Away before 8:00am to visit my brother & sister-in-law at Chateauneuf de Mazenc in Drôme Provence. I always like to visit with my brother and besides I left 4 bottles of wine at his yearly rental, when I spent two weeks there last June - see TR 1532: A Traveller in the Drome. Over to Cavallion and a diesel fill-up at the Auchan supermarket (gas stations at supermarkets tend to have the best prices), then onto the A7 up to Bollène and over to Vinsorbes passing by vast fields of grape vines. We are in the Côtes du Rhône wine region. At Vinsorbes we stopped for coffee before proceeding along a wonderful lavender route, first recommended by Susan Jones, and over to Valréas; then on to Grignan and a visit to the highlights of the town including the chateau. Over to Chateauneuf de Mazenc by 12:30 and a lunch prepared by my Ron and Mary Jane. In addition to the 8 of us, Ulrike, the owner of Ron's rental and a friend to both joined us for a wonderful meal of lamb, carrots, potatoes, salad, three kinds of rosé wine and a dessert. While my brother got most of the credit, I strongly suspect that my sister-in-law had a lot to do with the success of our lunch.
Following a too-brief visit we made our way back, stopping at nearby Le Poet Laval for a shopping fix, then proceeding through the familiar towns of Dieulefit, Nyons and Vaison-la-Romaine before taking a wrong turn going through Carpentras, as usual. Carpentras is a community in need of several roundabouts. A back street course correction brought us on the right road to Cavaillon and back to Ansouis shortly after 7:00 pm. A long day.
It is quite common see cyclists, both locals and tourists - indeed cyclying holidays are an obviously significant part of the tourism industry here in Provence. They may be traveling singly, in pairs - usually husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend and often speaking Dutch - or most commonly in small groups - many are kitted out in spandex and on expensive bikes. However, today was exceptional. In addition to the usual groups we encountered two additional classes of riders.
We saw several large - 50-80 at a time - groups of schoolchildren out for what was obviously a long ride - a support vehicle at the rear of the train advising traffic of the group ahead, several adults riding with the group and another support vehicle along the route. The kids were having a great time. I suspect it was some end-of-year activity, a reward for the long 8-to-5 days in classes.
In the area in and around Carpentras we saw what looked to be at least two professional racing teams out in force. I'm not sure if there was any organized activity going on, although we did pass by a large cluster of people waiting expectantly on a street in downtown Carpentras, or if they were just out practicing for next month's Tour de France. The 2nd last day of the tour starts in Montelimar and ends atop Mt. Ventoux, so perhaps Carpentras is on the route. I definitely recognised a team car for the Tour team of euskaltel-euskadi. It passed us twice (also got turned around on the streets in Carpentras) and they were in a hurry.
I estimate that we saw well in excess of 500 cylcists today.
I skimmed over an article in the paper today that a multi-stage bike tour is currently underway for a select group of prisoners. Giving prison inmates a fast bike and then setting them off on the winding roads of the French countryside? Only in France.
Cycling is at least as much a part of the national consciousness in France as hockey is in Canada. I suspect it is even more important. Whereas hockey is mainly a spectator sport for almost all of us over a very young age, cycling appears to be a much more participatory activity here in France. Good for them.