June 2012 Visit to France
May weather was superb, apart from a wash-out in Scotland and premature return. 27deg one weekend, and then 9deg the following weekend, for the Jubilee celebrations. What a shame! The poor queen looked frozen, as she watched the endless parade of boats on the Thames, standing up for four hours. We watched from the warmth of our own sofas, and even we were bored at times, and went to make frequent cuppas. But grandma had a nice week with us, culminating in the girls coming over to stay for the long weekend, a cold BBQ indoors. We didn't see much of Kate, who was revising solidly all weekend, ready for exams.
After a soggy cold week, we were ready for France. Wild forecast, with a an unseasonal deep low pressure, so we were glad we'd booked the tunnel crossing for a change. Fantastically well-organised crossing. Arrived early and just got on the next available train. Stayed overnight on a car park/Aire in Calais, and off very early, driving all day in the rain to just north of Lyon, overnighting on an Aire there. There is nothing glamorous about the journey down. It's just about driving all day, and trying to stay awake! The weather didn't help, and, having been shut up in the van, in the pouring rain in Scotland, and then so far on this trip, I was ready to sell the van!!!
Finally arrived in Bedoin, Provence, after two days of driving. The poor weather was extending right through France, with the only corner with a chance of good weather being this area. We came here for the first time in September last year. We've always avoided it in the summer, because it gets too hot for us, but June and September temperatures are perfect, mid 20s
After a late lunch, time to get on the bikes. We decided to cycle on to Malaucene, and then see how we felt, but with lots to fit in, I think we both intended to do our first big climb of the year. We've both been practising on the hills at home, culminating in the sportive of the Tour of the Peak, both having our best rides in the best weather, hot and sunny. But we both found this "easier", or so they say, ascent up Mt Ventoux hard, and probably not the best preparation, having been cooped up in the van for two days.
After a delightful ride over to Malaucene, over the Col de Madeleine, we started the climb. It starts off quite gently at about 5 to 7%, but there's a tough section in the middle of 10%,11.5%, 12%, 11% over 5kms, which really drags you down. Later it eases off, before the final 4km climb over the limestone "lunar" surface to the weather station at the top. It had been quite warm early in the ascent, but the last section was cold and windy. Shooting off the top and down towards the Chalet Reynard, was bitterly cold. A quick coffee at the cafe to warm up, and then it was fast downhill, averaging 30mph, all the way through the pine woods, for about 13 miles back to Bedoin. Through the shady, narrow streets, lined with cafes and restaurants, filled with Dutch people, some in fancy dress, ready for the Euro match tonight.
Our campsite is about 85% Dutch, most of whom are cyclists. The second language on signs around the campsite is Dutch, there being not much call for English!
Well, there are three ways up Mt Ventoux, from Malaucene, Bedoin and Sault. All hard, all about 13miles of constant climbing, and we've done all of them now, but it takes you by surprise when you do that first proper climb. You get a disconcerting burning feeling in your back, a numbness in your toes, a pain in your neck, and the sinking feeling that you've bitten off more than you can chew! But then one of your fellow sufferers, cycling past off the saddle, looks across at you a mumbles "tenez courage", and you feel inspired to go on. It's not as beautiful as the alpine passes, but Le Mont Ventoux, le geant de Provence, is an epic climb, and you get a deep sense of achievement on reaching the top!