Avignon, Thursday and Friday

Obviously I didn’t do my research and realize that Avignon is a walled city. Over hearing a guy at dinner last night, the walls were built in the 14th century. My Facebook friends have been reminding me that the popes spent a lot of time here as well. As luck and Bushy’s good research would have it we are staying at the Regina Boutique Hotel at the end of the busiest street in the center of the walled city right next to a main cobbled square and minutes walk from the Place Of Popes, a massive church just up from the square. Our drive here from Saint Egreve/Grenoble was uneventful thank goodness. The car’s GPS doing a great job of getting us here. We unloaded the car at the hotel and then I had to drive through town on one lane streets using a map the front desk gave us with a marker route drawn on it to get outside the walls over to a parking ramp where the entrance is through gaps carved out of the rock cliff and walls. A 15 minute walk back following the map again, actually cutting some time by finding some roads that are more direct when walking, lots of one ways streets in this area. Bike assembly and then a short ride around the inner and outer city to see a few things and get the drive stiffness out.

Cafes and bistros are everywhere so not really a problem getting food anytime without driving around for an hour like back in Saint Egreve, nice. Prices are higher though because of where we are, tourist and shopping central.

Friday our plan is to ride up Mont Ventoux, another major Tour de France race mountain stage. There are plenty of ways to start and finish this ride, sounds like tons of recreational as well as pro riders do it for fun and training. Our choice is to start from a town about 40 kilometer drive from our hotel, it is a very popular starting point. We drive to Bedoin (Pronounced Bedwin) and find a bike store staged at what is labeled the “0” or start of the climb, actually about 5 to 10 kilometers from where the road really starts to go up . It’s been windy yesterday and still today so we go into the bike shop to get some local knowledge and meet Manual, one of the workers and he tells us the wind chill factor at the top is minus 22 degrees celsius and the wind speed is swirling up to 135 kph, same conditions as last years Tour when then closed that part of the race. Manual says don’t do it. Bushy and I talk and then ask about an alternative route that won’t be dangerous and will be shorter, we can try again tomorrow for Ventoux. Weather is supposed to be lots better. Manual delivers with a map and another marker to draw out a few choices. I show him my google maps and ask about a road labeled D19, and like lots of small town residents everywhere he says he doesn’t know the road numbers. Off we go and find a great route that has a 4 kilo climb up to the Col de Madelaine, which if I remember right is another famous TDF route, how cool is this. The wind at the top is nasty though, almost pushing me off the bike as I crest the climb. Lucky it’s downhill from here, a bit sketchy but being on Ventoux would have been deadly.

Back down, I ask Manual if the mechanics can tension and true my wheels, they are settled in after the initial build and all the kilometers I’ve pushed them through. Into town, a 5  minute walk for a beer and a chance to look around. This is another quaint little tourist town out in the country, I’ll bet it rocks when the Tour de France is on.

Back to the hotel through rush hour traffic, Avignon looks to be quite big, dinner out at a recommendation from the hotel desk and then back home for a good nights rest and hope that the weather conditions moderate for tomorrow, Ventoux round 2.