From here it is an easy roll down to and across the Rhône flood plain so we bowl along easily at a good pace to reach Pont St Esprit where we take the long bridges crossing the river then in a few kms the navigation. There is a constant procession of heavy aggregate lorries thundering past us along here, but luckily not too far on we come to the point where our route has a heavy vehicle ban and they all go off in another direction. In Mondragon we have a moment of navigation uncertainty, but work out that we need to cross the railway by a short gravel track under a very low bridge in order to get away on the correct road. Time to start climbing again as we wind our way up into more hilly countryside. On the outskirts of Mondragon there are quite a few new houses scattered around and it is obvious that we are in the land of the Romans as they often sport the odd column or pseudo portico. In fact in this part of Provence even the bus shelters look like miniature Roman villas and must have been expensive to construct.
We see picnic benches in a shady and grassy spot away from the road, so pull off onto the verge and walk down to have our sandwich lunch. From here we continue over the tops with quite a few ups. In St Cecile we do a circuit of the town in search of a café, finally spotting one reached via a multi-way temporary traffic light system and road works. We settle down for SdM&C. From here we drop down to cross the River Aigues and, of course, climb again on the other side to reach Cairanne. A short distance on in Rasteau we are temporarily defeated by the one-way system and end up climbing to the château to find ourselves at a dead-end in its courtyard. At the second attempt we are successfully back on route and dropping down to the Ouvèze valley, which takes us to Vaison la Romaine. As we approach the town we find ourselves on wet roads so we have timed it well to arrive just after the rain has gone through. Vaison la Romaine is a large and busy place and the final couple of kms are not too pleasant on a busy main urban road with rather unforgiving traffic and lots of traffic signalled junctions. However, the GPS track does its stuff and delivers us accurately to the front door of our B&B.
A daughter of the house answers the front door – her parents are out. There does not seem to be any record of our room booking so Sheila produces a copy of the e-mail booking confirmation. No matter, there is a room available. We carry the trike through the gate and park it in the front garden.
S&W then flop on the bed to watch the end of today’s TdF stage on the television. An unsuccessful and not happy fifth placed Mark Cavendish. Later we walk down into the historic town centre, which is not too far from B&B. The name la Romaine is well-justified – large areas of Roman remains all around, including a Roman bridge, which, justifiably for its age, looks well battered. Across the river, medieval Vaison is well preserved with interesting narrow streets and is almost totally free from shops, restaurants or other commercial uses. These are all on the other, Roman, side of the river in the present day town centre. We go easy on the walking tour because John’s knee is still a bit poorly and return across the river. Back in the town centre we select a restaurant for a pasta supper facing a large, newly done-up square. Just like almost everywhere we have been in France the paving of the square has been well done and interesting new fountains or rills have been included. If only there was half the initiative back home for Lymington High Street. Interestingly the new seating in the square is individual comfy and quite sculptural chairs fixed to the ground but informally scattered around and grouped in pairs or small clusters. Not a sign of graffiti anywhere.
Not too many, but some thing come up so often in the course of our cycle touring that it is not worth writing them out in full each time:
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