Mt. Ventoux

November 10, 2005

(November 7, 2005) Our mission, posed by Gary’s brother, Jeff, which we gladly chose to accept, was to check out Mont Ventoux for Gary’s brother, Jeff, an avid cyclist. He plans to attempt the three ascents in a 24-hour period next summer and therefore join La Confrerie des Cingles du Ventoux, or, more colorfully in English, “The Merry Band of the Nuts of Venteaux,” and we don’t mean acorns.

We drove two of the three mandatory bicycle ascents — up the route from Malaucene, and then down the classic Tour de France route to Bedoin. We missed the third leg, the “lavender” route up from Sault, but there wasn’t much in the way of lavender in November.

Base for us was the fabulous medieval town of Vaison-la-Romaine, where we stayed in an old bishop’s palace, now a great B&B, L’Eveche, on the left bank. Across the Ouveze, on the right bank are both the new town (17th C.) and the Roman town, with beautifully preserved ruins telling a vivid story of life in 2-400 AD.

We enjoyed two dinners in town, one at the one star, Le Moulin a Huile, and the other at Le Brin d’Olivier. The better deal was the 38 euro menu at the latter, featuring local venison and lamb and a local wine, Seguret Mourchon.

At le Moulin, we ate the 75 Euro tasting menu, with a wonderful amuse bouche of warm gazpacho, royale de moules, chick pea puree with a little honey and the flakiest, lightest bit of savory pastry ever. The local Muscat de Beaume de Venise served (extra) with the foie gras starter was perfect.

Gary’s dorade a day from being fresh, but Varian’s abates de volaille, ris de veau et gross gambas on a salad with a little vanilla and olive oil was a real winner. The disappointment came with the main course, a tough cote de veau, the day’s special, but all the side dishes and other courses were terrific. The 2001 Gigondas Haut Garrigue made up for any small disappointments. Plus the service and ambiance were very comfortable.

A bonus dessert of warm, slightly glazed grapes with a small crepe was truly inventive and wonderful and Gary’s mille feuille, for which Robert Bardot was named “the best.” Mignardises were delicious.

Our last day we left early to take the scenic route home, recommended by the host at L’Eveche. Towns like Seguret, with its walk around the medieval town, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes de Venise, up to Suzette through the Dentelles de Montmirail, Caromb, Mazan, Malemoret, then into the Plateau de Vaucluse and down to Manosque for local lunch. Our host recommended well. This was a stunningly beautiful drive.

NB: In the nearby town of Monteux, there is the festival of St Jean on the last weekend in August with a 45-minute fireworks show. The town is the center of manufacture of fireworks. Should be spectacular.

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