Cycling in Provence: A Very Sad Au Revoir

Provence is an easy place to fall in love with, and a very difficult place to leave. Four days here was only enough time to confirm that I should have planned on staying no less than a couple of weeks! Even though it never rains here in the summer, it rained in Bonnieux this morning.

Rainy day in Bonnieux

Maybe the rain was supposed to help me not feel so bad about leaving. But as I watched the fog settle over the hills, it made me want to stay even more. I was dreading the 7 km downhill ride on wet pavement.

Despite my sadness about leaving the Luberon, I felt so lucky to have had the opportunity to “taste” the cycling opportunities in this region. I loved what I saw, and I cannot wait to plan a follow up trip. Despite a lot of hilly terrain, this is an area that loves and welcomes cyclists. And regardless of your cycling ability, there are plenty of cycling options for a weekend or longer stay. Certainly one of the best experiences for me was renting an electric bike from Sun-e-Bike for several days. This introduced me to a whole new bicycling experience, and a whole new level of bicycling fun.

I can’t wait to write more about my experiences exploring the hilltowns of the Luberon by e-bike and about the very unique network of the Sun-e-Bike network.

The thing that I remember the most about 7 km downhill ride from Bonnieux to Pont Julian was the smell of the lavender.  How I wished I could bottle the smell that surrounded me during that ride.

Lavender of Provence

At the bottom of the descent from Bonnieux is Pont Julian and access to the Veloroute du Calavon.  Pont Julian is a Roman stone arch bridge over the Calavon River dating back to 3 BC. It was built on the Via Domita, the road that connected Italy to Roman territories in France. It was remarkable to learn that no mortar was used in the construction of this bridge, every stone was perfectly cut to fit its place on the bridge. We headed west on the veloroute toward Cavaillon.

The signposted Veloroute du Calavon

Although called a veloroute, the path is actually a voie verte, a car free bike path that extends for 28 km through the heart of the Luberon from Les Baumettes to Saint Martin du Castillon.  The path will eventually extend to Cavaillon, an extension that can’t happen fast enough.  When the extension is complete, cyclists will be able to take the train to Cavaillon and have car-free access to the major points in the Luberon.

Veloroute du Calavon

I watched Bonnieux disappear on my left along the bike path, and I stopped to take my last photo of the castle at Lacoste.

Rainy day view of Lacoste

Time on the Veloroute du Calavon passed quickly, and before I knew it, we were approaching Les Beaumettes, the end of the bike path. The scenery approaching the village was amazing with rock formations and cliff homes. We stopped for an expresso in a small cafe in the village and planned the rest of our route to Cavaillon.

Scene along the veloroute in Les Baumettes

The Veloroute du Calavon currently ends or begins, depending on which way you’re traveling, in Les Beaumettes.   You’re therefore on your own to determine how to get to Cavaillon if you’re planning to take the train from the Luberon. Our path took us on a series of small, low traffic roads through vineyards and along lavender fields. Fortunately we passed through the town of Coustellet, home to the Museum of Lavender. This is a great attraction with not only a museum on the history of lavender cultivation, but also a gift shop where you can purchase anything lavender as well as a lovely picnic area surrounded by lavender fields.

I did a bit of shopping for gifts and we had a picnic/snack of cherries and Cavaillon melon.

Morning snack of cherries from Bonnieux and Cavaillon melon

I posed for some final pictures surrounded by lavender on the museum grounds.

Lavender fields in Coustellet

We visited for a while with some other cyclists who were headed toward the Luberon and were able to share some suggestions on a bike route. I wish that I too was heading toward, rather than away from the Luberon. At least I have a day in Avignon, assuming that we can make it back to Cavaillon to return the bikes!  After almost no time, we arrive in Cavaillon, a town much busier than I ever anticipated it would be. Town was bustling and traffic made bicycling challenging. We made our way to the center of town and a terrific view of the arches from the Roman road, the Domitienne Way. Spectacular.

We made our way to the Cavaillon train station to return our bikes, but not before stopping at a local produce shop to buy several Cavaillon melons. They are definitely the sweetest melons I have ever tasted!

Sweet Cavaillon melons

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Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.

  1. […] Provence is a very easy place to fall in love with, and a very difficult place to leave. Four days here was only enough time to confirm that I should have planned on staying no less than a couple of weeks! Even though it never rains here in the summer, it rained in Bonnieux this morning. Maybe the rain was supposed to help me not feel so bad about leaving. But as I watched the fog settle over the hills, it made me want to stay even more. I was dreading the 7 km downhill ride on wet pavement. Read more […]