Our Bike & Boat: la Provence Magnifique trip provided so many wonderful memories and experiences. We pedaled and palled about by day and shared stories and camaraderie each night. From the beautiful Camargue region of Southern France, famous for its black bulls, gentle white horses, and salts mined near Aigues Mortes; through vineyards and fields of lavender and sunflowers, and hilltop towns peppered with ancient chateaus and Roman ruins.
In record breaking heat, which topped out over 100F by week’s end, we found ways to beat it. Some took advantage of e-bikes to conserve energy. We guzzled electrolyte-laced water and used high-tech cooling fabrics for bandanas, head covers, and arm sleeves. Our tour guide, Antonella, kept us on course and found shade where there should have been none. On our final day, about half our group threw in the towel and hired a private van to take us to our wine tasting at Chateaunuef-de-pape.
Apres biking, we basked on our air-condition-cooled “floating hotel”, the Dutch barge Caprice: fed well by Chef Sheena; tended by Laura, the boat’s steward; and steered by Peter, its pilot.
Some took advantage of a chance to swim in the gentle but fast moving Rhone River to cool off after a hot ride. Many enjoyed the local rose wines from the deck, when temperatures dropped at night. On cooler mornings, we took our coffee there too, dodging sink laundered bike clothes hung on lines from the prior day, left there to dry even amidst the heavy, damp air belched at night by the river. After-dinner strolls through stone-walled towns, shudders drawn against the heat, gave us a glimpse of small town life that has endured hundreds of years of this heat, embraced by serenity.
We even rescued a tiny, weeks-old kitten. But that’s another story.
Note: E-bikes are a game changer! Though not a replacement for solid biking skills and fitness level, they do help save energy to get you up a steep hill and stretch your day by a few miles. I quickly realized that e-bikes put the “fun” back in biking (suffering is optional!). I felt like a kid again, and that, at my age, is a good thing!