Albert Van Limbergen is a retired man living close to Liège, Belgium, who set off on quite the adventure this summer. He cycled from his home all the way to the south of France and all for a croissant.
Of course, such a journey was not made for just any croissant, but for the famous lavender croissants of Frédéric Roy, the owner of Boulangerie Roy Le Capitole, in Nice. The talented baker said he did not know of anyone else making lavender croissants, which is how Albert found him in the first place.
He was at his home, changing TV channels, when he saw something on the news about a Nice baker making pastries with the aromatic plant. As a self-proclaimed lover of lavender, “from the smell to the taste and the fields of blue, green and violet”, it did not take Albert too long to make the decision of trying the croissants.
As I watched the story, I realized I’d found a reason to go to France. Because if I don’t have a goal or reason to travel, I don’t know how to.Albert Van Limbergen told CNN Travel
This was back in 2021 and some of Albert’s friends, joking around, even sent a letter to Frédéric, warning him about the arrival of a lavender loving Belgian. Then, the two managed to get in touch and started planning the trip.
The task was easier said than done, since Covid-19 travel restrictions were still in place and made it difficult for the journey to take place. Albert finally set off this summer, on 28 June. Equipped with only a sleeping bag, a tent, a change of clothes, tools for bike repairs and 7 litters of water, he made his way through Belgium and France until finally reaching Frédéric’s bakery on 12 July.
On his 15-day journey, he covered about 100 km each day, cycling for about 12 hours. “I carefully planned a route along smaller rural roads to avoid motorways, busy regional roads and cars as much as possible”, Albert told CNN travel over the phone.
For the entire journey, the two men were in contact and Frédéric frequently posted updates of Albert’s journey on his Twitter account, with pictures and even the route covered on that day. “News from Albert who left Belgium by bike to Nice to pick up his lavender croissants. He has already travelled nearly 900 km and is now in Serrés”, the update from 9 July says.
Knowing exactly when Albert would arrive, Frédéric awaited him with red, yellow and black balloons, matching the Belgian flag, and, of course, a fresh batch of his renowned lavender croissants. The two talked for hours before Albert left the bakery, but he came back the next day for another serving.
Frédéric said it takes three days to make a croissant from scratch, which many bakers in France no longer do. He only uses the finest quality ingredients, including lavender grown on a wide limestone plateau high up in the Côte d’Azur and 100% pure French butter. On a regular day, he bakes up to 1,200 plain butter croissants, besides hundreds of flavoured ones. He also provides the pastries for Hotel Negresco, where politicians, royalties and celebrities stay when visiting Nice.
After two days in Nice, Albert made his way back to Belgium, only cycling about 70 km this time. One of his friends picked him, and his bike, up from Puget-Théniers, a small village close to Nice.
After cycling for 1,400 km to get the croissant of his dreams, you would expect him to be ecstatic, but Albert said the pastries could be improved. “They were good, but I think they could be improved even more. In Belgium, we often put pastry cream in croissants. Lavender and pastry cream, now that would be magnificent”, he explained.