The first snow fell in the Vaucluse yesterday and Mont Ventoux started its shift from being a summer cycling venue to a winter ski resort, bringing with it thoughts of long walks across the hills that are so often out of bounds during the summer due to the fire risk and evenings spent eating rich stews and relaxing in front of the fire.
Andy is down at the house at the moment catching up on a few jobs, continuing his French lessons and introducing his wonderful teacher, Marina ( http://www.franci-discendum.com) to some English food classics such as ‘Toad in the Hole’ and ‘Teacakes’ -only time will tell what she makes of them!
He’s also spending as much time as possible on his bike enjoying the quiet roads and stunning, colourful views that are delivered by the change in season.
In winter, Provence takes on a different character with the activity and general busy-ness of the summer having gone and the area taking on a much gentler, relaxed feel.
- The markets are quieter.
They may not be as large as during the summer months, but they are still thriving, bringing the local towns to life and they’re perfect places to spend a morning, stocking up on the fresh, local produce and watching the world pass by over a coffee (or perhaps two!) in one of the local cafes.
2. The roads too are relatively traffic-free.
Whereas in summer the routes to the principal villages are busy with tourists following a well-driven path, at this time of year they’re empty and perfect for cycling. OK it may be chilly and base-layers will probably be needed, especially first thing in the morning, but the peace on the roads is worth it.
3. The villages are peaceful.
There are so many villages in and around The Luberon that are classed as amongst ‘Les plus beaux villages de France’ and others that you really feel should be. In the Autumn and Winter they are great places to explore – it’s easy to park and the streets are quiet, giving you the time to slow down and really be able to look up at the buildings or admire the views, without feeling the need to move on to allow someone else to take a look.
4. The Paths are open to walkers.
In the Summer the paths through the National Park and beyond are often closed to walkers due to the high risk of fire. They tend to be open from 5am until midday, but closed after that with wardens patrolling to make sure people are complying. It’s understandable, especially after having seen the devastation caused by the fire just outside Marseille in August. Also walking in the summer heat isn’t pleasant (unless its up a river like le Toulourenc), but at this time of year it’s perfect, with miles and miles of well-marked paths to explore and the ability to really get into the wilder parts of the area – well off the beaten track.
Over the last few days though Andy has been enjoying everything that the area has to offer at this time of year. He’s been out on his bike covering miles around the Luberon, relishing the crisp air and the bright blue skies.
He’s cycled to L’Isle Sur La Sorgue for the large ‘Toussaint’ Brocante market, which had clearly drawn large numbers of visitors to the town.
He’s popped to Fontaine de Vaucluse to see how high the source of the Sorgue river is and whether it has reached the point where it is spilling over the edge of its basin.
He’s also cycled up the stunning Gorges De La Nesque, not seeing another cyclist at all and just enjoying the views and the peace of the ride.
The one thing he has really wanted to do though is to achieve his long-held dream of cycling to the summit of Mont Ventoux on his birthday! All the time he has been riding around the area this week the mountain has sat above the landscape teasing him. Tuesday however her head was shrouded in cloud, perhaps a sign of the snow that was to follow?
Sadly it arrived yesterday shattering Andy’s birthday dream again for this year!
I suppose looking on the bright side though at least now we are able to go down when we want so perhaps the weather will be kinder again next year?? Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
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