Cycling to Chateauneuf du Pape, Surrounded By Mountains and Vineyards

It is with a very sad heart that we say goodbye to Philippe and Sylvie at Villa Noria.  Their hospitality has made our time here so perfect. Philippe’s cooking has made our meals something to definitely look forward to. Philippe advised us at breakfast that there is a strong weather front coming through today with big winds and big rain, neither of which is good news to anyone touring by bike.  It’s particularly bad new to me as I am increasingly unsteady from what I still think is vertigo, but in fact is a bad case of dehydration.  We pack up and get on the road, hoping to beat the rain and the wind.

Philippe and Sylvie Monti with me at Villa Noria

Philippe and Sylvie Monti with me at Villa Noria

We head off in the direction of Caromb and one of our first sights was the neighboring town of Crillon-le-Brave, home to one of the most famous, and expensive hotels in the region.

Crillon-le-Brave

Crillon-le-Brave

As we surveyed the landscape for the last time, we were blessed with a view of the top of Mont Ventoux for the first time.  All week, the famous mountain top had been enveloped by clouds, but this morning, it revealed itself in time for us to capture several great photos.

Finally a view of the top of Mont Ventoux!

Finally a view of the top of Mont Ventoux!

The scenery this morning was nothing less than spectacular:  beautiful hill towns, Mont Ventoux, the Dentelles de Montmirail, definitely one of my favorites, and vineyards as far as they eye can see.

Vineyards and the Dentelles de Montmirail

Vineyards and the Dentelles de Montmirail

During the day, we bicycled through 3 major wine regions, the Cotes du Ventoux, the Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape.  In each area, vines were heaving from the weight of grapes. Vineyards along the route were a flurry of activity as workers waited for the order to begin the harvest.  With the forecast of strong wind and rain and a 20+ degree drop in temperatures, we’re told that extra workers have been brought in to harvest the grapes.

Vines bulging with grapes waiting to be harvested

Vines bulging with grapes waiting to be harvested

During a normal year, this should have been completed several weeks ago, but due to the unusual weather in 2013, the harvest is late.  This has been lucky for us as it’s been incredible to watch the process in different locations.  We share our route with tractors pulling containers full of grapes headed for processing.

Grapes ready for processing

Grapes ready for processing

Luckily for us, the darkening clouds seem to be staying behind us, at least for now.  We decided to stop in the small town of Sarrians for a snack and something to drink.  My husband decides to follow the lead of many of the locals, ordering the mid-morning beverages of choice:  a glass of white wine with an expresso chaser!

The choice of the locals!

The choice of the locals!

After our snack, we head out looking for the Via Venaissia, a new car-free bike path being built on an old railway line.  The cycle path runs through the heart of the region called  the Comtat Venaissin, an area east of Avignon to Mont Ventoux and north to  Orange and south towards Cavaillon.  Unfortunately only several kilometers of the route are currently finished, we had the opportunity to see the construction underway and to ride the part of the route that is currently completed.

Construction for the Via Venaissia near Sarrians

Construction for the Via Venaissia near Sarrians

When the entire route is finished, this greenway will stretch 30 km, linking the town of Orange and Velleron, providing a perfect link to cycling itineraries around Mont Ventoux, Carpentras and Isle sur la Sorgue.  Judging from the quality of the completed section, this is going to be one terrific cycle route when it is finished, and I will look forward to keeping you up to date on the progress.  Orange is a perfect starting point for a cycling trip into this region of Provence, and the Via Venaissia cycle path will be a great link to the many cycling itineraries in this region. 10a101

Section of the completed path

Section of the completed path

Plans are also underway to link the Via Venaissia to the major Via Rhona route which will travel through Provence along the Rhone River.  Here is a sign showing future links into the area from theVia Rhona.

The region is busy planning links from the Via Rhona

The region is busy planning links from the Via Rhona

I would have loved to have traveled along the wonderful bike path for many more miles, but it ended much too soon.  As we passed through Jonquieres, the dark clouds which had been at our back most of the morning were definitely catching up to us. I hope that we can out ride the rain for another hour and a half.  With a 20 degree drop in temperature predicted, I am not excited about the prospect of riding in the rain!  My husband and I agree to take the shortest possible route to Chateauneuf du Pape. I hope that it does not involve many hills, a silly thought based on my time here during the summer!  By the time we reach the famous wine town, the wind is really strong, the skies dismally dark.  The fields are filled with people picking grapes as quickly as possible.  Faces are very focused and serious as the financial impact of even a short storm could be devastating, as previous storms this year have proved.

Picking in Chateauneuf du Pape

Picking in Chateauneuf du Pape

Fortunately the vineyards of Chateauneuf du Pape were spared from a bad rain storm, and the picking continued into the dark.  The high winds ushered in an instantaneous drop in temperatures. By the time we reached the town, the temperature had dropped 24 degrees in less than 30 minutes!  Needless to say, it was heaven to arrive safely at our B&B for the night, the wonderful, charming Wine B&B. A night with the owner Danielle Raulet Reynaud was the perfect way to end our week!

The cellar at the Wine B&B

The cellar at the Wine B&B

 

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.