Meet the man who cycled 1400 km for a croissant

Albert Van Limbergen is a pensioner living near Liège in Belgium who embarked on quite an adventure this summer. He cycled from his homeland 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, owner of Boulangerie Roy Le Capitole in Nice. The talented baker said he didn’t know anyone who made lavender croissants and that’s how Albert found him in the first place.

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He was at home changing TV channels when he saw something on the news about a nice baker making pastries with the aromatic plant. A self-confessed lover of lavender, “from the smell to the taste, and fields of blue, green, and purple,” Albert didn’t take too long to make the decision to try the croissants.

As I watched the story, I realized I had found a reason to go to France. Because if I don’t have a destination or a reason to travel, I don’t know how.

Albert Van Limbergen to CNN Travel

That was in 2021, and some of Albert’s friends even jokingly sent a letter to Frédéric warning him of the arrival of a lavender-loving Belgian. Then the two managed to get in touch and plan the trip.

The task was easier said than done as Covid-19 travel restrictions were still in place making the trip difficult to complete. This summer, on June 28th, Albert finally left. Equipped only with a sleeping bag, a tent, a change of clothes, tools for repairing his bike and 7 liters of water, he traveled through Belgium and France until he finally reached Frédéric’s bakery on July 12th.

During his 15-day journey, he covered about 100 km each day and cycled for about 12 hours. “I carefully planned a route along minor country roads to avoid freeways, busy regional roads and cars as much as possible,” Albert told CNN Travel over the phone.

The two men kept in touch throughout the journey and Frédéric regularly posted updates of Albert’s journey on his Twitter account, with pictures and even the route traveled that day. “News from Albert, who left Belgium by bike to Nice to collect his lavender croissants. He has already covered almost 900 km and is now in Serrés,” reads the July 9 update.

Knowing exactly when Albert would arrive, Frédéric was waiting for him with red, yellow and black balloons to match the Belgian flag and of course a fresh batch of his famous lavender croissants. The two chatted for hours before Albert left the bakery, but he returned the next day for another helping.

Frédéric said it takes three days to make a croissant from scratch, which many bakers in France no longer do. He uses only the highest quality ingredients, including lavender grown on a vast limestone plateau high up on the Côte d’Azur and 100% pure French butter. On a typical day, he bakes up to 1,200 plain butter croissants alongside hundreds of flavored ones. He also supplies the pastries for the Hotel Negresco, where politicians, royalty and celebrities stay when they visit Nice.

After two days in Nice, Albert made his way back to Belgium, this time only cycling about 70 km. One of his friends picked him and his bike up in Puget-Théniers, a small village near Nice.

After cycling 1,4000 km to get the croissant of his dreams, you’d expect him to be thrilled, but Albert said the pastry could be improved. “They were good, but I think they could still be improved. In Belgium we often put pastry cream in croissants. Lavender and pastry cream would be great,” he explained.

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