Day four and I was grateful for the distraction of a day of cycling. It was a steady but pleasant ascent for the first hour. In La Bréguière we stopped at a small outdoor café for coffee. Across the street several games of pétanque were underway in the square in front of the mairie. The only other table was occupied by a group of four, one of them wearing a windbreaker from the Saint-Maximin pétanque club. On the table was a torn baguette and an open can of some dubious looking pâté. The leader of the pack — trim, cropped white hair and beard, shirt unbuttoned to the navel — was opening their second bottle of rosé, undeterred by the fact that it was 10:30AM on a Sunday.
“How French is he?” I whispered to husband.
I wanted to be charmed. I wanted us both to be charmed. But living in a small village as I do, I knew enough to know that if you lived in La Bréguière, this boisterous Gaul would quickly become a bore. I paid for our café crème at the bar beneath the watchful gaze of a mounted boar head wearing sunglasses, and we headed off to cross the scrub forest Domaniale De Pélenc. It was only 10km, but it was hot and dull and undulating. The market town of Aups was a welcome sight, and after a quick walk around the streets behind the market square we sat down in the shade of Auberge de la Tour. Pizza, postcards, and a pichet of rosé later, we headed out for the final push to Tourtour.
This was some of the nicest riding of the trip, hugging mountains to the left and, to the right, views across the Var of olive groves and villas. After about 10km, we started the final ascent through the winding main street of Tourtour, past its square and a few kilometers further to the Auberge St Pierre. The hotel is set into a hillside with a stone terraced pool and its own herd of bell wearing goats. There was also a tennis court, jacuzzi, and sauna, which, along with the village of Tourtour, were just enough to keep us busy for the two nights we were there.
The last day of cycling was both the longest and the easiest. We stopped in Entrecasteaux for coffee and quiche aux poireaux from the boulangerie, but otherwise focused on getting back to Le Thoronet. That night there was a wild storm. Thunder rolled through the hills and lightning floodlit the room. It was a perfect metaphor for an epiphany, but I had already had mine. When you start vacationing in places that remind you of home, maybe it’s time to go back.