Showing posts with label Mont Ventoux. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mont Ventoux. Show all posts

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Mont Ventoux chronicles

As we drove south, through olive groves, lavender fields and dusty tracks twisting up the scorched Provençal hillside, I felt more and more nervous.

My son, sitting in the back of the car with his sister, was as happy as Larry – especially as the distinctive peak of Mont Ventoux appeared above the skyline.

We’d left at dawn so he could attempt to cycle up Mont Ventoux for the first time. He only took up road biking a month ago, but he’d set his heart on doing it before his 18th birthday. A commendable ambition, I know, but I was full of trepidation.

Mont Ventoux, all 1,912 metres of it, is famed in cycling circles. There are higher mountains in France but Mont Ventoux stands on its own, right at the heart of Provence. There’s an abandoned weather station at the top, while just below the punishing peak is a shrine to the memory of Tommy Simpson, the British cyclist who died from heat exhaustion during the 1967 Tour de France. “Put me back on my bike” were his last immortal words.

We arrived in the village of Bédoin at 9.30 am, took the bike off the car roof and my son raced away. The rest of us adjourned to a cafe down the road to keep our minds off his climb.

We’d arranged to meet him two-thirds of the way up - to hand over two more water bottles. But to our astonishment he’d got a lot further than we’d expected. When we caught up with him he gave us a cheery wave, said he was feeling fine and kept on pedalling.

We met him at the summit, which looks a bit like a lunar landscape, and it turned out he’d done the whole ride in just under two hours – his goal for his first attempt.

Then came the moment he was really looking forward to – the glorious ride down, followed by a stop at the bike shop in Bédoin to buy an I conquered Mont Ventoux cycling shirt...

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The loveliest hotel I've stayed in

The icy weather and sub-zero temperatures are making me dream of the House With No Name. Of long, lazy lunches under the plane tree and games of boules on the dusty courtyard. I’m kidding myself of course because it’s minus six degrees in our part of France and I’m just hoping that the cheeky dormouse living in the attic hasn’t moved all his mates in.

I got to thinking about France because a brochure for one of the loveliest hotels I’ve ever visited has just arrived in the post. Twenty-five miles from Avignon, Hotel Crillon le Brave (above) is perched on a Provençal hilltop – with amazing views across tiled roofs to vineyards, olive groves and majestic Mont Ventoux in the distance.

We stayed there en route to the House With No Name one year and it was my idea of heaven. The evening began with a glass of chilled rosé on the terrace. A jazz duo played softly in the background and as darkness fell, we had dinner by candlelight, spellbound by the dark clouds gathering over 6,000-ft Mont Ventoux. The immaculately-attired Maitre D didn’t bat an eyelid. “There will be a storm in the middle of the night – not before,” he assured us. “I know Mont Ventoux well and I am confident.” His prediction was right, of course. After torrential rain overnight, we woke next morning to brilliant sunshine and blue sky.

When it opened 20 years ago Crillon le Brave consisted of one house and 11 rooms. Now it has 32 rooms and seven buildings, a mini spa and the most charming hotel staff, all bilingual. But it’s the stunning decor that’s the icing on the cake. Pale grey shutters and woodwork, blissfully comfortable beds, stylish bathrooms and cool terracotta floors. Now if only I could make the House With No Name look like that…

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...