Day 4 - Mirmande to Grignan - Roaming the ViaRhona Tandem Tour - September 2021 - CycleBlaze

September 21, 2021

Day 4 - Mirmande to Grignan

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The wind came up last night and we spent the night listening to it bash against the windows.  The walls in the Hotel de Mirmande proved to be as thin as feared, but only 4 rooms were occupied (based on the population at breakfast) so things were pretty quiet.  At this time of the year most of the tourists are, shall we say, of a certain age. Like us, actually.  So no wild parties ensued. 

The breakfast at the hotel was back to average.  Who gives out the stars to these hotels and how do they decide what is worth 2 or 3 stars?  Robin thinks it’s the extra pillows in the closet.  Rich has no clue.  The Hotel de Mirmande felt like a solid 2 star.  Just to warn the next tourist…

We got out at 10:15 and the wind was definitely making itself felt.  Luckily, we were heading downwind.  Our first segment involved going at right angles to the wind to get back down to the river.  But after that, we had it behind us for most of the day.

We climbed back away from the river and began a long descent into Montelimar.  Rich had the song “Savoy Truffle” running as an earworm the whole time.  Thanks, George!

We stopped in downtown Montelimar to buy a couple of apples since we were still full from the average breakfast we’d had.   We had our light lunch just south of Montelimar along the Rhône on some nicely-positioned picnic tables.

On the way to Montelimar
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After lunch, we crossed over the Rhône.  We crossed the river more times today than in previous days.  Every crossing is different, but the bridges tend to be narrow.  Surprising since the Rhône has been here for a while.   You would expect they’d have widened the bridges by now.  We had one bridge with signals at each end.  A special button to push for cyclists (I guess to slow down the countdown for the other side).

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After cruising along the usual magic carpet surfaces, the valley narrowed and we came to a big red suspension bridge.  We took the sidewalk across and discovered Viviers.

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Viviers is an old bishop’s town.  And it was another amazing pile of old stones.   Here it is from the riverside on the way in.

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Again, amazing old stone buildings, with evidence of multiple eras of construction plainly shown on their faces.  We pushed the bike up the hill (well, Rich did) and gawked at the beauty.

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Scott AndersonBeautiful array of textures.
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4 weeks ago
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Up the hill, there was an inner set of walls that enclosed the bishop’s palace and the lodgings of the canons (sort of like assistant bishops).  We kept climbing until we eventually got to France’s smallest cathedral.

I didn’t know this until recently, but a cathedral is different from a church in that a cathedral is attached to a bishopric.  I didn’t learn these things growing up as a Congregationalist.  Anyway, you may now feast your eyes on the smallest church in France that has its own private bishop.

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From the church, we were able to ride the bike out to a viewing area dotted with towers and having great views over the town and the countryside.

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In French, we trapped a passerby into taking our picture.  He was a.good sport about it and turned out to be Dutch.  His English and his French were both better than ours I think!  How do they get so good at languages?  Sometimes I think they’re just smarter than everyone else… 

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The GPS trace for today shows a lot of random wandering through Viviers. I think we may have overburdened our navigation computer as it tried to figure out how to get us back on track.  It ran out of battery charge 10k from our destination today!

After a fruitless search for a coffee, we headed off downstream with our mega-tailwind pushing us along.   Another river crossing, this time with no traffic in either direction.  Who uses these crossings?  The bridges are beautiful but really empty.

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As I mentioned, the valley narrows down at Viviers.  When we had passed through the narrows, the lavender fields began in earnest.  We saw lots and lots of fields of lavender.  Robin is feeling guilty because we haven’t cut ours back at home yet (the bees are still feasting on the flowers).  Here in sort-of-Provence they’ve whacked them back to little hedgehogs.  The only difference between fields is how many weeds appear between the lavender plants.   Some farmers appear to tolerate more diversity than others.

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Despite all the good smells, the afternoon was tough.   Rich had routed us to avoid high-traffic roads, which led to some extended hills.  We crawled up several double-digit hills on our way to Grignan, our “Plus Beau Village” of the day.

We staggered into town at 4:48PM, just in time for the 5PM checkin at Le Patio.  A charming young lady showed us to our room and we collapsed, finally rousing ourselves for showers and a quick tour around the town, which had either closed or was in the process of closing for the day.

Grignan is much bigger than Mirmande, and it’s Tuesday.  So there was much more life in the squares and on the streets.  Nonetheless, at 6:30PM rural France is shutting down and preparing for dinner.  We walked up to the chateau on top of the hill as the sun was just hitting the tops of the towers.

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The main square and clock tower of the town were beautiful in the evening light.

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And, true to form, there were lots of interesting streets and houses to gawk at. 

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We were able to visit the church on top of the hill.  Beautiful in the evening sun!

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We haven’t quite figured out why these half-arches are in a lot of the streets.  Maybe to keep the houses from falling down into each other?

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Scott AndersonI’ve always assumed they were for support - sort of like flying buttresses on gothic churches - but I really don’t know.
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4 weeks ago

After 3 days in a row of high-end food, we felt like toning it down a bit.  So we hit a local creperie and came back “home” to our home for the night.

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Another big day awaits tomorrow but for now, rest is a priority.  
The wind has died down so maybe we’re in for a better night.  We worked hard today!

Today's ride: 69 km (43 miles)
Total: 220 km (137 miles)

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Susan CarpenterReally enjoying your trip - it's rekindling some fond memories of my trip on the Via Rhona. Bridges! And Viviers - I'd forgotten how wonderful that old section high on the hill was. Thanks
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4 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonGreat photos! I can’t wait to get back to France.
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4 weeks ago