The last day of my mini “Road to Nice” and it was already in the high 20s at 8 in the morning. An interesting chat with the bloke helping to serve the breakfasts (if you can call a croissant, piece of bread and a coffee breakfast) about music. He seemed very impressed I’d played at Glastonbury but more intrigued that I knew of Tartarin and the Tarasque (a mythical monster that used the Tarasconnais as a light snack). Strange things we talk about sometimes.
For once the Zumo got me out of a town with no drama (mind you, I could have done that as there was only one road and that was right by the hotel anyway).
I wasn’t sure what today would bring. Once again I was trying to avoid the motorway but somehow still almost ended up on the A7 at Cavaillon and I was wondering if there was an evening class in using a sat-nav.
The road from Tarascon to Cavaillon was completely unremarkable. Heavy traffic, very hot and little of interest. Things improved after Cavaillon and the road to Apt had marginally less traffic and the scenery began to improve.
Apt was stupidly hot and and I slowly dragged through the town cursing a ventilated suit that was turning out to be a very poor buy. The road opened up outside the town, the traffic started to die away and I was starting to enjoy myself.
Fast, flowing roads and few cars made for an excellent hour or two. The road from Forcalquier was an absolute joy. Sweeping bends and well surfaced.
After Les Mees I came across this rock formation that I’d never seen before. They’re called Les Penitents des Mees and although there is a geological explanation for their columnar form I prefer the legend that they are a procession of banished monks who were turned to stone by Saint Donat, a hermit who lived in a cave, who punished the monks for taking a fancy to some captured Moorish beauties. Some folks are so intolerant.
Next stop the N85.
The N85, or Route Napolean, has a reputation amongst bikers and owners of powerful cars. It’s a fast, smooth, curvy road that seems to bring out the worst in some people and today was no exception. I don’t like the N85. I’ve used it a few times and although the road itself isn’t really any more dangerous than the kind of roads I have been riding the collective idiocy of most of the bikes and cars make it a less than relaxing ride.
I’m stopped at a nondescript sandwich place and watch the madness unfold. Cars, bikes, mopeds, a Hummer and even camper vans seem hell bent on taking each corner faster than the last. I’m pleased to leave the road at Barreme and take the far more relaxing and scenic N202 for a very pleasant final leg of my journey. There’s a certain amount of disappointment at the end of the day when I realise I didn’t take a single photo during the last section and it was the most scenic part of the route. It’s been a very pleasant drama-free day without much to report and that suits me.
Interestingly this is one of the routes Eric uses to go home from Nice. The “hideous factories” that Eric bemoans at St Martin du Var are still there and have probably multiplied since his time. He describes the road further along as passing through “wild and desolate country with few villages”. Although it feels like there has been more development I can still understand his take on the area. Unfortunately I miss some of the small towns he recommends as it’s too hot to stop and explore. A pity but I promise myself I’ll come up next week and check them out. What was that about resolutions Dick? Sorry again Eric. I’m not doing a very good job of this.
Finally I reach the point I turn off the main drag and I find the road that climbs 1000 feet to the villa is tight, twisty, and badly surfaced with some serious hairpins. A real test both of the bike and me. I’m forced to use the whole width of the road to get round the worst of the bends. The fuelling on the bike is spot on and I find I can feather the throttle around the tightest ones with no hesitation, surging or misfiring. Neither my America or Tiger would do that.
My mini “Road to Nice” is over. It’s been very different to how I thought it might be. The comparisons I was looking to make never quite worked out but I’ve had a wonderful time (despite Day 2). I’ve seen some fantastic places and ridden some stunning roads. I’ve pushed myself and the the bike to the limit and grown to really appreciate it.
Was it worth it? Oh yes, but I’m looking forward to not doing a lot until the next long ride I have planned next Saturday.
Now where’s that swimming pool?