Location: Forcalquier, France
Forecast - Hills
A stage between two important places of Haute Provence - the eastern part of this area known as 'Luberon Oriental', and the colourful and lavender perfumed land of Forcalquier.
Petit d'jeuner another simple breakfast served in the foyer of the hotel. Bit more internet travel then off we go...
Staying tonight at the Hotel Charembeau, Forcalquier.
Location: Manosque, France
(26km with hills***)
Awoke to beautiful sunshine. Need to let you know that atthis stage we had found an appreciation of the surrounding landscapes. Provence is just so different to the previous two regions, it took a while for us to adapt. Less chateaus, cool lush forests and less royal history, but it has the beautiful farmlands, the wineries and the people.
With time to spare before breakfast, we went to look at Pierre's tiny farm. Oddly, all the animals co-habitated peacefully. I loved the rabbits so had to give a couple of them a cuddle, much totheir chagrin and my delight.
Breakfast was simple but homely, the bread was so fresh, warm and crunchy. We even ate the croissants so we didn't offend Pierre, that's our reasoning anyway.
Cycled back up the hill, not as bad first thing in the morning, and followed the route to a tiny village where we bought some fresh fruit for our journey. Cycling on, the stage took us through Pierrevert where a wine museum and vineyard is located. Stopped here to look around, ended up buying two half bottles of red and four small bottles of assorted apperitifs each. The backpack was my responsibility today so I was challenged up the hills.
Arrived at the city of Manosque 15km before we should have, see notes.
Made our way to the Hotel du Terreau in the Centre Ancien, the original city centre. Here we observed the tiny alleys and archways that are so abundant in France. Discovered that Suzanne's luggage had not arrived with mine so othe hotel manager arranged the belated delivery. Showered and set out for discovery, only to remember that mostshops are closed on Lundi (Monday). Had a salad at an al fresco cafe in the square close to our hotel, enjoying both wine and cafe. Followed the directions from our kindly waitress and found an open cybercafe du coin (local internet cafe) which enabled us to finally catch up on the last few days.
Dinner at a cafe adjacent to the one we went to for lunch, our first dinner not actually included in our holiday package. Shared saumon fume' (smoked salmon) entree and both had St Jacques for main, delicious plump scallops. Avoided dessert for the first time as it was not part of any pre-paid menus, but leisurely enjoyed an apperitif and a carafe of vin blanc (this one presumably from a cask - eeew).
Back to the hotel to wake up the manager so we could retrieve Suzanne's luggage from the locked foyer. Back upstairs to bed, leaving our balcony door open to the stars, the moon, the French city hustle and bustle outside. Slept like a log.
S et S
***Our scheduled itinerary was supposed to takes us on a 38km tour but we unintentionally missed part of it, arrived early and cut our trip down to 26km.
Location: Vitrolles en Luberon, France
Woke to pouring rain which stopped after about half an hour. Cooled everything down nicely and provided a little cloud cover making our second day much more pleasurable.
Our ride was a beautiful trip through a large part of the south hill of Luberon, sprinkled with authentic villages. We travelled through Vaugines then on to Cucuron where we stopped and visited the Rue d'Artistes, a street lined with local artists and their wares. We viewed some very impressive art work, sadly too large for us to pack and take with us. We especially enjoyed watching a man sitting alone beneath an olive tree, painting frescoes of water features. They were so life-like that you could imagine walking up and feeling the cool water run over your hands.
We uncovered the mystery of the fly-like symbol we saw everywhere. Did the French worship the fly? What strange reasoning for this fly found in ceramics, printed on tablecloths, hanging on walls, in jewellery, everywhere. The fly is actually a cicada or cigale in French, and yes, they do seem to have cicadas, reminds us of summer at home.
Had cafe at Place l'Etang still in Cucuron, a series of cafes set around a large rectangular swimming pool-sized pond surrounded by bountiful trees, quite lovely, cool and peaceful.
Approached by a handsome French cyclist, clad in full lycra, requesting our assistance. He had experienced a flat (tyre that is). We gave him one of our spare tubes and he was most grateful. Suzanne took a photo of me handing it over, unfortunately (or not) the angle looks like I am fondling his manhood!
Moving on, we headed for the smallest village on our journey so far called Vitrolles en Luberon. The last part of our trip today, a 2km ascent into a three street town, no shops, no people, no anything. It was tres jolie, stone facias and many flowers, especially the traditional and aromatic lavender. Unable to find our hotel, we called Pierre, the proprietor who drove up to us in his Swiss car, jazz music pumping. He advised us to follow him, and we sped straight back down the mountain to Chambre d'Hotes Domaine du Tombareau. Our second Bed and Breakfast, this funny little man who played saxophone upstairs, was in a band with his two sons, had two mangey dogs, bred his own chickens, rabbits, ducks and pigeons for fresh meals on his three hectare property.
Dinner with him was a comfortable, homely affair, his English was quite good and we pulled out the translation dictionaries to communicate better and learn some new terms. His wife was visiting family so Pierre did all the cooking, cleaning and maintenance, quite an unusual man. Dinner consisted of chicken, rice, carrots and zucchini, camembert and mesculin salad with fresh garlic dressing, followed by framboise sorbet with Chantilly creme (cream in a can). Accopanying drinks were anise et amandes syrup apperitifs and a local vin rouge. We knew it was time to leave when I spilled my drink sur la table.
Livres et lit (books and bed).
Previously advised by Pierre that petit d'jeuner was at 9am we took advantage of the sleep in.
S et S
Location: Cadenet, France
Woke up to a hot morning, our first in Provence. We will be travelling around Luberon including the Durance Valley, home of fresh produce, lavender, fruit, vegetables, olives, grapes, grapes, grapes...
Petit d'jeuner was shared with the Belgians. We had a typical continental breakfast with extra touches like the homemade confitures and freshly baked bread qnd croissants.
Set up our bikes, adjusted our seats (with the invincible tool) to avoid the pain we experienced on our first length of this incredible trip.
We were off, also the first day of the Tour de France. This trip was completely signposted for cyclists, we even had allocated shoulders on the main roads for cycling.
First impressions of Provence were hot, dry, windy, brown and unexpectedly less picturesque in comparison to Loire Valley et Dordogne.
The homes on the hills reminded me of Arizona or Santa Fe, maybe Beverley Hills, it was arid with large rendered homes and big gated entrances. We even saw cactus plants.
Stopped to try sweet plums (prunes in French) and other wild berries, the land was dry but must be extremely fertile.
Our trip took us through the Durance Valley with the beautiful mountains of Aix and Alpilles in the background. Passing through Lauris and it's 12th century chateau, we reached Cadenet and the ruins of it's troglodyte chateau.
Stopped at Lourmarin for lunch al fresco on the cobbles. Both Suzanne and I have become partial to goat cheese, which is popular in the region. We had a salade with this creamy white fromage, local olives and accompanied by two cafe au lait.
We stayed at the Mas du Colombier, a 'suite' with kitchenette and separate bedroom. This was a very old hotel / motel with little charm, it's only virtue a large swimming pool which Suzanne made the most of. I slept in this exhausting heat.
Walked to a local restaurant for dinner, Le Cinq Sens (The Five Senses) served by a charming but odd young garçon keen to practice his reasonably competent English. We ordered squid for entree and received prawns!
Permitted our waiter to select an apperitif for us and were presented with a horror purple glass of chapagne flavoured with violettes, garnished with fluoro orange plastic pineapple swizzle sticks and a slice of orange. He delightedly placed them in front of us and using our thespian abilities let him know how 'delicious' they were.
Mains were poisson with pepper sauce (capsicum), fromage then dessert of chocolate pudding and creme brulee. We both shared a full bouteille de vin rouge.
Weaved home to books and bed.
S et S
Location: Cavaillon, France
Bon jour mes amies
Waking up at 6am, Suzanne filled me in on the dilemma. Bikes locked in a garage, no staff to assist, no tool, and no Phil.
We tried over and over again to call the bike shop that had originally provided the bikes to us to no avail. Most French aren't conscious until 10am.
Decided to wait until hotel staff arrived, we knew breakfast would be served at 7.30 sharp because we had requested an early breakfast and received a sharp denial.
At 7.30 on the dot, Madame entered and provided us with the key to the garage. We hunted high and low for a wrench, spanner, pointy nosed pliers, anything to help us remove the pedals but we were unsuccessful. Monsieur had arrived at this stage, a huge gruff man with a permanent snuffle. To make matters worse, he actually hocked in front of guests. He had no English vocabulary whatsoever. We lured him to the garage and he said something that sounded quite rude, threw his arms in the air and stormed off. We were going to miss our train, maybe miss our connection, and possibly not arrive in Cavaillon tonight.
A minute later, monsieur came back with a spanner. Did we have the strength to remove the pedals ourselves? You bet we did. We wrenched them off, gratefully thanked Monsieur, and then we were invited in for an early breakfast. This was fabulous, but became even better when Monsieur signalled to us that he would drive us and our luggage up to the station.
We have been so lucky in this country, we have met such wonderful, kind-hearted people and our journey has been almost totally smooth going.
Point of Interest: It was incredibly cold in Souillac this morning,
Caught the train with moments to spare, sat in comfort, the regional trains are very spacious and comfortable, some settings even have foldaway tables.
After around an hour and a half, we arrived in Toulouse and had two hours to spend in the town before our next train.
Toulouse is a beautiful city with canals, pretty streetscapes and a mix of modern and historic monuments and architecture. We did see the seedy side with dirty pavements and a couple of beggars.
We walked to a large central square where the Place du Capitale was situated, a huge city hall-like building with fabuous frescoes painted inside on the ceilings, a place for weddings (we saw two). This building was originally known as the Place Royale in 1815, changed to the Place de la Liberte during the revolution, and was changed to its current title in 1844.
Returned a call from Phil and had a cafe and baguette before departure.
Toulouse to Avignon, a three and a half hour journey, we waited on the platform with half a country of others travelling the same way. To our dismay a three carriage train pulled up, and Suzanne and I were at the back of the pack.
We ended up half standing, half perched on a baggage rack, being jostled by other disgruntled, standing passengers and their bags for at least an hour of the journey.
Finally we both managed to find separate seats and then endured the rest ofthe trip, still jostled but at least seated.
I managed to finish the book I was reading, write all my postcards, then look up and to my delight, saw my first view of the snow-capped Pyrannese to one side and the beautiful Mediterranean Ocean on the other.
Arrived in Avignon, had a quick cafe and a salad at the station pub, then boarded our last train for the day to Cavaillon. This was a short and pleasant trip with an empty carriage and plenty of space.
Arriving in Cavaillon, we didn't hesitate to agree to catch a taxi rather than walk with luggage to our first Bed and Breakfast. Thankfully we did, it was about 5 kilometres out of town. Taxi deposited us at the d'Hote Mas des Fontaines, a lovely large family home on a few acres with swimming pool and landscaped gardens. We were shown to the lavendre chambre, our room for the night, quaint and country qnd very, very lavender!
How strange we felt and a little awkward in someone else's home. We cleaned up and had a rest, then made our way downstairs for dinner. Our host Jorge, greeted us and led us to an outdoor setting where we were introduced to a Belgian couple, both big, blonde and buxom. An older couple, Leo and Jacqui, both extremely sunburnt, but very friendly, being able to speak Flemmish, German, French and English fluently. We all partook in some apperitifs, I had Muscat and Suzanne had Quince wine. "Voitre Sante" or Your Health.
Our bikes arrived at this stage, two brand new fully carbon Cannondale road bikes. They put our pedals on for us, and we even had an 'invincible tool' (Andrew D, you will know what I mean) for adjustments. Parked the bikes in the garage then ate a fabulous home-cooked meal with Leo, Jacqui and Jorge, while Jorge's wife remained in the kitchen. Olive tapenade on melba toast, Fois gras entree, lamb main, fromage platter then sorbet.
We shared a bottle of rose' and rouge, then excused ourselves, being ready beyond a doubt, for bed.
S et S
Location: Souilliac, France
Standard continental breakfast, met small large family (obviously enjoying food in France like us) from Perth. Chatted in English, I glazed over with boredom, our French is so fluent now (pardon moi, Suzanne looks disbelievingly on at me. We all know that I NEVER, EVER, EVER exaggerate).
About to do the last length of our trip in Dordogne, and to our dismay it began pouring chats et chiens. My new purchase of a fluoro yellow cycling rain jacket had yet to see daylight, and I wanted to keep it that way, that jacket is blinding. Having no other choice of transport, we prepared ourselves for the worst, delayed our departure with a cafe, and the rain stopped virtually as drained our cups. Joie de vivre.
Left Centre Ville, removed our jackets, left town and hit a bike track that took us all the way back to Souillac. No hills, so we took the opportunity to get snap happy. Travelled through lush tree lined chemin (paths).
Visited our last chateau in the Dordogne region, Chateau de Fenelon, a bastide with fortified dual fortress walls built for protection, then converted into a home. (I would like to point out here that every bloody chateau in France is built on the highest peak of the highest mountain, therefore we arrived cursing, hot and sweaty). Around the year 1000, the name Fenelon belonged to a noble family that owned many estates, when the Britigny Treaty was signed in 1360, the lords of Fenelon took an oath of allegiance to Edward III, King of England. In 1375, the chateau was English property but was poorly defended and became French again in the same year. One fascinating aspect of this chateau was it's two magnificent trees, one was a cedar from Lebanon, both planted in 1685 allegedly on the day when a lord and owner was born at Fenelon.
We toured the chateau both inside and out, and in particular enjoyed the curiosity room, full of shrunken heads, trinkets, curios, sculptures and images of mystical and imaginary creatures, and stuffed dead things, a collection of fascinating things from all over the world.
Ate some chocolat noix, chocolate walnuts for sustenance, then rode into Souillac around 5.30pm. Quickly toured l'Abbey, an 11th century abbey in the process of being fully restored. View ancient frescos and inhaled the dust of a thousand years.
Back in the Vielle d'Auberge de Souillac, dinner was surprisingly an enjoyable affair, opposing our expectations. We chose great food which was accompanied with great apperitifs and great wine.
Point of Interest: This hotel was very generous in providing boiled sweets to guests in their rooms. Stole as many of the supplied boiled lollies we could for our travels to Provence.
Last night the Dordogne region was cooler, peaceful and quiet except for the thunking of the rotating fan blades. Our alarms were set fr 6am as our first train left before 8am and we had a half hour walk with luggage up a hill (of course), to get there.
Point of Interest: We returned our mountain bikes into a locked garage on our return to the hotel, forgetting to remove our pedals. This was remembered at 3am by Suzanne. No need to say that she didn't require the alarm clock in the morning as her mind churned over this dreadful information. Stay tuned for white-knuckle conclusion to this dilemma.
S et S
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Response: Scallops are called St Jacques in France, I totally love them too. I don't eat any meat, only fish, so have devoured my fair share of the ocean's St Jacques.
Miss you Sue, and H. Can't wait to see you soon.
Response: Hi Dad and Del
Thinking of you both a lot, especially when learning the French history and battles etc, Dad. Saw Napoleon's tomb in Les Invalides, an incredible building built for a king (Louis the somethingth) who wanted his own entrance built to the barracks of the troops which are behind Les Invalides. It is a domed building gilded with the brightest gold, if you catch the smallest glimpse you are so dazzled by the magnificience. I even bought you a bottle of Napoleon's aftershave, 'Essence de Napoleon'. Collected from the actual perspiration from his armpits when in Egypt shooting noses off Sphynxes. No, not really, when he was taken captive to St Helena Island, he asked for his favourite cologne to be brought to him. The bottle I bought is made from the same ingredients used to create his own preferred scent.
Love you both, see you soon,
Response: Kirra!!! Great to hear from you. I am almost home and will update blog soon. Sorry to miss you, next school hols nes pas?
Love of love
Response: Hi Dani
Oh I am eating and drinking France out of business. The bike, what bike? We arrived back in Paris and are unable to use the local bikes, they only accept French credit cards. Now in Singapore, ready to come home and back to a strict regimine of chocoloate and cycling.
Response: Did you know is is a minimum of 99 Euro for drinks at the Moulin Rouge??? That is nearly $200!!! Outrageous. Just arrived in Singapore, we have been soooooo busy, too busy to keep up with the blog which we promise to do soon. Love your French Ken, see you soon,
S et S
Response: Ahh, Bon jour Andrew. Ce serait mon plaisir d'écrire dans le français.
(It would be my pleasure to write in French). Love this country, the history is mind boggling. Have to admit, but don't tell anyone, that I am missing home and possibly even work just a little bit.
Égards les plus gentils, (kindest regards)
Response: Hi Heather
Having a great time, had expected to see more about the Tour here but really haven't been aware of anything. They must be a long way behind us. We will miss the finish as we return just before it ends.
Less thn two weeks to go. Leave pass is coming to an end. Looking forward to riding with you again soon.
Response: Thanks Judy, looking forward to riding with you all again soon, miss the drafting (not behind you though! Tres petite).
S et S
Response: I am so glad you could finally make it into cyber space. Internet cafes are called Cyber Cafes here.
Miss you both and Chile and Zim.
Don't let Dad overfeed Chile, she has her weight to think of.
Response: Hi John and Cathy
Oui, vin et pain et fromage et vin et baguette et vin et dessert et vin es tres grande...
and the hills are very hilly.
We loved Loire Valley, loved Dordogne and starting to love Provence. Three completely different types of wine!!!
Miss you guys,
S et S
PS. Pleased to hear someone will be interested in our 7392 (so far) photos.
Response: Yay, see previous entry for response. Love you both, see you soon,
Response: God I love you Dad,
Although your poems are rather bad.
I miss you and I feel sad,
But will soon be home then I'll be glad.
Love the dogs and feed them well,
Not too much, Chile will swell.
France is great, we love the fromage.
If my typing is bad please don't disparrage.
Lots of love, 'orrible Kid.
Response: Oh Julie, we have had to purchase larger sizes. Picture this - Tweedledum and Tweedledee in tight lycra. Not a good look. We almost bought out an entire chocolate shop yesterday, and even worse, ate our entire purchase in one sitting.
Fit? Non... fat!!!
Restaurant Hill sounds good though, is there fois gras and wine at the top?
Miss you heaps, lots of lurve
S et S
PS We'll start our recovery rides back in Brisbane with half a river loop, averaging 20k/h.
Response: Hey Marcel, the French can't produce enough for us. We are total shockers, we have a bottle a night, and loving it. Miss all at MB, cycle safe,
S et S
Response: Wow, famous in our own right. Thanks MB, miss you. The three of us will do dinner when we return.
Lurve S et S
Response: Wow you have been busy. Tell the girls I love them very much and think of them every waking moment. Thank-you so much for looking after them Sammy, I owe you the world. Miss you, love you.
PS Suzanne wants to know if you're free around the same time next year, we're looking at Italy!!!
Response: Keith, with all the appreciative glances and wolf whistles we receive, we've decided to be inappropriate everywhere!!!
Response: Enjoy the coast Julie while we sip (quaff) the local wine on the lush green banks of the Dordogne with the fragrance of jasmine and roses teasing our olfactory senses. Tres jolie! Happy riding, miss our group but Suzanne and I are getting along famously, or that is what she tells me anyway! We are having so much fun, will catch up on the blog now. Lurve S et S
Response: Oh my Darling, are you there? I will catch up on the blog today so you know what we are up to. Miss you so much, have bought you and Ava a few souvenirs but I am running out of room in my suitcase. Will buy you something nice back in Paris. The three of us will have to do something similar when you are older, I can't begin to describe how beautiful this entire country is.
Love you both very much, give Ava lots of hugs. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.
Response: Hello Sammmmmmyyyyyyy!!! You and Evan have to get over here one day. It is tres magnifique. Do you have the girls yet and are they behaving? Give them all my love, I miss them terribly. Archer may come over to collect Bebe and shoot some hoops and also let her see Pepe some day soon. Love you Sammy,
Response: Sure Van, so many, keep reading the blog. 15 years? That's far too long to wait, why don't you try to make it sooner.
S et S
Response: Ahhh, bonjour soeur Sue!!! Long time no chat. Miss you and H heaps, when are you coming back to Oz and if you do, leave the American accent behind. I, on the other hand, want to bring the French accent home with me. We are trying really hard to speak French and avoid the places that have English spoken. Miss you Sue, lots of love.
Response: Un type chaud - a hot guy!!! We already had to look that one up Paul. Finally found cybercafe du coin (local internet cafe).
Will do our best to catch up.
S et S
Response: Don' remember who Lesley is sorry Lynn. I am sure the girls would have loved Seaworld. Want to catch up with you and Jeanie when I return.
Lots of lurve
Response: Merci Beaucoup Wench. Oui, la belle fille are tres bon most of the time. Miss you and hope all is smooth going for you these next few weeks.
Lots of lurve