Part 2 - Nice France to Mazamet France (A few trains to start and finish)

Below is an overview of the original route. Nice to Montpellier went to plan. Montpellier to Mazamet was very skippy due to time loss and trains were boarded.

Ride Day 6 - Nice, France to Antibes, France - 35km/90vm

Accommodation - Campsite

An early start and farewell for the Monday morning as we depart Turin Italy and our awesome hosts and board a 6am train for Nice France.

Our first section of riding took us out of the glamorous French coastal City of Nice to a cute small town called Antibes. Due to the amazing gelati on arrival from a VERY friendly Frenchman, we decided to stop there for our first night of camping. On setting up the tent and cooking a meal, we promptly got flooded out from a flash thunderstorm! Luckily the sun came out again within the hour and the night was bearable.

 Pretty pretty.

Coastal views and the coastal roads. Temps ranging from 25-35C were consistent along our coastal leg.

Ride day 7- Antibes France to Port Grimaud France - 83km/387vm

Accommodation - Campsite

Day seven was amazing; we rode along beautiful coastal roads, that presented some stunning scenic outlooks. We passed loads of beautiful landscapes and had many good laughs at the tourists who couldn't be bothered getting out of their cars at the lookouts. Photos were taken out the car window!! We were grateful to be traveling at bike pace allowing us to absorb so much more of our surroundings and appreciate the little moments.

The coastal roads were so stunning that that afternoon we once again decided to stop early at a campsite on the beach and enjoy a swim and early night.

Bike maintenance with the help of this tree.

Ride day 8- Port Grimaud, France to Cassis, France - 135km/2093vm

Accommodation - Hotel

Ride day 8 was the hardest day yet! And yes, I was regularly reminded of Jesse's suffer stories from the TransAmerica Bike Race when I was feeling overwhelmed with the heat, the hills and loaded bikes - you can imagine how much I loved that! But none the less, it was a great day in the saddle for a pleasant sight seeing romantic tour of Southern France!!

 French Vineyards.

Hot but peaceful. The top of a secluded pass in the foothills of Southern France.

During the planning stages in front of the screen Steve wanted to incorporate some of the inland mountains and vineyard areas above the coastline along the south of France. This particular route looked appealing on Google maps so he put it in. I absolutely loved it!!  We started along a huge climb heading up from the coast seeing no more than a handful of cars and 10 or so individual riders. And after cresting the first climb we encountered hordes of road riders heading up the other side from Collobrieres. It really was magical road riding conditions.

Elderly town women chatting in contrast with the young boy skateboarding in the town square of Collobrieres

We continued to climb in and out of small hilly towns which grew further and further apart. Finally we found ourselves way up above the tree lines on paved roads barely passable with a car due to fallen rocks. The sun was hot and the roads just kept climbing. The surrounds had quickly started to look very much like the grampians, dusty, hot, rocky and dry. We even saw our first snake. If it wasn't for the trusty garmin I think I might have found this section unbearable but we battled on, even beyond the point that we ran out of water about an hour early! But finally we found ourselves screaming down a 20% descent into La Ciotate and were able to refuel and get some water. Only the small pass over to Cassis left! As we started to climb out of La Ciotate we quickly realised this was no little climb! The last stretch was in itself around 300vm of climbing which at the end of a hot day was a lot. But as always the views were worth it and charming Cassis made for a perfect romantic end to the day. 

 The last few hairpins before retiring for the night in beautiful Cassis.

The final slog was only 10km, but it was probably the toughest 10km of the whole trip having already ridden 125 hilly km's in the heat.

 Approaching Cassis. 

Cassis from our 5th floor balcony.

Ride day 9 - Cassis, France to Massane, France - 71km/742vm

Accommodation - Campsite

Ride day 9 was to be a short and quick spin to another beautiful campsite. By this stage 70 Kms seemed like a breeze and so we had a relaxed start, heading off around 10 am. Unfortunately it heated up quickly and turned into a 35deg day. Cassis to Marseille was beautiful but passing Marseille was hectic. But the campsite at the end and the friendly owners and the lake swim was all worth it. Plus we got to try our first snails... delish! But everything tastes pretty good with enough salt and fried butter!!

Marseille in the background of this sweet arched bridge.

MMM Snails!

Ride day 10 - Massane, France to Montpellier, France - 138km/255vm

This was the last day of our second week of riding and we were keen to get to Mazamet to relax with Grace and Pat at the Bikestyle Tours European base so we decided to aim for a 4pm train which was about 130 km away! We woke at 5am for an early start. Riding out of Massane (because every first morning ride out of a town involved a huge hill in France - perfect to get the legs ticking over) was such a nice experience despite the tired legs. No one in the town was awake except the wildlife and we enjoyed watching the sun rise over the lake as we rode. 

Massane sunrise

The day quickly heated up as we pushed the first 30kms or so along big open roads. Until we suddenly came to a section of 'misrouting' as I like to call it. We had about 20kms of river side pedal fireroad which shook us and our bikes up! The fisherman along the river must have thought we were crazy! But we survived, thus far with not a single puncture and finished this section off with a lovely ferry ride across the lake.

Gravel and wind power.

An unexpected ferry followed the gravel stretch.

The next section was a fast grind in the heat to get to Montpelier with tempers running thin about 20km out when for some reason we lost the bike path and our directions weren't their best. Luckily Steve's friendly face (I was super grumpy at that point in time) encouraged a local retired man on a mountain bike to come and offer to help guide us to the station. He was a blessing, taking us across car parks, over little private bridges, along secluded bike paths right into the center of Montpelier. The 'tour' ended with a speedy trip through the city, weaving in and out of public squares until we pulled up right by the Station. Dieter was thrilled to have been able to help us and had chatted and pointed out landmarks the whole way. Another super friendly French dude :)

Rest day 3 - Eat, Drink and be Merry in Mazemet!

Mazamet had a long connection and history of wool trade with Australia so after getting our washing done Grace took us on a tour of Australian named streets including Tasmania, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. And we went to the local market where I was in my element getting enough food to feed the town for a week! The mornings show was followed by Aperol Spritz at 11am along with a plate of fresh shacked oysters as big as your hand. A good friend Alice flew in later that afternoon for a birthday weekend and so we cooked up a big feast with a cheese board to die for.

Mazamet and its Aussie connection.

Rest day 4 - Foothills around Mazamet - 65km/620vm

Steve went out of a road ride with Pat through stunning Mazamet foothills. The scenery was perfect (except for the gale force winds!!). The afternoon was spent having a picnic at the lake followed by more cheese and wine to celebrate Alice's birthday.

Road riding around the Mazamet foothills. Some of the most relaxing riding amongst beautiful nature and secluded forestry roads. No battling with cars for space around here! Thanks Pat Fitzpatrick and Grace for your hospitality.

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