A Weekend in Provence – Luberon

Since moving to Nîmes last summer Shoko and I have been semi-adopted by our infinitely kind (and infinitely patient when it comes to dealing with my French…) landlady/neighbor, Marie-Hélène. Last weekend she invited us to her sister’s house in the Luberon area of Provence. Well, weekends are for long rides, as anyone in training knows, so I decided to ride over and get some badly-needed mileage in my legs before my race next weekend.

Luberon is the heart of Provence and it is justly famous for its many beautiful villages (Ménerbes, for example, is the village made famous by Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence”), lavender fields and scenic vistas. As usual, none of these could be captured by my camera, so check the internet for confirmation.

Luberon is also a mountain range and there is a sign-posted cycling route that encircles the mountains, nearly 240 km long. This is the beginning of it, near the town of Cavaillon.

This is village of Opède le Vieux, one of many places I had to enjoy from below, having promised everyone I’d arrive for lunch.

The northern part of the cycling route rolls along the flanks of the Luberon massif, where villages cling to its side or perch themselves on top of rocky outcrops. I think this is Bonnieux.

This one was taken from Bonnieux, looking across the valley to Lacoste, another village that will have to wait till I have more time.

Here is Saignon, which I visited by mistake, having taken a wrong turn somewhere or other up the mountain.

From around here I lost the cycling route altogether, thinking I was going to take a shortcut to Montjustin, my destination. Instead, I re-climbed the mountain I just flew down. At least I had a view – you might be able to make out the Alps if you squint.

Here is one of hundreds of helpful signs along the way, each pointing in the direction you should be riding and the next major town you will hit.

Finally, after 130 km (all on a light breakfast and one pain aux amandes, I might add…) I reached the turnoff to Montjustin. Tip for cyclists coming to France: if the name of a place includes the word ‘mont’, it’s not in there for nothing!

I arrived at the top sometime after 3pm, I think. Thankfully people in southern France eat late…

This is me waving for my team car near the top of that last hill.

Below are some shots in and around the village. This area is really lovely and, at least out of season, the cycling is amazing. Probably wise to avoid school holidays, though. I can only imagine the convoys of RVs that must plows these tiny roads in summer.

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10 thoughts on “A Weekend in Provence – Luberon

  1. Fantastic pics. If your camera doesn’t do justice to the views, then the views must have been spectacular. I can only imagine your appearance when you presented yourself for lunch after a 100km pedal through the mountains. I also very much like your phrase, “which I visited by mistake.” That’s happened to me more than once!

    • Let your imagination run wild, Steve. I probably looked pretty done-in, I’m sure. I make surprise visits a lot myself. There are just too many junctions in France to stop at each and every one and whip out the map.

  2. I had completely forgotten about the Lubvelo bike route – what a great idea! Hmmm….240km, eh? How about doing that on a weekend? Staying in Forcalquier or so? Starting and finishing in Nimes would bring it to 360km total. That should be doable with so much daylight. I need more excuses to visit the Luberon.

    • Sounds good, but I’ve sort of reserved my next trip there with Shoko, so it definitely would take more than a weekend! Going back to your idea though, could shorten it a little by taking the train to Avignon or Arles. Between Nimes and Beaucaire is pretty average in terms of scenery and nice roads.

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