Stage three is shaping up as the toughie, one more leg on Tuesday, which is a big one, and the Le Tour ends.
After 750km we are feeling the effects of two tough days on the road but sitting canal side here in L’Isle sur la Sourge cradling a cold beer makes it all worth it.
As mentioned in the last post we were heading to Arles on Saturday which all went pretty well apart from getting just a little lost but ending up smack in the middle of their Saturday market. Made our farmers markets look a little um well, it went on for at least a km, two rows of food on one side and two rows of the rest, down the other side. The wallet took another hit.
We did the usual Arlesy things, went to the Coleseum where they still hold bull fights, sat there imagining Russell Crowe slashing through his opponents, Ruth imagined praying for a lion with a prickle in it’s paw. All in all a good ride and short which gave us plenty of time to lounge around by and in the pool when we got back.
The food at Hostellerie de la tour, was superb although on the third night le mistral blew up and you had to eat your salad very quickly or be prepared to chase it to Spain.
Le Mistral was blowing with even more energy on Sunday, the day we had a 55km bike ride to L’Isle, north of Fontvieille, Le Mistral blows from the north. You can probably wok out what went down, head winds gusting to 80km hour, 32c, le buggered by the time we arrived. In fact Ruth was very interested to know that you can cite Le Mistral as an extenuating circumstance for murder. I keep a healthy distance between us all day.
Despite the wind being a giant pain in the butt (we are way past worrying about the seat being that), we had our special moments, riding through a herd of goats on the road (they looked more pissed at being on a forced march than Ruth), ended up in a village right at the moment some sort of festival started. There were lots of horses in the parade which lead to a very special smell by the end of it. Made getting down the main street a bit dicey, as they say, shit happens. There were also some impressive whip crackers who could actually belt out a tune on their whips.
L’Isle is exactly that, a town on an island with rivers and canals running through and around it. The river emerges from the earth a few km up the road and is crystal clear when it runs through the town. We had a very romantic dinner canal side, a guy playing tunes on his accordion, the only problem was le Mistral which was depositing our dinner on the faces of diners down the canal.
We had decided to cancel leg 5 of the stage if the wind was still blowing but on Monday morning it was calm. So an early rise to make the most of the cooler hours and we spent the day riding the hills close to Mt Ventoux (the killer stage on the real le tour). The hills made Le Baux look like a pimple and a lot of walking was done.
Venasque was yet another amazing hill top village (they obviously had not invented bikes when they built these villages). We thought that was probably the highest point of the ride but no, after dropping down into a valley we climbed a mountain that allowed us to look down on Venasque.
Finally we started. our descent, Ruth led out with a lot of enthusiasm (the most she has shown for a couple days), I started filming the impressive vista, then le disaster struck, a bit of gear fell of my bike I immediately applied brakes but the lightness of the bike plus the down hill momentum conspired to throw me over the handle bars. Those of you at the Herald will be proud to know that I caught all the a action on video. I was pretty pleased with the filming effort, not so pleased with the results on the body. However, there were no cars following so no rubber indentations on my back, just a little bark missing from the elbow, Tarmac 1 Cliff 0
Tomorrow looks like being a tough finale, I thought we might get up about 4am to ensure that we get back in time to catch the train north on Wednesday. Ruth has suddenly started studying the next days itinerary in detail, no longer prepared to accept my word that it will be a “piece of cake”. She has been very quiet about it, in fact she is asleep on the bed or pretending to be, could be a bit of an effort to wake her in the morning.
I am very disappointed as I have not yet seen one field of lavender. They have either finished the crop and ploughed the fields or there is more money in the acres of orchards that we have seen, not to mention selling off bits of your land to Mayle clones, there was certainly plenty of evidence of expensive gites rather that wholesome farming.