The house we are renting comes with 2 bicycles, at our request.
It seemed like a lovely idea at the time…the French countryside, endless vineyards and olive trees, dry, sunny days that went on forever, and we two cycling leisurely, baguette and wine in our side bags.
Hold that image!
The truth is we are tired and sleeping late. Breakfast on the terrace is full of fresh croissants, homemade jam, fruit, sheep’s milk yogurt, and dark, strong espresso. By then the Mediterranean sun is getting high in the sky, the village cobblestones are warming up and voilà, who feels like getting on a bicycle at that point, I ask you?
Yesterday we took a ride (in the car) to the wondrous site of Cirque de Navacelles. It is an impressive and imposing gorge carved out over millions of years into a gigantic circular formation with a tiny hamlet at its base. To arrive at the first lookout point 2000 ft. high, one must drive for miles climbing not so gently on a one and a half lane road of switchbacks and curves, up the mountain with no guard rail along the cliff-side of the road. (Not that a guard rail would do much at that point except to block the view of the steep descent down the cliff, and your proximity to it)
As we were shifting gears and persuading our Fiat Punto to keep climbing we passed cyclists, yes cyclists, bicycle cyclists, taking that road to the sky, straight up, steep, powered by their legs and lungs…cycling.
We arrived at the summit…I was out of breath from yelling aaaaah! at every switchback that melted into a single lane with a Peugeot or Renault coming at us at top speed.
I walked to the lookout to view this breathtaking miracle of nature, and there they were…a group of cyclists in their stretchy shorts and matching stretchy shirts with Le Tour or Suisse written on the side, looking at the very same view. They had cycled what we had driven. And they were talking, laughing and sipping water, not crawling on hands and knees to prop themselves up to the lookout as I would have expected.
One gets one’s inspiration from curious places.
I woke up this morning and decided that a quick tea while putting on shorts and sunscreen would be sufficient and we would get out into the crisp morning air tout de suite. We pulled the bikes out of the dungeon/garage, walked them a few yards out of our 12th century street where it opened up to a bit of a wider road and off we were…on our 6 km ride along the Buèges river. We used the bikes!
And it was beautiful. No baguettes nor wine (even by French standards it was too early, I think) but the crisp, cool morning air, the gurgling of the narrow Buèges in the background, the horses and Aubrac cattle in the pastures beside us. Ok, so it was mostly flat, but that’s not the point. You see, there were cyclists out there this morning…real cyclists with their stretchy shorts and compact bike pump in their backpacks…cycling past us at quite a clip…we smiled at each other, exchanged a ‘Bonjour’, and off they were.
And it was a very bon jour!