We have been away from this blog for a few months now due to all sorts of reasons. The first one being we just needed a break from it. Well Steve did anyway!
We had been talking about having some static time for over a year now. We move about a lot and although neither of us would swap our way of life right now, it does get tiring sometimes. There is always plenty of research and admin to do and then the travelling itself can be tiring especially the trips where we move on every couple of days.
Initially we said a three month stop would be good. Then we thought that might be too much so we dropped it to two months and then to just one month. In the end it was a mistake. We should have stuck with the three month option or even stayed longer.
So where did we stay? Well you could say we were a little boring. We went to The Luberon in Southern France. It’s somewhere we’ve been going to since before we finished work and where we came to prepare for our cycling trip from Canada to Mexico, so we know the area relatively well.
We had always wanted to spend some time inside the walls of an ‘Old Town’ as we have always enjoyed visiting them throughout Europe. So we rented an apartment in the centre of Apt, the largest town in The Luberon but still quite small with a population of around 10,000.
The apartment was on the third floor of an old building accesed via a winding set of 50 stone stairs, which presented a challenge to say the least when it came to unpacking a car completely full of clothes, camping equipment and three bikes. A job that was made even harder by the lack of nearby parking!
But after a strenuous hour and a half and with the car parked on the edge of town, we sat down and looked forward to the next month.
The apartment was a great size, more than we needed to be honest, which made storage easy. It was so nice to actually unpack and hang up clothes. Everything about it was perfect and it even had a decent sized roof terrace, which overlooked the higgledy-piggledy terracotta tiled roofs of the Old Town.
We settled in very quickly. We shopped at the fantastic Saturday Market which was so close we had to squeeze past a stall holder as we walked out of our front door. We soon found our favourite bakery for fresh bread and croissants. We practiced our French to the amusement and appreciation of the locals and Sarah visited the local coiffure for a ‘short back and sides’. Everyone was friendly towards us.
We quickly settled into a routine where Steve would cycle some of his favourite routes in the morning and either meet Sarah in one of The Luberon villages or come back to the apartment and we would head off in the car exploring together.
The villages of The Luberon are almost without exception, picturesque and beautiful with each one having something slightly different to offer. They all have a weekly market so it is possible to go to a different market every day for probably three weeks!
We did have a few favourite markets but we also found the villages quite different on non market days too when they would take on a sleepy, very quiet atmosphere.
All of the villages were worthy of a visit, however, we did have a few favourites. Loumarin was fantastic on both market and non market days.
Loumarin is a sleepy town with a small maze of narrow stone streets, which come to life on Fridays when hundreds of stalls and thousands of shoppers cram the streets as art and crafts, fruits and veg, clothes, meats and all manner of local produce are bought and sold.
Our other two favourites were the smaller, less visited villages of Saignon and Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt. The first one seemed to have everything great about the area crammed into a small space. A beautiful square, fountains, narrow cobbled streets, a derelict castle to wander around, a café selling coffee in bowls and a fab ice cream shop.
Saint Saturnin was similar but it was surrounded by a medieval wall which you could walk along and the village was set high on the hillside with a church at the very top, where the view over the valley was incredible. Saint Saturnin also had a great public swimming pool where Steve became a regular visitor and very friendly with the staff who enjoyed his schoolboy French!
We also had a couple of trips out of The Luberon. The first was to the Gorge du Verdon. What an incredible place. The drive to the gorge itself was worth the trip.
The river through the gorge feeds into a vivid blue crystal clear lake. Perfect for lazing around and even more perfect for swimming in.
Our second day out was one which Steve, as a cyclist, could not miss. It was a ride up Mont Ventoux. Being 21 kilometres long, with gradients regularly over 10%, it is one of the most visited mountains in The Tour de France. Consequently, it is a place frequently visited by cyclists of all levels and Steve has done it on several occasions in the past. For some people it is an all day affair. For one or two professionals it is possible in under an hour. Steve huffed and puffed his way up and managed to do it in just over an hour and a half in an all out effort. Then took almost twice as long to recover!!
It seemed in the blink of an eye our time in The Luberon had come to an end. Neither of us were anywhere near ready to leave. But we saw this as a good thing as we now feel confident that, in the right places, we can settle for a few months at a time which is what we hope to do in the future. We know we can’t continue our current way of travelling for ever, but we have a while left in us yet though!