Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The France & Spain Tour 2011 - Day 6

Ha ! Thought I'd forgotten, eh ?

Well no, I just needed a break from travelogue blog posts back in October but now I want to finish the story of last summer's European trip as we're currently planning where to go this summer.

So where did I leave it.....oh yes......Day 5. Hehe.

Day 6 started early and we joined it for breakfast a few hours later !

Well, we were on holiday !!

We were still at the charming Mas Pichony b&b on the D28 just outside the small town of Saint-Didier in Provence, in southern France. Today we were going to climb to the top of a 1,910m mountain. Ok DRIVE to the top then. Don't get picky.

To get there we headed out north eastwards to the town of Sault as we wanted to go along the scenic D942 which runs alongside La Gorge De La Nesque - and what a road that was. Stunning rock cliffs on the left, steep drops to the right down into the gorge and more cliffs across on the other side. The road was a marvel of engineering with numerous sharp twists and turns and short tunnels carved out of the rocks on many of them.

It was also a bikers paradise and as with many of the roads we drove on in Provence, we were always accompanied by serious cyclists.

There are several videos of this route on YouTube but most are taken by cyclists going down the road as the descent is more exciting that way ! Due to its length, the videos can run for 11 minutes or more which is way too long to hold my interest and I was ON the road. So here is a shorter video which still manages to give a feeling for the scenic views along the gorge.

After all the 'gorgeous' fresh air, we were more than ready for lunch and were very glad when we reached Sault, a delightful town that reminded me a bit of a Yorkshire village where walkers and cyclists would gather before heading off up into the Dales; except that all the shop names were in French, the people all spoke French and indeed, it was in France. But apart from that.........

There are two main roads leading to the top of Mont Ventoux with Sault at the bottom of one of them and Bedoin at the foot of the other. So more about Bedoin later then.

On our way to find food in Sault, we came upon these unusual bikes just across from a neat little cafe/restaurant.

The cafe menu enticed us in and we had a very nice lunch despite not having much to look at apart from typical French houses and the cafe cat which befriended me and sat by my feet the whole time.

After lunch we walked around the town to burn off the calories and also because it was such a pretty place. The parish church, Notre Dame De La Tour, was a composite building housing both the church and bizarrely, a "creperie" ! Nothing like having breakfast as soon as Mass is over.

The penultimate photo below shows a close up of the "creperie" and the last photo shows it in situ to the right of the church entrance.

More by accident than design, we noticed a long low wall which seemed to offer views across the valley towards the mountains beyond. This really was fortuitous as from the first photo below, you can see that the wall, and the view, could easily have been missed.

All photos on my blog can be enlarged by clicking on them and I'd encourage you to click on the panorama photos to get the full effect of the view.

Then it was time to take the road up to the summit of Mont Ventoux. This involved leaving Sault on the D164 which initially takes you down onto the valley floor (as seen in the panorama photo above) before starting the steep climb up the mountain. The D164 bends and twists for 12 miles with mostly normal green scenery before it gets to a curve where some enterprising person back in 1927 decided to build a hotel/restaurant called Chalet Reynard. At 1,440m, this chalet should be a ski resort but in summer, it's simply a haven for gasping cyclists who need a rest before tackling the remaining 4 miles to the summit.

At Chalet Raynard, the D164 becomes the D974 which goes over the summit and down the other side.

I don't normally put my own home videos in this blog and there are plenty of better ones of the ascent to the top of Mont Ventoux on YouTube but, well here's one I did earlier...........

In 1882 a meteorological station was built at the top but it's no longer in use. It still makes a useful landmark and stands out against the bare white limestone which gives the impression of snow from a distance.

Venteux means windy in French and is sure was windy up at the top. It was a surreal place with hundreds of cyclists mingling with motorists like ourselves who had taken a much easier route to the summit. There were gift stores and even a restaurant where we had chocolate filled crepes to get our energy levels back after the hard drive ! There were also tables and tables of candies........

We walked along to the curve overlooking the valley which also formed the start of the route back down the other side of the mountain to the town of Bedoin. As well as the panorama, there was also this decorated car which I have to assume was liked by the owner. Not by me.

Back on the road, we descended to Malaucene, a picturesque 10th century village nestling in the foothills of Mont Ventoux. Small as it was/is, the village housed the summer residence of Pope Clement V (1305-1314).

With climbing still fresh in our minds, we went up the steep steps of 'calvery' to an overlook which offered wonderful views over the village, the bell tower and the mountains on the horizon.

On the walk back down we got a great view of St. Michael's Church, constructed under the orders of Pope Clement in 1309.

We then drove on to Bedoin but as it was after 7pm and we were ready for supper, we didn't stop long and headed back to Pernes-les-Fontaines for our evening meal.

We'd only driven 77 miles but as with most of Provence, we'd seen so much in such a relatively short distance. The weather had again been brilliant and all in all, the whole day had been a feast for the eyes. This would be our last full day in Provence as next morning we were to set off for Barcelona...but as they say, that's a whole different story - and blog post.

To be continued...........


Daphne said...

This was one of my favourite days of the whole trip - such wonderful scenery. Your photos are fantastic - - but I notice you don't mention that in order to take the ones of the gorge you kept standing RIGHT ON THE EDGE. It was VERY SCARY.

rhymeswithplague said...

Fabulous post. I'm glad you decided to finish telling us about your trip last summer. The photos are gorgeous. Too many cyclists for my liking, though.

rhymeswithplague said...

But didn't you find Florida a bit boring after that?

Silverback said...

I live life on the edge, Daphne !

Yes Bob, Florida is a very dull state - except for the weather, which isn't.

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