Like most people, my travel has been severely limited this past month and for the foreseeable future. I was scheduled to have already been to Beaujolais in France, I would have been heading to California this week, and then South America at the end of the month. Perhaps the most disappointing? I was due to attend the Giro d’Italia (Italy’s version of the Tour de France) in May.
Instead, in the past month, the furthest I have been from our home in Houston has been about 10 miles when I went on a bike ride out to the Western edge of the city. If you take the bike out of the equation, the furthest I have “traveled” is 3.1 miles to our local grocery store, the H.E.B.
Thus, this lull is causing me to become a bit stir crazy and my wanderlust is in full bloom. Pretty much since the beginning of the pandemic, I have wondered where I would go if I could. Where would be the first place I would visit once it made sense to travel again?
So far, I have “visited” Palermo, Sicily; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Lisbon, Portugal; Bruges, Belgium; Philadelphia; and in France: Paris, Burgundy, and Champagne.
Today, we head back to France, this time to the South and Provence. Back when I led bike trips on the regular, I would occasionally head to Provence, starting in Nîmes (which is technically not in Provence but in the Languedoc), through Arles (passing by le Pont du Gard), Avignon, les Baux, the Luberon, and finishing in Aix-en-Provence.
But Provence is huge and includes the Côte d’Azur (the French Riviera) and juts up against the Alps in the East. Since starting this blog, I have been back to the region a few times, visiting different areas of the region which is about the same size as Belgium (and slightly smaller than West Virginia).
There is no really obvious place to start, so since this is a blog mostly about wine, I’ll start there. Provence is known for making (some of) the best rosé wines in the world, and the pink stuff is everywhere.
It is also known for it’s Roman ruins, including the Pont du Gard aqueduct. (OK, le Pont du Gard is technically not in Provence, but it is close enough and if you are in that part of the world, you should go see it, it’s amazing.) (From lepontdugard.fr)
Of course, Provence is also known for its beaches, this one is Saint Tropez, where I enjoyed several wines from Château Roubine.
On a different trip to Saint Tropez, I happened to be in town for Les Voiles de Saint Tropez, a huge regatta with over 300 yachts.
Saint Tropez is also home to one of the best open-air fish markets in Provence.
Gratuitous palm tree. I love palm trees and they abound in Provence.
Speaking of markets, practically every town in Provence has its own version, held on the same day of the week for decades (if not centuries), where you can find practically everything, like spices.
More rosé. I particularly like this shot for a couple of reasons. First, it was taken on a rooftop in Mougins, a medieval town in the hills above Cannes. Second, that middle wine is actually from California and I brought it over (I am likely one of the few people ever to bring an American rosé to Provence). We tried it alongside two Provençal rosés, one of which (the Garrus) is one of the most expensive rosés in the world (~$100).
Speaking of Mougins, it is particularly charming at night (after the tourists have cleared out).
As one would expect, Provence has a fantastic climate and it produces many of the fruits and vegetables grown in France.
Gratuitous tiny palm-type tree.
Even on a mostly cloudy day, there is something about the Provençal sky.
Medieval towns abound in Provence. This is in Les Arcs, not far from Saint Tropez. It’s for sale (at least it was when I was there)!
There is actually a Center for Rosé Research in Vidauban, where among many other things, they classify the color of rosé wines from across Provence and around the world.
While Provence is certainly known for rosé, one of my favorite producers in Provence, Gavaisson, only produces white wine (from the Rolle grape). Rosé represents 85% of the production and white a mere 5% (the other 10% is red).
The cycling in Provence is phenomenal, but keeping up with this guy was not a lot of fun.
After a rough day in the saddle, a bit of time by the pool, like the one here at Château Roubine where I stayed for the better part of a week, hits the spot.
And the food. Don’t forget the food! Whether it’s a “simple” gazpacho (with a carafe of rosé, naturally) at a tiny café in the middle of a ride….
… a rich and decadent cassoulet with confit de canard (and a bottle of Provençal red, naturally) when you find yourself flying solo…
…or fresh Mediterranean lobster (with more rosé, naturally) while dining on the beach, it is tough to eat poorly in Provence.
Well, that is all I have, for now, à bientôt from the South of France!
About the drunken cyclist
I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
Great post 😁
Funny you should feature Mougins which I recently revisited in my post today. Then this weekend we plan to visit some wineries in the neighbouring Var.