Where to stay
The closest major airport is in Marseille, a lively port city about two hours away by car. There are three towns where it is convenient to stay and rent bikes for the trip up Mont Ventoux. Bédoin and Malaucène are dominated in season by cycling culture; Sault is a fortified hill town known for nearby lavender fields. For a larger city with Roman ruins and a picturesque old town, try nearby Vaison la Romaine. (More info on all four at www.provenceweb.fr/e.)
WHERE TO EAT
For a splurge, try Bistro du'O in Vaison (www.bistroduo.fr) or Le Pont de l'Orme in Malaucène (www.lepontdelorme.com).
WHERE TO RENT A BIKE
We had good luck with France Bike Rentals (www.francebikerentals.com) in Bédoin. The mechanic sized us up without measurements, we could rent without a reservation in the off-season, and a helmet, bike computer, pedals and repair tools came with the rental. Expect to pay $40-$50 for one day for a low-end carbon fiber bike with a triple crank; the price drops sharply with rentals of three days or more.