Mont Bouquet - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

November 18, 2018

Mont Bouquet

Travelling as we do is excellent exercise for the aging brain.  There are new challenges daily to keep those grey synapses well-challenged: routing decisions to be made, indecipherable menus to be deciphered, lost riding partners to be located, arcane shower designs to be mastered.  The list goes on and on, and there’s always some new variation on an old theme to set you back a bit, frustrate you, make you think.  Better than the NYT crossword puzzle, better even than than that great old office job we miss so dearly.

It’s working very well for us.  Our brains are aging gracefully, our wits remain remarkably razor sharp.  Everyone says so.  I forget who though, exactly.

This morning’s challenge is the espresso maker.  Rachael was particularly keen to stay at this apartment when she saw it had one, so we could step up from the instant coffee we’ve gotten by on lately.  Sadly though, it looked like we were going to be stuck with instant after all when neither of us could figure out how to operate the damned thing.  Perplexing, since it has no moving parts and only two small buttons.  Ten minutes later, after several failed experiments, a review of a downloaded user manual (in French) and a few YouTube how-to videos of devices that were similar but not identical to ours, we hit on the magic formula.

We feel so smart.  It took years off our brains.

The Nespresso Magimix: a worthy substitute to the NYT crossword puzzle
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Jen GrumbyThank goodness that the internet was there to help your brains conquer the machine!
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2 weeks ago

As proof that we’re smarter, we went out to look at the town during the daylight hours for a nice change.  We’re figuring out finally that it doesn’t matter how far or fast we plan to go on the day’s ride, we’re going to roll in between four and four thirty - too late to really see the town, and too tired to boot.  

And besides, it’s barely 40 degrees out.  Let’s give it another hour and go look at old Uzes in the daylight, just a few blocks from our room.

Old Uzes is beautiful, a very attractive little place.  I think it’s the first place we’ve come to since Menton where we’d enjoy a longer stay.  It has a great ambience, some fine historic structures, it even has a movie house with films shown in their original language.  We see that Cold War is showing tonight, and consider seeing it later - until I look it up and see that its original language is a mix of Polish, French and I think Russian.  I’m sure that would be another great brain stimulator, but we decide to pass on it.

9 AM Sunday morning, Uzes. Not a lot happening yet on the Place du Herbes.
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One of the arcades that encircles the Place du Herbes
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There’s no activity on the street yet, but it looks like it won’t be long now.
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Eva WaltersWe ate a good dinner at this deli after our day ride to Pont du Gard in November 2011. Glad it's still here!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Eva WaltersLooks like a nice place, alright. Unfortunately it was closed Sunday night, as was nearly everything else. We were happy to find a bar/pizzeria.
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3 weeks ago
As Kathleen Classen regularly reminds us, it’s important to look up from time to time.
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The Bermonde Tower, part of the ducal palace
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Not much activity in the pigeon house yet this morning. Do they huddle together for warmth? Are they just a bit lazy this morning? I realize that I don’t really know anything about pigeon behavior.
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The XII century Duche (the ducal palace) is the heart of Uzes
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By 10 the city is waking up. Cafes are full, the vendors are setting up shop for the day.
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We aren’t likely to find a meal along today’s route. Best to be self sufficient. With several attractive shops to choose from, Rachael held out for the one that went with her morning attire.
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Jen GrumbyBrilliant! I wonder if they turned on the pink lights in anticipation of her visit?
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2 weeks ago

We leave for our ride about 10:30.  It’s still quite chilly at the start, and we both wear several layers and long gloves for the first several miles.  As soon as we come to the first hills though we start shedding.  It is really a beautiful day to ride - brilliantly clear, with a modest breeze.  The perfect antidote to yesterday’s drizzle.

The loop I’ve mapped out for us goes north of town into the foothills, but I could have chosen one in any direction.  It looks to me like you could use Uzes as the base for a longer stay, exploring the small roads that radiate out in all directions.  For the first several miles the ride is quiet, relaxed, undramatic as we bike through flat farmland.  Soon though, we leave the cultivated zone and start slowly climbing through a dry environment dominated by scrubby oaks.  I recognize this habitat from our previous visits to southern France, but today I discover its proper name.  It’s a garrigue.

Wow, what a beautiful morning for a ride! It’s still chilly when we start off, but gorgeous.
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The first few miles north of town are flattish, cultivated. We’re biking on narrow agricultural roads, almost too narrow even for the rare car that comes our way.
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What is the name for these simple dry stone huts? A borie? Yes, that’s it. Well, it would be if that we’re Provence. Over here, they’re apparently called capitelles.
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So we lost each other for a bit here. I left my bike beside the road and walked off into the weeds to take a shot of Rachael crossing this old bridge, but she didn’t see it. For the next twenty minutes we both ride thinking the other is ahead of us.
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Climbing above the cultivated plain , we rise through a dry, brushy landscape of low, scrubby oaks. It reminds me of a savanna, but I think this is a garigue - a new habitat I hadn’t heard of before.
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To those who quibble at the lack of livestock photos in the journal, we offer this.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesLovely, thank yiu.
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3 weeks ago

 I didn’t choose today’s ride based on any research or information other than the map, and there were many options to choose from.  When we came to a junction onto a busier road that looked less attractive we decided to change the plan and improvise, starting with a much quieter road that branched off to the north.  A hundred yards down this road, we rounded a bend of the road and started climbing.  We’re going over the eastern shoulder of Mont Bouquet, the highest promontory around.  Suddenly, our lazy ride has turned into a minor hill climb.

It’s not all that much of a climb, really; but it has a short, quite steep pitch that causes us both to hop off the saddle and walk the short way to the summit.  And then of course it has a second of these, because that wasn’t the real summit the first time.

The summit of Mont Bouquet is a well regarded paragliding launching pad. The steep shoulder road is an attractive spot for a pleasant bike-n-hike. The road stiffens significantly just before the summit, and we both pushed it.
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The shoulder of Mont Bouquet brings us high enough that we can see across the broad southern Rhône valley to Mont Ventoux.
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Surprise! The summit we just pushed up was a false one. We pushed up the end of this one too.
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Crossing the real, final, actual summit we break into the clearing and face a landscape that stops us cold.  It is absolutely beautiful- a broad, open expanse that extends from the Cévennes to the west across the Rhône Valley to Provence far to the east.  It’s too bright and hazy to the east for a really good look, but I’m sure that’s Mont Ventoux we’re staring at, its white south face view barely visible as a sliver if we squint our eyes.

The expanse of the view is impressive, but it’s the color and texture that makes it overwhelming.  We’re overlooking miles of unbroken oak forest, orange-brown with the autumn.  What a glorious time to be here!  We flop down on a relatively bare spot of ground in the garrigue, enjoy our lunch, and contemplate our good fortune.  We don’t see another soul for the next half hour, if you don’t count the cricket that captured my attention for a few minutes.

It was absolutely jaw dropping to cross the final summit. The view is stupendous, with the terrain blanketed with oaks turning with the fall. From a distance, it looks Lake a miles-broad expanse of heather.
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Utterly glorious
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Nice to come to a picnic spot with a bit of a view. It didn’t matter which direction we sat.
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A new addition to my growing portfolio of cricket photos
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Finally, we decide it’s time to go.  The cricket has finally tired of my attentions and moved on, and it’s getting late.  We coast off the shoulder of the mountain, lose elevation quickly, and work our way back home.  I could say more about these last twenty miles, which were pleasant and attractive enough - but after the view from the top, it’s all a bit anticlimatic.  And, for those keeping track, we do well and arrive a bit earlier than usual: 4:10.

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Mont Bouquet quickly recedes as we speed our way back to Uzes.
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With shadows growing long, it’s cooling down quickly. Time to head for home. Our thoughts start turning to dinner.
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We’ve been seeing this crop frequently in the last few days. It stands out from far off because it’s so bright and colorful. Asparagus?
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Bill ShaneyfeltAsparagus! I've been wondering if that's what was growing in the fields you have photographed! This confirms it!
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3 weeks ago
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Ride stats today: 38 miles, 2,700’

Today's ride: 38 miles (61 km)
Total: 2,614 miles (4,207 km)

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