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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

L’un des plus beaux villages en France...

Friday, May 23, 2008

“One of the most beautiful villages in France” reads the sign on the road leading up to Gordes. But there’s one just like it on the approach to Roussillon. We had the chance to compare the two on our first day’s bike, beginning from our Hotel Domaine de L’Enclos—“Garden Spot”—and going past the 13th c. Augustinian Abbaye Notre Dame de Senanque. We never did find out what “Senanque” means. There are lots of hills in this part of Provence and we got to test ourselves on several grades up to 13% right away. We passed the test, but I was maxed out a couple of times and so was Jane. Descending with a disc brake—which we have on the rear wheel of the Volaes—is a real bonus in these mountains; you can ride them as long as you need to without fear of over-heating.

Did I mention we’re both riding recumbents on this trip? At Jane’s request last year, Rolf Garthus, with his design and fabricating partners, created a new “Escape” model that’s coupled; the halves of the boom-frame fit into an oversized suitcase along with the wheels. They thus travel as one of our pieces of luggage for no additional fee.

The next day was the planned assault on Mt Ventoux. I found it a real test last year. The serious part of the climb is 15kms up a continuous grade averaging 10% with occasional steeper sections and no relief for the full 1906 meters of elevation-gain; so it was no surprise when Jane reached her limit before we reached the summit. We turned back and enjoyed a leisurely lunch down in Bedoin, saving the ascent for another year.

After comic misadventures locating the shop in Avignon that had agreed to store our bike cases for the duration, we moved down to Aix-en-Provence, staying at a lovely maison d’hote (French for B&B) in Meyreuil southeast of the city. I think you’ll agree the view of Mt Ste-Victoire from the steps of the Domaine Naís was trés génial (French for “awesome”). I was especially excited about biking along the flanks of this massive upthrust of granite, made familiar to everyone who appreciates painting through the devoted work of Paul Cezánne (1839-1906), the most famous native of Aix. We rode up to Beaurecueil the next day, then east through Puylibier to Pourrieres, the views of the mountain constantly shifting with our traverse and the changing light. Seeing it now for the first time, I suddenly realized what it was Cezánne saw and exactly what he sought to convey in the more than eighty views of it he left us.

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