Sion Castle from the cycle path along the Rhone
A couple of days ago a big winter storm moved through the Valais and we had several inches of fresh snow fall overnight followed by some cold and cloudy days. So when today looked set for warm weather with blue skies and light airs we decided it was time to get back on our bikes. – which have just been cleaned and serviced.
I had researched a ride a couple of weeks back called ‘Castles of Sion’ which at the time I thought would be a good training ride for going over the passes on our tours. We hadn’t ridden it however so it seemed to be a good choice today – especially as it was on the sunny side of the valley.
We started at our normal spot in Approz and had a nice warm up on the flat to get through Conthey and then onto route 72 and the start of the climb. My legs (quads) felt quite stiff to start and I had to get my head round being back on a bike, which was running very well after it’s service.
Our route took us up a quiet road through the vineyards where the harvest is now underway. Had a break about half way up the initial climb and sampled some of the grapes. Although small, absolutely delicious, juicy and sweet. The harvest is hard work as the vineyards tend to be steeply terraced so the harvesting is done by hand and the crates carried / rolled to the side of the road where numerous small ‘white vans’ pick them up. Later in the morning we cycled past some local presses where the smell of the fermenting grapes was very heady.
Got up to Chandolin, notable for having an old wooden fire-engine cart on display by the side of the road. A bit further on we came to Granois where we stopped for a welcome coffee and our peanut butter sarnies. Suitably refreshed we made our way through some backstreets onto an escarpment which overlooked the valley bottom – beautiful views of the mountain ranges capped with snow, the vineyards and the ruined Chateau de la Soie. Really enjoyed this section of the ride.
We stayed on country lanes through the vineyards and small villages, saw a very fine looking fox run across the road in front of us and up a grassy slope. He looked in great condition. Our high point for the ride was the church in St Romain at 1,020m. Saw a cafe (Cafe des Sports) in Avent just before we got there with a lovely elevated garden terrace. Felt like it was a good spot for a rest and we enjoyed a couple of cokes, some roasted potato wedges whilst admiring the views of Nax and Mount Noble where had an outstanding ski tour one day years ago with Rick.
The church was open so we had a quick look round inside. Beautiful carvings of saints on the choir stalls as well as stained glass windows. Very peaceful.
Our ride down was outstanding:
- Mike said at the start he was going to take it slowly as he wanted to savour the views.
- An opportunity to look down into the La Liene gorge, formed when the glaciers of the last ice age retreated and the meltwaters carved out a deep incision in the mountain thus separating Avent from Lens
- A beautiful descent through the vineyards. The light was perfect, different colours across the fields where the grapes have been harvested to those where they are still on the vines.
- We saw a couple walking along the Bisse de Clavau which gave us the idea to hike it the next day.
- A fast paved bike path along the Rhône. As we reached the bottom of the valley we felt the wind pick up, however we were very well protected from the head wind on the cycle path and the ride back to Sion was much easier than we expected
- Glimpses of Sion Castle and Cathedral through the trees, much nicer than seeing it from the road
- Coffee in Aproz sitting in the sun, reflecting on what a super day it was and how lucky we are to have the time to explore this valley.
Click on play below to see some photos from our ride
Link to detailed route page and map click on route title