We basked in the rapidly warming morning, sipping double espressos and tearing into baguettes. It had been a chillier night than my tent-mate, Michele, or I had expected and sometime during the wee hours of morning, I pulled on extra layers. With other cool nights possibly ahead, I now knew to cinch the drawstring and hood on my lightweight down bag. Michele, on the other hand, who'd brought a liner instead of a snuggly bag like Patty, for covering, promised to wear more clothing. Closer to the mountains and near the Sorgue River, I suspected the temperatures dipped well below Avignon's 60F lows.
Squeezing into the heart of Lagnes—and that's what it felt like—coasting through long corridors of pastel painted stucco buildings, not unlike a stone tunnel; doors opening, closing, men leaning back on one speed bicycles, tiny cars puttering, shifting; a baguette under an arm or two, we eye the sign for Gordes and turn uphill. A pair of older women sit in white plastic chairs street side—their ritual, I presume. I smile and say "Bonjour!" and keep turning the cranks.
Then the first hill. I lead, clicking into the granny gear. If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's to start easy when climbing an unknown slope, especially with weight. A five mile ride could turn into an hour's slog, so best to keep the legs as refreshed as possible. Patty and I were concerned with Michele's ability to handle the ascent—we presumed this would be the first of many. So by example, plus carrying the whole tent, it was the best I could do to encourage Michele to gracefully tackle the hills.
A lovely breeze wafted over the pine tree-covered summit. We congratulated Michele. Gulped more liquid. Pumping brakes down the switchbacks. The dry climate plays tricks—as I found out the previous day—and it's critical to stay hydrated.
|Climbing a busier road to Gordes.|
Merging with a busier road to Gordes, it's a pleasing climb with ample room for bikes.
|Old stone structures.|
|We take a breather at a pull-off. Photo credit: Patty|
|Patty and her first perched village..|
|Homes and interesting buildings uphill from Gordes village center. Photo credit: Patty|
|Locking our bikes together; there are no racks.|
|I imagine sunset views are breathtaking.|
|Admiring the structures. Photo credit: Patty|
We wander, peek in alleys, marvel at windows.
The stone is beautifully ancient, functional. Flowers are planted where stones are missing in the wall.
We refill all our water bottles and coast back through Gordes until the turnoff for points east.
|Photo credit: Patty|
But first, one more gander at magnificent Gordes.
|Roussillon uses rust pigment in the mortar of walls and buildings.|
|Paint pigments available in many hues, sold in stores.|
|The hot, sweaty mamas with Roussillon in background. Photo credit: Patty (via innocent bystander)|
|Unused Roussillon bike rack. It's uphill from where most riders want to stop|
who are exhausted and relieved to have finally made it to the flatter center of town
A young lady at the information center hands us brochures, maps, and good directions to a nearby campsite. Often accommodation is away from city centers, but this one is a short walk over a dry riverbed to a good-sized grocery store and bus station. Patty and I would love to pedal through the Luberon, but are advised against it due to a narrow, dangerous roadway without an alternative. Our plan is to take a late morning bus southward, through the hills. We know this will make Michele happier too. After the long day, the heat, and too many ascents, Michele lagged most of the afternoon. She could use a rest.
We haul sacks of dinner fixings back to the campsite common room. I eat pre-made couscous, Nyon olives (coal black and flavorful), and goat cheese. Like the Camembert near Paris, choices of goat cheese are staggering—easily 15 varieties. And of course, more wine. Patty's choice is a Cotes du Rhone. Michele drinks little, not as much a vin drinker as we are—indeed, it becomes Patty's and my habit to finish a bottle every night. Cotes du Rhone becomes a favorite. The good thing is, I never feel any effects the next morning.
Day One - Avignon
Day Two - Fontaine de Vaucluse
Day Three - Gordes, Roussillon, and Oh, Those Hills
Day Four - Saignon, Ingenuity and the Descent into Aix en Provence
Day Five - Aix en Provence to Salon
Day Six - Adventures in Arles
Day Seven - Les Baux, St. Remy
Day Eight - Tarascon Castle
Day Nine - Chateauneuf du Pape and Avignon