I fitted new brake cables on the tandem in preparation for the French Alps and we set off towards big climbs and nervy descents. The town of Sospel seems to be the meeting place for bikers, hikers and campers, a bit like Kendal in the Lakes but without the rain. Fully loaded tandems, however, were conspicuous by their absence.
The Alps were very, very sweaty. Temperatures across Italy had reached 42 degrees C and the mountains were promising to be no cooler. We crossed one small mountain pass on the way to Sospel and were now ready to do the Col du Turini, 1600 metres of climbing over 23 kilometres with an equivalent descent. You can’t rush these things so it took us till mid-afternoon, during which time we had a thunderstorm which, thankfully, dropped the temperature a good few degrees.
The Alps are truely stunning and the views, as you’d expect, pretty spectacular. We dropped down the other side of the Col de Turini, fingers numb on the brake levers, eventually reaching our campsite for the night.
Each day in the Alps offered more spectacular sights than the previous. We crossed another four mountain passes and went through three gorges winding our way very, very slowly towards Provence. The most spectacular view of the trip came on the last day in the mountains in the Grand Canyon de Verdon when we looked out from above the canyon across the relative flatlands of Provence. Sometimes, you just have to gasp.
Provence is very pretty in that picture postcard kind of way and we sailed through the valleys at a fair speed taking in villages and towns along the way. Saint Remy was especially nice, but human architecture will never better nature’s design and I was sad to leave the Alps.
Three nights on the beach followed Provence and a great free camping spot for two nights rounded off the coast really well before we headed towards Bezier and the Canal du Midi which runs almost to Bordeaux, providing a great access route for cyclists and boaters. We meandered along just slightly faster than the boats and enjoyed easy wild camping, cheap official sights and lots of other cycle tourists for company. The route from 40km south of Toulouse to where it ends about 70km from Bordeaux is tarmaced and particularly easy and very lazy riding.
The south of France was a true treat offering us variety, hard work and great views. Highly recommended and very much missed as we now work our way north towards Dieppe.
Thanks for dropping by