Woken by a fly trying to climb up my nose but on opening the flimsy curtain I'm delighted to report that the storm has passed and the sky is clearing. We had breakfast with our German friends who had been to Sault and watched Germany win their match in the World Cup and then made ready to leave. I can't say we were that sorry to say goodby but at least our hosts were more friendly in the morning than they were last night...Something had been up.
Sadly Emma couldn't find her sunglasses, so we headed straight to Sault where we were certain we would find a cycle shop.
Sault is a pretty town on a hill, always a pleasure, and we enjoyed a Grand Cafe while watching dozens of cyclists power past on their way to conquer Ventoux. Some rather smug cyclists, (nationality not identified but suspected) in the cafe told us that they were on the way up and rather bluntly demanded to know why were we not? We explained that we were en route to Cannes, via Everest and K2 and that anyway, we were tired after cycling from Caen in four days...You've got to keep your pecker up in cycle currency.
We will have to come back to Ventoux, we can't leave that one alone.
We found a bike shop, bought some sunglasses and set off on what I had correctly identified as a long but gentle climb to mile 14 but stopped every few hundred meters to photograph, or more accurately, for Emma to photograph the perfect Lavender field. Each one was slightly better than the last so it was a relief to hear at last, 'that's perfect, you couldn't ask for more..'. We then had a fantastic ride to Banon, pushing the pedals, ignoring the panniers and both admitted to a feeling of complete elation. You can see why this cycling lark can get addictive.
More Grand Cafés and Oranginas in Banon, another pretty little town that has attracted the tourists, the bijoux and that would benefit greatly if it banned cars, in the humble opinion of this cyclist.
We set off down the D5 towards Manosque at a good pace and the route was what I was teased for calling 'basically downhill except when it goes uphill' which I have to admit it did for a couple of rather testing sections. We picnicked in a field after St Michael l'Observatoire and enjoyed jambon baguettes and very juicy nectarines with nuts and raisins to follow. 'Dejeuner sur l'herbe.'
Crossing the D4100 we hit 'another of those hills that shouldn't be there' and slogged our way to a ridge from which we could see Manosque below us in the valley. We joined the yellow D road and started to freewheel at last, until I had to shout 'stopping!'. I had noticed that my handle bars were pointing left while my front wheel was going down the hill.
Out came the trusty Allen keys and before long it was swooshing time again, until ' Arrrrgghh, Stopping!' Once again. My front forks had come loose and I had a nasty case of wobble going on when I braked.
My Hercule Poirot like little grey cells moved swiftly into action and I correctly deduced that whichever fool had straightened the handlebars had also sabotaged the front forks by tightening the screws in the wrong order. I also deduced that fool to be me and was quite relieved that I had not caused an accident going plus vite into Manosque. C'est la vie, hereusment, 'appy jours etc and alls well.
We survived Manosque despite the best efforts of the locals and popped out on the East side knowing that there would be 'something of a hill' before Greoux-les-Bains. At least this time the hill was legitimate but it was long, hot and needed a determined approach. We were therefore delighted and rejuvenated to be about three miles into the climb when we saw a cyclist, on a road bike, without panniers...walking!
'Pah, feeble, call your self a cyclist! Waster! Pathetic, hah, this isn't even a proper hill etc'.
We kept up a stream of insults, inaudible I hope, to the suffering cyclist until Emma said ' go for it Bryn' and like Cav, we changed gears, stood up and sprinted past, even managing a pleasant 'Bonjour!' as we accelerated past. Of course we had to keep going until we were around the next corner when we could drop down and heave some air into burning lungs... SO childish... But such fun!
We got to Greoux at about 4pm so plenty of time to find our hotel, a former private home and all rather splendid if a bit run down, shower, walk around the town, buy an icecream and some swimming trunks for me before coming back and spending some time by the pool. This is surely as good as it gets and compensates wonderfully for our fly infested room and miserable lack of welcome last night. This trip is certainly full of contrasts; we can only wonder what tomorrow will bring. Thank goodness we chose Chambre de Hotes and Logis rather than Ibis (Ibii?) or Camperniles, definitely the way to go.
Allez Allez, bonne courage!
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