Published in 360 West Magazine | April 2012 | By Michael Hiller
We set out just after dawn to get a head start on the day’s heat, pedaling fast under a tattered blanket of fog. The night before, a strong, cold mistral wind had swept away the last of a long, languorous summer, and now the lavender fields and grapevines seemed to be resting for a moment, cooling off and catching their breath. The countryside had started to shift — the wild grasses turning tan, the plane trees changing to copper and crimson, the sunflowers cocking their golden heads to one side, as if listening for something. I, too, paused to catch my breath.
There were no others in this still valley, not on these back roads and pencil-thin paths nearly too narrow even for the occasional Citroën and postman. There was only the sound of a creek’s murmur, the click of a gearshift and the damp smell of limestone rock in the vineyards.
I was on the second day of a five-day cycling trip with outfitter Butterfield & Robinson, traversing some of the most picturesque — and tasty — regions of Provence. Though I’m a more experienced cook and wine drinker than cyclist, I’ve longed to explore Southern France from a more intimate vantage than across the dashboard of a car or the pages of a cookbook. I wanted my own Peter Mayle A Year in Provence experience, though I could budget only a week to take it all in.
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