(CNN) — Albert Van Limbergen set off by bike on June 28 from his dwelling simply outdoors of Liège, Belgium, in the hunt for a croissant.
However slightly than heading across the nook to an area store, he was en path to southern France. Two weeks later, on July 12, he reached his vacation spot: Boulangerie Roy Le Capitole, artisan baker Frédéric Roy’s unassuming neighborhood bakery one avenue again from the Mediterranean Sea in Good.
Albert arrived mid-afternoon to applause from a small crowd together with Frédéric and his spouse, Katia. He was nonetheless dressed within the biking gear he’d worn for the final leg of his journey: a crimson hat, a yellow polo shirt and black bike shorts, the colours of the Belgian flag. And he did not wait lengthy to style what he had cycled greater than 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) throughout two nations for: one in all Frédéric’s signature croissants made utilizing lavender grown on a large limestone plateau excessive up within the Côte d’Azur hinterland.
Admiring the faint violet hue (all that continues to be as soon as a layer of brilliant meals coloring cooks off within the oven), Albert took a chunk by the flaky crust and into the feather-like layers of buttery pastry inside, remarking upon the refined however distinct herb taste — the results of lavender-infused water that’s kneaded into the dough combination earlier than baking.
Frédéric mentioned his bakery is the one one he is aware of of to promote such a flavored viennoiserie, the French time period for the group of candy baked pastries comparable to croissants, pains au chocolat and pains aux raisins.
And when Albert, flicking by TV channels at dwelling in the future, stumbled upon a phase on the information a couple of Good baker and his lavender croissants, the seed for his two-wheel journey was sown.
For somebody who admits to adoring every part about lavender “from the odor to the style and the fields of blue, inexperienced and violet,” Albert discovered himself galvanized.
The journey wasn’t the primary time the retired transport skilled had primarily based his travels round his favourite plant.
“If I had just a few days off from work, I would generally drive to the Ardèche in France to eat lavender ice cream at Vallon-Pont-d’Arc,” he says.
Nor was it the primary time that he’d cycled nice distances for pleasure. Beforehand, he’d reached Perpignan, towards the Spanish border on France’s western Mediterranean coast.
It was, nevertheless, the primary time he’d set off in the hunt for new lavender taste experiences by bike.
Lavender fields alongside the route offered a preview of the flavour that motivated Albert Van Limbergen to cycle to southern France.
Albert Van Limbergen
False begins and at last, departure
On the Côte d’Azur, Frédéric first heard of Albert in early 2021 when one in all Albert’s buddies, half in jest, fired off a handwritten letter to the boulanger.
“If on the finish of June, you see Albert arrive on his bike, that would be the goal, the objective of his voyage (achieved),” the writer wrote.
Not lengthy after, one other set of Belgian buddies on vacation within the seaside resort visited the bakery and handed on Albert’s telephone quantity. The pair quickly spoke for the primary time, and a plan was hatched for June that yr.
“There have been just a few issues that bought in the best way,” Albert explains — particularly pandemic-driven journey restrictions. “But it surely all served as motivation to get on the street as early as attainable in 2022.”
Lastly, a yr later, he was able to depart.
Three buddies had volunteered to take care of his beloved rescue animals, a farmyard stuffed with horses, cats, canine and fish, whereas he was away. Carrying little greater than a sleeping bag, a tent, a change of garments, instruments for bike repairs and seven liters of drink — and sporting flip-flops, his footwear of selection — he began to pedal.
The itinerary he plotted out took him previous the Belgian cities of Ciney and Dinant, crossing into France close to Charleville-Mézières. He headed south previous Burgundy’s vineyards to Lyon after which adopted the Rhône River to Valence the place he ready to sort out the 1,180-meter (about 3,870 toes) summit of the Col de Cabre mountain move.
Frédéric Roy and Albert Van Limbergen met at Roy’s boulangerie in Good, France.
As soon as crossed, the lavender-hued landscapes of northern Provence had been his reward. Nearer to Good, there have been the red-ochre gorges of the Mercantour Nationwide Park to navigate earlier than he lastly swept up onto the Promenade des Anglais and a view of the town’s well-known Baie des Anges to accompany the ultimate few kilometers.
“I rigorously deliberate a route alongside smaller rural roads to keep away from motorways, busy regional roads and vehicles as a lot as attainable,” Albert says. He averaged 12 hours (together with stops) and 100 kilometers (62 miles) a day.
“I would cease for a plat du jour (each day particular) for lunch and at night time, I would pitch up in a campsite,” he says. There have been just some hours of dangerous climate to deal with throughout the entire two weeks.
He saved in each day contact with Frédéric, sending images and sharing his geopositioning.
“Frédéric adopted me,” Albert says. “He knew after I was stopping in a restaurant, for a beer, at a campsite, even by the aspect of the street. He simply could not really see me.”
Frédéric saved his practically 10,000 Twitter followers up to date on Albert’s progress, posting his images and infrequently a map of the day’s route.
The afternoon when Albert lastly arrived, Frédéric was able to rejoice with native beer and crimson, yellow and black balloons — and, after all, a plate of contemporary lavender croissants.
“We chatted for just a few hours about lavender, nature and life on the whole,” says Frédéric, talking to CNN Journey by telephone. “He got here again the subsequent day, and we spoke for just a few hours extra.”
Lavender-infused water is kneaded into the croissant dough. The meals coloring that provides them this brilliant hue largely bakes off within the oven.
The Croissant Crusader
Frédéric first began making lavender croissants two-and-a-half years in the past, including them to an unconventional vary that features raspberry, pistachio, choco-banana and hazelnut-flavored croissants that sells alongside the extra basic assortment of viennoiseries.
He is been hooked on his craft ever since he began as an apprentice baker in his early teenagers, regardless of the 4:30 a.m. begins six days per week.
As France grapples with claims that as much as 80% of croissants offered throughout the nation at present are ready-made, mass-produced variations cooked from frozen, Frédéric is rising because the nation’s croissant crusader, a determine to champion the standard, do-it-yourself croissant that’s so integral to its culinary heritage. It’s totally becoming for somebody whose surname is a homonym of “roi,” the French phrase for king.
He is devoted a lot of the previous 5 years to petitioning the nation’s politicians for a croissant de custom française (conventional French croissant) label, just like what already exists for the baguette.
“Some bakers have by no means really made a croissant of their lives,” he says. “I simply need individuals to know what they’re shopping for.”
At Boulangerie Roy Le Capitole, that is a croissant that is taken three days to make — the candy spot to realize the proper consistency and a barely nutty taste, in accordance with Frédéric — utilizing solely the best high quality components, together with 100% pure French unsalted butter.
He can bake as much as 1,200 pur beurre (100% butter) croissants a day, relying on the time of yr. In addition to the fresh-from-the-oven crates that he hand delivers to Good’s legendary Resort Negresco — the beachfront five-star resort that welcomes politicians, royalties and celebrities — for breakfast each morning, he’s normally offered out by lunch.
On weekends, it is commonplace for the queue outdoors his bakery to wind across the avenue nook.
Room for enchancment
As for Albert, he spent two days sightseeing in Good earlier than beginning the lengthy journey again to Belgium. This time, although, he solely needed to cycle the roughly 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Good to the small inland village of Puget-Théniers, the place a buddy had pushed to choose him and his bike up.
And what did he consider Frédéric’s lavender croissants? Had been they definitely worth the two-week journey?
“They had been good, however I believe they might be improved much more,” he says. “In Belgium, we regularly put pastry cream in croissants. Lavender and pastry cream, now that will be magnificent.”
Chrissie McClatchie is a Good-based journey author and guidebook writer whose tales from the Côte d’Azur and past have appeared in BBC Journey, Condé Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet and extra.