Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Hey, guys-

Apologies that the blog didn't get updated until I was back home in Salem, with my own computer. There were hotel computers available here and there, but I simply didn't have the desire or energy to sit in an office chair and pick through photos while I was either a) wiped out from riding my bike, or b) in front of food. Unfortunately, the same set of circumstances led me to take relatively few photos.

To make it a bit easier, I'm creating two posts: a bike post, and a Paris post.

After two days of wandering around Aix-en-Provence, sampling the food and cafe culture, we finally met the rest of the VBT tour to get on a bus toward St. Remy. There were only five people on this tour--which I think was the minimum they'll accept without cancelling. Apparently, a lot of people bowed out after the Charlie Hebdo shooting, which seemed ridiculous to all of us. Then again, our sample consists entirely of the people who didn't cancel.

The entire trip, L to R: Ray; our tour guides, Didier and Thibault; Leslie and her husband Leigh; moi; and Dad.
Some shots from Aix-en-Provence:

Some fancy building or other under a threatening sky. There were dramatic thunderstorms nearly every afternoon.
We were bad at researching, so I don't know anything about anything we saw, other than "That's purty!"

A Medieval street in Aix-en-Provence. They were jam-packed with shops, cafes, and restaurants.

The small group made for fairly relaxed riding. We all tended to stick together. The very first day (after the warm-up ride) included the biggest hill of the week, and not only did we all make it up, but we all chose the long option.
What I thought of every time I saw my typical cycling outfit.
My typical cycling outfit.

The climb set us to the top of Les Baux, a tiny medieval village. Like a lot of places on the tour, it was crammed with tourists, but quite charming.

The group resting at the top of the climb. There were weird limestone formations all around; I scrambled to the top of one for this shot.

The entrance to an old chapel, cut from the rock, and looking across to the next peak.

French car parked atop the cave-riddled village. People drove in the unlikeliest-looking places.
It also included a baffling attraction: an old limestone quarry, with enormous underground pillared chambers, that had been converted to a 360º projection show, complete with music.
Taken during a break in the action. Photography wouldn't work during the show.
 The rest of the cycling often followed a similar outline. We would cycle to a remote little town, often on a hilltop, relax for lunch, and then visit a site or two.

The village of Eygalières, which I was quite taken with.
Clock tower in a village I can't specifically recall the name of.
As we stood below the tower, an old man came up and told our tour leader that he remembered racing up the steps to ring the bell when the Allies arrived to liberate the town. I couldn't get my camera out in time to catch his face. Dude moved fast!
One of our stops was the remains of a Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard. The thing was huge, and flanked by an entire tourism complex. It was crowded, but large enough to find a private spot in the wooded paths along the river.

 During all this, we enjoyed the food and wine of Provence, including hotel breakfasts that were far above the quality I'm accustomed to. In fact, the quality of our hotels in general was above and beyond what I've normally encountered. They looked like the hotels I imagined before I'd ever stayed in one.
Golden infinity elevator in St. Remy.
The view out my window of the same hotel, with a rainstorm passing through.
The mascot at a lovely vineyard where we stopped for lunch and a tasting. We're BFF.
After a few days in St. Remy, we moved along to Avignon, or rather to Villeneuve les Avignon, or "New Avignon," a tony suburb right next door.

Dusk in Villeneuve les Avignon. Not really that new.

An interesting graveyard near the hotel
We also toured Avignon itself. It was the biggest town we'd been in so far, but we had only a few hours in the city.

An enormous selection of salt for sale at the central market

A street performer prepares for the day in an alcove behind the papal palace in Avignon
 During a schism in the Catholic Church during the middle ages, Avignon was the home of the popes, and the papal palace still stands, emptied and monumental after being gutted during the French Revolution. It's enormous, and takes up a huge amount of the center of the city of Avignon.

After a last evening in Villeneuve les Avignon, we said goodbye to our guides, and boarded the train for Paris--coming next!

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