Cycling through Provence - A harrowing and rewarding experience.
We began the trip in Paris and stayed the Renaissance Vendome. It is a boutique Hotel in a quiet part of the 1st. Outstanding rooms and outstanding service. I have stayed here before and know the area.
We met our friends in Paris. They had not been before so we walked the city, the gardens and enjoyed exploring some neighborhoods.
Notable Restaurants we visited – Le Petit Pontoise. I enjoyed this restaurant at the GTG last year. It is near Il St Louis. It is small and reservations are a must. The Lamb is out of this world.
Chez Francis – A touristy stop but good. We had a table with a perfect view of the Twinkling Eiffel Tower. We had the Dover Sole which was very good.
Ok, now for The bike trip - - it was through Trek Travel. It is a bicycle co that offers bike tours all over the world. Our friends asked them to help celebrate their Anniversary and they selected the destination and bike tour group. We were happy to go!
I trained all summer for this ride but a few of the steep inclines (mountains) on some of the rides about killed me.
We piled our luggage in the taxis and headed to Gare de Lyon. From there we enjoyed the Observation car on SCNF for a 2 hour and 44 min journey to Avignon. Trek Travel picked met us there and shuttled us to Mazan – about 40 min away. There were only 9 people on this trip, so we were happy about that. I was hoping for an intimate size group.
Hotel - Château de Mazan. -- - only a short distance from the base of Mont Ventoux - stands Châteaude Mazan. Originally built in 1720 during the Regency Period, the Château soon became the property of the notorious Marquis de Sade. It is a beautiful restored hotel and is quirky and fun. The rooms were large and offered amazing views. Service was impeccable.
I will share what we had for dinner shortly.
As soon as we were settled we met our two “guides” so we could get fitted to a Trek Domane™ 5.9 carbon road bike – light as a feather! I brought my own pedals and clips and saddle. They provided a helmet. Once on the bike I was in heaven! This bike is the Ferrari of bikes. You feel you can conquer all mountains! Well, we needed a bike like this because we did climb several mountains. We did a 16 mi loop that consisted of three very steep hills the first day – a warm up for what was to come.
In the evening we had a “Social Hour” to meet the other cyclists on the trip. We sampled a local Rose’ wine from the region and enjoyed regional cheeses and Chacuterrie.
I have to detail the dinner as it was incredible – Provencal dining at its best!
Amuse Bouche – Roasted Quail with apples and Port Cream
Mediterranean Prawns Cassolette with velvet Crab foam.
Braised Beef Cheeks in Red Wine and vetetables
Short Bread with Nectarine Chutney
**All of this with endless wine from the region.
If you are in this area of Provence I would highly recommend staying here for an evening and having dinner here. They are equipped with areas to store bikes even if you are not part of a biking group.
Trek Travel provided breakfast for us every day. Chateau Mazan provided the typical fare and it was delicious – Lots of fresh fruit, breads, egg dishes.
Every morning our guides filled our water bottles and checked out the bikes. The SAG wagon stopped about once an hour or so and had fruit, energy bars and water for us. At the end of a ride they had wine sometimes!
Mazan to Bedoin – This was about 30 mi ride today.
We peddled to the Open air market which was very large. We parked our bikes at a local bike shop and headed to the market. The Spices , Lavender, table clothes, cheeses, Olives and Olive Oil and local soaps were just the beginning! There must have been over 100 vendors! We sampled the best cheeses and Olives and chocolates!
We decided to sit down and eat something light for lunch. We found a little café that had only salads. I am not sure what I told our server but she brought 4 beers to our table. We did not have the heart to send back.
After we made our purchases and enjoyed the market we headed back to the bike shop where our guides and the SAG wagon were. She collected our purchases and we jumped back on the bikes and remained in the picturesque valley and wine country of the up-and-coming Gigondas and Vacqueryas regions. Two in our group decided to do the very challenging ride up Mount Ventoux – It is renowned throughout the cycling world as one of the most challenging ascents in the Tour de France.
One of the men in our group was 76 years old! He climbed it! He did every Avid option that was offered. He was a machine! He lives in a state with no mountains so I am not sure how he trained.
He was quiet and charming and we all adored him!
We shared the road with cars – there were no bike trails. This made me nervous on more than one occasion. The people in this area are used to cyclists and are patient but they follow you only inches behind you at times!
We cycled through vineyards, sampled grapes right off the vine! Farmers were more than happy to give us a taste! The valley was scenic dotted with gorgeous chateaus and small villages that are postcard perfect.
Back to Chateau Mazan. Again, we were treated to an amazing dinner. The hotel has a patio where me sampled more regional wines and met other cyclists and shared stories.
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Cycling through Provence - A harrowing and rewarding experience.