VINEYARDS AND LAVENDER FIELDS (…a 5 day road trip from Nice to Bourgogne… )

(Warning: this blog is like a short story and very long but I know you will enjoy the ride!)

We had to be in Palleau, a small town in the Bourgogne region and home to MB’s, (Monsieur Bleu, my other half) parents, before Bastille Day or as it’s affectionatly known in France as Le Quatorze Juillet (14th July) the country’s National Day. No problem! One small issue…we were in Nice in the South of France enjoying the summer heat! We also had two huge suitcases AND a motorbike! Mmmm…

Ok, this was easy! We decided to send our suitcases on ahead via DHL, keeping just one little bag each that were specifically designed to fit snugly into the motorbike’s two side cases. No problem…just throw some basics into the tiny bag ( one had to be ruthless here) and all was well! We discovered that DHL could courier the suitcases to Palleau in a couple of days so that was a relatively cheap, quick and simple solution. As we were heading straight home to Australia after Palleau (we had been in Nice for four weeks already and were planning on spending about two weeks with MB’s family ), we also needed to store the motorbike at MB’s parent’s place so we could collect it next summer. ‘Why not do a sightseeing road trip together’ we mused! Let’s enjoy the outdoors, majestic scenery and wind in our hair (or just mine as MB is bald) and give the bike a good run for the last leg of our holiday in France! Voilà!

So, we made a rough plan. Basically, to ride in that general direction, book nothing, fasten our helmets and speed off! Bourgogne, the land of Pinot Noir, cheese and famous slow-cooked meat dishes, here we come! Á bientôt!

Day1

Waving a sad goodbye for another year to our beloved Nice, with it’s sparkling azure sea, golden light, pebble beaches and crisp apricot coloured rosé, MB suggested that we should take the Route Napoléon from Grasse, which was about a one hour ride from Nice. Grasse is a town on the French Riviera famous for perfume. Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard are the three major perfume houses here and there is also a Museum dedicated to this art of producing scents!

Having left just before midday and of course timing ourselves perfectly, we arrived in this pretty little place just in time for lunch!

Parking the bike near an ancient fountain and a small supermarket (so it was easy to find again), we wandered down the winding alleyways, amongst the throng of tourists, with the aroma of different perfumes from the many boutiques enveloping us in a shroud of floral, heady bliss! The regular Sunday markets had been on and were packing up just as we arrived and lunch tables were being erected under the cool canopy of colourful umbrellas.

Feeling faint from dehydration and starvation, we quickly ordered a glass of rosé each and the usual basket of fresh baguette was plonked on the table for us to nibble on whilst we waited for our lunch special of potato gratin and fish. The food was perfect as usual and after a quick look around the Old Town and some obligatory perfume testing, we found our way back to the bike and set off!

The Route Napoléon is the famous road trip taken by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1815, when he crossed the Alps into France upon his return from his exile in Elba. Beginning in Grasse and travelling all the way to Grenoble, it’s 150km of winding roads and picturesque scenery which takes you through tunnels, gorges and the haute Alpine region. It’s a smooth ride. Stopping every now and then on the side of the road, which is a huge ragged cliff face, to take photos of the Gorge de Verdon (France’s answer to the Grand Canyon) and the magnificent natural rock formations, was a slightly harrowing experience and not for the faint of heart! It’s all about the perfect shot folks!

After a few hours,  we began to see signs of an enormous thunderstorm approaching and drops of rain threatened at our backs, so we made a combined decision to stop for the night in the nearest town which was Gap.  Now Gap isn’t all that fab I must admit. A small town with not many people (or there were not many around when we were there), it’s not somewhere I would shout about or put on my bucket list. Finding accommodation before the storm hit was interesting, as there was only one hotel, The Ibis which had a room ( we checked out a few) and it was neither quaintly French or cheap! But it was clean, available, in the centre of town and comfortable and had a fantastic bathroom which was quite a luxurious treat! After settling in and getting the feeling back in our derriére’s, we headed out for apéritif and dinner.

Strolling along the somewhat deserted but pretty streets (they had coloured umbrellas strung overhead ) in search of nourishment, the feeling was a let down in a French ghost town! Where is everyone and why is it so damn quiet here? We ended up heading to the local square, as this had some action and plonked our weary bodies down at the nearest and busiest Brasserie. It was ok. I had a local crêpe which was quite amazing, but the atmosphere was severely lacking and after dinner we decided to call it a night. For some odd reason, we noticed that everyone here drinks beer. No idea why and for a French town, it seemed odd to MB and myself as we sipped wine and speculated upon this matter!

Just as we approached our hotel, we heard the beckoning sounds of music and laughter and decided to follow our ears and happened to fall upon a little bar, just across from our hotel, that had an American man singing (in French) and a band! Woohoo! I think the whole town must have been there that night as it was packed and heaving, so of course we had to join the masses! Drinking, dancing and singing ended our stay here in Gap and thank God for this little gift, as it certainly hit the mark and made our otherwise dull ‘first -night- road -trip stay’ just that little more enjoyable! NOTE: whenever you are anywhere and there is live music, the world instantly becomes a groovier place! Merci Gap!

Day2

Day two was the beginning of us becoming storm chasers or avoiders really! From Gap all the way till we reached Lyon, we pretty much got soaked by sporadic downpours every few hours!

Leaving Gap, we saw that there was a severe storm front approaching and that it just happened to be in the direction of the Route Napoléan, so we both decided that maybe, this wasn’t the best idea! So unfortunately we had to abandon this romantic idea, abort the mission and take a three sixty degree change of plan!

Why not go to Avignon? MB had a long lost buddy there and it’s also a very beautiful city, so being spontaneous (as all road trips should be) we set off in the opposite direction, in an endeavour to reach the famous walled city by late afternoon.

Off we roar, through the backstreets of Gap till we reached the highway as we needed to get some serious bitumen time under our helmets as Avignon was literally in the opposition direction from where we were headed and quite a few kilometres as well. It was a great idea though really, to try to catch up with Stéphane, MB’s friend who owned a restaurant there as they had not seen each other in 20 years! So, somewhere, the storm was fate’s way of bringing these two crazy Frenchmen together again!

After what seemed like an eternity, we decided to forgo the highway for a while and do a little exploring inland near some beautiful mountains. We discovered a sign for an ancient Abbey so off we went to have a quick poke around. The Abbaye de Bodon near the little town of Saint May, is a teeny tiny chapel from 851AD and it’s still in perfect condition. There is a caretaker who lives next door, acres of lavender fields and it’s lovely! We were the only ones visiting that day, oddly enough, maybe because it takes quite a while to drive up the winding mountain to reach the top, but it was worth it! We took the obligatory photos and sat in the little pews and I’m nearly one hundred percent certain that one of my photos (taken from inside the chapel) has an image of a spirit!  There is a strange grey smudge floating in the shot and when I lightened or darkened the image, it became very obvious! Bizarre! I will let you be the judge as I will include the photo. Goosebumps on the skin time…

After viewing the Abbey and leaving a small gift (for the Spirit) of a bunch of lavender, we rode back down the mountain to check out Saint May herself. It’s only a very small village perched a top a mountain, with it’s crumbling stone walls and houses, the odd cat sunning itself on a doorstep, a cemetery and a fountain. Feeling somewhat energetic and also to stretch our stiff bikers legs, we hiked up the five thousand or so very steep steps (slight exaggeration here but there were loads) to reach the top! The view from there was spectacular of course but the enormous statue of Christ on the Cross, peering down on us was a trifle unnerving! We paid our respects to the deceased in their graves and wandered back down to the village in search of food.

On arrival, we could definitely smell food and hear talking, but quickly realised that all the inhabitants of Saint May (about 8) were having lunch together in the Mairie ( Council house). How sweet is that! It was a Sunday, so this made perfect sense, but we didn’t think that they would appreciate two ragged bikies gate-crashing their party, even if one was French! Off we road again, this time to satisfy our grumbling tummy’s and have a rest!

Discovering Nyons was a Godsend! It was only about half an hour away from Saint May and of course, picture postcard perfect! Old and pretty with a jumble of antique stores and colourful flowers cascading from juliette balconies and rock walls. We parked near the river which runs beside the old town and wandered down the busy but narrow main road, which was obviously the hub of the place. A variety of restaurants jutted out into the street and tables were squashed together leaving just enough room to walk down the paved centre! We looked in vain to find a table for two available, but alas, it was packed at 1pm, typical for a French Sunday lunchtime! We weren’t the only ones starving! We staggered to the very top of the street, where the market was just finishing and stalls were being packed away and fortunately found a local bistro with a spare table! Hallelujah!

The menu at Le Croc’odile was simple but fantastic and it was a lovely family run restaurant with great service and a friendly attitude. We chose a Menu du Jour each ( there was a choice of two), ordered rosé and settled in for a good lunch.

We were both quite exhausted afterwards and presuming that we were in for a late night in Avignon, we took a quick wander through the streets and headed down to the river for a dip in the cool fresh water and a rejuvenating siesta on the pebbled bank before the next leg of our journey!

Upon reaching Avignon, we both exclaimed, “oh, look at all the people, perhaps there is something special on!”Indeed there was! It was actually the annual OFF FESTIVAL, which is a forum for alternative theatre and performance arts. Luckily for us, we had actually got organised for the first time during the trip and booked ahead, (whilst at lunch in Nyon) and had scored a room in a lovely old building off the main square! We met our hostess and settled into our tiny flat that overlooked the street and opposite the church bell tower, which we couldn’t forget as the bells chimed every few seconds, or so it seemed! But that was all part of the charm of an old town and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

Now Avignon is famous for many reasons. It’s the City of the Popes and has a Papal Palace, has an ancient half bridge, Le Pont D’Aivgnon and a lovely little children’s song (which dates back to the 15th century) that pays homage to this and which many of us probably know – “Sur le Pont, d’Avignon, da di dada da di dada..!” It is also surrounded by a huge stone wall, turning it into a fortified city and is a well known hub for art and music festivals (as we had just discovered.)

Having done a rapid change (or I refer to it as a ‘HOT TURN’) and MB being quite nervous about meeting Stéphane, (by the way, the poor guy even didn’t know we were coming, we thought we might just turn up at the restaurant and surprise him) we thought we would take a stroll around the bustling town, check out the street performers and stop for an apéritif! Easy I hear you say…that was until I stubbed my foot on a slightly raised cobblestone and subsequently BROKE MY SHOE! I couldn’t believe it! It wasn’t even a high heel! After having a laugh and walking all the way back to the flat in bare feet (I probably looked like one of the performers),  I quickly changed into thongs…the only other shoe choice I had due to the tiny bag situation and headed out again for round two of déjà vu and a much needed drink!

Eventually, after wandering the cram-packed streets that were awash with flyers and promotional signage, we fell upon Stéphane’s bizarre little restaurant hidden away in a secluded back alleyway. It was just how MB had remembered, was open (thank God) and the man himself was bustling around attending tables. I pushed MB inside and stood back to watch the story unfold! It only took seconds for recognition to set in and the two to embrace and there were misty eyes all round!

Even the diners thought it was a wonderful edition to the evening as it was a unique performance in itself really! I won’t bore you to death with all the details, but needless to say we had a long and interesting night chatting and reminiscing. No-one can say when the next act will occur or where, but there surely will be a sequel! À+ Stèphane!

Day3

The following morning, slightly exhausted but rearing to go, we quickly packed and headed out into the centre for a traditional breakfast of buttery croissants (which for some odd reason, here in Avignon, they allow you to BYO to your preferred café ) and strong coffee! We did a quick tourist walk along the river to see the famous half bridge and the Papal Palace and even managed to buy some funky clothes (that we didn’t need but wanted) from a wonderful little thrift store that carried some designer label gear and was my idea of heaven! Returning to the bike and after squashing our fab finds into the already overfilled bags, we donned our helmets and rode off into the sunshine!

Because it was a beautiful day so far, we rode in the direction of a superb little town called L’Isle -sur -la -Sorgue which was just a short distance away from Avignon and famous amongst the antique loving crowd for its array of shops offering old world but expensive wares and of course the many cafés and restaurants dotted along the picturesque Sorgue River. Having stayed here once before, we were familiar with its layout and were aware of its charm as a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. After a short ride through the village, we parked the bike and took a wander around the stores hoping that we would not find any bargains as there was no space to fit them if we did! As luck had it, we didn’t and decided to eat instead as one does on a lazy, summer afternoon in rural France!

Finding a space at one of the little restaurants overlooking the river, MB excitedly informed me that a famous French Pop singer and actor from the 70’s, Renaud was dining here as well and quickly but surreptitiously pointed him out. He was sitting on the other side of the street surrounded by his entourage and was being fawned over by the owner of the restaurant, much to the detriment of us and the other diners who, because of this, had to make do with slack and slow service from the other waitstaff. Funnily enough, some of Renaud’s hit songs were being played over the speakers (whether he wanted or enjoyed this or not was anyones guess) but at least I could put a voice to the face! Of course Google came to the rescue at this time so MB could discover all the latest info and gossip surrounding the artist and this research kept us occupied until our meals eventually arrived. We were not overly impressed with either the menu or the service here, but the location was to die for and of course the added bonus of celebrity spotting made up for it by far! We were not quite sure if many of the other patrons were aware that this once sort after French star was sharing the same space as them (the locals probably knew), but I thought it was quite cool and something exciting to tell MB’s parents and friends about when we saw them!

We toyed with the idea of just staying put in L’Isle -sur -la -Sorgue for the day/night, but knowing that we had already gone off track quite a bit, decided to jump back onto the bike and head towards the town of Montelimar (famous for Nougat), which was on our way north and in the correct direction! So after a quick chat with some local boys who were salivating over the bike, we zoomed off, bound for more adventure… strangely enough we were granted our wish!

Lavender fields after lavender fields were obviously the ticket of the day for the area and these vibrant purple patches stretched on for miles! I must admit that at one time I detested the aroma of lavender with a vengeance, its heady perfume played havoc with my senses and turned my stomach. But, strangely enough, gliding through these gorgeous parts and inhaling the smell of the freshly cut stems (it was harvesting time) converted me! Maybe because it was fresh and raw and beautiful in its abundance or because I had matured somewhat, I felt recharged and calm all at the same time! Whilst stopping to take photos and to pick some blossoms, we noticed that once again there were storms on the horizon and in the distance, an enormous castle that I just HAD to check out! ”Ride forth, my lover, towards the castle!” I screeched over the wind, whilst pointing dramatically for effect for MB’s sake and off we sped!

Château de Grignan, is an intimidating structure which overlooks the medieval village of Grignan, in the Rhône Alpes Region and is a castle of immense scale! On approach we couldn’t believe just how huge it was and you could not appreciate the enormity of it from the ground, so we parked the bike, purchased tickets and went to have a look. [FYI: You can  buy a multitude of ‘tours’ for inside the château or just a cheap ticket to have a look around the grounds and the perimeter.] We chose the latter as we are not huge fans of large groups and were also on a time limit.

Château de Grignan is a fortified castle dating back to the 11th century and was transformed into a ‘leisure residence’ for aristocrats during the Renaissance period but was later dismantled during the Revolution, then re-built at the beginning of the 20th century. The Marquise de Sévigné, one of the great female icons of French literature, well renowned for her wit (much like myself), stayed there and penned a few letters which are famous if you can read in French! Ooh la la! That’s the short version of this amazing castle’s history and on this day, huge renovations were taking place as was preparation for a concert to celebrate summer and music.

We took a leisurely walk around the grounds and made the most of the multitude of photo opportunities which always present themselves when you are in a magnificent building such as this! During photo time, however, the wind turned and quickly became hurricane -like and the sky turned a deep blue/green. Oh God, not again! We both looked at each other then at the sky…Here comes a hail storm!

Sprinting back to the bike, whilst being tossed around by wind gusts, we rode in the opposite direction of the storm…or so we thought! Unfortunately, the menacing sky started to engulf us on all sides and the wind whipped at us as small, hard raindrops began to fall.  Should we turn around or just keep riding? We were dry for about five seconds until the deluge hit and pellets of ice started to pummel our bodies and ricochet off our helmets. We must have looked a sight as we rode into the tiny nearby village, thankfully finding shelter in an ancient wash house or lavoir! Soaking and cold, I stood shivering, throwing foul looks towards MB whilst he had a soggy ‘stress cigarette’ and devised an exit strategy! An eccentric, old local lady found us hovering under cover and decided to join us for a chat (or shout really as the rain was so heavy you couldn’t hear each other!) MB gave her a brief run down of our day so far and she yapped on about something entirely different but that was ok! Any port in a storm so they say! As the rain died down, Madame Eccentric waddled off and MB and I donned ugly, plastic rain ponchos (better late than never and not terribly chic) and rode off, squelching and sliding around on the sodden bike seats! Fun times!

After riding for about ten minutes, surprise surprise, the heavens decided to open and we were drenched once again! What fun. Spotting a tabac up ahead, we screeched to a halt on the side of the road and dashed into the warm, inviting bar in search of a caffeine hit.

A few of the local farmers were there having a beer, as one does when it’s pouring buckets onto your lavender fields, and I’m sure we must have provided a lot of chatter and gossip for them:

A pair of ragged and wet foreigners (even though MB is French we spoke English together and we also had extremely dark tans) swanning around their little village on a posh motorbike. But MB quickly explained our situation to the barman, who thought it was hilarious! I wasn’t laughing.

Slightly drier and no cheerier, we said au revoir and rode, finally, in the direction of Montelimar! The sky was still dark but the worst was over and at least it had finally stopped raining. The wind was still buffering us around but we didn’t notice because the SMELL of lavender was completely overwhelming! It was amazing! I never imagined that riding past freshly cut lavender fields after a storm could be so bloody magical… but it was. The perfume was everywhere and even other tourists (dry and in cars, lucky buggers) were stopping to take photos, pick flowers and sniff the air! Such a lovely, special moment. Having a quick cuddle and a laugh about our bizarre journey, it was high time to find a room somewhere for the night, dry off, eat and drink!

The next bit is all my fault. We were supposed to stay in Montelimer but I wasn’t in any mood for nougat as I was tired, hungry, soggy and over it, so I threw a mini tantrum and demanded to stay in the pretty little village of Grignan (where the huge château was and where, um, we just were a few hours ago) and it was also much closer, thank you very much! Little did we know, however, that the preparation for the concert that we saw earlier was, in fact, for that night! Hence when we got back into the village, there were million’s of people everywhere and all the restaurants were packed with concert goers having apéritif at sunset! Where on earth were we going to find accommodation in this busy town at this hour? Lady Luck must have been on our side though (or someone felt sorry for us) as we found a beautiful room in a newly renovated and very posh B&B, Coté Patio, in the old town. The room was huge and modern, but still speckled with traits of charm from its original era and the owners were lovely. It was the last room available in the village that night and by George didn’t we appreciate it! Although it wasn’t cheap, it was a special treat for us after such an arduous day and I (we) deserved a bit of glamour!

Welcoming hot showers and a quick change later, we were both dolled up for a romantic dinner overlooking the château at a local restaurant called L’Epicurieux. Yet again, we happened to score the last table outside, so we were able to relax and enjoy a sumptuous meal whilst watching the sky turn from blue to orange to pink to night. It was a glorious end to an eventful day and tomorrow we were off to Lyon! Bonne Nuit!

Day 4

After a filling breakfast provided by our hosts at our B&B, day four of our amazing road trip had us leaving early and retracing our route back towards Montelimar ( which we never ended up visiting by the way!) The storms had passed and sunshine was once again our friend! Riding past more fabulous lavender fields and crumbling medieval villages, we made our way along both back roads and the highway to stop in the large town of Valence for lunch. Valence is about 100km from our next destination of Lyon and is considered as one of the ‘flowery towns’ and sometimes referred to as ‘the door to the South of France’. It is a large city on the left bank of the Rhône and is a bustling hub for both tourists and locals.

Settling ourselves down at one of many restaurants on the footpath in the main street, we ordered our Menu du Jour (as usual as it’s always the best option and value), sipped our rosé and began peeling off our warmer outer garments to soak up the sun’s rays and enjoy. We did notice too, quite oddly, that not many people wore sunglasses for some reason, even though it was hot and bright outside! Maybe the Valentinois didn’t notice the sun’s glare! Anyway, we loved our lunch of duck confit followed by profiteroles, as did many others, as it was a popular choice that day! Once finished, we then promptly got ourselves back on the bike for our rather long ride to Lyon.

Arriving in Lyon at about 4pm, we discovered that this city is HUGE! It has the second largest population in France after Paris, is known for its cuisine and gastronomy (MB jokes that it’s only known for it’s famous lyonnaise potatoes) and sits at the confluence of two rivers; the Rhône and the Saône. It also has a left and right bank (like Paris) and an old and new town. Of course, as usual, we had not booked any accommodation and neither of us had ever stepped foot in this city, so it was all a bit overwhelming! Parking the bike, we decided to find a bar/café for us to rest our jelly-like legs and numb bottoms, Google some accommodation choices and have a refreshing drink! Getting our bearings, we discovered (after a long walk around), one of the main streets packed with restaurant and bars Rue Mercière. Here we sat and sipped our Perrier and calmly searched for hotels near by as this was a very convenient location! Finding one just around the corner and with an available room, we took a quick walk over to check it out.

The Hôtel du Théâtre was a quaint little three star affair situated in a small street just off the Quai Saint-Antoine in the 2nd Arrondissement. The room was clean and spacious with huge windows overlooking the street and three sets of stairs to climb to reach it! Luckily for us we had minimal baggage! After paying, we retrieved out bags from the bike and made the little room our home for the night. We played with the idea of going exploring over the river into the old town, but decided to leave all that for the next day when we had more energy and time up our sleeves. We did however, have a short window shop around the many stylish designer boutiques, but I remained strong and never ventured inside any of them!

See how the lack of baggage space and a budget restrains one’s temptations!

We were both knackered and wanted a relatively ‘early night’ as the next day was the final leg of our journey and a long one at that! After freshening up we landed at a bar along the Quai Saint-Antoine and indulged in an Apérol Spritz, the drink of choice in this part of the world at the height in summer. One pre-requisite we discussed before arriving in Lyon, was that we absolutely had to dine at a Bouchon. A bouchon (bistro) is a typical restaurant only found in Lyon and generally serves traditional French food like pork, sausages, pâté etc. (Think all the good, fatty foods from way back) and also Tripe. We were starving, and locating one of these famous eating houses was not difficult as they were a few to choose from around us, so we plonked down in the nearest and busiest one that had an outside table! MB didn’t even need to look at the menu to know what he was going to order, as he looked at the plates, saw kidneys done in a white wine and mustard sauce and was set to go! I, on the other hand, needed more time to ponder and eventually but bravely ordered the liver done in a wine and shallot sauce and served with, you guessed it, potatoes! Just ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that, yes, although I adore cooking and food and have European blood, I just don’t and never have enjoyed liver! Hence I thought I would bite the bullet and try something new…’when in Rome’ and all that. Well…I LOVED IT! It was one of the tastiest meals of the trip so far and I’m pleased to say that my tastebuds have been turned! Now…if only I can just get to appreciate oysters!

Day 5…the final day!

Knowing that this was the final day of our long journey, MB et Moi decided to use our time wisely and have a good look around the famous sights of Lyon before we left. Heading out for our usual le petit déjeuner of coffee and croissants, we ventured across the footbridge to the old town and also where the famous Cathedral, Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste built in 1480, perched majestically a top the hill, protects her vibrant city. The old town or Vieux Lyon was still in slumber the morning we strolled around as nothing opened until after 10am. Winding alleyways sporting many different shops and restaurants beckoned us with promises of a return visit. Heading in the general direction of the cathedral, we happened upon a set of stairs that wound their way through a park and towards the heavens. In the words of the famous 80’s singer Yazz…’The only way is up baby!’

Ten million steps later (we actually started counting them but gave up when the lack of oxygen to our brains from exertion threatened to do us in ) we finally reached the top! Panting and gasping for breath, MB and I fell onto the footpath directly opposite the cathedral only to see others walking in from a different direction looking cool, calm and collected! We later discovered that, from the street,  there was a completely different route leading to the this area and much easier to manage! Lesson learnt, we chose that way back down!

The Cathedral was filled with tourists, mostly Italian that day, and not being religious folk, MB and I were only really interested in the architecture of the building and the magnificent view from her resting place. Taking in the sights of Lyon from that height was breathtaking and the interior of the cathedral was opulent in all its golden glory. Taking our photos and then exiting the crowds, we made our way back down to the old town and towards the hotel but not before stopping at one of the market stalls that had suddenly popped up along the footbridge, to buy a Rosette: a famous Lyonnaise cured pork sausage, similar to salami, to take with us! Food is always a priority!

Packing the bike for the final time and with specific instructions from MB’s father to stop at a famous vineyard along the way and buy wine, we set off. We were excited to be on our way to Palleau as it is a lovely little village and MB’s family home is a beautifully renovated farmhouse surrounded by apple and cherry trees, has a pond, a vegetable garden and a cellar that could make your eyes water! It is plush and spacious but warm and cozy all at once and his parents are always lovely and welcoming. We planned to ride into their driveway around 6pm…just in time for apéritif in the garden!

Our instructions were to visit the famous Cave (cellar) of the winery called Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, one of the largest and best known wine merchants in France and known for its production of Beaujolais. This particular style of wine is a Gamay-based light red, with overtones of raspberry and plum and is a delicious addition to many dishes! Trust me, I have sampled a few in my time! Riding into the town of Romanèche-Thorins, we quickly located the winery in question and were eager to see the famous Cave and all it had to offer. It was enormous! My idea of a good day is when you are in a cool, ancient stone building surrounded by thousands of bottles of great wine and a very helpful and patient sommelier to assist!

After sampling some of their delicious wares (we couldn’t be rude), we agreed upon a beautiful magnum size bottle, complete with hand painted flowers and its very own wooden box to boot! Luxury and substance combined to honour this prestigious winery. Carrying our precious cargo in a padded bag and treating it with the utmost of respect, we tied it safely and ever so securely to the bike and once again went in the hunt for a delicious and nutritious lunch amongst the vines!

Just around the corner from the Cave, we found a fantastic little restaurant on the side of the highway, Restaurant du Moulin á Vent which was literally inside a windmill! Being a warm and super sunny day, we chose to forgo the mill and went for a table outside instead, which was under the trees and were welcomed with a smile and open arms from the lovely owner. Ordering the Menu du Jour AGAIN and of course a carafe of the local wine, we began to relax, with the breeze cooling our hot heads and good food and wine satisfying our growling stomachs! Our meals were enormous and delicious (as is usual for this part of the world), MB savouring a local sausage dish and myself with chicken, along with huge chunks of home-made terrine and baguette for entrée and apple tart for dessert! Knowing what lay ahead for us that evening in Palleau, we didn’t finish all our meals but made a damn good effort anyway!

We only thought it was fair that, after lunch and because we had the time, we would take a leisurely ride through the vineyards and the other tiny villages that were dotted around this spectacular region. Acres of perfectly manicured rows of luscious green vines with their knotted and gnarled trunks wound their way up the hills and along the parched, gravelled inner roads. The sight was beautiful and I felt like I was part of a watercolour painting. We displayed great restraint by not stopping and sampling anymore wine, but the various Caves are all open and available if and when the urge takes you.

I highly recommend taking a drive or ride through this region, as it’s charming and accessible and the wine is the perfect marriage of light tannins but with a fruity robust flavour.

Stopping in another village for a quick espresso and a chat with some other touring motorcyclists, we noticed that we were only about one hour from our destination! We had finally made it! Pulling into the driveway in Pallaeu at 6pm exactly, honking the horn, revving the engine and basically making a spectacle of ourselves, we were greeted with eager kisses and beaming smiles from family and friends! I unwrapped the precious cargo of Beaujolais and presented it to MB’s eagerly awaiting papa!

Just seeing the joy on his face that a bottle of wine and his youngest son arriving can bring, accompanied by excited chatter and laughter around us, made me realise that we were, for now, home.

…”Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take”…Angela N.Blount

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