Archive for April 17th, 2010

Les Adrets de-‘Estérel to Nice (36 miles, 3 hours 30 minutes moving)

What a beautiful day for bicycling! I woke up before my alarm could go off (as seems to be happening with increasing frequency). There was a nice downhill from the campsite, which I hoped would take me all of the way to to coastal road that leads to Cannes and Nice, but of course, that would have been much too easy. I hit the bottom only to have to climb for a mile and then burn away that hard-earned altitude on another quick descent. Lather, rinse, repeat. When I finally reached the coast, I was greeted by the rich aqua-marine hues of the ocean, waves gently lapping at the rocky shore. The towns seemed to bleed one into the next with little separation. Most of the time, I’d see a sign signifying the end of one town’s city limits right next to another proclaiming the new.

There were a few bicycle paths along the route, but nothing on the scale of the trail leading into and out of Hyéres. Cannes, with its sandy beaches and haute coastal shopping district, was about what I had imagined it would be. I decided that, true to Cannes international film festival fame, I should look the part as I cycled through town, so I attached my tripod to the rear of my bicycle and placed my video camera  with wide-angle lens in a position that would give a somewhat “third-person” view of my cycling through town and along the boardwalk. I stopped for lunch at a beach overlook and was mesmerized by the ocean and people’s beach activities as I enjoyed my usual cheese, bread, yogurt, banana, and candybars. Even though I was only cycling about 35 miles, I didn’t seem to have the will-power to limit myself to just one candy bar for dessert, and I’m hoping that lack of will-power was coming from my brain, screaming to my body that we needed more calories.

The beach at Cannes.
The beach at Cannes.

In Cannes, I stopped at a major electronics retailer and looked longingly at new GPS units.  Although I could get a brand-new Garmin Nuvi with four or eight hour battery life from 99-139 euros, I couldn’t justify pulling the trigger on the purchase, since I have been surviving by modifying my usage of my old model (only turning it on a few times per day to verify that I’m on the right route or taking the right turn).

I was taking my time, enjoying the sights along the coastal road, knowing that even with a few detours, it shouldn’t be too hard to arrive in Nice by four or five o’clock.  As I was coming into Nice, I hopped onto their great bicycle path leading along the boardwalk, paralleling the Rue de Anglaise and noticed an inline skater in my rear mirror. He was tucked up inside my enormous draft and looked like he was barely expending any effort to keep up with me. I picked up speed. Twelve miles per hour, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen! With each increase in speed, the skater stayed right on my tail without breaking a sweat. He kept up the pace for mile or so, and by this time, incredulously, I turned around and flashed him a thumbs-up sign to show that I approved of his super-human inline-skating prowess.  Shortly thereafter, we started to hit some heavier pedestrian traffic along the path, and he expertly weaved in and out of the open spaces, fluidly slaloming through the living collective mass of the crowd.

The grey-pebbled beaches of Nice.

The grey-pebbled beaches of Nice.

I headed north through the city, towards my chosen hostel, the Villa St. Exupery, for which I had picked up a pamphlet while at the hostel in Barcelona.  I was hoping that they would have a bed available despite it being a Saturday night. Along the way, I passed so many delicious smelling restaurants and each one struck a new craving in my mind and stomach. Mediterranean, Chinese, BBQ! Everything sounded good and I looked forward to checking out what was on offer after checking into the hostel. The road up to the hostel had a considerable incline, and the last half mile was so steep that I had to dismount my bike and start pushing, which is the first time that has happened since starting the trip.  And it was located so far north that all of the restaurants I had passed on the way were more than easy walking distance.  The hostel had a waiting list of at least five or six people when I showed up, and the English girl working there suggested that I stick around for a while and they would see what they could do. Although it looked like a great place to stay, I didn’t want to waste too much time and miss out on other open lodging elsewhere in the city, so I downloaded the HostelWorld listings for Nice using my iPhone and the hostel’s wifi and just as I was starting to entertain ideas of heading back into town to check on availability of another three hostels I picked out, the English girl came and told me that she’d found an open bed for the night! Relieved, I checked in, paid my 24 euros (which would have been 16 euros had I had a reservation or arrived earlier in the day), and started lugging my bags up two flights of stairs to my room. Another American from Michigan offered to help carry my front panniers as I was dropping them on the steps, and I found out that he had been in the Lamda Chi Alpha fraternity and had bicycled 4000 miles across the United States a few years ago, so he always enjoys meeting other cyclists! After getting settled, I took a nice hot shower to try and at least have some semblance of cleanliness about myself now that I had re-entered civilization.

The common room of the hostel was huge! Two stories with computers lining the walls, a bar, and plenty of dinner tables. The menu that night included pizza or a hamburger and fries for only 5.50 euros, which is a veritable bargain compared to the costs at all restaurants I’ve seen, but my wallet still stinging from the cost of a bed, I opted to dine on the bread and cheese which I had already purchased earlier in the day.  I had originally planned to stay two days in Nice, but changed my mind after realizing that two nights in the hostel would pay for four nights of camping, and I didn’t really have any specific attractions in Nice that I was dying to explore. My mood was further depressed at the realization that I had lost my LED penlight probably when I slept on the bench outside the campsite in Hyéres, and that my GPS-data-logger, that I have been using to keep track of my route for geo-tagging photographs, died from low batteries only one hour into the day, leaving me without data from much of the ride to Nice.  I resolved to set off for Monaco and then Italy in the morning and begin the last phase of my trip.