A Weekend in Provence – Chapter One

I wonder how many times a title like this has been used for a blog? Well, in lieu of coming up with something creative, it’ll do nicely, I think, since that’s what Shoko and I had – two days riding through Peter Mayle’s Provence.

Because I spent all year riding my bike far too fast and furious for fun, Shoko and I didn’t have our usual cycling vacation. I’ve vowed to rectify that at least a little by squeezing in a few weekend trips before the weather turns (relatively) bad. Here’s our first.

After dusting off the Cannondale, and a 30-minute train ride to Avignon, we were on our way through the endless apple groves of the Vaucluse.

After awhile on the flats of the Rhone delta we rode up to the flanks of the Luberon, a small mountain range that lends its name to the region. Our first stop was Oppède le Vieux (Oppède the Old), a quaint tourist/artist village that had been abandoned in the 19th century for the sunnier flats below (right, there’s an Oppède down there, too), only to be resettled by artists in the 20th. The villagers took the roofs off their houses when they moved to avoid paying property taxes (I wish I could do the same, but someone lives upstairs…)!

The next stop on the route was Peter Mayle’s pretty village of Ménerbe where, among other fascinating tourist attractions, you can find this:

The Museum of the Corkscrew. I think it would be safe to say, ‘only in France’! It was mid-day by now and the world was in full sieste mode.

Our next village held more promise. Lacoste has the pleasure of being the origins of the word ‘sadism’. The Marquis de Sade’s castle, still dominating the hilltop above the village, was the locale of many of his most dastardly deeds. The village today is calm and has a really lovely view. The only sadistic thing remaining, as far as I can tell, is the climb to get up to it. Here’s the view from the terrace of the café we just had to stop at.

And one more, not quite as sepia.

After a great, long descent from Lacoste, we joined the Véloroute du Calvaron, a mixed-use path that would take us to our hotel in Apt. The route goes over a Roman bridge that’s been in my sights for some time now, le Pont Julien.

The greenway, other than a short trip over a 2300 yr-old bridge, follows an unused railroad, making it pretty straight and nicely flat.

This took us right into Apt, our destination, and our hotel – the honestly-advertised ‘Cheap Hotel – Etap Hotel‘. Cheap, for sure, but couldn’t beat the location and everything was brand new and stuff actually worked. This one is also part of the Vélo Loisir du Luberon and offers locked accommodation for bikes as well as muesli for breakfast, i.e. something that will stick to a cyclist’s guts a bit better than an airy baguette.

The kind of sign we’d all like to see after a day in the saddle

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4 thoughts on “A Weekend in Provence – Chapter One

  1. Looks heavenly. I’m looking forward to when Chris and I can head off on a cycling holiday together again, hopefully before we’re too old to be able to climb on our bikes any more! Making do with long runs every day to collect as much fruit and as many nuts as we can find in the hedgerows. Not quite on a par with pedalling through Provence though …

  2. Hello Gerry –
    I wrote you earlier this year as I was planning a trip to somewhere in south France. We finally made it – We got back from Cucuron this week – it was wonderful ! One day we carried our bikes by car rack to Bonnieux & took the Cavaillon/Apt route to Lacoste, then on to Menerbes. The short stretch between Lacoste & Bonnieux is great – really not that hilly (until you approach either town), with views back & forth between the two towns and down into the valley & across to Mt Ventoux. From there we went down to the bike path that was once the railroad line to Apt. We met a cycling group from (?) that had tandems & were taking eyesight-impaired cyclists on a cycle tour. We rode with them to Pont Julien & then back up to Bonnieux. It was a great day of riding.

    Our other rides were much shorter, zig zagging around the chemins around Cucuron. No great distances, just fun. And also a night ride on the chemins under that full moon on the 12th.

    I always enjoy your blog though I don’t come here as often as I should. Thanks for keeping us up to date on areas most of us can only visit every few years –

    Craig in Memphis

    • Thanks for the comment, Craig, and glad to hear your vacation was great. It’s hard to beat Provence for cycling pleasure, so it’s never difficult to have a nice holiday, I’d say. I think you hit the timing right, too, since it can get busy with the wrong type of tourist (the one not cycling!) in July and August. The weather’s been amazing, too, so you really had some good luck. I’ll have to try the road between Lacoste and Bonnieux next time I’m in the area. I’ve gone around the backside (missing Lacoste) from Menerbe, but not the route you took.

      Next time you’re in Le Sud, let me know. It’d be great to get together for a ride.

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