Beyond the Véloroute #14… Sault and back the long way round… On a bit of a mission

A few weeks ago, when I was back in the UK and Andy was in France he did a ride that he was particularly excited about. He told me about it and yes it sounded lovely, until he said it was about 110km and had nearly 1500 metres of climbing. At that point I was happy just to hear his account of it, as it did sound rather lovely, whilst at the same time making a mental note never to let him talk me into doing it.

Andy is great at taking me on rides I never thought I’d be able to do

Fast forward to this week and the inevitable evening conversation about where our next day’s ride would be and Andy mentioned perhaps doing this ride, which involves breakfast at Simiane-La-Rotonde (without doubt now our favourite breakfast stop), before climbing up onto The Saint Christol Plateau, then back via Sault, Murs and Gordes. My initial reaction was to try to deflect him onto other rides, but he seemed very determined, to the point that I agreed I’d give it a go… then something happened that made the final decision for us.

On Twitter there was a post from a chap who had ridden to the summit of Mont Ventoux a short time ago and had bought his young son a snow globe as a gift. Unfortunately the globe had got broken when the boy had taken it to school for ‘Show and Tell’ and he was understandably really upset and his father had put out a plea in his post asking for anyone who may be near Mont Ventoux who could help in getting another one.

That was it, despite my concerns that this would be my longest ride and biggest climb ever on a bike, we agreed to go across to Sault in search of a replacement snow globe… There’s something nice about having a little task to keep you focused.

Evening conversations on the terrace tend to be about the next day’s ride

We started off heading up the road, past Caseneuve towards Viens to get to Simiane for breakfast. I know I’ve written about the Boulangerie here, many times before, but it really is the most superb place to stop and the Almond Croissants are the perfect fuel for a day in the saddle, although I always find myself wishing it wasn’t a steady 19 km climb to get there!

Simiane boulangerie… Simply our favourite and worth the ride

From there we snaked up the hairpins that take you up the side of the village to the Rotonde that dominates the skyline and on, ever upwards to the Saint Christol Plateau, making our way through the endless acres of lavender fields, all now bare of flowers and simply sage-green corduroy stripes into the distance.

Out of season lavender fields are still beautiful

By now though the wind, straight off the summit of Ventoux was almost blowing us backwards and we found ourselves giggling like kids as we slowly made our way towards Sault, heads bowed and with our legs turning like Whirling Dirvishes, battling into the head-wind…. It was so strong at times that even on some of the descents we were still having to pedal.

Mont Ventoux in the distance from Saint Christol

That said, the views were as stunning as ever in the beautiful light of a perfect (apart from the wind that is) autumn day and just before lunch we arrived in Sault and managed to find just what we were looking for in a gift shop, just before the owner shut the doors for lunch.

Happy that we had found a replacement for the much-loved snow globe….

Snow globe mission accomplished

… And even happier that the wind would now be in our backs, we turned and started to head back across the Vaucluse Plateau, back to the Luberon Valley.

We flew back up to the viewpoint with the wind in our backs

Normally we would ride straight back through Saint Jean de Sault to Saint Saturnin, passing Chateau du Javon, but this time we were following Andy’s newly tested route and turned off the main road onto the back road that snakes along the hillside towards Méthamis.

It’s a lovely road he said, you just seem to go down until meeting the Murs road and turn off there. I am not sure what had taken place in his brain during the last ride, but the road certainly didn’t go down, in fact I would say for the first 4 km at least it went up a gradual but long incline.

After a short distance you reach the Belvédère Saint Hubert, where there are stunning views across to the head of the Gorges de La Nesque…

View back from the belvédère across the Gorges de La Nesque to Mont Ventoux

It is also one of the marked spots of the Chemin de la Mémoire, https://vauclusedreamer.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/%ef%bb%bfin-the-footsteps-of-the-resistance/

which details an incident that took place on 22nd August 1944 when German troops stopped at the barn at Saint Hubert (a short distance away). Having drunk 120 litres of wine and stolen everything they could find they made there way on, and were ambushed by Resistance fighters who destroyed the first vehicle. Sadly one of the young Resistance members, Robert Giraud who was only 19 was shot in the head and its is he who is remembered here.

Chemin de la Mémoire at Saint Hubert

From here we carried on through Saint Hubert and after a while the road finally started to drop down, following the contours of the hillside with great views back across towards Mont Ventoux.

Constant views back

We followed this down, until we met the junction to Murs and turned towards the village, flying along now with the wind fully in our backs. This road heads up towards the Col de La Ligne, but en route I had to stop, just to take in the views across Carpentras and the Dentelles towards the hazy bulk of the Massif Central in the far distance.

Across Carpentras and the Rhône Valley towards the Massif

After a while you arrive at the Col de la Ligne, which marks the point where the Mur De La Peste crosses the road above Murs. The Mur de La Peste was built in a desperate and ultimately failed attempt to stop the Plague spreading towards Avignon and parts of it can still be seen across the area.

Crossing the Col & Mur de la Peste

The road then starts a wonderful 7km run downhill towards Murs, clinging to the front edge of the plateau with views across the valley towards The Grand and Petit Luberon, The Alpilles and even Mont Saint Victoire in the distance.

Views back across The Luberon

Eventually you arrive in Murs by the rather beautiful Chateau…

Arriving in Murs by the Chateau

… and despite the temptation to turn left and continue down the hill towards Apt and home, we instead turned right and followed the road out towards Gordes, where we knew we would be able to find something to east as we had long since burned off the croissants we’d eaten at breakfast. The road climbs again for a while before it drops down to the village, which is always a surprise as it seems to be perched so high on the hillside, when you see it from below.

A favourite view on the way down to Gordes

Dropping into Gordes we found a sunny spot, out of the wind, on the stone seats at the bottom of the immense Chateau walls, devouring slices of Pizza that we bought at the Boulangerie and just taking a moment to enjoy a spot of people-watching.

A peaceful moment in mid October in Gordes

Heading on again we dropped out of the village towards Roussillon, leapfrogging a group cycle tour that had come from La Coquillade that was being led by the friendly and knowledgeable local guide Gaetan Dupin.

One of my happy places

We cut down through the vineyards, past Goult and rejoined the superb Veloroute du Calavon to head back along the valley, through Apt to our starting point – the perfect (almost flat) finish to the ride.

Through the vineyards near Goult

Arriving home it turned out that it was in fact the longest ride I had ever done and had the biggest climb I had ever done, but it’s already on my ‘must do again’ list.

The good thing is that the majority of the climbing is done in the morning , it incorporates our favourite breakfast spot and the views all the way around the ride are simply stunning.

As for the snow-globe, it made it back to the house in one piece, snuggled in its box in Andy’s back pocket and is now on its way to the UK, where hopefully it will arrive in one piece in a few days time.

Snow globe safely boxed in Andy’s back pocket

All in all and in every possible way, that was a really excellent day!

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Sheree says:

    Congratulations! Onwards and upwards, you’ll be doing the triple assault on Ventoux before you know it.

    1. Thanks it was a lovely ride but that is certainly not in my diary… Happily not in Andy’s either so at least he won’t be able to convince me to give it a try!!

      1. Sheree says:

        I have done all three ascents but not on the same day!

      2. Brilliant… I must admit having come down Bedoin I really don’t fancy doing it the other way round…. I like having views when I’m climbing & it’s just like being in a tunnel for 10k… Although I’m probably the only person who thinks that 😉

      3. Sheree says:

        The descent is the reward for the climb!

      4. Ah I’m afraid I like the ascent from Sault, then the drop to Bedoin, then back up The Nesque… Views all the way up the hills and the fun weeeeee on the way down😉

  2. Dawn Johnson says:

    I so enjoy your blog. The Luberon is truly my favorite area in France. I try to get there at least every three Years or so. I just love all your beautiful pictures. My next plan is to rent the apartment at Cent cinq Apt and do some cycling, your posts have really inspired me. As I’ve said before I’m really a newbie at cycling, (of the serious kind that is) I’m loving my bike even though it’s pretty entry level. I have lovely country « “Provence like” roads where I live and have really fallen in love with cycling but I wonder if you have some tips for me on how I can improve my endurance and ability. I’m 61 and have had both knees replaced. I do struggle slightly with my one knee and it’s range but it doesn’t stop me and I do believe the cycling really helps to strengthen them. I try and ride as often as I can but 100 km seems sooo far out of my realm of possibility, yet I’d love to get some good distance ability for when I make it back there so I can cycle to my favorite villages. In the meantime I will keep looking forward to your lovely posts.

    1. Thanks Dawn, what a lovely way to start a Sunday with your comment… We were at Cent Cinq on Friday night and Jen & Chris have just finished the next appartment and it is such a lovely place to stay (no hills to get up to go back)… As far as training goes, just keep cycling… My hubby has problems with one of his knees, but the Dr said the best thing to do is to cycle regularly as that will keep it moving and build the muscle strength that will stop him needing an operation too soon. I rarely do 100km… Most of the rides are 50-65 and can be taken at a pace to suit you… Also the Véloroute is a stones throw from Cent Cinq, which means you can get along the valley quickly, off road and through beautiful scenery so it’s always accessible if you want to cut a ride down at all… Effectively head downhill from any of the villages and you’ll get to it! Its just such a beautiful place to ride you’ll just want to be out on the bike… Thanks again & enjoy your cycling… J

  3. My husband suffers from the same altitude amnesia that Andy seems to have! I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been told “it’s all downhill from here”. Looks a stunning ride and well done you. I’ve done just over 100km in a day a few times, but tends to be flat days, but we are challenged for proper hills here (thankfully).

    1. Glad I’m not the only one with such a forgetful husband 😂 the thought of doing a flat cycle is so exciting….

  4. perfectlyprovence says:

    Bravo! That is quite a ride and good on you both for facing the wind to get that adorable snow globe.

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