We have now reached Nice and have had the most gorgeous weather on our trip down to the south of France and along the ‘Med’. We have had days of 28 degrees and glorious sunshine, which is quite amazing for October! The campsites are once again empty now, much like when we started the Trip, with us being the only mad people in a tent. The mean age of the campsite residents is again around 70 because only the retirees on constant ‘holiday’ in their camper vans are left now everyone is back at work … it makes us feel quite young and sprightly! We are certainly a talking point as we rock up with our ‘rigs’ and set up camp, and it isn’t usually long before someone ambles over to find out what we’re up to so they can spread the word.
The terrain in Provence was quite hilly … or more to the point, mostly uphill … which we weren’t expecting, but it’s also full to bursting with the most gorgeous villages and towns – pretty much everything has 2 or 3 stars on our map (the stars denote something of goodness). The cycling infrastructure outsides the towns has not been great, with no cross country cycle paths, so we have been trying to pick out routes along less busy roads. This has been partially successful and partly not … we have been on some very circuitous routes, down some gravel service roads that are murder to cycle on and we have got lost quite a bit. This has meant that our travel distance estimates for each day have been woefully inaccurate and some ‘easy’ 40km days have turned out to be 70km. We have also battled the Mistral (a strong warm humid wind that blows over the Mediterranean sea from Africa) everyday, which has made it very hard going … but we’ve managed to overcome this with plenty of rehydration (beer) stops along the way and plenty of robust conversations about who fault it was that we … took the wrong turn or decided that the hilly ‘white’ road was the best option or decided that the main ‘red’ road wouldn’t be too busy etc. etc.
Once we reached the coast, we stayed in Marseille for a couple of days and really didn’t like it. It was very much like Milan … covered in graffiti, lots of homeless people and poverty and the place had a sort of dangerous feeling about it. I didn’t go out much.
We decided not to try and battle our way out of Marseille so took a train along the coast a bit and then cycled from there. The coast was an entirely different matter altogether and was just fabulous … the scenery was stunning and the weather was suitably ‘Mediterranean’. October is most definitely the time to go as the weather is still glorious and everywhere has settled into its quiet offseason pace. We strolled casually through quiet and charming coastal towns (such as St. Tropez, Cannes, Nice) commenting to each other how beautiful it all was …but this was usually followed by “but imagine it in August!” – Quel horreur!
We are now in Nice and have totally lost our hearts to the place. Everything is just gobsmacking!
It is amazingly beautiful and the town planning is done really well. There is the most incredible and HUGE open space in the centre, which is like a linear park that just seems to go on and on! It is full of interesting public art, a really cool children’s play area and places for people to just hang out. I wonder if Auckland can do anything this good in its planned linear park for Victoria street … I do hope so! There are also bike paths and bus lanes on practically every street (of course) a good tram system and a large pedestrian/bike only area, plus driving in the city looks like a total nightmare with an incredibly complex one way system that evidently puts off most people from attempting to drive anywhere – a brilliant plan all round!
Tomorrow we head off on a train back to Montpellier so that we can venture into the Dordogne region, which will be our last cycle touring leg 😦 We will try and camp where we can but ‘all year round’ campsites are few and far between and the weather will no doubt turn in the next few weeks. My weather app has described one of the days next week as ‘dreary’ and the beginning of November is forecast as ‘0 degrees’ overnight for several days with ‘highs’ that only go to single figures … I don’t know if I’m prepared for a European winter!
After that we are heading up to our ‘long term’ accommodation near Tours where we plan to spend the winter months before heading home (via the UK) in February … but I’ll tell you more about that in another post.
We have actually had a couple of punctures recently … yes, after five and a half thousand kilometres, the Marathon plus tyres actually allowed some damage to the inner tubes! To be fair, they are very much on their last legs and have very little tread left on them. They have been the most amazing tyres and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Anyway, the first puncture occurred in my front tyre and was caused by a large shard of glass that we had to dig out of the tyre – fair enough. The second puncture occurred in the Husbands front tyre and was completely avoidable. You have to imagine the picture … a lot of the coastal road runs directly next to the beach and a lot of the women on said beach are topless … anyway I’m sure you’re way ahead of me here … but the Husband was not paying attention to the road (his eyes were elsewhere … on stalks) and went into a large pothole … result: a pinch puncture and a Husband desperately trying to plead innocence. He obviously thinks I was born yesterday!
The Husband is now on his 3rd e-reader having destroyed the previous two by various means. The latest incident involved his e-reader jumping out of his front bag on to the road all by itself … needless to say it didn’t survive even though I managed to rescue it before it was run over.
My clothing has at long last started to slowly disintegrate and is holding together by mere threads … I’m just hoping they will survive a couple more weeks until November when we will be settled in our winter accommodation. Our plan is then to head into the local town and buy some basic winter clothing to see us through until our return to NZ. Although, I may get something special to the value of two e-readers!
‘D’ = distance & ’T’ = time
1st October Grenoble to Beauvoir-en-royans: D 61Km / T 4:00 mins
2nd October Beauvoir-en-royans to Valence: D 66Km / T 4:00 mins
3rd October Valence to La Coucourde: D 49Km / T 3:13 mins
4th October La Coucourde to Mondragon: D 68Km / T 4:34 mins
5th October Mondragon to Sourges: D 63Km / T 4:38 mins
6th October Sourges to Avignon : D 26Km / T 1:56 mins
7th October Avignon to Arles: D 45Km / T 3:00 mins
8th October Arles to Salon: D 46Km / T 3:23 mins
9th October Salon to Aix-en-Provence: D 45Km / T 3:29 mins
10th October Aix-en-Provence to Marseille: D 25Km / T 2:00 mins (we took a train from the outskirts of Marseille because the roads were nasty!)
13th October Marseille to Six-four les Plages (train from Marseille to Bandol): D 16kms / T 1:15
14th October Six-four to Le Pradet: D 35Km / T 2:10 mins
15th October Le Pradet to Le Lavandue: D 42Km / T 2:56 mins
16th October Le Lavandue to St Tropez: D 44Km / T 3:12 mins
17th October St Tropez to Frejus: D 45Km / T 3:00 mins
18th October Frejus to Mandelieu: D 44Km / T 3:02 mins
19th October Mandelieu to Nice: D 55Km / T 3:51 mins
Total ‘Trip’ distance so far: 5508km
Check out the map