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How an electrical bike gives a whizzy recent perspective on the gorgeous byways of southern France

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A freak frost cut a neat line through the cherry orchard. One side the blossom was brown and dead, while the opposite was white and alive. 

Within the aisles between the trees, fat candles burning pig tallow to ward off the night frost smouldered within the morning dew, however the arbitrary hand of God had still condemned half the crop.

I’m cycling within the Luberon, along lanes where olive trees and clementine bushes have grown for hundreds of years.

Well worth the climb: Mark Porter cycles through historic Bonnieux, pictured, on an e-bike tour through Provence 

A gently undulating route takes me through the honey-coloured villages of Bonnieux, Lacoste and Ménerbes — made famous by Marcel Pagnol, and later by the more prosaic pen of Peter Mayle.

If Provence is probably the most beautiful a part of France, the Luberon in central Provence, possesses its finest features.

The morning chill quickly gives option to intense warmth, and shortly the cicadas are out to herald an Englishman on his bicycle.

'If Provence is the most beautiful part of France, the Luberon (above) in central Provence, possesses its finest features,' writes Mark

‘If Provence is probably the most beautiful a part of France, the Luberon (above) in central Provence, possesses its finest features,’ writes Mark 

Pretty Lacoste (pictured) is one of the stops on Mark's cycling tour through the region's 'villages and vineyards'

Pretty Lacoste (pictured) is one in every of the stops on Mark’s cycling tour through the region’s ‘villages and vineyards’ 

Little wonder the Greeks after which the Romans were seduced. Their heritage is etched in all places in Provencal stone: from Avignon to Aix, a still living and magniloquent vision of an ancient culture.

It’s one in every of those heavenly days that starts in winter but reaches mid-summer by lunchtime. I cycle for some time along the Via Domitia, the oldest road in France but now a tad busy, so I veer off into Gargas for a relaxing Perrier.

Here, I see pilgrims en route for Santiago de Compostela, with their scallop medallions, filling their flasks on the village fountain. The backdrop is a vivid red cliffscape where the sandstone has been gouged out as if by an enormous’s fingers. It is understood locally because the Colorado.

I’m staying at La Coquillade, which caters for cycle enthusiasts like me. It was the thought of a Swiss businessman, who also founded the famous BMC cycling company.

During his stay at La Coquillade (above), a hotel that caters for cycle enthusiasts, Mark gets kitted out with a 'splendid' mountain bike

During his stay at La Coquillade (above), a hotel that caters for cycle enthusiasts, Mark gets kitted out with a ‘splendid’ mountain bike 

The late Andy Rihs spotted a ruined hamlet while on holiday and had the vision (and capital) to convert it over a few years right into a five-star spa complex, consistent with the encompassing architecture. His grandfather was the author Hermann Hesse, whose paintings and writing chair are within the lobby.

There may be a motorcycle centre at La Coquillade and my guide, Gaëton, kits me out with a splendid (and electrically assisted) mountain bike.

Born and bred within the neighbouring village, Gaëton has an in depth knowledge of flora, fauna, history and wine, making for an enchanting outing.

Above is one of the suites at La Coquillade. The hotel was founded by Swiss businessman Andy Rihs, who spotted a ruined hamlet while on holiday and had the vision to convert it over many years into a five-star spa complex

Above is one in every of the suites at La Coquillade. The hotel was founded by Swiss businessman Andy Rihs, who spotted a ruined hamlet while on holiday and had the vision to convert it over a few years right into a five-star spa complex 

‘That castle over there once belonged to the Marquis de Sade,’ he says as we trundle past Lacoste. ‘It was bought just a few years ago by Pierre Cardin.’ This can be a renowned wine area, not removed from the famous Rhones of Chateauneuf du Pape, so it seems only appropriate to stop for a lightweight lunch at Aureto, the hotel’s own vineyard.

My route was an easy 30-miler, my first since major hip and knee surgery late last yr, so I used to be grateful for the electrical assistance. However the hotel caters for hardcore cyclists too, and you possibly can do the circular tour of Mont Ventoux when you are as much as it. That is as tough because it gets — 137 km and 4,400 metres of climbing, from the village of Bédoin. It’s advisable to have 4,000 km riding under your belt within the yr before trying it, so beware.

Other trips like mine concentrate on the villages and vineyards of Luberon.

From La Coquillade hotel, you can do the circular tour of Mont Ventoux if you are up to it. Pictured is part of the route up the mountain

From La Coquillade hotel, you possibly can do the circular tour of Mont Ventoux when you are as much as it. Pictured is an element of the route up the mountain

The Mont Ventoux cycling route is 'is as tough as it gets', Mark reveals. Above is the view of the Alps from the peak

The Mont Ventoux cycling route is ‘is as tough because it gets’, Mark reveals. Above is the view of the Alps from the height 

Mark stops for a light lunch at Aureto, the hotel’s own vineyard (pictured above)

Mark stops for a lightweight lunch at Aureto, the hotel’s own vineyard (pictured above)

After enjoying a massage at La Coquillade, Mark emerges from the pamper room 'a new man, ready for the outdoor pool, sauna and plunge pool'. Above is the hotel's indoor pool

After having fun with a massage at La Coquillade, Mark emerges from the pamper room ‘a recent man, ready for the outdoor pool, sauna and plunge pool’. Above is the hotel’s indoor pool 

Nothing really prepares you so ideally for a spa session as just a few hours within the saddle. After a herbal tea in a marbled foyer I’m ushered into the sepulchral calm of Nicole’s treatment room. A soothing massage later, I’m swept off into one other world and emerge from the pamper room a recent man, ready for the outdoor pool, sauna and plunge pool.

My splendid ‘junior suite’ has a terrace overlooking rows of cypress trees which lead down a sweeping valley past the vineyard.

France’s enormous network of cycleways and planned routes make it one of the vital cycle-friendly countries on the planet. And what higher option to burn up the calories of its fabulous gastronomic tradition?

TRAVEL FACTS 

Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa has rooms from €750 per room, per night including spa access during your stay and a visit to the Aureto Winery. For more information visit coquillade.fr

sportinbits@gmail.com
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