Brantes—This Is the Village to Beat!

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Suspended across from the mighty Mont Ventoux is a village that can only be described as jaw-droppingly stunning, as it is surrounded with breathtaking Alpine scenery and filled with rustic charm.

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Brantes has been on my list for years to visit, as it was described as a place of total peace and serenity and a home to artists and craftsmen. And I have to say, it is the most stunning of them all. So much so that we went back a second time.

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This quiet village has two wonderful casual places to eat. On our first visit, we ate at la Poterne, which has a stunning view of the village and Mont Ventoux. The omelettes were delicious, the kind of French omelettes we crave when we are back in the States. What a deal to have a delicious omelette, a grain and carrot salad, and local beer and wine—all with a view to die for—for under 15 euros! I’ll take it over any Michelin-starred restaurant any day. Again, it doesn’t cost a fortune to eat really good in France with the focus on fresh and local ingredients.

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As we meandered the streets, we stumbled upon a local artisanal beer brewery—la Géante de Provence la bière du Ventoux—owned by a couple from London who craved the slow-paced life of rural France and left behind the hustle and bustle of the city to start a business of their own and raise their daughter in a remote village with a school of just 11 students. Both restaurants in the village serve this local beer, or you can taste and buy some from the brewery.

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As we continued to wander the cobblestone passageways, we saw an interesting stone bridge off in the distance to go investigate. We found ourselves at les Gorges du Toulourenc and enjoyed cooling off with a wade in the river before heading back to the Luberon.

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If you are looking for a remote place with breathtaking views and the rustic and charming character of rural France, this is the place. This village and the surrounding villages, especially Aurel and Crestet, are remote and peaceful and of course just filled with charm.

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The Charismatic Provençal Village of Bédoin

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Bédoin is a village that grows on you. At first it may not appear to be as polished or refined as some of the other popular villages in the area. But give it a chance. Wander the streets and enjoy the atmosphere, the frenzy of excitement as cyclists come and go as they bike the iconic stage of the Tour de France—Mont Ventoux.

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The main street is lined with some very nice shops and casual cafés. For some of the best olive bread in the region, stop in at Boulangerie Olivero Ravel.

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On my last visit, I stumbled by chance on a marché artisanal taking place in the village that day. The stands were filled with everything from pottery to children’s books to gorgeous rings made of clay to the beautiful works of Christine Juillan, who makes interesting jewelry from recycled wine bottles and perfume bottles.

For complete solitude and outstanding views, venture off the main street and walk up to the top of the village, where the golden and ochre-colored houses lie clustered basking under the Provençal sky. Ancient fountains and lavoirs add to the character and charm as you meander the narrow streets.

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For an authentic French village experience, visit Bédoin. Take some time to sit at one of the café terraces to get the flavor of this village. And if cycling to the top of Mont Ventoux is not for you, why not drive to the top to be rewarded with some stunning scenery. You might even spot a wild goat on your way.

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À bientôt!

“I’m Never Doing This Again!”

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As I waited with anticipation at an ancient fountain in the village of Bédoin for my husband to complete his third ride of Mont Ventoux, I spotted him. Anxiously, I asked, “How did it go?”  Grinning but determined, he said, “I’m never doing this again!” Famous last words!

After unwinding for a few minutes in the bliss of a cyclists’ mecca, the next words uttered were, “Well, maybe I’ll do it again next week.” Yes. The love-hate relationship with the mighty Giant.

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In the Vaucluse department of Provence, the Giant does not go unnoticed as it looms, making itself visible as you make your way from village to village and from café to café. And so with each croissant, every scoop of nougat glacé, and every bit of bread and cheese, it’s as if Ventoux is taunting you saying, “Go ahead and eat that croissant, that pain au chocolat, those steak frites, that scrumptious piece of moelleux au chocolat because I’ll be waiting here to destroy you!”

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Thus, my husband decided that perhaps his diet of croissants, pain au chocolat, steak frites, and desserts was not working so well for him the week before a ride. Perhaps a better plan would be to conquer Ventoux as soon as we arrive before the gluttony begins.

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But what a thrill to finish such a challenging ride! As you get close to the finish, photographers cheer you on as they take your picture and tuck their business card into your jersey so that you can contact them later to purchase your victory photo. A bit of a tourist trap? So be it! It’s genius. And besides, how many tourists actually arrive at the top of Mont Ventoux by bicycle?

Later, I got a description of what each stage of the ride felt like as we drove to the top. What an amazing place! Such barren and different scenery than the land below. And naturally there were food and wine at the top.

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Looking for a place to rent a bike in the Luberon? La Coquillade resort has a BMC Cycling Centre. The only sad part is having to return the bike at the end of your trip.

À bientôt!

Venasque—A Village With a View

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Overlooking the towering Mont Ventoux is the sleepy plus beau village of Venasque with its fountains, charming walkways, artisan shops, ancient ruins and ramparts, cherry orchards, and stunning views of the Vaucluse as well as of the Giant itself.

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We return to this character-filled village every time not only for the atmosphere but mostly for the food. By fluke, we discovered an amazing restaurant with the most outstanding food and a view to die for that keeps us returning time and again. This is our favorite restaurant of the region thus far. Others are discovering it too, but hopefully not too many. But, I’ll share it with you!

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Les Remparts is a hotel restaurant with an outstanding panorama from its terrace. I can’t even begin to write about the food without gnawing hunger pangs striking. So I’ll just show you.

Absolute favorites are the tomato pie, tomato and pesto tiramisu, and vegetable crumble with mozzarella and pine nuts. Throw in a good Ventoux wine, and you have perfection! Everything here is delicious.

And here is your view.

Before dinner make sure to take a stroll around the ramparts to the ancient towers for gorgeous views of the valley.

À bientôt!

A Grueling Ride up Mont Ventoux or Relaxing at a Spa?

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Though my husband and I enjoy spending our time together meandering villages while in Provence, he feels a constant tug at his heartstrings luring him away toward something else. Being a cyclist and being in France, a cyclist’s dream, he is constantly enticed by the sight of Mont Ventoux towering in the distance beckoning him to conquer.

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Ventoux towering from the streets of Venasque

Though it’s hard for me to compete with the “Giant,” we’ve come up with quite an interesting arrangement on how we both can enjoy ourselves while apart. He drops me off in a gorgeous village, where I explore and enjoy a spa treatment at a five-star resort while he tortures himself with a grueling ride to the top of Ventoux. A lovely arrangement! Wouldn’t you agree?

We meet afterward, bubbling over with excitement as we tell of our adventures. Back home I would never waste money on luxurious spa treatments—money that could be used for more important things, like a trip to France. But this newfound arrangement, just in Provence, is quite a treat. And if you’re going to indulge in a spa treatment, what better place than in a vaulted stone room surrounded by lavender in Provence!

I can highly recommend the spa at Hôtel Les Bories in Gordes as well as the Spa des Écuries at Hôtel Crillon le Brave, both gorgeous resorts. I was pleasantly surprised that the Spa des Écuries was giving a 20 percent discount to those who were not staying at the hotel. Extra money for me to enjoy a cappuccino and a glass of wine on the hotel terrace overlooking the beautiful countryside while waiting for my “Tour de France” cyclist to return.

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This is actually from another time in Menerbes, but you get the picture

And if one has to wait, I can think of worse ways to pass the time than at this spot below.

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Le Renaissance, Gordes

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Happy cyclist meeting up in Gordes

Until next time Ventoux. I look forward to watching you from a distance while relaxing.

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À bientôt!