Day 21- 24th April
St Agulf to Nice
Gary – the mornings ride was superb we had an undulating coastal route with sunny little bays, big steep drops down the small walled road 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 was 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 on their backs.
Cycled through Cannes – some very posh areas, huge boats in the marinas and lots of upmarket shops like Prada, Channel, and Gucci.
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 the 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.
Day 22 Nice to San Remo
approx 40 miles
Late start this morning due to a very late night, taking advantage of a hotel room, free wifi (time to update the blog) and a city (dinner out, we shared a pizza in a local restaurant – last of the big spenders).
Met some English people on our way out of the hotel who showed an interest in our trip, I didn’t realise they were waiting to enter the hotel, I was waiting for them to move so I could move my bike, we gave them a card with our blog on and if you are reading this my apologies and I hope the 1/2 marathon went well, their Son lives and works near Venice and daughter in law works at the airport.
It was much colder than it had been in recent days. It was even trying to drizzle in the morning.
Nice easy day cycled through Monaco, even went on the race track, but sadly Nic we did not stop for a long glass of wine (weather was pants and we blew our budget in Nice). We crossed the Italy border just after lunch and cycled onto San Remo. I don’t know whether it was because it was slightly overcast but the French coast was much prettier than the Italian coast the area looked a little run down (graffitti and cheap shops, the only time we saw graffiti in Nice was on the trains that passed through the city).
Stopped in a Macdonalds (slowly becoming our favourite restaurant – good toilets, free wifi and cheap drinks and ice cream). On this occasion I had been to the loo and pushed what I thought was the metal flush on the wall, only it was not the flush and it came crashing down on me and the toilet. The guy outside asked if I was OK, which I meekly replied ‘yes no problemo’ as I looked around I realised the flush was on the floor, I tried my best to replace the metal frame which hid the pipework, and left the toilets red faced, hoping no one else had heard the commotion.
Gary’s garmin is playing up again so we have purchased a map. Fortunately the camp site was on route, we have set up on some cobble stones,having to peg through the gaps in the stones, this set up felt very weird, we were the only tent amongst some mobile homes, it was a real test for the blow up beds (which are much better than I gave them credit for at the beginning of this blog).
We are currently sitting in the middle of San Remo, we had hoped to find a car hire company but apparently because it is a holiday in Italy they’re all shut. So we have decided to cycle onto Genova and hope either a company will respond to our email before we arrive or we can book a vehicle at the airport.
Gary – A meal out again of Pizza in the campsites restaurant and was served by Manuel from Faulty Towers, he skipped and ran every time he had to make his way around the restaurant, very funny.
If the weather was warmer we could go for a swim in the beautiful sheltered bay that this campsite has but as it is chilly Net is sitting in the tent with a wholly hat on and thick socks.
Day 23 – San Remo to Albenga
Woke early today, air beds worked a treat, Gary thought he heard thunder (which later turned out to be trolleys being used in the camp site) so we packed up quickly and was on the road for 9.00am
Easy ride for the first 18 miles, it was along a cycle path which was used by all walks of life, both walkers, runners and cyclists (we know lycra is not flattering but the Italians should be told it really is not flattering in white unless you are super slim and toned!) but as Gary pointed out in contrast there were lots of older men still cycling and running and look really fit on it – I have to agree, and I confess these were much more enjoyable to watch, very toned, athletic bodies, the majority of Italians do seem to take care of themselves.
For the next 9 miles we cycled up over the coast road, Gary was stopped as we started the climb to be told in very broken English the cycle path down below was much flatter, but he did not fully understand and thought we could drop down to the path after the first climb, this was not the case and we climbed and climbed, I was pretty chilled I was listening to a podcast but Gary was frustrated as he could see the cycle path below!
Once we reached the beach again we stumbled across a triathlon so we stopped to take a look and take a photo, before stopping for lunch on the beach. (Gary; Ginette posed for a victory photo but she could not have won the race as all the others would have cycled in the major wind break her bike and panniers would make and they would have just overtaken her at the finish sprint)
Lunch was a very chilled affair, strawberries, sandwiches, cakes and crisps in the sunshine, very lazy and relaxed.
It was a little early to stop for the day so we decided to find a camp site in the next town, unfortunately they all looked a little tired and rundown in addition they were out of town so we agreed to cycle to the next town. We found one in the next town but we could not put our tent up until after 3.30pm so we cycled into town to look at the medieval town (yes guys we finished cycling before 2.00pm, heaven, unfortunately the sun was playing hide and seek).
The Town was very dated but had a lovely central area with narrow streets with bars and shops (Sunday so most were closed). We stopped to use the free wifi and have a glass of wine, only to be told the wifi did not work, the wine was gorgeous and even though it was €5 each it was worth it.
The camp site was the most expensive campsite to date (€25, the average price has been €17) and it was nothing special. We even had to pay for the shower which was an interesting experience. We didn’t know how long you got in the shower for 50cents but we only had two coins. With this in mind as I am in out of a shower really quickly we decided I would go in first and Gary could jump in mine when I finished. I undressed, put my 50 cents in the machine and nothing. Gary came into the shower to see if he could get it to work, but it was clearly broken. So he handed me a towel so I could go in the next cubicle. I should inform you at this point that these showers were in a block that opened up to the campsite outside! So there we were trying to juggle showers, clothes etc in our towels. I managed to have a quick shower, jump out with a towel on and run to the next cubicle where Gary had placed my clothes so he could jump in the functional shower, he just had time to wash the soap off before the shower cut out completely – it was like taking part in a carry on movie.
It was really over cast in the evening and threatening to rain so we had another pizza from the on site restaurant. I have eaten more pizza on this trip than I did all of last year. Hopefully we will have something more exciting for dinner tomorrow. The wine in the restaurant was very cheap only €1.50 but I should have checked what midi meant when the waitress asked did I want midi, because this turned out to be small jug of wine. Needless to say I drank it, returned to the tent and fell promptly to sleep.
Day 24 – Albenga to Savona
Woke in the middle of the night and thought it was the morning, went to the loo and came back to find it was only 2.00am!! The campsite was so well lit that it felt like the middle of the day. I then struggled to go back to sleep.
It rained lots in the night and was still drizzly when we packed up our tent, yuk.
It then went on to rain all day, double yuk
The terrain was mainly flat day with some coastal climbs, the sea was rough and was great to watch as we cycled along. Passed through a number of small seaside towns, which looked grey and tired (but this could have been due to the weather)
We inadvertently cycled on to the motorway today, we seem to be making a habit of this as I recall doing this once or twice with Stuart. It is much easier to do than you would imagine, there’s no signage until you’re on the motorway! on this occasion we were cycling through some tunnels (very long tunnels) and when we came out the other side, there we were on the motorway!
We finished by the sea (port), Gary had planned two short days to Genoa but with the weather being so bad we could have kept going directly to Genoa, hey ho.
Camp site was very basic and virtually on the beach, on a hot sunny day it would be heaven, but on a cold wet windy day it was a little worrying, the sea was lashing over the rocks which were only 20 feet away from the tent.
Gary; Pitched the tent 20 feet away from the sea, if it gets any rougher we may end up feeding the fishes. if we were wild camping there is no way we would pitch here but the owners of the site seem happy for us to camp in this spot so they should know if it is safe or not.
an afternoon off today, at present spent sitting in the tent listening to the rain lashing down.
I hope the weather improves this site would be perfect if the sun was shining, we have our own huge bath tub near our tent, called the Mediterranean sea.
Ginette – the rain finally stopped at about 5.30 so we went into town (about a 1 mile walk) to have a look around and access wifi.
The town was a port town and although some of the buildings were impressive, they were dated, the town was very much a working town and very multi-cultural
We stopped at a lovely cafe I ordered a glass of wine and Gary had a small beer, when the drinks arrived they also came with the customary snack (where ever we have stopped for a drink in Italy we have been given crisps and nibbles), but on this occasion we were presented with small slices of pizza, pitta breads, crisps and wraps a feast for less than a round of drinks in the Ring O Bells!
We took advantage of the warm cafe and rang home to sort some finances and to speak to Hayley. It was good to hear her voice and to know that she is coping well without us.
On the financial front I am aware that at least 50% of our expenditure is on food and drink (not dissimilar to home) This is probably £120 a week, which is interestingly a little less than a single person living on state pension would be expected to live on! I am sure once we have been to Rhodes we can reduce this significantly, but it is a challenge to have to think about the cost of food and drink whereas at home we just took this for granted (me more so than Gary)
We are finding it really hard to wild camp on the coast so a lot of our daily allowance is spent on camping. Ideally we need to accumulate a contingency budget for the unexpected i.e. car hire, train fees, broken bike etc. otherwise we may need to bite into our other savings and we don’t want to do this.
Day 25 Savona
Didn’t sleep well again last night, my brain seems to be in over drive. Last night it was thoughts about money, and how we are going to spend our time between here and Rhodes.
Gary; I cycled unladen to the three car hire places we saw last night to try to sort out a car, the one we had hired on line to collect at Genoa airport have e-mailed to say it is not available so a face to face conversation is needed.
The eurocar guy was a nice lad and wanted to help but had only small cars, he suggested I tried the Hertz shop. Neither Hertz or Avis do the one way hire we need and the eurocar man had shut up shop so back to the camp site.
We packed up with a view to cycle to Genoa, stopping at Eurocar to pre book a car. the shop was still shut, we tried phoning the Genoa airport but the lady on the phone was not much use and told us to go back and book on line. as we were doing this the shop keepers came back, we ended up booking a medium size car (hoping our bikes would fit) for tomorrow morning from this same shop, so a day to kill.
We went back to the same campsite and put the tent back up. It was still a bit wet and miserable outside, we managed to wash out our clothes, in the wrong sinks as two separate locals pointed out to us.
Once the weather cleared a little we wandered into town, a walk around an old fort and a cathedral and the narrow streets of the old town, then we stopped in the same cafe as yesterday, free internet and loads of decent exotic snacks.
We then went back on the campsite / beach to write our blog in the sun which finally broke through the clouds. Drank some red wine at €1.80 per bottle, its a hard life but someones got to try to live it.
Dinner was meat ravioli, pre bagged which just needed boiling, and some salad.
Ginette – we had a lovely chilled day, the weather could have been a little better, but we made the most of the sun when it did make an appearance. Gary didn’t want me to miss an inch of the sun so when it started to go down, leaving us in the shade he lifted me and my chair several meters across the camp site to ensure I didn’t miss a drop. The locals must have thought he was crazy, my girly screaming didn’t help.
Day 26 – 28 – car days
Lovely morning, breakfast in the sun, enjoyed the simple pleasure of feeding the pigeons whilst we had a lazy breakfast. I still think of them as vermin but they’re much more attractive and entertaining than I have noticed before, I can see why people would have an interest in them.
I packed up the tent whilst Gary went for the car.
We had a red Fiat something (red with 4 doors and 4 wheels and a steering wheel) Gary had to break the bikes down for them to fit.
Cycled to Pisa and unintentionally parked immediately opposite Pisa it self. Before we even got out of the car two Samolian men accosted us trying to sell us sunglasses and bracelets, they were very pushy, to the point I had to tell them that they were harassing us. I have a lot of admiration for them, not only have they been displaced from their country and adapted to living in foreign climes but they’ve learnt to speak several languages as well. They just need to learn the cultures of each of the countries. On our return to the car park a much more pleasant young man told us which pay station to use, he was polite and friendly without being pushy, had we not had the experience before we may have been tempted to give him a euro or two, but his ‘friends’ were hovering and it felt if we succumbed to one we would have been hassled all the way back to our car.
We loved Pisa, unlike other worldwide tourist attractions, it was not over crowded and there was a lot to see without having to spend a penny, well worth a visit. Whilst we were there we bumped into two tourers from France who had taken 6 months out to cycle Europe, unfortunately their English was not very good and our French even worse.
I can’t get over how young people seem so obsessed with taking photos of themselves, whilst we had lunch a group of young people spent the whole time snapping away and taking selfies even individuals take photo’s of themselves (we have seen this lots on our trip) I simply don’t understand, it must be an age thing.
Once we had finished looking around we got back in the car to drive to Florence. On the way there we changed our minds, we realised that we were already touristed out after only one day and we were fed up of sitting in a car we just wanted to get rid of it (Italian drivers are very aggressive, they sit on your bumper and beep constantly). Driving was mentally stressful and we both wanted the luxury of our bikes.
We camped in a small mountain town called Chiusi Della Verna, this site had a really nice stone walled toilet block complete with bidies. We visited Rimini and carried on driving all day until we stopped at the seaside in Vastro. The next morning was a fairly short drive and we dropped the car off at Bali early Friday morning.
We had no plan so cycled up the coast to Giovinozzo, it was the 1st May and clearly a bank holiday in Italy, most shops were shut (a lot of camp sites are still shut) and there were lots of people milling around the central town area. Giovinozzo is a surprising town, the sort of town you would cycle straight past but fortunately we didn’t and we experienced a hidden oasis of beautiful buildings medieval streets and lovely a fountain in the main square plus sea views across the Adiatic.
We have made a plan to cycle in land to the national park (which will mean some hill climbing!) and back down the coast to Brindisi, from Brindisi to Greece. We have then got a approx 150 miles to cycle to Athens with a little bit of luck and time on our sides we may have time to stop off at one of the greek islands on our way to Rhodes.
The campsite we stayed in was very basic and some of the people on site were out to celebrate the bank holiday in style, one man in particular was very noisy, he kept taking great pleasure when his side scored a goal in the fuzz ball challenge (Italians play a lot of table football) fortunately it did not stop me from falling asleep but I did hear him at about 2.00am going back to his camper van!
At most of the sites we have stayed in there are a number of camper vans, groups of families/friends pitch up together and set up camp. Tables are set out between camper vans and areas claimed for the groups. Kids have the freedom of the camp site and parents sit back and chill with a beer. One guy we saw at our last sight was a little too chilled, his group arrived at 9.00am and once the tables were set up he promptly stripped down to his budgie smugglers (or as I called them to Gary’s amusement his ‘pigeon smugglers’)
I have broken the screen on my kindle which is driving me mad, I have to keep turning the screen to turn the page but with the imposed rest time I have finished the ‘Girl on the Train’ in a couple of days. It was highly recommended but if I’m honest I was a little disappointed by this book. Any other recommendations welcome, it is great to have time to read in an evening and a brilliant way to spend our final hour of the day (not missing TV at all).
Day 29 – 2nd May
Giovinozzo – to Castle de Monte
Late start due to the fact that we had to charge up our electrical devizes, we have looked on line and there doesn’t appear to be any camp sites for the next couple of nights and we are not cycling through any big towns.
Gary; Cycling today with a headwind and hills was hard on the old legs and also my bruised arse, not been in the saddle for a few days so could feel every bump and the lactic acid was quick to build up in the legs at any short break.
Ginette: Stopped off in Tirezzelli for some provisions, I am not sure the locals see many tourers on bikes as we seemed to attract a lot of attention.
Stopped for lunch next to an olive grove, it was very hot so we applied sun cream lotion and set off for Castle de Monte.
In a lot of the olive groves there were round, domed buildings made of stones we did ask the man at Del Monte what they were but his english was not very good.
Just before we got there we stumbled across a parking area with some camper vans so cheekily asked if we could pitch our tent for the night. The car park attendant was a little unsure but after consulting with his colleague agreed we could stay for €5 bargain, especially has the facilities have toilets with soap and toilet paper and a bar.
We set up camp and cycled, pannier free, up to the castle, it was great to have time to look around the octagonal building, which has been preserved well and has excellent views of the surrounding countryside.
Cycled back to camp and had a couple of beers in the sunshine, very chilled, people watching the tourists arriving by coach and guessing the nationalities.
The sun was teasing me so I thought I would try and get some of my white bits brown but I think I had left it a little late in the day, I am not a die hard sunbather (like my sister) so gave up after 1/2 hour.
Gary made dinner, he is getting very good at making one pot meals, either that or I am getting very good at appreciating someone cooking for me. It is interesting the roles we have taken on, Gary usually puts the tent up and down and does all the cooking whilst I help prepare food, wash up and do the beds and bags.
Gary cycled back up to the castle to watch the sun go down whilst I wrote the blog, I didn’t fancy another bike ride and it was little late to walk up there. I spent some time on my own thinking of a special friend who was having ‘her last fling’ (a party for friends and family to say goodbye) she has terminal cancer, I’m hoping she will still be around when I get home, but if not I will always treasure our last meal together. Karin if you are reading this, thank you for being a friend, colleague, coach (your advice to me at Cadbury’s is driving me on to do better, this adventure feels like part of that journey – thank you) I also would to thank you for teaching me a lot about fighting cancer and when the battle is lost dying with dignity, honesty and humour.
Day 30 – 3rd May
Castle de Monte –
Woke very early 5.30am and caught a glimpse of the sun rising as I went to the toilet, beautiful, but still very tired so went back to bed. The beauty of this trip is we can get up and go to sleep when we want. I woke to the birds singing and the sun shining, you can’t get much better than that.
It is that time of the month again, so over breakfast, I randomly asked, if all female animals come into season when does a sea horse decide when it is going to be male or female?? Gary said perhaps whilst they were deciding their gender they came in land and picked out the stones from all the pitted olives (another random question posed yesterday). I think we could be slowly going mad……
We set off at 10ish, the sun was shining and the roads were calling.
Most of the morning was spent climbing hills (300 – 500 meters, some of which were 6% in gradient) We only had about 40 miles to do so we were very chilled and as a bonus we had a tail wind which was heavenly compared to the head wind the previous day.
It was an eventful ride through the Merga National Park, within the first 10 miles we had seen 4 wild boar (much bigger than I thought they were) and a fox. In the next 10 miles we saw a black snake and lots and lots of small green lizards. We stopped for lunch at the 20 miles mark. After lunch we cycled a further 10 miles and stopped in a town Altamura, the town was celebrating some medieval event and all the old buildings and churches were decorated with flags. The locals were dressed in various costumes and there was dancing, archery, mock fighting, music, food and drink. We couldn’t resist and stopped for a beer and some people watching. It was a fantastic way to pass away an hour.
The next 10 miles were fairly flat with a climb at the end to our wild camp site. Gary spotted this one, it felt a little early for wild camping (about 3.30ish) but I went with the flow. We pitched our tent in a field next to some olive groves and in front of a telecom mast (far enough a way that we cannot hear it).
No showers again tonight, but we will be back on the coast tomorrow night, so should be able to find a campsite, if not we will have to take a swim in the sea. We have baby wipes so don’t stink (at least we don’t think we do) and as a point of interest I have not washed my hair for over 3 weeks so not missing shampoo, surprisingly it is not greasy, dry or itchy, although it is still very short.
Gary; Ginette does stink, I however I smell of Roses.