Provence. Already famous for a nexus of cities attracting turn-of-the-century artists and boasting colossal Roman ruins in fair states of preservation, Provence was given a latter century literary boost by Peter Mayle through his best-selling"A Year in Provence". He captured a loony side of the charming, and more remote, mountainous Vaucluse and Lubiron regions east of the river.

A true river valley aficionado will still revel in the agriculture and industry of our modern-day world mixed in with the days-past vestiges of a culture making market, merry and mayhem along the waterway.

A pedal down the Rhtne starting in Lyon, France's second city, goes through lesser-known Vienne and Valence before hitting Orange and its Roman theater, summer theater festival site Avignon and the monumental Palais des Papes (and bridge), Arles with its still-in-use Roman arena, and the Camargue National Reserve, a protected wildlife area in the delta formed by the Rhtne's split into the Grand Rhtne and the Petit Rhtne.


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