Saint-Remy-de-Provence - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

November 15, 2018

Saint-Remy-de-Provence

We have an easy ride in store today.  After a steady climb north from Aix we’ll drop down to the Durance River and generally follow it west all the way to Saint-Remy.  Ten miles up, then 35 down or flat.  With not that much to see on the way other than the usual wonderful scenery, the ide should go fast.  We’ll reach Saint Remy in midafternoon, with time to explore the town while it’s still light out.

We check out of our hotel (Le Mozart, an excellent place a bit out of the core - economical, good breakfast, great staff) and bike through the heart of the old city watching for a decent bakery to pick up sandwiches for lunch.  We’re in luck - no big surprise, Aix has a very decent bakery.

We loved this place. Great selection of breads, quiches and sandwiches. We thought we’d just tow it along with us, but we forgot the rope.
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The climb begins right away once you leave the old city.  There are a few ways north, but I think we probably found the best route by bike - out past Cezanne’s workshop, then angle across west on a short pedestrian route to D14 and follow it up the ridge.  By the time we join it, D14 is reasonably quiet and has a good shoulder marked as a bike lane.  It’s always comforting to have plenty of elbow room on a climb, we think.

We stop at Cezanne’s workshop, a tourist highlight in Aix, for a photo op. My parents toured the workshop when they were here, as did my sister and her husband. With the family already well represented here, we think it’s enough to just prove we were here and trudge on up the hill.
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The gate to Cezanne’s workshop is open though, so we at least peek inside and discover it is a minor cycle touring Mecca. This is Kanata, from Kyoto, en route from Prague to Barcelona. Very personable, and faster. He’ll be long gone by the time we arrive.
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Eight miles into the ride and a thousand feet above Aix, we near the summit of the ridge.  We leave D14 here for a quieter minor road that I mapped out for us.  And keep climbing, as the road gradually deteriorates.  Rachael is getting a bad feeling about this, but the surface stays reasonable as we finally crest the ridge and start dropping off the north side.

A few hundred yards on, with the road still worsening and dropping more steeply, we come to an unmarked fork not shown on our GPS.  Which to choose?  Not the left obviously, as it is marked as private property.  And not the right one either, which is also private.  Poop.

Backtrack to the D14 then, which after all is an excellent road.  As soon as we reach it we find bikers zipping up the hill.  Obviously the way to go.  After an exhilarating several mile descent, we near the valley floor and start working our way west.

We take a last look back at Mont-Sainte-Victoire. This is a good angle for showing how precipitous its south face is.
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Rachael expressed some anxiety about this road soon after we turned off onto it. Here we go again! Rachael has pretty good instincts by now, actually. I should listen to her more often.
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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry that we could not choose either, we returned the way we came. Sorry, Mr. Frost.
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The top of the ridge is mostly tree-bound, with only small, broken views down to the broad Durance Valley and the Luberons. The smear at the bottom of the range is Pertuis.
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The ride west along the Durance is flat, as expected, but it isn’t particularly fast.  We make several unwise navigation choices that add distance and cost us time.  It’s become clear that we won’t be seeing much of Saint Remy today, and we’re even starting to get a bit anxious about arriving before nightfall.  Finally though we find our way onto an excellent series of quiet lanes that see us through the final twenty miles. With no further navigation setbacks and with a bit of a tailwind, we’re soon back on track to reach town by 4, our new normal arrival time.

Until we near Orgon, another tiny place we’d never heard of.  The lead up to it is spectacular, following along the base of pink and white limestone cliffs; and Orgon itself, an old place built on top of the cliff, also looks well worth a look.  We don’t have the time though, and the light is starting to fade anyway.  We pause for a few photos and continue on, leaving me frustrated and wanting more.

We arrive at our room about 4:30, not long before dark.  Rachael wanders out to the store (a long wander - she’s gone nearly an hour) to get milk for breakfast, and then we head out for dinner.  It’s not that easy finding a meal because it’s very quiet here now and most places are closed for the winter.  The one we find is quite nice though, and we enjoy an extended chat with the couple at the next table.  They’re a young family from North Carolina, traveling by a variety of means (but not bikes) with their 9 and 12 year old sons whom they are home schooling.  They’ve been here in Europe for at least several months, and have at least another month before they arrive in Barcelona for their sea voyage home.

How strange.  The ancient adage may need updating.  All roads seem to lead to Barcelona now, not Rome.

Are you getting tired of looking at these rows of plane trees yet? We’re sure not.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesNever enough Plane trees, unless they are on the despicable Canal du Midi (not their fault the track is so bad, though.)
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3 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetA rural road lined with plane trees is, to me, a symbol of France. I never tire of them.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetIt is for me as well. Every one we pass warms my heart, and seems somehow different than the one before, it’s wonderful seeing them in a different season for the first time.
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3 weeks ago
I was too lazy to read up on this large, rushing canal that parallels the Durance on its south side. Don’t know what it’s called, where it originates, why it’s here. (An update: this is the Marseilles Canal, as was pointed out to me by my friend Frank. It’s a primary source of the water supply for Marseilles).
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Navigating west along the Durance is a bit confusing, trying to find quiet roads that don’t dead end or turn to mud. We spent quite a bit of time on D561, which was fine really. Good shoulder.
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The lower Durance is fertile country that grows a bit of everything. Artichokes here, but we also see apples, berries, grapes, corn, squash.
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Looking across the Durance at the western end of the Luberons.
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Today's ride: 51 miles (82 km)
Total: 2,505 miles (4,031 km)

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