Day 16 – 19th April
Frontiynan to Alges Martes – 26 miles
Gary – Rubbish place to stay last night, I slept badly, we were both bitten even though we were covered up. The morning greeted us with rain, thunder and lightening. So we decided to search kindle for a weather update, it soon transpired that it was set in for the day so we booked a place 26 miles a way so that we could do half a day and dry out.
The weather was wet windy and thundery (it sounded like a train or plane, really loud) all the way but it could have been worse. We managed to miss the major down pours as some of the roads and paths we travelled on were deep in rain water. Far more than we were experiencing. The route was good very flat and scenic (if we stopped we got very cold it was only 10 degrees C) We did spot some flamingoes in the estuary and stopped and took some pictures. We had thought we spotted some yesterday but there was no pink in their feathers but today there was no mistaking them.
The hotel was a motel which was better for us as this meant we could cycle our bikes to the front door. We put the heating on full, to try and dry out the clothes. We had a bath and cycled bag free into town, it was a Roman walled city and the rain had stopped to a drizzle, so we had a good look round.
Saw a family of two adults and three young children who were cycle touring for 6 months from Lyon to Corsica. We also saw another touring man all loaded up. We had hoped to exchange stories with fellow tourers but language is proving a real issue.
We shared a pizza in the restaurant and purchased wine and sweets for later in the day.
We took advantage of the free afternoon to sort the bags, I have put all the cooking stuff in one large bag instead of the three bags they were in. I have put all my clothes in a smaller bag.
There is still a problem with the apple mac but Ginette has managed to do the update on the kindle.
You should have seen the state of the room it was smelly and messy and that’s all Ginette’s stuff (Ginette – cheeky!).
Day 17 – 20th April
Alges Martes to Mallemort
Gary – A lot of our stuff was still wet this morning which meant we had to put on wet shoes yuk!
Breakfast was good but not worth the 8 euros each, we had thought it was included in the price of the hotel room, had we have known it wasn’t we could have gone to the supermarkets across the road! Valuable lesson learnt we will check next time before scoffing our faces and pockets.
Nice ride but 12c so we wrapped up warm. Followed a large canal for 5 miles which took us NE.
We are now away from the coast and the north side of the main road. Pretty flat day which got warmer by the afternoon (22c)
Stopped for lunch at Ales the was an old roman town with two amphitheatres so we had a stroll around with our bikes and took some photos. Lots of tourists and families so we think the schools are off.
Most of the day was really flat, we cycled along avenues with large oaks on either side. Later in the afternoon the horizon showed some hills our route took us to the foot of the hills, although there was a little climbing there were no real problems.
The last flat day as been good for our knees, I have had no real issues for the past few days. The legs do get tired at about 40 miles. We stopped at a war memorial for a food break and a photo and stepping down from the war memorial was a struggle as my legs are only used to cycling.
Today’s camp site away from the coast is quite clean, mossy free and we have cycled into town for a beer so that we can charge up the Garmin.
Ginette – the bar we are in is a proper working man’s bar (no women except me) It was interesting to watch the french men greet each other with 3 kisses -,can’t see this catching on in the UK. It only seems to apply to men they know well (perhaps family members??) must look this up when we have access to the internet.
Day 18 – 21st April
Mallemort to St Martini
Ginette – Lovely camp site – there are a lot of very noisy night birds in Spain, I keep meaning to look them up, you really have to hear them to believe the noise they make.
Gary; Before we set off I looked at the potential route and viewed the satellite images, it looked like we were in for a bumpy day, I opted to go back down towards the A8 road and try to loosely follow this to Cannes.
Ginette Set off at 9.30am, Gary informed me that we would do 8 miles and he would check the Garmin for directions. I felt very chilled so, stupidly set off without any chewing gum or iPod, this was clearly a mistake because within a mile of leaving the campsite we started a 4 mile climb up a mountain (Gary a volumptuous mound). I stopped to strip off, put chewing gum in and turned the iPod on, just as well because it was a very long climb. As I caught Gary up he offered to race me to the top, he knows I can’t resist a challenge,but it took all my might to keep going, however I did reach the top before him. At 11.00am we had managed a grand 8 miles of cycling!
The day was really hard, lots of hills (mountains) to climb, some of which were very narrow and a little scary with the cars coming in both directions, I got off and walked one tight bend because I was convinced I was going to cause an accident.
The day was really hot, at one point it reached 32c, I have little heat blisters on my hands, it is exhausting cycling in high temperatures, but better than cycling in the wind and cold. Even my iPod acknowledged how hot it was – at one point it would not play, it simply showed me a thermometer saying it was too hot!
At lunch time we stopped in a town called Aix-en-Provence and luckily stumbled on an Apple Store, I thought I would give them another go at fixing our apple mac and this time they were much more successful. We were really impressed with the service and even more so as there was no charge.
This was a busy city with lots of traffic and lots of tourists, we walked our bikes up a tree lined avenue with three fountains and a market that was packing away, we hoped to find some food to add to our bread sticks.
I purchased some new sunglasses from the market as I had broken one pair and my spare pair kept misting up when I breathed too heavily (and this happens lots).
The new sun glasses make everything look squidgy, I feel like a child on my bike, everything looks smaller it must be the lenses, hopefully I will get used to them soon.
We stopped just outside of town in a park and had to make do with bread and jam as we hadn’t found a food shop other than the expensive tourist delights.
Gary; The afternoon was just as hilly, we climbed to 1700ft before we were able to cycle back to join the roads near the A8. The days cycling has been hard but the views and scenary have been worth it, although Ginette has not been a happy bunny today, she wants someone to iron out the countryside to remove the lumps. From the hill tops you can view the direction we need to be cycling and I think if we can follow the main road we might be able to flatten the route a little, but following the main road sometimes involves diverting into the nearby hills.
Ginette – Stopped for a wee on a very quiet country road, just as I had dropped my pants… you’ve guessed it a tractor passed by with full view of my big white bum.
It was a long day and we thought we were going to have to wild camp, but fortunately we stumbled on a Mcdonalds, so we stopped so we could use the free wifi, and have a drink and ice-cream.
I used my kindle and we located a camp site within 3km – or course it was up another hill!
As I write this blog we are surrounded by really loud noises – frogs we think?? we heard a similar chorus after dark in Australia.
Day 19 – 22nd April St Martin De Crew to Nr St Tropez – 52 miles
Gary – We were surrounded by a frog chorus most of last night Ginette found it very hard to sleep.
Ginette – you have never heard anything like it, just as you thought they’d gone to sleep they’d start up again. Hardly slept a wink.
Gary- Today was a mix again of flat, hilly (11% climbs), large and minor roads. We had a small climb to do though a quiet road Ginette walked, she was really upset at this it, she had been listening to her iPod and arrived at the top upset and ready to quit the challenge.
Ginette – finding it really hard, 3 weeks of non stop cycling (we cycle from morning until late afternoon every day, sometimes if we set off later until 7.00pm) living in a tent, not feeling feminine, not speaking to anyone other than Gary (who is lovely but it’s not the same as talking to friends during the day), counting the pennies and having too much time to think, Gary is distracted by the Garmin whilst I just have hours (some are very long, when you’re climbing hills) to pass by, totally different to being at home where your head is so busy you don’t have time to think. Sometimes the time flies by and I really enjoy the moment, and I feel smug that I am living such a privileged adventure, cycling in the sun, listening to the music or pod casts but sometimes it is hard….
It definitely is not what I signed up to, we had discussed a cycle trip where we could stop when we wanted to and enjoy our surroundings. Instead we feel like we are racing against a clock to get to Rhodes (for the wedding and a week in the villa). It feels like the adventure is more about the destination than the journey and that was not the plan. I resigned myself to cycling 56 miles a day but I feel although we are doing the miles they’re not in a direct line and we are behind schedule.
I had hoped that each day (or at least most days) we would be finished by 3-4pm and we could enjoy a beer, sit by the pool and relax. Rather vainly I had hoped to arrive in Rhodes with a golden suntan, slimmer and chilled. Instead at this rate I will look as if I’ve been dipped in creosote to my cycling shorts and teeshirt lines, and black and blue (the bike keeps biting me) and very stressed.
I did read on someone elses blog that it takes about 6 weeks to start enjoying the adventure so I will keep on enjoying the good moments and fight the negativity within me. Moan over
Gary – The afternoon was spent cycling with an upset Netty, I suggested we ended the day with a cycle to to St Tropez, which was 18 miles away, we followed the main road. To do this we had to climb a small range of hills, the road was narrow and windy and the buses and lorries didn’t have much room, to boot there was no cycle path/lane. I crashed into the side barrier going up and knocked a front pannier off and one of my spokes on the bike popped out*.
At the top in a small town Le Grande Friend we stopped for a cold drink and logged on to find a camp site. The owner suggested a camp site 3 miles down the hill in the right direction so we headed that way.
Fortunately the camp site was easy to find and the receptionist spoke english. We also saw an English couple (first on this trip) who kindly invited us to a drink. Their names were Collette and Bob. They were around the same age as me in that they were both early 50’s and had been married for 2 years and both had retired. They live on site for 7 months of the year. Bob has been coming to the site for over 30 years so was very knowledgable about the area and is seen as one of the locals. We had a really nice night with them, they were very generous with the wine and lifted Ginette’s dark mood.
Ginette – a big thank you to Collette and Bob for a) inviting us for a drink, b) plying us with several glasses of wine and nibbles c) entertaining us and ifting my mood, by the end of the evening the world seemed normal again and I felt ready to tackle the next day.
They were a lovely couple who had chosen quality over quantity and were enjoying a simple and relaxed retirement, we wish them well and hope to keep in touch with them.
*Bob informed us that about 10 years several people had lost their lives on the road leading up to Le Grande and that barriers had been put into to improve safety, but as Gary said it still felt a little narrow and scary
Day 20 – 23rd April Nr St Tropez St Aygulf
Ginette neither of us slept very well, before going to sleep we had an honest conversation about how we felt about the trip and agreed to look at the mileage completed so far against our end destination and re-evaluate our plans.
As I expected the mileage was not going in the wrong direction and we needed to come up with a plan b.
We decided to cycle to St Tropez to speak to a travel agent, although she was extremely generous with her time she was not really able to help.
Gary – cycle ride in to St Tropez, down hill most of the way with a cycle track!
Ginette – We can fly for about €230 (Nice to Rome) or take two ferries for approx €150 euros (this option only saves approx 350 miles) or hire another car, with the latter at least we get to see the route we would have cycled. As is often the case in France all shops were shut for an extended lunch so we will email a number of companies tonight to get some quotes, however it is likely we will not be able to hire a car until we enter Italy. Our plan at this stage is to hire a car and drive through Italy and play in Greece on our bikes. But as we are finding out not everything goes to plan.
St Tropez was as I expected it to be, full of shops and tourists. There were some people around with style and money but there were a lot more people who looked just like us…
The mayor/president had apparently paid a visit to the town recently and agreed that Bridget Bardot could be buried on her little parcel of land.
We stopped at a restaurant for a drink and the use of the wifi Gary had a tea and I had a diet coke – guess how much that cost in euros??? an unbelievable €10.50!!!
We cycled for a further 20 miles along the coast and were pleasantly surprised to find a camp site for €12 euros right on the coast.
Gary – whilst cycling along the coast road we came across some roadworks declaring the road a one way system but another cyclist ignored the road sign so we followed. I hit a big stone and swerved into the brick wall – stopping the traffic. One of the bags fell off and I hit my finger giving me a black finger nail other than that no harm done.
It was a sunny 23c all along the med with holiday resorts (not too tacky either) all along the coast.
We think we are now looking at the Alps in the distance.
Any extra plus for this camp site I think we have managed to charge up all our devices without having to pay, every penny counts, especially if we are having to look at other modes of transport.
Ginette – an observation as we sit here writing up our blog all over France no matter how small or big the town there is always a game of boules going on somewhere.
Day 21- 24th April
St Agulf to Nice
Gary – the morning ride was superb we had an undulating coastal route with sunny little bays, big steep drops down the small walled road, carries and blue skies. Loads of other cyclists (some brits) so I guess it is a recognised cycle tour area.
Ginette – this was my favourite mornings ride, it truly is beautiful, if you get a chance to cycle the french coast I thoroughly recommend it.
We had lunch stopped by a beach which was covered with blue jelly fish, the kind that have a sail or their backs.
Cycled through Cannes – some very posh areas, huge boats in the marinas and lots of upmarket shops like Prada.
The cycle paths have been great today, proper dedicated lines separating us from the traffic.
We cycled right next to Nice airport so went in to try and to talk to the car hire companies direct but no joy.
Net and I had a miscommunication at around 3pm, I had looked up camp sites and they were all very close. Net asked how many miles it was to Nice which was approx 10 miles, so we cycled there however she thought I had found a campsite in Nice not that this was this distance to Nice. Once in Nice we realised there were no local campsites other than going back the 10 miles we had cycled, the city was packed (rush hour on a Friday) so we booked into a hotel and had a pizza locally.
Ginette – I am not a city girl but Nice seems like a good city to visit, we wandered around with our bikes and other than some drama (blood all over the pavement and police everywhere) it felt very chilled, lots of restaurants, trams, bars, museums and plaza’s and of course shops.