Having spent our last night in Italy and having spent a few days off of the bike, we woke up ready to ride. we broke down our camp after eating a breakfast of leftover pasta and olive focaccia, and set off toward the French Riviera. Yesterday when Bree spoke with the attendant at the train station, he warned her that in order to get from Ventimiglia to Nice, we would have to go over a big mountain and that it would be no good. As seems to be the emerging theme of our trip, he was correct. There was a very big mountain.
As we pedaled out of Ventimiglia, our GPS attempted to route us over the mountain. Seeing how big and how steep it was, we decided for a different option – to follow the coast. Coastlines are typically pretty flat, right? That’s what we thought, and we were very, very wrong. We climbed and dropped along roads cut into the rocky cliffs off of the concluding stretch of the Italian Riviera. With a few days too many off the bike, we were at first a little reluctant about the hills, but we had incredible vistas all around and as we got in our groove of pedaling our attitudes improved as well. With only a few miles of Italy left to go, we spotted something we have been hoping to get a good picture of. The roads in Italy have been dotted with tiny shrines, usually with a picture of Mary or of a Saint and always filled with flowers. Many times there have been too many worshipers to respectfully take a photo, but as we finished our final miles into Italy, we spotted a nice one that will help us remember the many that we saw.
Finally, after a top of a very long climb, we saw it – the sign indicating 1.8 km to France. We descended down the mountain, and finally saw the French border. We’d been excited about our first border crossing of the trip and were glad to be doing it by bicycle However, with less fanfare than the Utah-Idaho border, it was somewhat anticlimactic. We took our final breath of Italian air, snapped a dull photo, and finished the descent into the French Riviera.
We rode along through the various towns that dotted the steep hills dropping into the water. The stretch of ocean that we are currently riding is known as Cote d’Azur, named for its “impossibly blue color”. It really is gorgeous – the color reminds me of the ocean in Cozumel. The water is much less warm, though. It took all of our courage to get in the freezing ocean, though it felt good after a long day of riding.
As we passed into Monaco and the surrounding areas, the ritz began. I don’t know what we expected from the French Riviera, but it certainly wasn’t chains of resorts lining narrow roads. Even the foliage was surprising – along the cliff walls hang sheets of flowers. Pretty much every hotel has some arrangement of Bird of Paradise. Monaco, however, was really, really busy. We were glad to pull out and away from the skyscrapers built into the cliffs, surrounding the port that was filled with various cruise ships. We had only a few more climbs before we dropped into the flat area on which Nice is built.
After the crazy ride through Monaco, we were gearing up for more intense traffic through Nice. We were pleasantly surprised able to finish the day’s riding on a paved bike path that hugs the coast all along the stretch of road through and to the west of Nice. These are our first real bike paths, and they are everywhere here and are much more functional than the ones we saw in Italy. They are absolutely amazing – no cars, no stoplights, and pretty much no pedestrians. We held over 28 kph the rest of the way into our campground.