To Lourmarin - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

November 13, 2022

To Lourmarin

We leave Apt the same way we biked in two days ago, by continuing east up the valley on the excellent Calavon Veloroute.  The weather isn’t what it was two days ago - it’s cooler, more seasonal - but otherwise it’s the same fine ride we’ve enjoyed ever since leaving Saint-Remy.  its very impressive - with the exception of the messy two mile gap at Cavaillon, we’ve been riding an almost unbroken bike path through the heart of Provence for nearly fifty miles, rising almost imperceptibly as we follow the Calavon upstream toward its source.

Getting a fair start to the day, we continue following the Calavon Veloroute eastward.
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Still on the Calavon Veloroute, but not for long. The veloroute ends about six miles east of Apt.
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Keith AdamsAnd to the left, the road less traveled...
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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Keith AdamsAnd for good reason!
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1 week ago

The Cavalon Veloroute eventually ends and drops us back onto a road, but it’s so quiet that it’s hard to see much difference.  Eurovelo 8 (which we’ve also been following for the last 50 miles), continues east from here up the Cavalon for about another fifteen miles before finally dropping back toward the Durance.  Had we thought of it, this would have actually been a pretty good option for us to work our way to the coast - we could spend tonight in Manosque on the Durance and then head south through Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume.  Probably a better option that what we’re doing, but we’ve had in mind crossing through Aix-en-Provence and this alternative didn’t occur to us.

We’re not doing that though.  We continue following EV8 for another mile, look wistfully at the beautiful land still ahead, and then double back  to the west and continue climbing, more steeply now as we angle up the north face of the Grand Luberon.  We’re working our way back toward the Combe de Lourmarin, the great gap that cuts through the Luberons south of Apt where we’ll turn south for our home for the next three nights, Lourmarin.

So I’ve said that Plan B might have been better overall, but for today we’re delighted with the choice we’ve made.  For the next five miles we’ll continue climbing, gaining another thousand feet before finally topping out high above the valley.  It’s an excellent ride, stunning in spots as the views broaden as we gain elevation.  And it’s absolutely quiet - I think in the next five miles we see one car, one walker, two riders on horseback, and some donkeys.

I feel some regrets as we double back and turn west here while the EV8 continues eastward up this gorgeous valley. Really, when you get the right weather conditions you can’t beat autumn rides like this.
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Angling up the side of the Calavon Valley we pass one beautiful setting after another. It’s so colorful now!
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The views broaden as we climb. We’re above most of the vineyards and lavender fields now, biking through the colorful hardwood forest that blankets the higher elevations.
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In Castillet-en-Louberon.
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Looking east along the route not taken. Range after range continues on into the distance. I’m sure we’re seeing we’ll past the Durance here, and maybe all the way to the Alps.
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The largest crowd we’ll see on our way to the summit.
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The view to the north. The Calavon is in that nearest depression - we’ve followed it eastward before doubling back to rise above the plateau below. Beyond that is the ridge on the east side of the Calavon, and beyond that soar the Vaucluse Mountains.
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Zoomed in on the Vaucluse Mountains. I wish I knew what that perched village was.
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Eglise paroissiale Notre-Dame-de-Pitié, in Saignon.
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Continuing to climb, we look back on dramatically perched Saignon. This is the same village I took a photo of from the roof of our Apt hotel.
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Rachael’s gotten ahead of me on the climb of course, but I catch up where she’s been waiting for me at a false summit.  We enjoy a brief coast and then continue climbing to the real summit where we pause again to take in what’s probably our last look at Mont Ventoux before dropping into the Combe de Lourmarin.

Getting high on the Louberon.
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Enjoying a brief descent, we get a foretaste of the drama to come.
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High on the flank of the Grand Luberon, we get what I’m sure must be our best view of Ventoux for this tour.
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Climbing again.
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An unusually well preserved borie.
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I thunk too soon but have another think coming. THIS is our best view of Ventoux.
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We pause at the summit for the brighter half of the team to layer up for the descent - about 1,200’ in the next nine miles.  With the exception of one annoying climb along the way it’s all downhill, fast, and in today’s conditions none too warm.

And it’s a stunner.  We’ve biked partway up through this gap years ago on our way to Bonnieux, and I mostly remember it as feeling on the precarious side.  And it is.  Even with today’s light traffic and with us going downhill, it definitely keeps our attention.  We don’t like it much when the occasional Sunday Porsche whips around the bend in front of us, hugging the midline and coming our way.  As we descend I contemplate that Albert Camus was buried in Lourmarin after he died in a car accident and wonder if it was on this road (it wasn’t, as I’ll learn later).  It brings to mind biking past the spot last year where James Dean was killed east of Paso Robles.

What I’d completely forgotten though is what a spectacular route this is.  All the way down to Lourmarin we bike beneath awe-inspiring cliffs, biking around one bend after another and coming face to face with yet another spectacular view.  Other than the sometimes tenses situation on the road it’s definitely one of the top descents of the tour.

At the summit, I convince Rachael she should layer up before our long descent. Inexplicably, I don’t take my own advice and eventually suffer from it.
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Descending through the Combe de Lourmarin.
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Other than the occasional car whipping past, it’s completely quiet - enough so that we can clearly hear the rock climbers scaling the cliff on the opposite side of the gorge.
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No, not for me.
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Bill ShaneyfeltI used to love rock climbing, but the old hinges are just too rusty now.
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2 weeks ago
Kathleen ClassenOur oldest son and his wife’s passion. The pictures they send are spectacular and scare the living daylights out of me.
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1 week ago
Rachael AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltI have never been that daring!
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1 week ago
Bill ShaneyfeltI have an old photo a friend sent from back in the early or mid 80s that a friend who was teaching me rock climbing sent years ago, but I can't figure out how to load it here.
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1 week ago
Descending through the Combe de Lourmarin.
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Descending through the Combe de Lourmarin.
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Descending through the Combe de Lourmarin.
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Video sound track: Joyful Departure, by Oregon

We arrive in Lourmarin at two, an hour too early for our meeting with our host.  We’re both cold and on the edge of hypothermia - I really should have stopped somewhere along the way to put my coat on - so we find the only shelter around, an empty outside table at Cafe Gaby.  The inside is full when we arrive (it’s Sunday, and the tourist crowd is in town).  It’s too cold to sit outside really but this is the best we can find.  I grab the table and tell the server there are two persons, and then we sit and wait for him to come back so we can place orders for an omelet and hot beverages.  

Instead, he returns with two beers.  I tell him he’s brought them to the wrong table, but he looks puzzled and reminds me that I asked for two boissons.  No, two persons I explain.  He gives a wry smile and starts to remove them but I hold him off - a beer or two sounds quite nice, come to think of it.  

A few minutes later he returns with a pot of tea for Rachael, notes that we look uncomfortably cold, and invites us indoors to a table that’s just been vacated.  Deal.

Praying for warmer weather.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesOr more and warmer clothing!
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1 week ago
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Ride stats today: 24 miles, 1,700’; for the tour: 1,742 miles, 96,000’

Today's ride: 24 miles (39 km)
Total: 1,742 miles (2,803 km)

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Suzanne GibsonMore roads that we must travel!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonFunny. I was looking up driving time and distances from Munich last night. Too long for a one day drive maybe, but if you came down for a couple of weeks it might be worth it. You could meet up with Susan here.
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1 week ago
Scott FenwickIt seems to me you have pulled that beer ordering trick once before.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Scott FenwickWell I’m impressed, Fenwick! That’s true - sometime earlier in the spring I think, though I don’t remember just when. I almost mentioned it myself. I really am going to have to start enunciating more clearly.
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1 week ago