Saturday 25 July 2015

First days in Provence

To be fair, this blog is ostensibly supposed to be about the cycling adventures, etc, that I have had. Since this trip however involves both cycling adventures and other travel adventures, the wheels will be a little out of true. Most times they'll wobble over to cycling (obviously), but other times they'll wibble over to travel, more generally. At times it may be about both cycling and travel, because they are one and the same. I apologize for this confusion of focus.

We're staying at 54 rue de Portail Haut, La Roque-sur-Pernes, which looks like this:

It's four stories of unassuming french loveliness.

July 22
The day after flying in to Paris, and driving 8 hours from there to La Roque on the 21st, we were both pretty bagged.

So we spent Wednesday sleeping, putting the bikes together, picking up some groceries, and some spare inner tubes (and meeting Havi and Jerome at Velo Pernes). During the day the temperature reaches the high 30s around here, but by the evening it was 31'C and I had enough energy to get on the bike. So I did. This is what I rode, and I felt pretty good.

La Roque-sur-Pernes to St. Didier to Le Beaucet to Venasque and back

Before the ride, at the local bike shop (Perne Velo) first Havi pumped up my rear tire to 7 bars (90 lbs), and then went over to help another customer while I finished putting the new tube in the front wheel, so Jerome pumped up the second one and told me that I shouldn't inflate them more than 7 bars because of the roads around here - which are not great he said.

He did not know that he was speaking to a Canadian prairie bike rider who knows bad roads when he rides them. He did know that a tire inflated to 7 bars has plenty of pressure to be both fast on hot pavement, and to provide some cushion over the bumps - which are relatively not many at all. The roads are, by Manitoba standards, quite fine. They're mostly well-maintained and, most importantly, the drivers here think that cyclists on roads are completely normal and deserve as much of a sense that they are safe and valued as anyone else. Everybody waves. Everybody gives you space. Everybody can drive. It's a bit of a utopian experience.

July 23
B and R, our good friends from Manitoba, who are joining us for 8 days, arrived in Marseille at 10:10 AM, so we left La Roque at 8:30 AM to drive down and pick them up. Smooth sailing. Everything went as it should, except for maybe a Starbucks Kenyan Latte that, in hindsight, might have caused me some discomfort. That or the jet lag and the heat. Anyway, on the way back everything went smoothly again, until we got into the house.

Then I was tired, and sleepy. So I lay down and would have slept the rest of the day away except that M woke me up around 3 to remind me that if I slept during the day I wouldn't sleep at night, and then everything would stay out of whack. So I got up and shook things off enough to accompany the others in driving to town to shop a bit more and then to head out to the Cistercian Abbey at Sananque. We missed the Thursday night vespers, but still walked the grounds. 

Then we headed over to the village of Gordes to explore further, and then to drive around the countryside to get a feel for things.

No riding on this day. A prudent decision, I think. I did stay up long enough to map out my ride for the next day.

July 24 & 25
At 7:30 AM I was on the bike riding. Though I want to get better at acclimating to hotter temperatures, the mornings are just too nice not to ride. It was 21'C when I got onto the road. On the first downhill I actually felt a bit of a chill. The route I'd mapped out was much like the exploratory drive we'd taken the night before.

La Roque-sur-Pernes to Venasque to Abbey Sananque to Gordes to Lagnes to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse to Saumane to La Roque-sur-Pernes

It's a great 60 km ride, so much so that I rode the same route again this morning (the 25th) (fyi, they'll likely all be great, so I'll stop with the adjectives now, and let the pics and details speak). It begins immediately out the front door and involves 1250 m of climbing, with an average grade of 5% and a max grade of 11% (see the elevation profile in the link above) and sights that a rider from Manitoba doesn't see, like these:

The bottom of the 6 km climb back to La Roque.

The road that winds up, and then down, to Sananque and the Abbey.

The beginning of the climb out of the bottom of the Nesques (river) Gorges.
You can see the Abbey on the left. 

On the 24th in the afternoon, in the heat of a hot day (temps as high as 39'C), with the intrepid M's encouragement we headed off to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse for a kayak adventure (pretty easygoing but the water was cool and overall the experience was ... European) on the River Sorgue.

Today, the 25th, I rode the same route as the 24th and cut the time of the ride from 2 hrs, 24 mins to 2 hrs, 20 mins. Mostly I think I just rode the downhills faster.

When I got back M, B, and R were still around (I had expected they would have already have headed in to town), so we all went in and spent time at the Saturday morning market in Pernes-les-Fontaines the town nearest the village we're in. We had to buy more food and wine. Of course. When in France ... !

Then, in the evening, before supper (get it? before supper - so French!) we headed out for a marche (a walk) on the trails south (I think) of the village. We found a borie (also see below), and a restaurant fine-looking (of course, it's French) restaurant, which looked good enough for us to make reservations for Sunday dinner at 8 PM (soooo French!)

After a late supper (soooo French!) we did the dishes and went to bed. Well, then I blogged, and then I went to bed. That is, now I'm going to bed. It's 1 AM. We're heading to Avignon tomorrow and even though my legs are feeling good, I'm going to give them a rest from the bike on the day of rest.


  1. This all looks and sounds awesome!

    Joie d'vivre!


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