As the sun woke us up we realized there was a town nearby so our hunger got us walking in search of a couple croissants and coffee. Every town has a bakery, right. WRONG. Not this one.
Packing up the bike we decided to head back to Forte di Exilles to see if we could walk around the castle. That meant we had to ride that pass two more times, like that is a bad thing. We passed through the ski town of Montgenevre again and grabbed a breakfast for way too much money, but it is a ski/golf town.
When we arrived at the castle we found out that it had been closed down again and there was no way in. We headed back, riding some great roads and headed toward Barcelonnette, which I had heard was a great town to see but I didn’t think it was anything special, except for the gas stop. As we were getting gas, three Lotus’s pulled in with young couples from Monaco. We had a good time chatting with the kids and sharing stories.
As we chased the ribbon of asphalt across the next pass, the highest pass in Europe at 2715 meters, the Col de la Bonette, we realized we should probably stop short of the coast so we didn’t end up in Monaco at night. The choices were slim to none as we followed the river Le Var toward Nice.
So another cheap hotel tonight with brats, cheese, peanuts and wine for supper, since there wasn’t a restaurants nearby and the butcher shop had enough to get us by for the night. As we progressed further south the temperatures had increased again. If it had been cooler, the sleeping bag would have been used on the bed, the place was that bad. Oh well, welcome to France, and the manager decided today was his non-English day.
The views of the Mediterranean coming into Monaco were fantastic with orange tiled roofs on the hills looking out over the blue waters of the French Riviera. Following the coast the road stayed at elevation with views all the way to Monte Carlo.
Turning south we made our way to the coastal road and onto the course of the Monaco Grand Prix through Monaco. It’s such a thrill to follow this course and being able to divert to the marina or other neat little areas that would be unreachable if not on the bike. I know several times I was in areas that were off-limits but I was in exploring mode.
As the time moved toward noon the temperature started to soar and the traffic started to get crazy, so it was time to leave Monaco and the coast and head back to some elevation. The problem was I couldn’t find my way out-of-town. Twisting and turning, one way streets, tunnels and we ended up back at the marina, two different routes with the same results. Frustrated, I headed west along the coast with the traffic and finally got out and headed toward the Grand Canyon of Europe, the Grand Canyon du Verdon.
Stopping for fuel seemed to be an issue today as most of the stations were unmanned and the code on my chipped MasterCard had stopped working. We finally had to stop at a grocery store with an unmanned fuel pump and nothing would work, including the non-English speaking French people working in the store. Are you kidding me, none of you speak English. I guess the rumors about the rudeness of the French is true in this area.
After sitting at the pump for about 90 minutes trying to get some help, a couple English-speaking Germans on bikes stopped in. After explaining my predicament to them they immediately filled my tank with fuel. They refused to take any money for the fuel, but I insisted, and they finally said OK. Thanks guys!
A couple miles later, as we climbed toward the Grand Canyon du Verdon the clouds started to build to a fullness that rewarded us with rain. It was lasted just long enough to make the roads slick, so much care had to be taken.
The Gorges Du Verdon in south-eastern France is a river canyon that is often considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful. It is about 25 kilometers long and up to 700 meters deep. It was formed by the Verdon River, which is named for its startling turquoise-green color, one of the location’s distinguishing characteristics. The most impressive part lies between the towns of Castellane and Moustiers-Saint-Marie, where the river has cut a ravine to a depth of 700 meters through the limestone.
Riding around a bend back toward the gorge, this bridge came into view spanning the gorge, some 700 meters above the river. There was a tent set up in the middle of the bridge with people bungee jumping off the bridge into the gorge. What a site. I have a video posted on YouTube showing the jump.
After they were done jumping we hopped on the bike and started to climb some more leaving the gorge and we got some hail, but just the tail end of what was a bad storm. As we were riding I was noticing leaves and branches all over the road and was expecting to see a road crew trimming trees. Then the unmelted hail/ice started showing up on the side of the road. We felt pretty happy that we got distracted at the bridge by the bungee nuts.
The river empties into a lake, the Lac de Ste Croix, that had the same turquoise water as was in the river. We found another full-service campsite on the lake, set up camp, and had a great pizza and a bottle of wine for less than $10. Just so happens as it was happy hour so plenty of friendly French folks were around, nice. We took a walk and played some cards and had just a fun evening.