2000 Cycling Season, May 18 - 21


We arrived by train to Aix-en-Provence in the late afternoon to find that Darlene, our travel agent put us up in is absolutely wonderful four star hotel. For the stay over Dorothy's birthday. The French love their gardens and at this hotel they were beautiful. This hotel by itself is a reason to visit Aix-en-Provence. I just wish I had the time to make my gardens look more like these.

John in Gardens at Hotel Pigonete

John in Gardens at Hotel Pigonnet

Dorothy in Gardens at Hotel Pigonete

Dorothy in Gardens at Hotel Pigonnet

John by Pool at Hotel Pigonete

John by Pool at Hotel Pigonnet

In addition to the gardens the hotel had a few very nicely decorated little sitting rooms full of interesting books and a wide selection of up-to-date new papers. Dorothy and I never wanted to leave. For more pictures of the hotel visit their web site at

May 19, 2000, Friday - Aix-en-Provence

We started the day in Aix-en-Provence by trying to find a bike store, which rented bikes, hoping to find some guidance for rides in the area. Unfortunately we found the shell of a very large store, with lots of triathlon posters in the windows that looked like it had recently gone out of business. We headed back to the hotel to take our best guess at a scenic route through the area.

Paul Cezanne's Workshop

Paul Cezanne's Workshop

We found a great little ride that took us out through the hilly forest around Aix-en-Provence past Paul Cezanne's workshop, and by a very large rocky mountain that had a big cross on top as a monument to all the folks in the region that died in WWII. The terrain of the ride was comparable to our quick ride from Golden to the top of Lookout Mountain and ended up to be 34k (21 miles), which was perfect for an afternoon excursion.

Scenic Mountain

Scenic Mountain

Dorohty by Waterfall

Dorothy by Waterfall

May 20, 2000, Saturday - Aix-en-Provence

Saturday morning we spent getting caught up on writing, planning the next leg of the journey and enjoying not moving for a while. In the afternoon we made another scenic ride out to a large lake and interesting little gorge in the area. We knew we were on the right road when a pack of about 15 Italian riders on road bikes (roadies) went blazing by us. We encountered several packs of cyclists on this ride, and even got a chance to chase some of them down a big hill. We also discovered that tandems hold the same curiosity factor in France that they do in the U.S. As we were cruising down a canyon on the way back to our hotel, a French military helicopter buzzed over our heads, circled around and came by for a second look flying just over the treetops. It was kinds of strange being buzzed by a military chopper, but at least we know our bright green vests give us great visibility.

Castle Along Ride

Castle Along Ride

Since the 20th is Dorothy's birthday, we got carried away and ate dinner at the 4 star hotel that we were staying in. What a wonderful meal. The French really know enjoy their meals. We had a 5-course dinner that started with an appetizer of crushed olives on bread. The dinner progressed through salad, a wonderful steak entrée, an amazing cheese collection, and finally a wonderful desert. This really capped of our stay at this wonderful hotel. Our travel agent Darlene's choice of this hotel made the stay in Aix-en-Provence worth all the challenges we faced in getting here.

One thing I think will stick with me like the beers of England is the wonderful French Fromage (cheese). Although the French wine is very good, the thing that really stands out is the cheese. We've enjoyed all kinds of cheese, which have all kinds of tastes. When we visited a grocery store, the cheese section was bigger than the meet department of most U.S. grocery stores. I can't adequately describe how much I enjoy all these fresh cheeses. I just hope I can find something similar to satisfy my new taste when I return to the states - unlike the taste I developed for British beer.

May 21, 2000, Sunday - Travel from Aix-en-Provence to Nice.

Although we had decided not to ride the 200k (125 miles) to Nice because it the route either included some leg bursting hills, or heavy traffic the entire way, this morning was an early one. We had checked the SNCF web site for trains from Aix-en-Provence to Nice and found that this route is very heavily travelled on Sundays. We decided out best bet was a 7:30 train that had one transfer. After a late night starting early enough to ride to the station and make a 7:30 train was a bit painful. But we really didn't want to try to put the bike on a full train. Since this is our fourth experience with the train station and the bike, things finally started. We know to head for an end car, and that we need to stand the bike up to keep it out of the way. I'm even getting comfortable taking the bike with loaded panniers and a trailer down a flight of stairs. No troubles this time. The trip was very uneventful, except for some late teen-agers that made a mess of our car, then got kicked off the train because they didn't have tickets.

Since it's Sunday and everything is closed, and we'll be staying here for a while, I'll save my opening commentary of Nice for it's own section. ...stay tuned!