October break is always a last-minute affair depending on the weather forecast north and south of the Alps. This time the south promised a whole lot more fun, with temperatures hovering in the mid twenties. Putting our bike bags to use, we took the TGV to Marseilles and started the trip from there.
Marseilles seems to be reliving its old grotty, seedy reputation with little more than rubbish blowing in the wind to welcome tourists to this port city. Renowned for its Bouillabaisse fish soup speciality – it didn’t even redeem itself in this department. A salty, pitiful effort that presented itself no better than prawns and mussels drowning in Bisto gravy. Not to be repeated!
The road east
To give it its due, Marseilles does have one selling point – the road east! Although it did entail a climb, it afforded wonderful panoramas of the mountains and the Med.
The best part of Marseilles
From the first picturesque harbour town, Cassis, we took the scenic Route des Crêtes – with inclines of up to 30%. Needless to say, we didn’t meet any other touring cyclists on this stretch!
The only way is up!
Need a yacht?
Bike lane from Toulon to St Raphaël
The Département Var has invested a serious amount into its bike lanes. The best of all has got to be the Piste Cyclable du Littorol, which is a converted train line of over 100km from Toulon to St Raphaël.
Former train line converted into a cycle route
The route hugs the coastline at times, but also boasts a great inland trail through vineyards and little villages.
Great bike path
Flamingos in Hyères
View from hotel at Le Lavandou
Pétanque in Le Lavandou
Such is life in St Tropez…
La Corniche de l’Esterel
La Corniche de l’Esterel between St Raphael and Cannes has earned a place on our list of most spectacular coastlines in Europe. Rust red cliffs meet deep torquoise water on this spectacular 30km stretch. No trip to La Cõte d’Azur would be complete without it.
The magnificent Corniche de l’Esterel
Cannes is one of those places where you are bound to see a few stars… and no doubt we did! A local soap opera was filming at the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel. After watching 5 takes of the hotel exit, we decided they mustn’t be any great shakes… and promptly moved on to dinner!
Hotel in Cannes
The Carlton Intercontinental Hotel
Pedro Almodovar was here!
J’adore la France…
…et les moules!
Bike paths all the way
Nice wins hands down as the place with most to offer the tourist and local alike. Again the cyclist is well-catered for with a generous bike lane network and free velo bleu bikes for city use.
Russian Orthodox church, Nice
Views of Nice
Nice by night
Even in October, we hit markets on a daily basis, offering everything from flowers and fish to antiques and Desigual!
Monte Carlo, Monaco
A pleasant 70km day trip brought us along the coast on the Basse Corniche (lower road) to Monaco and on the Grande Corniche ridge road back. This, incidentally, was where Princess Grace met her fate and Top Gear filmed their opening show.
Fun in Monaco
Coastal routes from Nice to Monaco
The Cote d’Azur, better known for its stars and crowds, is a totally different story in October. For the biker it offers great coastal routes, low-season rates and cuisine fit for a king. If all else fails, EPO is readily available: Eau, Pastis & Olives – C’est la vie!