In a little over a week’s time my hubby & boys will set off from our home on Dartmoor to cycle through France, hopefully arriving safe and well after about 18 days in Sete. They’ll be cycling just over 1500km in that time, not quite the Tour de France, but a big ride whichever way you look at it.
In the meantime I’m pottering around the quiet lanes of the Vaucluse on my own bike ‘Miss Daisy’. I can’t imagine I’ll come near to doing 1500km, but am having a wonderful time riding new routes that all start from the off-road cycle route ‘Veloroute du Calavon’, which runs through the Luberon valley.
This ride, which is quickly becoming a favourite of mine, takes in Lacoste & Bonnieux, 2 of the pretty hill villages that sit on the flank of the Petit-Luberon and also Saignon with its commanding position on the rocks above Apt.
A great day to do the ride is a Friday, when Bonnieux is buzzing with the local market that spills out of the main square to the terrace around the church, although to be honest any day is good!
As ever the ride starts on the Veloroute, turning off onto the side road at the Gare de Bonnieux, by the huge buildings of the Cave de Bonnieux, home to many lovely local wines. http://www.cave-bonnieux.com/
At first the road heads along the valley floor towards Bonnieux, passing through acres of lavender fields, which are in full bloom at the moment……
……. before taking a right turn and starting to climb towards Lacoste, on a road that winds gently upwards through vineyards & cherry trees with fantastic views across the valley & beyond towards Mont Ventoux.
Lacoste is a very pretty little village with a handful of bars and narrow streets that eventually lead up to the Chateau that was originally the home to the Marquis de Sade, but is now owned by Pierre Cardin who has partially restored it and hosts musical events there during the summer http://www.festivaldelacoste.com/
The views from the terrace outside the Chateau are incredible and it is certainly worth the additional effort needed to get up to it.
Of course if you don’t fancy the trip up you can always simply sit & take a break with a cooling drink on the terrace of the ‘Café de France’, which not only has great views, but also was one of the locations used in the film ‘A Good Year’, although I’m still waiting to see Russell Crowe there ( hey ho).
After leaving Lacoste you follow the road, which winds along the foot of the Luberon, heading up to Bonnieux, finally meeting the round Luberon cycle trail sign on the approach to the village
Bonnieux is a beautiful village, built on a number of levels – you come into the village on the lower level, where there is the Church, market place and a range of shops & bars, but the road then snakes up towards the higher part of the village, where you can walk up to the higher terraces around a second church, which gives great views across the village below & towards Mont Ventoux
By the time I get here I’m about ready for lunch & there is a good selection of places to eat, from the Boulangerie below the market square to some really nice restaurants, although I tend to head to the Brasserie Les Terrasses, which has a terrace overlooking the view & does a rather nice oven baked Banon cheese salad, which arrives still in its wrapping of Chestnut leaves.
From Bonnieux you continue to climb towards the Foret Des Cedres, before taking a left turn signposted to Saignon, finally reaching the Col Du Pointu (499m), before turning onto the road that runs on top of the Plateau ‘Les Claparèdes, which runs towards Saignon.
At the moment the lavender is in bloom & this lovely road runs alongside (and through)numerous lavender fields that are buzzing with insects & which fill the air with scent.
It really is a lovely part of the cycle & every time I do it I just have to pull over & sit for a while just to really take in the sight, as I know it wont be long before the purple flowers are harvested & taken to the nearby distilleries.
Eventually the road drops down into Saignon, which has vast open views down the Luberon Valley & it’s worth taking a walk up to the rocks at the top of the village to sit amongst the swifts and swallows as they glide out over the edge.
I’m very fond of Saignon, it’s got a lovely gentle feel to it and brings together the best of some of the other hilltop villages in the area without it being too busy. There’s a nice craft shop Le Temps D’un Été, selling hand-selected pieces by local artisans https://www.facebook.com/MLSaignonFrance/
…….together with a couple of other galleries and a nice range of places to eat places to eat.
After wandering around Saignon I tend not to follow the road that leads straight back to Apt, but take the minor road that runs directly under the cliffs, which snakes down through lavender…….
…….. & sunflower fields joining the Veloroute again at the junction with the road to Viens.
From here you can easily get back to your starting point.
The more I do this ride, the more I like it. The roads aren’t busy, particularly the route along the top of the Plateau and the views are stunning.
The constant sight though of Mont Ventoux always niggles at me & however much I try to ignore it – I know it wont be long till I head back over to ride it again!
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