cherche le soleil…
With the bike maintenance checks all done, Clive loaded up the bike and rode out of the underground car park standing up, missing his head by inches as he came through the roller doors, that was close…
As we left the hotel, the staff informed us that the forecast was for rain…yep just what we wanted to hear…
Even though it was overcast the rain was holding off, we studied the maps last night and worked out a route that would mostly keep us of the motorway and put us on twisting roads that led us to some beautiful old towns, that oozed charm.
I kept seeing signs to Francia, which i pointed out to Clive on several occasions!…Clive being ever so knowledgeable said that was a sign for a nearby town, not France, i protested and said ‘no’ thats just the way the Italians spell France, Clive was a non believer….lol… but the funny thing was we kept on seeing this sign all the way on our route!
Gradually we started to climb, and ascended the twisting roads, which took us through small villages that were dwarfed by mountains with forests perched on the side of them, getting us closer to the border tunnel Col De Tende.
Passing through the twisting roads around the small villages, cows lazily grazed under the warm sun, not having a care in the world about the stunning area they grazed in, i think time has stood still here…old buildings dotted in fields have been left to go to ruin…they would have been great to explore.
Finally we arrive at the border tunnel-Col de Tende, a bit of a queue was waiting at the lights- one way through the tunnel- we had a bout 20 minutes waiting time so we took advantage and enjoyed the views from the top, over looking the valley below, Col De Tende is a high mountain pass in the Alps with an elevation of 1870 m, the tunnel itself is only about 3.3k’s long.
With the lights now green we were off through the dimly lit tunnel following the slow stream of cars that were in front of us, as soon as we got out of the tunnel and into France, the cars all suddenly sped up and drove off like looneys down the narrow twisting roads, over taking each other like their lives depended on it!
We took our time, Clive enjoyed the twisting roads while i enjoyed the surroundings, we were also just happy to finally be in France, looking forward to some warm sun.
Following the road to Sospel, which was only a short distance away, we thought it would be a great place for a break and recheck our route.
We rode down a beautiful tree lined avenue, that lead to a street with cafes and restaurants on one side and a rather looking low (more like a trickle) Bévéra river on the other, the town of Sospel ozzes charm and dates back to the 5th century, when it served as an important staging post on the royal road from Nice to Turin, and later became prosperous in the 13th century when an important salt trading route between Nice and Turin.
We parked the bike at the end of a bridge and found a quaint little distinctive French cafe (must be something to do with the fact we were now in France…lol) .
We found a table and sat under a wide brimmed umbrella, ordered a coffee and made ourselves comfortable, just as our coffee was being brought out the heavens opened, grabbing our coffee we retreated to inside the rustic pink painted cafe, the rain didn’t look like it was going to stop anytime soon, so after about 1/2 hour of heavy rain, it finally started to ease, that was our cue, to get a few photos of this pretty little town.
Lucky for us the bike was parked near a bus stop shelter, which was just as well as when we were suiting up, the heavens opened again, after 10 minutes it eased again, the sky was black, and we didn’t hold out any hope of the rest of our journey being a dry one.
The rain was on and off as we rode along the wet twisting roads, in the distance i could just make out a strange shape, as we got closer i could see a stone multi-arched curved viaduct, what is this strange bridge, that looks so out of place sticking out? …i later found out is was the Menton-Sospel Tramway, a narrow-gauge tramway which was built in 1913 to link Menton and Sospel.
The hillside roads were now laden with lots of gravel and rocks that had washed down from the rock face and gardens above us which made it rather challenging for Clive on the hairpin bends, normally we would have enjoyed this type of road, it was made worse by the torrential rain that was now coming down and having a front tyre that has long past its use by date was making things a bit slippery.
At certain points on the road we could make out the Mediterranean, the skies also looked clear in the distance, but Monaco was not on our route this time…we were there in 1989 and covered most of it then, it seemed pointless to us to do it again.
We found our selves back on the toll roads again, just as the skies turned a nasty shade of black, the rain was so heavy we had to pull over into a service station to take refuge from the weather, many cars had the same idea as well, it would have been stupid to ride on in this weather.
We were soaked and made good use of the hand dryers in the toilets, turning the the hot blower on our wet clothes to dry them out a bit.
Just to add a some more excitement to our day a fierce electrical storm with amazing lightning decided to make an appearance…
An hour passed and the storm eased a little and we felt safe to get going again. This time we couldn’t avoid the toll road and we bypassed the city of Nice.
Then as if by magic the rain stopped when we saw a sign for Antibes, blue skies were above us and the blackened clouds blew off and into the hills, wahoo we were in warm sunshine again, it had eluded us for quite a while now…well it felt like it anyway.
As we rode closer to Antibes we started getting hot, we had to stop and strip off our wet weather gear.
The roads were starting to look familiar and it didn’t take long till we found the camp site that we stayed at in 1989 with our then, two young children, unfortunately the gates were locked, the campsite closed a week ago and wouldn’t reopen till spring, we looked through the gate and it looked just the same as when we were last there.
Close by was another campsite, so we rode in and parked up while i enjoyed the sun Clive talked to the manager, it worked out to be only a few Euro’s more to stay in one of the mobile homes than it was to camp plus we would be staying for 4 nights, i think also the manager could see we had been traveling for a long time and was impressed for what we had achieved , he gave us a great deal, brilliant.
Our mobile home was pretty big and all the amenities we needed to live comfortably for the next few days, oh and wifi, an onsite supermarket, bar, laundry, pizza shop and pool.
It felt great to wear shorts and just a t-shirt again, while taking a stroll around the grounds, we didn’t realise it was so big, in fact massive, as we walked to the site supermarket all we heard were british voices, it seemed like this campsite had been taken over by the British, after talking to some of them we found out many of the mobile homes were owned by the British, some live here permanently and some come at the end of the holiday season to have a warm winter, escaping the English winter…But also we felt sad by hearing the familiar language, it meant we were coming to the end of our trip…
To be continued…