Bike. Cook. Eat. Sleep. Provence.

Bike Cook Eat Sleep Provence-6281

Every year Jody participates in a cooking-cycling tour.  People like traveling with what Jody jokingly refers to as a “GCC,” that is, a “genuine celebrity chef.”  Over the course of 5 – 7 days people bike, visit local restaurants, vineyards and artisan producers of local products, and help prepare a multi-course meal based on the local cuisine with lots of instruction and guidance from her.  Accommodations are typically cushy.  The biking ability of participants ranges from novice to expert and everybody has a great time.  People abandon any inclination to count calories (and why would you?) after they experience a day of pedaling about the countryside.  Most people return to the US with at least one new discovery–a technique or taste sensation.  The top contenders on this trip were peeled tomatoes and rabbit.   My own favorite was rouget, small red fish from the Mediterranean, undoubtedly delicious in lots of ways, but I can personally vouch for them sautéed in butter with a little lemon and parsley.  Runner up was smoked cod roe, which I’d never even heard of before this trip–creamy, rich, unbelievably good when spread on a fresh baguette.

This year’s tour with DuVine Adventures, focused on the Vaucluse region of Provence, was unusual in that we were already familiar with much of the area.   The Vaucluse, as I like to describe it, is a place where if you stand on the side of the road with your face inclined to the sky and your mouth open somebody will put something good to eat into it.  That’s as true now as it was when I first visited France two-thirds of a lifetime ago.  Paris has changed dramatically in the interim, but in the countryside you can squint at the mountainside villages and convince yourself that it is the same as it ever was.  True, “Bio,” the French term for organic, is visible everywhere, and olive oil producers have orchestrated tastings as choreographed as any Napa Valley vineyard, but hand-lettered signs at the side of single-lane country roads still invite you to get off your bicycle to buy plums or tomatoes or Brebis, a local aged sheep’s milk cheese.

We’d like to extend our thanks to DuVine Adventures for putting this trip together.  Biking and eating your way through the Vaucluse is a special experience.  No one has done a better job.  All three of our guides–Stephane Gallet, Stephanie Olson,and Thomas Kevill-Davies–were smart, funny and laughed at all the right places.  I’d particularly like to give a special thanks to Tom, blogger and author of The Hungry Cyclist.  He helped Jody shop and cook so much of the great food we ate.  But what really distinguished him was his willingness to turn second-story man when we returned to our hotel VERY late one evening (after nearly colliding with a wild boar en route) and found ourselves locked out.  Fortunately I remembered the entry code before he was arrested.  Amy, whom we loved even before she offered up her house up for our fabulous final meal, has only burrowed her way deeper into our hearts.

Everyone on this trip was a brick, as my father-in-law used to say.  We’d ride and eat with any of you again anywhere (and hope we do).  Enjoy the pictures–we’re going to be cooking a lot of the food you see in these pics over the next month.  Ken


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42 thoughts

    • thank you. There’s a remarkable eau de vie made from mirabelles, if you can find it (I couldn’t). I’ve tasted it in years past. Something wonderful, even if all you do is sniff it. Ken

      • Next time you visit, travel North for the eau-de-vie ! The landscapes aren’t as picturesque (gorgeous pictures!), but the food is quite delicious! Lovely post, it looks like you had a wonderful time. Provence is so beautiful, I wish I could go back some day!

  1. Gorgeous photos! I can’t wait for some of the recipes. Or you could just tell us about the cheeses in France. :-)
    This reminds me to post the last of our photos from Scotland this weekend.

      • It would be beautiful cycling country, as long as you have good wet weather gear! We drove around in my dream car, a little Fiat 500, and hiked, and loved every moment (well, except for the moments stuck in the rain, without wet weather gear, rookies mistake).

    • The first time I saw one the vendor explained, after asking if I were American, that it was a “saucisson moonkey.” Despite my objections he insisted that it was made from “moonkey.” Finally, he put his hands on top of his head in imitation of tall ears and said, “Hee-haw! Hee-haw! Moonkey!” I had to explain to him that it wasn’t a moonkey he was thinking of, but a donkey.


  2. Ah, too bad, somebody beat me to the ane sausage. I commented to Steve (in Provence somewhere, I think) about Jacques Ibert’s “Le Petit Ane Blanc” which I used to play on the piano and the vendor laughed and handed me a slice—which of course it would have been rude to refuse. It wasn’t bad. It tasted about the same as all those other market sausages do. I can’t wait to read all the details of your trip! It’s such a lovely region.

    • Isn’t it great to have a donkey sausage story in your life? It sounds like a throwaway anecdote in a Robertson Davies tale that eventually comes to have deep significance for all of the book’s characters. Good for you for tasting the slice – God knows what sort of misfortune might have befallen you had you refused. We’re going to let slip a few details here and there about our trip as we post about the recipes over the next few weeks. But not too many. Ken

  3. Wonderful photos of Provence. Where are the photos of peleton crashes and breakaway cyclists gassing on their way up the cols? I would love to convince Monika to have us make this trip with you guys next year.

    • It’s hard to take photos while you’re pedaling. Much easier in front of a glass of rosé. We’d love to have you come along. We’ve got a few irons in the fire about our next destination. Ken

  4. Sadly, our trip to France had to be cancelled this year. More on that another time. Your pictures evoke great feelings for the French countryside and their way of life. Doing it on a bike would be just awesome. I know a guy who sometimes goes on a “credit card cycle”. he takes his bike and a credit card and just goes. A great concept. he tells me it is incredibly liberating.

    • What a great idea! Years ago I thought about biking through Europe (I didn’t own a car until I was 30), but found the whole idea of pedaling around saddled with bags and bags of gear completely contrary to the experience I was seeking. Sorry to hear your own trip was cancelled. Ken

  5. Sounds and looks like a wonderful holiday, Ken. Your photos are stunning and I very much look forward to reading more about the trip and seeing the recipes you’ve brought back.

  6. The Japanese eat lots of cod roe and you can easily buy it anywhere but I don’t think I’ve seen smoked ones being sold. A google search did show that yes, some people do smoke it at home. The butter-baguette combo sounds so good and what a fun trip you did.

    • Ayako–Sorry I missed this the first time around. It was a WONDERFUL trip. We’re trying to decide where to go next–Croatia? Sardinia? Burgundy? To tell the truth, I could return to Provence and do the same trip and still have another great time. Ken

      • No worries! I love deciding on my next destination as well and while I do often wish to go back to the same country or even region multiple times, there are so many “haven’t been” places to go to, it’s always a dilemma!

  7. Hello there!!! happy to see this reportage…! The places are looking a bit like Italy…You and Jody look like two nice persons having fun and enjoying the french flavors & atmosphere…
    Thank you for sharing!

  8. What an awesome experience! I love how relaxing the tour looks. Often times I find myself trying to visit the tourist attractions of a country, when it really should just be about relaxing and good food. Looking forward to see Provence-inspired recipes! -Veronica

    • I wished that I had time to stroll about a bit more in some of the places we biked through–Eygalieres, for example, has a famous neolithic site, but you can only do so much without going into vacation overload. It’s hard to bike + cook/eat + walk about. You get two out three on any given day: more is work. Glad you liked the post. Ken

  9. As someone who has had the good fortune of biking and cooking with Jody, can I just say that I am SO JEALOUS! Sounds like you had a fab trip, can’t wait to learn all your new recipes.

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