Above is the route for our first day en velo, from L’Isle sur la Sorgue to Bonnieux. As you can see it involves a bit of a climb. The little icons represent places Gerry marked as good places to stop.
Ride Day 1- We left the city and begin the riding up into the hill towns: Robion, Maubec, Oppede les Vieux, Menerbes, Lacoste, Bonnieux. Each hill town was more amazing than the one before. We took lots of breaks, for water, and to look around each little town. Yes, it was hot, and it was steep in places, but the beautiful scenery kept us going. We found that the route up to the towns was not as steep as it appeared, mostly…. I didn’t start whining until we began the accent up to Oppede les Vieux. I was remembering Rick Steve’s section on how the townspeople came down from the hills to found Oppede, because Oppede les Vieux was such a tortuous climb. But we made it, and found a beautiful cafe waiting for us at the top. There were many other cyclists and I noticed the Germans were all drinking beer! We learned our lesson on drinking during the day last year, so we wisely stuck to lemonade and orangina and FOOD of course.
Gerry’s route took us to the top of LaCoste, to the remains of the Marquis de Sade’s castle which sits above the town like a shattered hulk, surrounded by interesting post modern sculpture. Based on the GPS, Gerry had hoped to find a shortcut that would take us more directly from here to Bonnieux on the opposite side of the valley. However, the shortcut didn’t seem to exist. Instead we found our way into the medieval town of LaCoste through a gate in the wall. Suddenly we were on narrow cobblestone streets polished by centuries of use that descended down the hillside at about a 45 degree angle. Gerry navigated down by bike, but I was prudent, and got off to walk. Somehow we managed to miss the touristy part of LaCoste, and it felt to me like we had been transported back to the village of the 1500’s. (twilight zone music…dada, dada…) After 15 minutes or so winding through the narrow cobblestone lanes, we made our way down to a square, and back on route. I have to admit I was relieved to find the Office de Tourism, a map, and know we didn’t have far to the next cafe, and ice cream.
The ride across the valley to Bonnieux was beautiful, through fields of lavender and wheat, but then we began our accent up to the village. Luckily, our chambre d’hôtel was at the base of the town, and even though it was not where the GPS said it would be, we found la Fontaure. Martine, our hostess, had just arrived from Marseilles, and we sat down for a cool drink in the courtyard. A shower, and we were ready to think about the 10 minute ride up to the village square and dinner at Le Petit Coin de Cuisine.