In Apt: the Roussillon loop - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

November 12, 2022

In Apt: the Roussillon loop

First, a photo that somehow slipped out of yesterday’s post that I’m sure you won’t want to miss - assuming you like either birds or sheep, which likely covers most of our readership.

Sheep egret.
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Keith AdamsNo regrets.
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2 weeks ago

Roussillon!  Rachael and I have dreamed of seeing Roussillon ever since we biked out to it from Bonnieux nearly twenty years ago on our summer tour through Provence to see the lavender to celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary.  We had planned to include it on our spring tour but dropped a loop through Provence when the weather turned very wet for a few days.  As much as we want to see it again, it didn’t make sense to detour that far east in those weather conditions.

So we’re of course delighted to have this brief spell of dry days to make it out here now.  Today is nearly as fine as yesterday was, with more cloud cover here and there but otherwise another spectacular autumn day.

There’s a bit of climbing in today’s loop, the most we’ve seen since biking down to the coast from our visit with Rich and Robin in Limoux.  Our climbing muscles have essentially been in hibernation for the past two weeks, and they have a rude awakening when we encounter a ten percenter immediately after leaving our hotel as we climb away from the Calavon.  It doesn’t last long though, and for most of the rest of the loop we mostly encounter more manageable grades.

We bike past appealing scenes like this all day long, with rows of lavender leading to villages or ridges. In this one we’re looking back at Apt, the largest town for miles around.
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Some roadside art, standing at an intersection in the corner of a field. Gladiateur, by Jean Claude Lorenzo.
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Our ride begins by riding eastward for about eight or miles to Rusteel, following a marked cycle route.  A beautiful ride that is mostly paved except for a short cutoff that’s rough enough that we wished we had ignored the recommendation of the bike route and added a short distance to stick with the pavement.  The highlight comes at the easternmost point of the loop when we come to Provençal Colorado, the site of a former open pit ochre mining quarry just outside of Rustrel.   With more time or on another visit to the region it would be worth visiting the site itself, but we’re hoarding our time for our visit to Roussillon and its own famous ochre quarry.

Northeast of Apt. Between the higher elevation and being later in the season we’re seeing a lot more color in the forests and fields.
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Looking north to Les Vieux. We’ll see it again and more closely after we double back westward at Rustrel.
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Here’s that unpaved bit. We got a few hundred yards in and wondered if we were making a mistake and should go back to the pavement, but it’s short enough that we decided to continue on.
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It’s not short enough. We should have turned back and looped around.
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If we had though we would have missed these three ponies on the loose, in the road and coming our way.
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It’s not long though before they bolt and head for cover. Are there wild ponies running free in the Luberons?
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Steve Miller/GrampiesIf not before then there are some now.
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1 week ago
I think that gap to the north is the Combe de Costa Brune. If so, there’s a paved road running up that clue to the Sault Plateau. That would be another great ride.
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Looking south, near Rustrel.
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Provençal Colorado, a former ochre quarry.
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At Rustrel we reverse direction and bike west toward Roussillon, 10 miles away still.  We’re immersed in the same inspiring scenery we experienced at the beginning of the ride, unsurprisingly since we’re only about a mile further to the north.

Westbound toward Roussillon. As in the first part of the ride, traffic is very light. Ideal cycling conditions.
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A lavender chateau, west of Rustrel.
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In the Luberons.
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Approaching Les Vieux, the village we saw earlier from across the valley.
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In the Luberons.
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In the Luberons.
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In the Luberons.
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Villars, the next village to the west.
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Zooming in on a windmill in Villars. You can see it in the photo above, at the far left. Both photos were taken from the same spot.
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Finally we come to Roussillon, the village we’ve looked forward to seeing again for nearly twenty years.  We’re approaching it from the northeast this time, a side we haven’t seen before, and look up in amazement at the ochre cliffs lining this side as we climb up to it.

Approaching Roussillon from the northeast.
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Video sound track: Green, Green Rocky Road, by Dave Van Ronk

So why were we so excited about returning to Roussillon, and did our return live up to our expectations?  Good questions, but if we waited nineteen years you can wait just one more day to find out.  For now, let’s jump ahead a few hours, kick back on the roof of our hotel and and enjoy this wonderful beer my best friend reeled in for me yesterday.  A Ninkasi IPA?  Who’d have expected to find that in this out of the way place?

The GBO’s been longing to see the lavender of Provence, and I’ve been yearning for an IPA. Win, win.
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Bob KoreisCuriosity got the better of me re the possibility of a beer brand from Eugene ending up in France. The font branding is different, which mad me question if it really was the guys in Orygun. Turns out is Ninkasi Fabrique, based in Lyon.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bob KoreisThanks for looking this up. Here’s one back at you - the explanation for why they both ended up with the same unusual name: Ninkasi ("Lady who fills the mouth") is the goddess of beer and brewers in Sumerian mythology.
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2 weeks ago
The late afternoon sun catches this village on a ridge northeast of town. I can’t figure out what it is though. (Oh! I’m wrong on the orientation. This is Saignon, to the southeast. We’ll bike past it tomorrow on our way south.)
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Ride stats today: 31 miles, 2,200’; for the tour: 1,718 miles, 94,300’

Today's ride: 31 miles (50 km)
Total: 1,718 miles (2,765 km)

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Suzanne GibsonYou sure are packing in a lot of great rides at the end of the season and before you leave. I'm sorry to see your trip on this side of the ocean coming to an end.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonWe were really fortunate to get a few nice days in the Luberons. This is such fine cycling country, especially off-season when it’s less crowded. You could spend a whole short cycling tour here if you got a good break in the fall.
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2 weeks ago
Janice BranhamDelightful peek at your ride in the sunshine.
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1 week ago