Beyond the Veloroute – cycle #6 from Sade to Saignon

In a little over a week’s time my hubby & boys will set off from our home on Dartmoor to cycle through France, hopefully arriving safe and well after about 18 days in Sete. They’ll be cycling just over 1500km in that time, not quite the Tour de France, but a big ride whichever way you look at it.

In the meantime I’m pottering around the quiet lanes of the Vaucluse on my own bike ‘Miss Daisy’. I can’t imagine I’ll come near to doing 1500km, but am having a wonderful time riding new routes that all start from the off-road cycle route ‘Veloroute du Calavon’, which runs through the Luberon valley.

‘Miss Daisy’ taking a well-deserved rest !

This ride, which is quickly becoming a favourite of mine, takes in Lacoste & Bonnieux, 2 of the pretty hill villages that sit on the flank of the Petit-Luberon and also Saignon with its commanding position on the rocks above Apt.

The pretty village of Saignon, built onto the rocky outcrop above Apt

A great day to do the ride is a Friday, when Bonnieux is buzzing with the local market that spills out of the main square to the terrace around the church, although to be honest any day is good!

Stalls at Bonnieux on the path towards the church

As ever the ride starts on the Veloroute, turning off onto the side road at the Gare de Bonnieux, by the huge buildings of the Cave de Bonnieux, home to many lovely local wines. http://www.cave-bonnieux.com/

At first the road heads along the valley floor towards Bonnieux, passing through acres of lavender fields, which are in full bloom at the moment……

Lavender below Lacoste

……. before taking a right turn and starting to climb towards Lacoste, on a road that winds gently upwards through vineyards & cherry trees with fantastic views across the valley & beyond towards Mont Ventoux.

One of the narrow streets on the way through Lacoste

Lacoste is a very pretty little village with a handful of bars and narrow streets that eventually lead up to the Chateau that was originally the home to the Marquis de Sade, but is now owned by Pierre Cardin who has partially restored it and hosts musical events there during the summer http://www.festivaldelacoste.com/

The unusual entrance to the Chateau

The views from the terrace outside the Chateau are incredible and it is certainly worth the additional effort needed to get up to it.

The ‘Tree of Life’ sculpture on the Chateau’s terrace framing the view beautifully

Of course if you don’t fancy the trip up you can always simply sit & take a break with a cooling drink on the terrace of the ‘Café de France’, which not only has great views, but also was one of the locations used in the film ‘A Good Year’, although I’m still waiting to see Russell Crowe there ( hey ho).

The terrace at the Café de France is a great place to sit & drink in the view

After leaving Lacoste you follow the road, which winds along the foot of the Luberon, heading up to Bonnieux, finally meeting the round Luberon cycle trail sign on the approach to the village

The cycling signs appeara on every junction on the round Luberon trail keeping you on the right track

Bonnieux is a beautiful village, built on a number of levels – you come into the village on the lower level, where there is the Church, market place and a range of shops & bars, but the road then snakes up towards the higher part of the village, where you can walk up to the higher terraces around a second church, which gives great views across the village below & towards Mont Ventoux

Beautiful view back towards Lacoste from the top of the old village of Bonnieux

By the time I get here I’m about ready for lunch & there is a good selection of places to eat, from the Boulangerie below the market square to some really nice restaurants, although I tend to head to the Brasserie Les Terrasses, which has a terrace overlooking the view & does a rather nice oven baked Banon cheese salad, which arrives still in its wrapping of Chestnut leaves.

A parcel of gooey Banon Cheese – just delicious!

From Bonnieux you continue to climb towards the Foret Des Cedres, before taking a left turn signposted to Saignon, finally reaching the Col Du Pointu (499m), before turning onto the road that runs on top of the Plateau ‘Les Claparèdes, which runs towards Saignon.

The turning point to head along the Plateau

At the moment the lavender is in bloom & this lovely road runs alongside (and through)numerous lavender fields that are buzzing with insects & which fill the air with scent.

Lavender fields towards the Grand Luberon

It really is a lovely part of the cycle & every time I do it I just have to pull over & sit for a while just to really take in the sight, as I know it wont be long before the purple flowers are harvested & taken to the nearby distilleries.

Eventually the road drops down into Saignon, which has vast open views down the Luberon Valley & it’s worth taking a walk up to the rocks at the top of the village to sit amongst the swifts and swallows as they glide out over the edge.

The expansive view from the rocks at Saignon

I’m very fond of Saignon, it’s got a lovely gentle feel to it and brings together the best of some of the other hilltop villages in the area without it being too busy. There’s a nice craft shop Le Temps D’un Été, selling hand-selected pieces by local artisans  https://www.facebook.com/MLSaignonFrance/

The pretty shop front if the craft shop

…….together with a couple of other galleries and a nice range of places to eat places to eat.

The fountain in the central square is a nice, shady place to sit

After wandering around Saignon I tend not to follow the road that leads straight back to Apt, but take the minor road that runs directly under the cliffs, which snakes down through lavender…….

I would imagine sleep isn’t a problem in this cottage surrounded by lavender below Saignon

…….. & sunflower fields joining the Veloroute again at the junction with the road to Viens.

Sunflowers, Saignon…… Smile !

From here you can easily get back to your starting point.

The more I do this ride, the more I like it. The roads aren’t busy, particularly the route along the top of the Plateau and the views are stunning.

The ‘Géant de Provence’ , ever present in the view from the Plateau

The constant sight though of Mont Ventoux always niggles at me & however much I try to ignore it – I know it wont be long till I head back over to ride it again!
 

Sharing this post via #FarawayFiles on suitcasesandsanscastles.com 

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26 thoughts on “Beyond the Veloroute – cycle #6 from Sade to Saignon

  1. I can not imagine how stunning it must be there right now! I have never visited in July. I seriously just stared at your photos trying to imagine myself there. What a dream! I have seen the lavender at least in June but never so vivid or with sunflowers. I am dying to see that!

    • Thanks – I must admit we’ve been coming for nearly 30 years, but it almost feels as if I’m seeing it all for the first time – it is so stunning it’s really hard to put into words – today I cycled through fields of Sage too – that was yet another attack on my senses !

  2. All I can say is that I am very… no, make that extremely jealous. Your images remind me so much why we love this part of France. Hell, we just love France!

    • I’m pleased you like them – you can’t help but want to take photos here – my poor phone is almost overwhelmed with them ….and this part of France is just wonderful I agree!

  3. It looks stunning – those lavender fields! I wouldn’t get much cycling done – I’d just take photos all the time. Great that they have a dedicated cycle path – we could do with that over here in SW France between the hilltop villages. That Banon cheese salad had my mouth watering…

    • Thanks – The lavender fields are incredible& there are so many of them, particularly across this plateau & on the other higher pieces of land. Needless to say my phone doesn’t know if it’s coming or going with the photos I take! The cycle path is such an asset to the valley – we remember what it was like just to have the busy main road to get anywhere quickly & it wasn’t the nicest of experiences!

  4. Your photos are absolutely amazing! I’m not sure I could ever manage this ride, but I’m happy to relive it via your photos and description. Mind you, it might be worth it to look out for Russel Crowe! I can’t wait to get back to France for the sunflowers and lavender if nothing else. Good luck to your family on their epic ride! #AllAboutFrance

    • Thanks & I’m pleased you like the photos, my poor phone spends so much time in & out of the basket! The area is great for cycling & my view is that you don’t have to ride as if you’re on the Tour de France – it doesn’t matter if you stop several times (as I normally do) – the main thing is just being able to really experience the area, smells, colours & all! Of course ( and never let my boys hear me say this!) you can always use an electric bike to give that bit of extra umpfh! Thanks for the good luck wishes too – their final training ride was today & on Friday it all starts for real & I’m just looking forward to seeing them all again, Skype is good, but no substitute for the real thing !

    • Thanks, so pleased you’re enjoying them! I love cycling around here so much & it’s such a great way to see the area & you experience so much more than just going from A to B by car. I’ve got more rides to write up yet & they just get better!

  5. Such a fabulous time to be out and about on your bike, with the lavender and sunflowers in bloom. I’m pretty jealous. I’m commenting so late for #AllAboutFrance because the last 2 weeks have been the busiest of my working year and I’ve been inside the whole time! I’d love to head over your way and see the lavender again, I haven’t been for a few years. Is it still out? I guess your family must have started their cycle trip, I hope it’s going well. Thanks for linking up again.

    • Hi thanks – the lavender harvest is still starting, both here & at Sault but there’s still a lot around, which is lovely. I can imagine this time of year is chaotic for you so I hope you get some time to relax a bit. Thanks for asking about the boys – they started on Friday & are 375km in – just north of Nantes – I can’t believe after having done all their training in the rain they are having to deal with the ‘canicule’ – there’s daily blogs on their progress & adventures at http://www.moortomedbybike.wordpress.com – just can’t wait to see them

  6. The lavender and sunflower fields are just breathtaking! During our time in Frane we lived further north – in the land of sunflowers but no lavender. Although I had hoped to make it south during the season, it remains on our list of things to do… Maybe someday, but until then thank you for the lovely virtual bike tour! Visiting via #AllAboutFrance

    • Thanks & so pleased you enjoyed it – the lavender is just so stunning & certainly worth making the trip to come & see it! The harvest is just starting so sadly the fields are losing the colour, but it smells fantastic !

  7. That lavender and what amazing views! Your cycling trip sounds like the perfect way to recharge the batteries and soak up the sunshine. I’m not sure about Rusty Crowe though.. I think his character was more attractive! Thanks for sharing with us on #FarawayFiles

  8. What an absolutely wonderful cycle ride! You’ve inspired me to do as you do – wander the local markets and cycle sedately along the roads, past sunflowers and lavender, stopping off in pretty villages to sit in cafés and admire the views. Much the best way to see the countryside. Thanks so much for sharing this with us on #FarawayFiles

    • It is a great way to see the area & even better as you never have to do battle for a parking space! Also if the thought of some of the hills is a bit daunting then there are plenty of places where you can hire e-bikes too

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