Les Baux and Back

Sunday was my ‘endurance day’ on the training week, so I opened up my Provence Michelin and checked out where I could get to in 4 or so hours. I have to get accustomed to living on the edge of Languedoc now – we are really at the doorstep of Provence. So anyway, today Mr. Patterson went to Provence!

First, no stranger to this blog – Chapelle St. Laurent. I’m not sure why I love this so much, but I always stop by and take the same picture of it. It’s about 20 km from home, so a good place to have a stretch, and the general loneliness of it is really appealing. It’s also a good place to take a leak, if you’re in the neighborhood…and have to pee.

Not far along the road I crossed the mighty Rhône River, where two rival castles still stand, one on either side. The left is in Beaucaire, in what is now Languedoc-Roussillon, and the right is Terascon, in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. You might need to squint to see the Beaucaire castle. Top left of the photo.

Then it was a long, flat ride through a mildly nasty mistral to the foot of a 7 km climb to Les Baux de Provence. This route, unlike the two or three others that access Les Baux, is totally free of camper vans and tour buses (Les Baux is one of the most visited places in France) and it was just me, a car or two, and one other cyclist the whole way up.

Then my first view of Les Baux. At first glance it looks like the rocky top of a mountain, but there’s plenty up there! Along the very top stretches the ruins of a medieval stronghold, with the village below, from around the center of the photo to the right. Then of course there are the hundreds of cars to the left and the thousands of tourists inside the village (thankfully hidden). Even with the crowds it’s one of the most beautiful villages I’ve ever seen and well worth the effort to get there (if you cycle up of course!).

Equally lovely is the location of Les Baux – smack dab in the middle of a small mountain range called Les Alpilles. The area is really tiny and easily ridden in a day – there are plenty of excellent roads through olive grove after olive grove (the area is famous for its olive oil).

I was running out of daylight, so I rode down the southern (tour bus) side of the range and looped around back to the route that brought me there. On the way I passed one more chapel.

I then crossed a windy Rhône and made my way (with a generous tailwind) all the way home. And yes, I stopped off at St. Laurent for another slash.

The red line is Sunday’s ride. The blue one is a foggy ride done with friend John a couple months ago


13 thoughts on “Les Baux and Back

  1. Gerry –
    My wife and I did that route to Les Baux from St Remy back in 2002. On hybrid bikes it was 1 hour up, 7 minutes down. We don’t have hills like that where we are from – my wife hated it. It was a fantastic ride – no cars, great scenery.

    • Craig, I’ve been on a good many hills that my wife didn’t like very much, as well. I feel your pain. Really nice riding there. Have you ridden nearby in the Luberon, by any chance? It’s a bit farther afield, but I’ve got it in my sights this year.

      • Gerry –
        Around 1998 our first Provence trip was riding out of L’Isle sur la Sorgue. We stayed there & took day trips so as not to carry luggage. The area was great. We usually started out on the Route du Robion & then went off on a more quiet side road, making our way to the Vélo Loisir / Cavaillo Apt route. This route is great for touring (sometimes narrow, rolling) but may not be great if you are only training. I recall that we would go down the route, then come back by way of the flat valley which was much faster. Next day we would take a valley road & go back on to the Velo Loisir route where we stopped the previous day (we were on tourist hybrids, so we were not going fast and we were taking quite a few stops) and go further down the route. I recall the part between Lacoste and Bonnieux as being spectacular for the views between the towns. I think this valley is a prime area for biking. I am currently making plans on going to the area south of the petite Luberon around Lourmarin for September of this year. We are planning on biking in the area between the mountains and the Durance River, and possibly going over to the Roussillon area for a day trip or two if we get a car and a bike rack. This general area is not as well written as the north area (most commercial bike tours appear to go to the north) but we want to try something different. The south loop of the Vélo Loisir does go through this area, so it must be OK. We almost came to your area – it was a tough decision !

  2. Gerry – one other thing –
    One of our day trips from St Remy went northwest towards Barbentane and around the Abbey Frigolet. I remember it was a good ride with rolling climbs. It wasn’t the continuous climb like the backroad route to Les Beaux we’ve talked about.

    Thanks for the blog – We enjoy reading about the familiar roads and those we hope to ride someday !


    • Thanks for the info Craig. About Luberon, it sounds excellent and if I have the time (outside of tourist season) we’ll definitely get over there. Heck, I can see the mountains from the hill behind home, so don’t have a great excuse not too!

      The south route was actually what I was thinking of doing first, just for ease of logistics. I have a friend (the ‘John’ I sometimes mention in the blog) who rode the whole Luberon loop last year with a friend and he said it was beautiful – rolling hills and valleys with one or two significant climbs (warning to your wife!), probably to get over the range when returning (assuming you do a loop).

      And finally, thanks for the tip on that route north of St. Remy. I had actually intended to do that bit on my ride the other day, but the Mistral was too strong, so I changed plans and tried to make a route that didn’t head straight into it, i.e. north. I’ll hit it next time I go over there.


  3. Wonderful pics! I enjoy seeing where others ride. You mentioned seeing a few other riders. When this happens, do you possibly stop and talk or just wave and go on?

  4. Thanks, and yours of Florida are not too shabby either! I wish we had some nice white sand like that here.

    Nope, don’t talk much to other riders here, unless I’m stopped and they are, too. Mostly just a manly nod or a curt ‘bonjour’ or ‘salut’. French cycling etiquette.

    • Alice, it’s actually in St. Vincent, just up the D990 from Beaucaire towards Nimes. Nearby there are 3 Roman mile posts and a stretch of the Via Domitia, so could make a nice morning trip. Bonne Route!

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