Recipe for a perfect Sunday afternoon:
-1 picturesque French village with gravel playing court
-6-10 boules, one cochonnet
-1 good bottle of Pastis (or two)
-Ice in the cooler
-A bounty of tasty, salty snacks
-Slowly approaching dusk
-Lovely, laughing friends
Mix all ingredients, laugh heartily and merrily bike your way home.
Inspired by a glorious, three-day window in my work schedule, I packed up my paniers with some camping gear, minimal clothing and some snacks and headed to the North side of Ventoux to begin a solo biking adventure in the Drôme. Solo bike touring has become my saving grace during the summer. Since I’m usually guiding large groups of cyclists and hikers, I appreciate the peace and quiet of the open road to recharge my batteries and relax, meet local characters and discover amazing new bicycling routes. This trip didn’t disappoint me in the least! Despite not being prepared enough for the cold weather at night in my trusty tent and battling a 70kph head-wind for two days, everything else was serendipitous, spontaneous and light-hearted fun! My camp wasn’t even over-run by wild boars during the night (this seemed to be my only legitimate concern), and I managed to accomplish my goal of riding 100k a day in spite of the wind and hills.
For those of you who might want to bike the route too, some of my favorites, in chronological order, were Buis-les-Baronnies (incredible tea and organic market), Séderon, the D546/D542/D592 into Gorges de la Méouge (Finally, I found some good swimming holes in Provence!) and Revest-du-Bion. I’m happy to post a more detailed route if requested!
Gorges de la Méouge
The best tea stop in Buis-les-Baronnies. La Maison de Jade.
Provence is home to the illustrious Mont Ventoux, a rugged 1,912 m mountain that’s appeared 15 times on the Tour de France since 1951. It’s one of our Provencal icons, and to put it mildly, we’re darn proud of our little mountain. Cyclists from all over the world come out to contour the beast from one of three ascents: Bédoin, Malaucène or Sault. If you love cycling and you’re in Provence, you have to ride Ventoux; it’s a right of passage. However, if you’re feeling lazy and not in the mood to tackle 1617 meters in about 22 k with grueling grades averaging around 9% for over two thirds of the climb, or dealing with the vicious head wind that can knock you and your little bike sideways, a wonderful alternative route is the Tour de Ventoux! From my home in Carpentras, I can make my way around the mountain in 125k. This year, I decided to try the route clockwise which presented me with three good climbs and about 2,100 meters of elevation gain (note that the elevation gain is greater than Ventoux, just over a lot more kilometers). Compared to the bustling, drier and more Mediterranean South side of Ventoux, the North side has some of the most magical and sleepy towns of Provence, plus spectacular views of the summit, lush vegetation, and a couple of lavender fields that are almost too pretty for words. Whether you go clockwise or counter-clockwise, stop in some of my favorite towns for a coffee, quick lunch or a cold beer (depending on the time of day): Malaucène, Savoillan, Montbruns-les-Bains, Sault, Monieux, and Villes-sur-Auzon. You’ll also get to bike through the gorgeous Gorges de la Nesque which is a lovely ride in it of itself. Shoot me a message if you would like more details about this ride or if you find yourself in the area and need a riding buddy…
Malaucène. The perfect coffee or beer stop!
Best lavender field on North side.
Gorges de la Nesque