Provence, France (Mon)

July 17-29, 2021

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Saint-Ferréol – Lourmarin

Today would be a big travel day. Dan had made arrangements to stay in some fancy B&B in the beautiful village of Lourmarin and while we had so far broken up the distance to get there, we still had ways to go. So let’s go!

Another clear morning

The morning weather was perfect: just a hint of a chill and a promise of sunshine. The roads were in good condition and the traffic was fairly light. I had studied GoogleMaps and tried to balance the length of the route with interesting roads. So far, so good.

The mountains were amazing!

We were running parallel to the motorway (no tolls!) and cruising down a wide valley, rolling through small towns along the way. But at Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne the road took a sudden deviation right up the side of the mountain. We were going to cross our first pass: Col du Télégraphe!

We were in ski country

This was another popular route for the bicyclists and a rather gentle and low-level pass. Lots of trees and then resort villages surrounded us.

10th Anniversary of Hay Art in Les Verneys!

No sooner did the pass fade from our rearview mirrors than another one appeared in the distance. The valley gave us a short break before our next adventure: Col du Galibier. And what an adventure it was! The views were open and wide, the curves lazy and consistent, and traffic almost non-existent.

Going up

At one point we came across a guy crouching on one of the tight corners – a photographer! I don’t know why I was so surprised that someone would be enterprising and set up their “mountain office” here. I had seen it on the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina (US) and for some reason, it never occurred to me that someone else could be so clever. It also cost Dan some money, as I never realized just how frumpy my gear looks (plus it doesn’t fit quite right). I bought some new gear as soon as I got home 🙂

I promise: I’ll buy a real print

We were almost to the top of the pass when a wild tunnel appeared! A tunnel? Here? At the TOP of a pass? Dan and I pulled over to discuss if we wanted to take the tunnel (he loves tunnels!) or continue over the pass (I love passes). We agreed that the view was the better option. No tunnel for Dan this time.

The tunnel visible in the background

The official pass: Col du Galibier!

We had barely started the descent down the other side when we hit a red light. That was random. But then I realized that it was for the exit of the tunnel. It was a one-way tunnel and the cross traffic took turns, with our lane coming in from the side theoretically given a green in between. There were two cars ahead of us already waiting for the light. We waited while the other directions had their greens, skipping our lane entirely.

So we waited some more. And waited. Eventually the first car got tired of the red light and drove away. We moved up behind the other car and waited some more. This car also gave the light enough time and when it still hadn’t turned green, it also pulled out – and almost into the side of a car that was coming out of the tunnel! Yikes. Things cleared up and Dan and I agreed that the light wasn’t going to ever turn green – and then it turned green.

Going down!

I got a new helmet!

The mountains eventually gave out and we found ourselves again in a wide, lush valley. And although lush, it was much more arid but also much more (agriculturally) productive. Apples, peaches, grapes and probably other fruit trees I couldn’t discern had taken over the landscape.

We stopped at a roadside rest stop to have a bite of lunch. I’m glad that I brought my little cooler so we could keep our wine and cheese cold! The stop was a pleasant one, with few people around and fairly quiet considering we were on the side of a motorway.

I had plotted the town of Embrun on my GPS, but only as a way point. I was incredibly surprised when I saw just what kind of historic and unique place it was. We still didn’t stop, but I think that we got a better view from the roadside, to be honest. And oddly enough, wiki has very little to say about this place other than “it is very old”.

Embrun, France

We kept riding south, passing through and by numerous villages and towns. The weather was good, although a bit warm if we stopped moving. Traffic was on the whole not a problem and the views were always giving me a swivel head. I don’t know how motorcyclists keep their GoPros on their helmets and still produce acceptable videos. Mine would make the viewer motion sick, I’m sure!

The town of Sisteron

South of Manosque the landscape changed yet again. We left behind the busy non-toll motorway and found ourselves on much more remote and narrow roads. A rain squall kept threatening to hit us, but it always stayed just over the hill.

Remember that comment I made earlier about seeing the lavender fields of Provence? I was finally there!

Re-entering “civilization”

I loved today’s clouds

We were on the final stretch to our BnB in Lourmarin, one of France’s “20 Most Beautiful Villages. We shall see!

Dan had chosen the town and Le Galinier de Lourmarin, the BnB we’d stay in. He was impressed by the photos and the reviews, and it was in the village itself so it would be convenient to explore at our leisure. The plan was to spend three nights here, thereby giving us plenty of time to make day trips in the region. We were only an hour from the Mediterranean Sea, after all!

The address as given by the BnB had the GPS take us to a wide spot in the road, half a kilometer outside of the village. This didn’t seem correct, so Dan pulled out his phone to verify. He narrowed our destination a bit further, but still not to the BnB itself. It was mid-afternoon and the sun was beating down as Dan tramped around looking for more information. Finally he came back and said that it should be directly across the street, behind a dense curtain of trees and bushes. We got back on the bikes to look for a way through the bushes and onto the property. We eventually found a gate – a couple of gates, actually – but they required a code to get in. We had no code.

Dan jumped one of the gates and eventually found someone who worked on the property to let us in. She seemed surprised that we weren’t given a code, but was pleasant and instructed us on how to access the property. She showed us to our room, and then gave us a tour of the grounds. This included the lobby/reception area and the pool, as well as a more convenient location to park our bikes. Excellent, although I just wanted to get out of my gear and get a shower.

We finally got our room at Le Galinier. I’ll share the photos on tomorrow’s entry, since there have already been a lot of pictures today.

—> Tuesday

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