At Fontaine de Vaucluse near the Vaucluse hills, we find a Camping-car car park. This is new to us and takes us a while to work out how to use the machine but with the help of a fellow Italian motorhomer, we are soon registered. Set by the edge of the Sorgue river, it doesn’t take us long to walk along to this charming village. Built around the largest water spring in France, running rain water and snow melt running off of Mont Ventoux infiltrate the ground before the water surges at the base of the cliff.
The poet Petrarch made it his preferred residence in the 14th century for writing and in 1946, Jacques Cousteau and another diver were almost killed while searching the bottom of the spring.
With the sun still scorching we climb off the jetty into the river to try and cool off but it’s so cold within seconds we can’t feel our feet.
Its here we meet another family trying to do the same thing. As always we get talking and cycling always seems to be one of the topics that comes up. They tell us about their son who has written a book about his adventures cycling around the world. Later that evening I google the book, Terning by Sam Gambier, I will put a review of this book on my page but it’s an interesting, honest account of his trip.
Parked with the river just behind we spend the next couple of days here. It’s so peaceful, we sit underneath the awning and cook outside hoping for a breeze from the river.
Just a short drive from here is L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue. It’s a gorgeous little town, with patches of land interspersed between strands of river and streams, with waterwheels and tendrils of moss hanging down. Known for antiques, every other shop is full of bric – a – brac from old lights, signs and even a gorilla made out of wire! It’s here I believe the chef Keith Floyd ran a restaurant with his partner Paddy.
With the sun still shining we continue on to Bédoin a small village set in the foothills of Mont ventoux. Surrounded by lush vineyards its a pretty village where the streets seem to criss cross each other. Here we find another camping car park and spend the next couple of days here.
Several years ago John cycled through France with our son James and this was their final destination, together they cycled Mont Ventoux.
John had spoke about cycling Mont Ventoux again but over the last few months he hasn’t had the opportunity to cycle that often, bad weather and appalling roads in Italy made it difficult.
So when he goes off for a ride soon after we arrive the last thing I expected him to do was head straight up the mountain. With the evening turning into night, the light fading fast and no sign of him I start to worry. Just as I start to tidy things away outside there’s a crunching of gravel and a weary looking John as returned. I think he forgot that he’s a little older and not as fit as he once was but good on him he has conquered this mountain again. The next few days we spend swimming in the local pool, having a walk around the village where we buy cherries from what seems to be someone’s home and watching the world go by sitting on the terrace of a local bar.
Before leaving the area I would like to see why this Giant of the Provence attracts thousands every year who attempt to cycle or walk it.
It’s a bright, warm morning as we leave Bédoin and head to Mont Ventoux. Rising over 6000ft into the sky the road to this windy, barren mountain takes us through black pine, beech and cedar trees the forest seems to go on forever.
John explains that it’s a challenging climb for any cyclist. It’s almost 13 miles to the top and averages a 8% incline over the distance with very little chance of a rest.
With the roads littered with painted names and words for inspiration it’s a tough climb, we only pass a couple of cyclists.
As we reach chalet Reynard the road breaks through the trees to a more open and wide area.
It’s from here that the desolate rocky landscape gives way to a more moonscape appearance and the climb gets steeper.
Passing the Tom Simpson memorial near the top is a sobering reminder of just how hard this climb is.
At the top with little sign of any vegetation, the wind blowing strong and the whitening of the sun reflecting on the limestone the temperature as definitely dropped. From here the views are amazing you can see what inspires cyclists to attempt it. During the day there is a bar, a few stalls and a shop selling sweets and souvenirs but come the evening when they are closed, I can see why John said it was eerie, it really does have a moon like appearance.
Whether you are old or young, a man or woman the courage, strength of mind and stamina to conquer this mountain is amazing, what an experience and achievement to all those that do.
Tonight we find a French passion site to stay on and it’s just on the outskirts of the village of Visan.
The vineyard is owned by the Lauribert family who are the 5 generation to run the estate. Initially, the whole grape harvest here was processed by a cooperative cellar but in 1997 despite the complexity of the task, Laurent Sourdon decided to form a team of his own to make wine.
The owners are welcoming and friendly, later that evening we are invited along to the wine tasting. They are clearly proud of their beautiful vineyard and cellar.
During the day we are shaded by the trees and at night the sky and stars are so clear. It’s one of the most tranquil locations we have stayed at.
After being in this heat for several days now this appeals to us so we stay a couple of days to recharge our batteries.