Jul
12
2009

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Farewell Côte d'Azur

by Tara

Holding our brakes firmly with one hand, we waved goodbye to our friendly neighbors and carefully wheeled our bikes down the extremely steep hill leaving our campsite. Less than a kilometer away we had another day of Riviera cycling ahead of us. Early on the GPS routed us along a "shortcut" which Tyler accidentally took, not noticing that it would wind up back on the highway we left in a kilometer or two. It quickly turned into a steeply-hilled sandy, rocky road more suited to walking or mountain biking. I hate riding on crappy roads like this but I am getting much better at it!

At the end of our "shortcut" Tyler fed me leftover soup and chocolate until I wasn't grumpy anymore and then we made our way down the much cheerier, flatter highway. This was the coastal riding I had been looking forward to! We enjoyed listening to our music as we cycled by stunning view after stunning view. Our day was filled with sparkling turquoise water, crowded sandy beaches, rocky outcroppings and fancy yachts lazily floating around.

Coastal Road Côte d'Azur

Pretty soon the dry heat was too much for both of us. There was no reason we should be cycling when there was something so cold, wet, and inviting only a few feet away! We wheeled our bikes towards the shore, climbed down the slippery rocks and went swimming. It was amazing! For once the water wasn't freezing as we've become accustomed to, instead it was perfectly cool and rejuvenating.

Tara Dancing Rocky Coastline

Tyler sat on the rocks, soaking his legs and watching while I flailed around like a little kid, jumping up and down and spinning around in circles. Later, while I was floating on my back bobbing in the gentle Mediterranean waves I suddenly felt something grab me around the waist! Tyler swam underwater to "surprise" me all the way from shore! After floating around together for a little while longer we were satisfied enough to leave the water and continue on, dripping wet, down the coast.

Post-Swim Tara Azure Coast

It seemed that with every kilometer we cycled eastward today prices for everything from bread to campsites increased exponentially. Swarms of people and cars inundated every square foot of land and all of the beaches were completely filled with sunbathers packed on the sand like sardines. It became more and more difficult to appreciate the beautiful scenery and to understand why this place was so popular. We couldn't imagine actually coming here on vacation and we were so annoyed by the throngs of people that we talked about turning north immediately to head to our next major destination, Verdon Gorge.

Palm Trees

Our destination had been Cannes, where we planned to stay with the family of a very nice guy (Loic) who we met in Nantes. Between being unable to contact them and the Riviera was getting crazier and crazier with each pedal stroke, we decided to bid the Riviera farewell. With our new route to Verdon Gorge set in the GPS, we still had to find a home for the night. We stopped at a two-star campsite, but were dismayed to find out that it cost a whopping €27 per night! They were willing to give us a discount—down to €25 since we didn't have a car. I was unconvinced we'd find a better deal anywhere else—after all, we were in the Cote d'Azur in July. Tyler refused to stay, wanting me to haggle for a better deal. He was outraged that anyone would charge so much for a night of camping. I opted instead to ask where we might find cheaper places. The lady directed us back the way we came—saying the further east we went the more expensive it would get.

Thankfully heading west a bit was exactly what we needed to do to make our way to Verdon Gorge. After asking three more people for directions, we found a sign for a campground just 5km out of town. Finally, we were heading away from the coastal zoo towards much quieter countrysides! It felt so good to be on a road mostly devoid of cars, lined on either side with olive trees and farmland rather than beach resorts and expensive cafes.

Leaving the Madness

Arriving at our new out-of-the-way campsite we let out huge sighs of relief and pedaled in. Unsurprisingly (to me) it too was €25 a night. I suggested we just fill up our water bottles while we had the chance, and do our budget a favor with some much needed free-camping. Surprised and happy, Tyler grabbed the bottles and went in search of water while I stayed with the bikes. When he returned, he wasn't so sure about the free-camp idea. It was a really nice campsite and maybe we could talk them down to a more reasonable price.

I've never haggled before so Tyler gave me a run through of the basics and I went in. Determined, I walked through the gate and found the lady in charge at reception. I explained that we were on bicycles, that the rate was a little high for our budget and asked if she would take 15. She conferred with her husband and to my surprise, they agreed! She would put us on a random grassy spot instead of on a normal pitch, but otherwise, we'd have access to the shower block and all of the other ammenities of the site. Sweet!

Tyler set up camp while I started making dinner: a massive sandwich on a huge round loaf of bread we'd bought earlier. It was delicious, but we were feeling snacky afterwards so Tyler bought us popsicles. Now we're settled in the tent, listening to the blaring techno and terrible karaoke coming from the bar and pool area. The campsite sure seemed quiet when we arrived! We're looking forward to heading inland, away from these crazy parties tomorrow.


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