Tuesday 28 June
Phew what a day, loaded the GPS and it confirmed what I'd been told, a 5-6 hour journey using toll freeways, or on my GPS avoiding them, 6 hours by fastest route for the 412 km. No idea of route, just input the hotel address here near Cannes, and throw blind faith to the satellites and my electronic guide, and given the unknowns of the days task made no effort to include TdF stages in the route.
It turned out to be one of the greatest days riding I've ever had.
|Petit dejeuner at Grange de Julie|
Was a little pensive having to move on from La Grange de Julie, Annecy and the lake is such a wonderful place, my highlight stopover of any time or place. Can only agree with Sylvie's reluctance to let rooms for less than 2 nights, she says people return for ever longer stays year after year, not surprising. There's also the dramatic change between summer and winter adding attraction, although gathered the comment it can cloud in and rain days on end as well, so was blessed to arrive in fine temps, and given the added advice thunderstorms roll in after 2-3 days heat, probably helpful I'm leaving on a high note.
There's plenty of green and forest round here, Sylvie's cats sometimes amuse by bringing snakes inside, small ones 12-18", see quite a few lizards in my travels too, and when I commented how much I admired the forests in France she informed they have been under some form of management since the 1500's, such has been the importance of the resource. I did notice riding through several forests what appeared to be thinning of old trees, and she said people are allowed to go into the woods to gather annual firewood needs, even knock over the odd tree, provided they clean it all up themselves, I would imagine on designated cull trunks.
Anyway, the first 100km slipped by in a satisfactory time, along tree lined roads beside new mown hay, towering montagnes either side, and I thought hooboy, this is going to be easy, twice passing a gorgeous chick thumbing a lift and regretting being pack-laden and not carrying a spare helmet, and encountering yet another smile flashing lady sports-motorcycle athlete at an intersection. I dont carry an MP3, but am often inspired to hum up stuff from my memory bank, so this morning it's old Maurice's...,
thank 'eavun, for little girls, for little girls get bigger everyday
thank heaven for little girls, they grow up in the most exciting way
those little eyes so helpless and appealing
one day will flash and send you crashing through the ceiling......
thank heaven for little girls, no matter where, no matter who
for wizzout zem what would little boys do
amen to that...
After following a blackened water river for some kms, suspect there must be some mining going down somewhere handy
sure enough I pass a discreet sign "Rio Tinto - Alcan", humungous power sub-station, and did suspect there could have been some coal-mining
who knows what...
then the GPS turns me off into the mountains, past a sign saying "Route des Grand Alpes", holy crap, a whole list of Cols on another sign, I'm in the real deal, and didnt even plan it, the main roads go in great circuits following the valleys, and the GPS is short-cutting me over the tops.
Thought I'd never be able to find the track on a map, but I have, I've come down a road east of Chambery, through Albertville, and up over the Col du Madeleine, 1984m, back onto a highway for a bit, then up into the mountains again.
Stop for a nerve-settler breather at mountain village of Valloire for a ham sammie, half a breadstick thick with ham and buerre, what's also unsettling is the Franch roadworks, "route baree" means anything from you can sneak through, to, no you cant and a detour who knows how far, but the GPS seems to know the way around. The roads are so narrow, a reseal job means a road closure, and it is summer in the Alps, cant be done any other time.
This time its up and over Col du Galibier, 2616m, but not right to the top, there's a tunnel through it. Heaps of cyclists here, support vans following team colours out training, switchback after switchback too numerous to count, and painted roads in support of favorite heros, at one turn I spot "alle' Schleck 07" and figure the 07 TdF must have come through here.
Onto another main route through Briancon, then turn up over Col de Vars, 2111m, and now the motorcyclists thicken, 100's of them, going like cut cats, even the pannier laden adventure motos, I rail a bit at how much of the road theyre taking, but figure with no railing separating them from a 1000' drop, they dont give too much of a stuff about how much of my road they take.
Another all too short stretch of valley bottom road, then turn up into the montagnes again, this time a long climb over Col d'Allos, 2247m, and down the other side, I dunno maybe 30km of winding mountain road, so by this time its late afternoon, I stop at a village cafe for a rest and a quad header glace (sundae), and to phone tonights hotel to say I'll be late. There's a bit of a kerfuffle in the rue, cowbells and all, and a mob of sheep, maybe 3-400, brown ones with tight curly fleeces, followed by a dozen donkeys hustle through town. The cafe's full of motorcyclists, all nationalities, 20 odd bikes pulled up, most with their lady pillions, and I join the rush to photograph the sight. Never saw another biker stopping to photograph the mountain scenery, but they rush en masse to catch this theatre du ovins, have been wondering what on earth NZ has in scenic comparison, both here and in USA, but here-in's an instant answer.
The road quickens from here on, and soon I'm winding down towards Cannes on one of those mountainside fast lanes James Bond eludes the baddies, or pursues la femme fatales on.
Getting to Mougins is a bit of a shock too, you drop down through a maze of narrow, heavily built-up switchbacks, take a wrong turn and the rue you should have been on is so closely parallel the GPS dosent pick it up till too late.
I miss the turn into the hotel, distracted by the blonde in a Maserati en mois derriere, stall at the next set of lights, and have to do another km to the nearest roundabout to get the required u-turn, by which time she's gone and I look like a proper Joe Hunt anyway.
Fantastic day, I've missed dinner, but the hotel pool is fabulous, too tired to sit down and write, and I sleep 9 hours.
Advice to anyone touring France, dont plan any day on the road greater than 200km, if youre fit enough you can do it, its just that you'll miss too much in the rush, whiling away a day under a cafe parasol is the raison d'etre in these parts.