When I packed my cycle kit to come over this time I put in enough layers to keep me warm in the expected arctic temperatures, hoping to snatch a few precious moments out on the bike before dashing home to thaw out in front of the fire. I think in hindsight I rather over-packed as since I arrived the weather has been wonderfully mild & I’ve been arriving home from rides in need of a cold drink, rather than a thermal blanket!
So I’ve been out on Miss Daisy, pottering around the quiet roads and just enjoying the peace that settles across the Luberon at this time of year. It’s certainly quiet and often I haven’t been passed by a car when I’ve been on a road that is (in season) busy with traffic. I must admit I’m enjoying riding here in January much more than I thought I would & as such I’ve ended up taking any opportunity I can to head out & explore.
This ride starts in Apt and at first follows the ‘Round Luberon Trail’ route along the old road that leads from the centre of the town to Bonnieux. The marked trail is part of a longer route that takes you all the way around the Petit & Grand Luberon & more information about it can be found here http://www.provence-cycling.co.uk/tourist-itineraries/luberon/circuit-velo—autour-du-luberon-en-velo/provence-ITIPAC084CDT0000148-2.html.
This section of the road is a delight, climbing slowly along the flank of the Luberon for about 12 km offering fantastic views across towards the villages of Saint Saturnin & Gordes, with Mont Ventoux towering beyond the Vaucluse Plateau.
It also leads you through a number of different vineyards, each clearly signed from the side of the road offering their wine for sale. One of the first you come to is the Chateau de Mille, which according to the sign has been producing wine since the 12th Century – its entrance is marked with a massive barrel.
Literally a few yards further up the road is the entrance to the next vineyard Chateau de L’Isolette….
Then yet more as you continue up the hill towards the village, including the wonderfully named ‘Mayol’, which I always feel should be sponsored by Toulon Rugby Team. One day I really must pluck up the courage to cycle down the drives to taste some of the wine, although there are so many vineyards here that if you stopped for a sample at each one you wouldn’t get very far & certainly wouldn’t be very safe on 2 wheels!
Cycling up through the vineyards you notice that they are all very different. In the Autumn it’s evident by the colour of the leaves – ranging from a vivid red, through orange to a nut brown……..
But at the moment you notice that they are all in different states of being pruned. Some have been taken back to the original trunks, looking almost dead…..
Whilst others haven’t been pruned at all with long new growth sprouting out at all angles & it will be interesting to see the difference in the grapes as the year goes on.
Once you arrive in Bonnieux you turn down the hill towards Le Pont Julien, dropping into the valley below, through more vineyards and oak woodland. About a mile outside Bonnieux you pass the beautiful Chateau La Canorgue, a highly-regarded organic wine producer, but much better known to anyone who has watched the film ‘A Good Year’ as ‘Chateau La Siroque’.(This is our go-to film for dark & dank days back in the UK when we just need a Provence ‘pick-me-up’ as the images of the Luberon are just stunning)
Passing over Le Pont Julien you cross the roundabout and head straight on up the other side of the valley towards Roussillon. Again this road climbs gently and as you approach the village, the colour of the soil changes from brown through to the bright ochres that are so characteristic of the area.
Even on a dull day the ochre cliffs are vivid and provide a lovely splash of colour, needless to say they’re even better when the sun is out!
From Roussillon you follow the road out towards Saint Saturnin, picking up the signs for the Ochre Cycling trail, http://www.provence-cycling.co.uk/tourist-itineraries/luberon/circuit-velo—les-ocres-en-velo/provence-ITIPAC084CDT0000147-2.html which again takes you on quiet back roads, past cherry orchards to the village, where you can pick up the main road that heads back towards Apt & where the ride started, passing more vineyards enroute including those of the Cave Sylla, a large producer based in Apt http://www.sylla.fr/ amongst others. More information on local vineyards can be found here http://www.vins-luberon.fr/en/meet-our-producers
This is a lovely ride even at the moment when the trees are bare and there is little to colour the landscape. Of course in the summer there is the added colour of the lavender fields and the soundtrack of cicadas and I have no doubt that I will be doing it again then!