Looking back, I should have stopped to take more photographs. Then again, the journey was not always a bed of roses. With the sun beating down mercillessly on us in the afternoons, uphill climbs became very challenging and arduous.
Some of the country roads provided little shade and though we rode past cherry plantations (below) filled with red luscious fruits, we were too conscious to pick any despite feeling parched.
We sought refuge beneath any shade we could find along the way.
From the gates outside a villa, we could see the next village perched on top of the hill, glistening in the sun. We struggled up the steep slope to find almost all the shops closed for siesta.
If I remember correctly, we had arrived at Goult, an ancient fortified hilltop village where streets are carved out of living rock. The narrow lanes are walled with stone and solid rock, with arched doorways and vaulted passages.
The map wasn't always reliable. After a specially long uphill climb one afternoon, we came to a road fork and wasn't sure which way to proceed. It was in the middle of the woods and there was nobody around to ask. One solution was to backtrack, the other was to take a gamble and forge ahead. We chose the latter.
Luckily we chanced upon a campsite with a rangers station, refreshment stand and toilets. Feeling somewhat rejuvenated after an icy drink, we continued our journey, riding through pine forest, unmade roads and abandoned quarries, wondering if we would ever make it to our hotel, Auberge des Seguins, for the night.
As it turned out, we had to delve deep into a quiet valley to find this fabulous hideaway situated at the foot of an imposing white-rock cliff in the Natural Regional Park of the Luberon.
We arrived at the hotel weary and worn out after a long day of riding, it was like an finding an oasis in the desert.
We were given a lovely room built very close to the cliff, so close that we could see the granite above our heads. The dortoires (shared public bunk rooms) and simple tile-and-stucco rooms of the hotel are a terrific retreat for hikers and rock-climbers.
Though it is tucked away in the valley, people travel all the way to Auberge des Seguins for the food. The owner is passionately Provençal and insists on wonderful regional food: aïoli, tapenade, curried chickpeas, lamb stews, delicate goat cheese, and local wines.
This is also where the locals come for reunions and weekends with friends, to lounge in lawn chairs or dip in the stream-fed swimming pool. CH gamely took a dip in the ice cold waters while I sun-bathed on the deck.
In the evening, we wandered to the hotel terrace restaurant and asked for a bottle of Rose and nothing else. The lady owner descended upon our table, frowning at our lack of appetite. "Regime?" she asked, wondering if we were on a diet.
We ended up having a delicious dinner and were thankful she made an appearance that night. It was at the breakfast table that I discovered the joy of spreading lavender honey on my baguette. I loved it so much that we went in search of honey at the stores the next day.
We would love to stay a little longer to enjoy the beautiful surrounds but the journey beckoned. As we were getting ready to leave, an Australian lady asked if she could ride with us to the next village. She had arrived with her husband the day before but he fell ill and was waiting for the tour organiser to send him to the next hotel.
So, the three of us left the valley together just as the morning mist was beginning to clear.