It is high and there’s a lot of wind… Guess! Right! The Mont Ventoux. In september three friends and I departed for a climb of the legendary mountain.
With the weather forecast being promising, we started climbing, from Malaucène to the top. I had in mind not to stop while climbing, but even after less then one kilometer I gave up on that idea. My heart was about to jump out of my body…! So, I stopped and restarted…
It took a while and the most friendly cyclists encouraged me. The views were splendid, the cookies that I had with me were heavenly, and the water in my bidon… oh, it was the best water I ever had!
After *uhum* only two hours and a half I could see the famous red and white mast. But then I also saw one of my companions, with a flat tire. A FLAT TIRE… on one kilometer from the top! Well, try to stop those friendly cyclists when they smell their sweet victory. Lucky for us, one of them came back from his victorious reach to the top, with a spare tire. So, at the end we all reached the top together.
During the climb I thaught I was a very crazy cycling girl. It was as if I was cycling through hell itself. Hell with a nice view. But hell is quite amazing when you reach the top!
Vaucluse is of course more then Le Géant du Provence. There are markets with the fullfilling joy for nose and eyes. Deepyellow melons, large basil leaves, blue-purple dried lavender, golden honey, juicy nectarines…
And a delightful nature which brings pleasure to hikers and cyclists. If you climbed the windy mountain (or not) make sure you treat yourself with a (cycling) tour of Gorges de la Nesque. Take the short climb, have a picknick and then descend for more or less 16 kilometers at a percentage of around 3%.
Extra for the readers of De bekeerlinge van Stefan Hertmans: you pass by Monieux!
Most remarkable animal on our route was the dog that made me reach 30 km/h while climbing a hill.
As for the weather in the North of France we had it all. And for all kinds of weather and situations I had my outfit. From left to right: on a rainy day I looked like a drowned cat, on a sweaty hot day I looked like a tomato that was dressed up for cycling, on the day we arrived in Paris I hided my cycling shorts by wearing a black dress, and on the day we drove to Laon I looked like winter was coming.
Day 10. Paris – Compiegne (by train) and Compiegne – Noyon 30 km
Day 11. Noyon – Coucy le Château – Laon
When the cathedral of Laon was built, oxen provided the import of rocks from the quarry uphill to the center of Laon. On one day one of the oxen fell dead. It was a disaster. But on that very moment an ox with wings flew through the sky and took the job of the death ox. As an honour for the animals who helped building the cathedral stone carved oxen look over the city of Laon.
Apart from the cathedral Laon isn’t really attractive. Where Noyon is a quiet and charming town, Loan is quite dirty and unpleasant.
Day 12. Laon – Chemin des Dames – Ville Dommange 75 km
We left early in Laon. It was a misty morning. Covered in silence we crossed the Chemin des Dames. The name referring to the daughters of Louis XV who took this route to visit their governess. But the surrounded landscape we saw was made by World War II. On April 16, 1917 a large offensive was planned by the French army. Soldiers were sent uphill were the German soldiers lay waiting and easily shot them.
On Chemin des Dames we visited the Caverne du Dragon (the Dragon Cave). Both the German as the French army had a camp in the cave. Both armies called it the Dragon Cave. The Germans gave the name Drachenhöhle because of the smoke from the kitchen came out of the cave, as if it came out of the mouth of a dragon.
The French soldiers saw the four tunnels of the cave as four necks of a dragon and there for called it the Caverne du Dragon.
Last cycling day, last kilometers, last rainshower… and that meant a slippery road! With a crash as a result (with no harm aside for a painful ankle).
And last but not least: a visit to the cathedral of Reims, a candle for Jeanne d’Arc (and for us) and a cool bottle of Champagne.
Day 7. Rouen – Giverny – Cherence 63 km
Swallows high in the sky, no rain on the menu today. A beautiful route along the Seine brings us in Giverny. The little place is crowded with tourists who are seduced by umbrellas, tin boxes, framed posters, handkerchiefs, fridge magnets… all with a print of an impressionist painting. Claude Monet is all over this idyllic little town.
The garden of Monet is really worth a visit. The vibrating scent of the flowers and the million shades of color, are intoxicating.
Day 8. Cherence – Le Vexin – Versailles 78 km
The Seine is our guide through this very French landscape. Le Parc Naturel Régional du Vexin Français is a pituresque and protected scenery with woods, forests, meadows, fields… You can feel the inspiration that in earlier years also inspired painters like Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Daubigny.
Day 9 is a rest day which we spent in the Château de Versailles. Even with tickets bought in advance, we have to queue for a long time. For an illustrator that means a lot of models who don’t run away *grin*.
After a visit to the palace and it’s enormous gardens, we took our bike to Paris where the Nôtre-Dame rang her clocks for our arrival (or was it because of the Assumption of Mary, August 15?).
Versailles – Paris 25 km