May 6, 2015

Dentelles de Montmirail

Late afternoon, 5:30. The sun is strong, clear, still high in the sky. The sky is now that beautiful sunny southern France blue. The only color it ever appears in many blogs, photos, visitor sites. It has been blue, but also grey, cloudy, hazy, rainy even, since I've been here, and all have been just fine. But this afternoon, the sky is such a blue. Astonishingly, deeply, serenely, blue. Not a blue I have ever seen in New England. Perhaps the afternoon wind blew away some of the haze, which lingered here in recent days.

5:30, and I thought I had finally learned: "Bonsoir, madame" said I. "Bonjour" said she. Next stop. Bonsoir, Monsieur.... Bonjour said he, and Bon Apres-Midi when I left. So I take a happy lesson: The days are longer here in this part of the south. Afternoons linger, evenings arrive later. No need to rush things, enjoy the day.

Bedoin: I've been here 4 days now, ridden each day, though Monday's pedal was laughably short. Rides have taken me 3 directions out of town, and I have seen parking lots everywhere. Many large parking lots! All for the cyclists who arrive here to ride up Ventoux. Signs say, in more than one language: welcome bicyclists, please park here. In the afternoon, in centre ville where my apartment is located, I see as many people in full riding kit as in civvies. In the morning and the evening the streets, the cafes are quiet: presumably the parking lots are emptied by then.

Many of those cyclists' jerseys tell me who their favorite team is: I see Team Sky, and more. Others wear their club gear, and I notice many riders from Lunel, near Montpellier, and also from Orange, northwest of Avignon. I see a startling number of youngsters, maybe 10-15 with what looks to be their fathers. I think, based on the bikes, and the proud looks on the father's faces: the kids are fast.

My ears listen, but are less well trained than my legs: I hear French, of course, and a very very little bit of English. Understand that as English English, not American English. I hear a very lot of what I take to be German or Dutch. Perhaps both.

And so I sit, in this warm afternoon sun, thinking about my rides these last two days, and this extraordinary place. Oh yes, eating while I sit. Green olives, Lucques, and black, Nyons with Provence herbs, from the Monday market. And goat cheese, partly cured, not completely new, from the Sunday morning producers market. All delicious. Of course, why else would I mention them?

But back to the rides. Yesterday (pictures throughout) I rode to Les Dentelles du Montmirail. The ride was though countryside full of olive groves, fully leafed out, not yet showing signs of olives, though I believe the stage between bloom and fruit was evident. Tiny, almost imperceptible, but growing.

The ride took me through Crillon le Brave, a fortified hilltop village,  and then, unexpectedly to Modène, an attractive town, with an ancient Greek history, that I hadn't meant to visit. I was following signs, relaxed, flanneuring even, knowing that I had the entire day, and no required goals. Did I mention, there was very little in my legs after the Ventoux climb? And little in my head either. This ride, just a ride, was lovely. Even with leaden legs and a dullard head.  Energy all left scattered roadside on Sunday's climb of Ventoux.

I did have one goal, not required: Suzette. How could ayone with a nickname like mine, a diminutif en français, I learned today, not visit a high village named Suzette? As I mentioned, there was the entire day free to ride, to explore, and I always pick the little road, on a day like that, whether or not on my map. So, at a corner where one larger sign said: Suzette, 11K and the smaller panneau said Suzette 4K, you know which direction I took.

Again this trip I am riding Papillon, my sturdy touring bike, and thought the chemin might turn to dirt. It did not. What it did do was to descend straight down for perhaps 2k. And then ... climb straight up, arriving in the middle of Suzette. Surprising me, there was an eponymously named col there. Turns out Suzette used to be a center of apricot production, but that was driven out by the Rhone crops. Now it is famous for its grapes. Like other nearby owns, prehistoric, Greek, and Roman vestiges have been found in town. Crepes Suzette did not originate here.

My return to Bedoin took me along the D90, right in front of the Dentelles, and I stopped (downhill, my stops are not entirely uphill!) frequently. Also, I stopped several times to look for birds I had glimpsed, but without avail. Climbing Ventoux, a rider passed me with a jersey that said "draft me if you can." Today my jersey should have said "this bike stops for birds."

Hmmm, dinner. Have I mentioned that asparagus is in season? White asparagus, plump, stronger flavored, and thicker skinned than what I get at home. It needs more peeling, longer cooking, and then....yummm. Surely I mentioned the local lamb, from the producers market, or the season's first potatos? I remembered to mention that strawberries are in season? Dinner calls. Since I have had the luxury of kitchens, and markets, this trip, I have barely eaten out. So it is my same old same old cooking ... but with such delicious ingredients!

Later, after dinner, dishes, about to send this off, it is now 9:00. Still warm, the sun setting. Bonne soirée!


  1. I suddenly feel very hungry.

    1. You two are always invited to dinner... either side of the pond!

  2. This post and the last photo left me feeling warm and relaxed; you're so good at that! Thanks!

    1. Not me, the place ....And, I wonder. I am getting on a plane tomorrow.....


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