Cycling in the south of France: Pedalling through Provence

France | Provence
Published by Traveller | By Steve McKenna

On the shaded terrace of Le Bistrot de Pierrerue, in a drowsy, sunbaked old village close to the middle of nowhere, our Lycra-clad gang has a Sunday lunch to remember. The entree – warm goat’s cheese, coated in grated pistachio and molded into little balls, and served with watermelon and black figs drizzled in honey – is heavenly, and goes down a treat with a glass (or two) of invigoratingly crisp Provencal rose (a tipple which our guide, Marcos, insists, ‘puts energy into your legs’ and accounts for 85 per cent of Provence’s wine output).

The rose continues to flow during our mains (sea bream with rice, zucchini and tomatoes) and dessert (a zesty lemon tart), stopping only when we’re offered espresso by Maryvonne, the American expat owner of this most Provencal of bistros (it proudly flaunts a Bistrot​ de Pays sign, a recognised regional label bestowed on establishments that serve tasty, nutritious food using fresh local produce). We lunch for the best part of two hours – roughly the same time that we’d spent on the saddle this morning, cycling a mildly undulating 25 kilometres from our starting point, the tiny, somnolent village of Mallefougasse​, 90km north-east of Aix-en-Provence, to this equally petite and sleepy settlement, on the cusp of the luscious Luberon Regional Natural Park.

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