On Saturday, we decided to ride up to the Col de Croix de Fer. Mark had not ridden this when he was in Le Freney several years ago, and thus was not familiar with it. It turned out to be the most challenging ride we had yet undertaken in the Alps. The ride to the village where we stopped for something to eat on the way back (pictured above) was at least as difficult as Little Cottonwood Canyon, if not more so. It was pretty, but not as enjoyable as our previous two rides.
Actually, the restaurant where we stopped on the way down was the best thing about the ride, in my opinion. The waitress was very friendly, spoke beautifully articulate French and made a wicked omelette. :)
On Sunday morning, we left Le Freney and set out for the Luberon in Provence, via Briancon and Sestriere, Italy. I had read that this ski village had marked the end of an epic Tour de France ride, so we decided to drive up there and take a little ride.
The ride up to Montgenevre from Briancon was breathtaking. We kept wishing that we could stop and take pictures, but the road was so narrow that there was no place to pull over. I did manage to take the following photo, looking back/down on Briancon.
It would have been a beautiful ride to take on our bikes, but we didn't have the time. We drove on to Sestriere, took a short ride, then came back down to the charming village of Cesana Torinese to have lunch.
It was one of those places that made me say, "Now THIS is Europe!" The above picture doesn't capture the quaintness of the street. Villagers were out walking, sitting outside, chatting, people watching.
We were looking for a bakery, but didn't see one on this street. All we could find was a butcher shop that had a basket full of focaccia "della val Susa." So we bought some. I also bought a piece of pizza from across the street, then we went back to the little piazza where we had parked our car. Mark took out some extremely smelly cheese that he had bought back on our way into Le Freney and spread some of that, some salami and some Dijon mayonnaise on pieces of the focaccia, which turned out to be a sweet bread with a bit of apricot or apple filling. The focaccia was delicious; Mark's open-faced sandwiches, not so appetizing - at least to me.
From Cesana, we had about a three-hour drive down to where we would be staying in Provence - a tiny village called Beaumettes in an area of Provence called the Luberon. As we drove into the Luberon, we passed through a number of towns and villages and whole stretches of roads that were lined with chestnut trees (such as in this picture, which I took through the windshield).
Just after 4:30, we pulled up in front of the bed and breakfast where we would be staying Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. I had spent quite a bit of time researching reasonably-priced B&B's last spring before selecting this one, and we weren't disappointed.
The house, which is about 200 years old, is owned by a gay couple. The house, though thoroughly updated, has maintained its charm.
After getting all our stuff up the central spiral staircase up to our room on the third floor, we changed into our cycling gear and headed out toward the village of Gordes and the Abbey of Senanque. After a long day in the car, we really wanted to get out on our bikes.
The Luberon is famous for, among other things, its hilltop villages, of which Gordes is one of the most famous. I had seen pictures of the village, but I still wasn't prepared for the vista that opened up to us when we rounded a corner and saw the village and, below it, the valley of the Luberon - both bathed in the late afternoon sun.
From Gordes, we rode the few more kilometers to the Senanque Abbey. I had seen pictures of this iconic Provencale tourist destination for years, such as this one:
It is always a thrill to see something for the first time that one has only dreamed of visiting. Such was the case with Sasbachwalden in Germany, such was the case when first seeing Gordes, and such was the case as I looked down from the road on which we were cycling and first saw Senanque.
We quickly decided that we needed to return in our car the following afternoon, then headed back to Beaumettes for dinner across the street from our B&B.
|The restaurant across the street, as viewed from our window|
|The terrace behind the restaurant|
|Roast Herb Chicken with veggies and yummy frites|
There is so much I could write and would like to write about experiences I/we have during the day, but there just isn't enough time. Like the woman last night who served us and the bits of conversation that I had with her. Or Thierry, our host here at the B&B. Or the Germans who are also staying here.
So, I do what I can with these pictures and bits and pieces of thoughts. Today, we are off to cycle Mont Ventoux, which is about 24 miles north, but which will take us an hour in the car to get to Bedoin, the traditional starting point. Then, late this afternoon, we hope to get back to the Abbaye de Senanque, then have dinner in Gordes. Tomorrow, we cycle hilltop villages in the Luberon.