The Veloroute du Calavon is a great off-road cycle path that runs the length of the petit-Luberon from near Cavaillon to beyond Apt. Built on the bed of an old railway track it offers a well-maintained, vehicle-free, flat route through some of the most picturesque scenery in the area.
It is a great way to potter through the valley and there are easy routes off that take you (albeit up some hills) to the most well-known villages in the area.
For years we’ve used the path to quickly make our way along the valley, either at the start or end of a cycle or to blast along to Apt to make the most of the wonderful Saturday market there ( it’s always so much easier to arrive by bike when you see what the parking is like on market day!)
Until now we haven’t really ventured beyond Apt, even though the cycle route continues for some kilometres towards the Departmental border with The Alpes de Haute Provence.
So yesterday, after spending an hour drinking coffee, eating strawberries & generally setting the world to rights with our new neighbours (my French is coming on at rate of knots) – I thought I’d take a quick cycle out to see where I got to.
From Apt the route takes you alongside the main road towards Forcalquier and the scenery changes almost immediately from the wide valley on the western side of Apt to a much tighter valley with the Grand Luberon rising with its distinctive folds of green to the South and the scrub oak covered flank of the hills that are home to the pretty villages of Caseneuve, Saint Martin de Castillon and Viens to the North.
The cycle path continues to follow the route of the river Calavon, crossing it at times until it reaches an end close to Le Begude. From here though there are a number of beautiful rides and I just kept following the ‘Round Luberon’ cycle route signs towards Forcalquier, just to see where I ended up.
This ‘Round Luberon’ route continues to take you on back-roads, through beautiful scenery on a very well-marked route. There really isn’t any need for a map as every junction is clearly marked with a distinctive sign, even on some sharp bends in the road!
The roads undulate gently, although there was quite a stiff head-wind on the way out so at times it was quite hard work, but the environment was beautiful with new growth on vines starting to show….
Huge lavender fields, which must smell incredible when they’re in full bloom (note to self to do the ride again in June)……
At this point the ‘Round Luberon’ signs are also joined by another cycle sign for the ‘Lavande et veilles pierres’ route, which takes you away from the main road, on a gentle climb before dropping down into the small town of Cereste.
Now if there’s one thing I know about Cereste that is that it has a superb ice cream shop – in fact it is currently rated as the 3rd best in France & deservedly so. Scaramouche, http://www.glaces-scaramouche.com/en/quisommesnous_histoire.html which opened just over 2 years ago has some of the most wonderful flavours for ice cream & sorbet I’ve ever seen and it was great to see that all the tables on the pavement in front of the small shop-front were packed with customers.
The fact that it is a relatively short cycle from our house means that I can see myself testing most (if not all) of the flavours this summer – at least the cycle there & back should just about account for the calories I’ll be consuming!
Happily having cycled into the wind on the way out I had it in my back on the way home & seemed to cover the distance in half the time, feeling as if I was flying up the gentle hills without any effort at all!
So there is some wonderful cycling to be had beyond the end of the Veloroute, along quiet roads through stunning scenery and there are certainly more routes yet to discover !