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SAN SATURNIN LES APT, FRANCE – ALBISOLA, ITALY – MOLLENS, SWITZERLAND – As summer rolls to an end I am still savouring the warm memories of a summer vacation of two-wheeled bliss spent between the Luberon region of Provence, the Ligurian Coast in Italy, and the Valais.
Luberon is a protected region of painted ochre and lavender scenery, dotted with picture book medieval villages. Seen from the saddle of a bike, the scenery rolls by like a slow motion slide show.
I rolled into the town of Rousillon, renowned for its burnt orange cliffs, just as the sun was putting the final touches on the town’s church tower.
As I looked out over the vineyards laid out across the valley below I thought nothing could be finer than climbing the surrounding hills in search of ancient town squares lined with open air cafes.
The next morning I woke early to beat the heat – the blast of warm air outside the front door said I was a late riser at 7 am.
Fresh baked croissants were calling my name, but I had to ride 8 km to the next town to catch the scent.
In Saint Saturnin I took in the older crowd enjoying the morning air, not yet suffocating, by the town water trough. I grabbed my pain au chocolate and croissants and headed home, but got distracted by a highway leading into the canyons, and ended up climbing for an hour or so before dropping back down into the valley to bring the goods to a grateful crowd at the friend’s house where we were staying.
My wife and I spent three lazy days exploring a hike’n'bike trail carved out of the old railway line a stone’s throw from our camp-site. Croissants were replaced by Italian sausage and focaccia and forays to a string of alternately, desolate rock strewn surf, and local beach bum hangs; something for everyone.
I worked on my tan and practiced my crawl stroke in the lazy surf in between siestas and cups of hearty Italian reds.
Rejuvenated, we headed back to the familiar Valaisian peaks and plant husbandry at a friend’s chalet in Mollens.
Going for bread in the morning involved an exhilarating plunge of several hundred metres on my bicycle, down the mountain and a bracing ride back up for my morning coffee. What to say, where else could you want to be on a summer morning in Switzerland but surrounded by clouds as the day comes into its own and burns the mist off the peaks.
After several trips up the Aminona/Crans-Montana ski basins on my trail bike, past the tree line and above the clouds, I felt I owned the mountain.
I know I’ll be loving the snow soon enough, but until then I’ll be enjoying the memory of this summer’s enchanted cycling adventures.