On their bike in Provence

by Tony Cox

This story is part of our 'Travelling with Kids' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our recent travel writing competition.

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The girls had been old enough to leave at home but that left our lad, the classic pain in the neck thirteen year old. We’d seen this cycling holiday in Provence and thought, well he likes cycling so perhaps he’d enjoy it. Yes, I know. Stupid. But off we set, father, mother and child.

After an overnight in Draguignan, we collected our bikes, map and directions and headed for Tourtours. So far, so good. Tourtours is usually described as a pretty medieval village. Which it is. But, it sits on the top of a hill. A very big hill if you’re cycling. A hill we had to climb in one of those summer deluges you can only get in the South of France.

Now to a teenage child riding a bike uphill for fun is fairly hard to grasp but doing so in a downpour was too much. His refusal to carry on, of course, wasn’t an option. We played a game of “move, stop, wait, move on” all the way up to the summit. Holiday fun, it wasn’t. Tristan was utterly fed up already and we hadn’t finished day one.

Our target for that first day was the small Bresque valley town of Salernes. As we followed our suggested route along quiet byways, Tristan, out in front by now, showed some rare excitement. “Look, Salernes 2 Km”. He was right. A signpost to our long awaited repose in an olive grove surrounded luxury hotel showed a lane off to the left. Our route planner, however, had us carrying on for another ten kilometres. Tristan complained “Why should I go in the wrong direction”? It was, he suggested plainly madness not to take advantage of local information. The idea that a cycling holiday was for cycling hadn’t really established itself. Amidst screaming abdabs, he took the short cut while we earnestly followed the plan.

We didn’t lose him. We arrived at our hotel tired, sweaty, damp and bedraggled and completely out of place as we were shown the back entrance by the wary, uniformed concierge. On our way, past the pool, there was our lad, in cozzie and shades, dozing on a sun lounger, drinking in the warm evening sun. I exchanged glances with my wife and we had to chuckle as Tristan certainly appeared to have had the last laugh.

The rest of the holiday saw the parents enjoying our cycling venture, even taking optional rides on our “days off” from the schedule. Tristan, meanwhile, spent all non cycling days by the pool of the ever changing accommodation and on cycling days always looked to take the shortest route to the next hotel.

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