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A weekend to discover the charms of Provence

Posted 05 Jan 2018

A whistle-stop cycling tour of Provence was just enough for me to scratch the surface of its quaint villages, glorious rolling countryside and exceptional food and wine. These were some of the gems I visited en route.



The tall village of Gordes carved its place in my heart. Its buildings rise precariously upwards from the hill, with gardens and greenery stacked almost vertically, giving a lush green top coat to the orange-toned foundation rock. The climb to the 12th Century castle proved worthwhile, rewarding me with a striking panorama of the surrounding fields and forests.


The highlight of this medieval village was the water. I wandered towards the centre of the village, clustered around a magical aquamarine pool. The seemingly still water is actually fed by a gushing spring, which is the source of the Sorgue river. The colour of the water is strikingly blue and unbelievably clear. Surrounded by dark rocks and lush, hanging trees, this was the most rewarding and spellbinding end to a bike ride. The village also has a rustic wooden water wheel and shops and cafés with their awnings and seating hanging right over the babbling blue weir.



In a fairytale valley of flowers, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence has inspired many before me, most notably Van Gogh. I strolled down wide boulevards, some lined with graceful plane trees, others where the walls of houses were laden with ancient and beautiful wisteria. With all the glorious scents of nature, and the alluring smell of freshly-baked pastries, I understand why the Museum of Perfumes and Fragrances is located here. I made a beeline for the Mill Calanquet shop to purchase a bottle of local, black and fruity olive oil. I vowed to return and cycle the short distance to one of the fantastic wineries whose vineyards can be seen surrounding the town.


Gazing over the plain of Comtat, across acres of vineyards from my spot at the castle, it was instantly obvious just why we were stumbling across so many glorious wine tasting opportunities in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Of course, I recognised the name, but this was the first time I’d put a ‘face’ to the village that produced this beauty. After a pause to admire the Grande Fontaine, I wound my way through cobbled streets, past stone houses with pastel-coloured wooden shutters, each new alleyway seeming to conceal a new café, restaurant or wine shop. I passed by the tantalising Museum of Wine on the way to the spectacular remains of the castle, and would have loved to pop inside.



Gigondas sits at the base of what looked to me like the spines on the back of a sleeping dragon, buried in the hillside. It is in fact the Dentelles de Montmirail, a jutting and spectacular mountain, speckled with avid climbers. A very pleasant afternoon was spent in the shade of the grand plane trees, the scent of the pink oleander blooms wafting towards me as I sampled local wines at Du Verre à l'Assiette. Eventually I made the short walk north of the village to the charming, 11th Century Chapelle Saint-Cosme, which I had spotted peeping from the pines while in the village below.

With so much to explore, I can't wait to return to Provence on two wheels.

Discover our holidays in Provence here. 

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