A Travellerspoint blog

France

The French Riviera, France

Antibes and Nice

sunny 80 °F

We dipped back into France on the way to Spain to visit our friends Carmela and Charles and meet their son Rafael. We were greeted by the best hug ever (from Raf), amazing weather, waters warm enough to swim in and beaches that weren’t that crowded.
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Carmela lives in Antibes, which is just south of Nice. It is famous for having what is known as the Billionaire's Port, containing some of the most expensive privately owned yachts in the world. We scooted around these boats and were stunned that no one seemed to mind us snooping around...
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Antibes is situated perfectly for swimming and picnicking on the beach. We weren’t so impressed with the neighborhood on the peninsula where Hollywood stars have second homes they stay in for the Carnes Movie festival, but we dug the nearby mountain village and small cobbled streets.
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In Nice, the Museum of Modern Art had an epic display of Yves Klein blue square paintings that we were pretty sure we could have painted, but there were also some very unique pieces including a gown made from plastic 2L bottles (ideas for the wedding!). Toting around town we noticed most folks drinking rosé wine at every meal so we decided that we were obligated to bring some quality stuff to Castel beach for a little picnic.
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It was a short stay, but we had a great time catching up with Carmela and scooting around the beach town.
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 00:38 Archived in France Comments (1)

Grenoble, France

Filet mignon and Taco Tuesday

sunny 79 °F

We were given the royal treatment when we arrived at Nicolas and Maya’s apartment in La Tronche just outside of Grenoble. We arrived in the evening and Nicolas was midway through cooking us his first fillet mignon. It was such a treat to be wined and dined after we had been camping for the last few days. After dinner (as traditionally done in France) he served us some truly stinky French cheeses (you know, the ones that make the entire room smell when opened), as well as some dips, and wines that he recently brought back from Corsica. Then, to top it all off he brought out his special hand imported high gravity rum in a box!
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Nicolas assumed that we should by now have been in good cycling shape and so challenged us to ride the 30% grade up to the Fort de la Bastille! Even with our mountain bike gearing, the granny gear couldn’t save us on this road.
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The challenge was well worth it for the stunning view of the city.
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It was good to meet up with Nicolas again, we are fortunate to have family and friends scattered about to have a good taste of home now and then. So, here is our challenge for you today! After you eat your dinner tonight, try eating a whole fresh baguette with cheese or yogurt (soy versions acceptable).
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 03:39 Archived in France Comments (1)

Cycling the French Alps Part II, France

Col de la Croix de Fer and Col d’Ornon

sunny 80 °F

The riding portion of our cycle trip through the French Alps was done in two sections with a three night rest stop in La Toussuire. This post will cover the second section of our bike touring starting from La Toussuire, riding over Col de la Croix de Fer, Col d’Ornon and down to Grenoble. The route looked like this:

After a few days of watching the pros in Le Tour, we were pumped up and ready to get an early start for our long journey over the Col de La Croix de Fer. The weather had been great on our trip so far, but on our departure morning we unfortunately woke up to strong winds and rain! So while Kevin packed up the place, Robin headed out with umbrella in search of French pastries. Luckily, despite being Bastille Day, two bakeries were open, so we had a ‘pan de chocolate’ taste off.
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By noon, the weather seemed to be clearing, and we headed out. The beginning of our ride was a 14km downhill descent to the start of the Col de la Croix de Fer, which then ascends 24 km up for a grueling climb to reach the 2,067 meter summit. At only 4 km into the accent, the next kilometer’s average elevation gain was at 10%!
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Luckily, the weather cleared and the middle part of the ride flattened out a bit until we reached the last 5km of switchbacks up to the top.
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After the climb, we descended past Col du Glandon’s summit for over an hour until we finally reached what appeared to be another uphill. At that point we were only about 10k from Allemond and conveniently located in a river gorge so decided to set up camp.
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When we rode around Allemond the next day, we laughed at the number of people we saw walking around with baguettes either in their hand or sticking out of a bag they were carrying. It was a small cute town with a weekend town fair in the central park. We stocked up on goodies for lunch and dinner and ten headed into Écrins National Park, home of our last climb of the trip, Col d’Ornon. This stretch of the trip was probably the most beautiful of our entire bike trip. Riding through the national park was peaceful and stunning. We rode along deep gorges, thick forests and cute lifestyle plot farms. One of the fun things we found along the roads of the Alps are these bathtub sized water fountains that continually flow with crisp, cold mountain water (the elixir of all that ails you). They are sometimes out in the open but are usually embedded into the hill side along the road like this one:
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In La Mure the next morning, we treated ourselves to a crepe and petite coffee before heading out to what seemed like an endless 40 km downhill descent into Grenoble. We were coming out of the big mountains and loving it… today the sign was reversed and we enjoyed our 10% downhill grade!
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 07:59 Archived in France Comments (1)

Le Tour Stage 11 and 12, France

Watching the pros ride what we road… just a little bit faster

sunny 70 °F

Thanks to the Picards we had a quiet comfy mountain chalet all to ourselves on the top of what is a ski resort in the winter. After the previous epic ride day we slept well and woke up the following morning to find that a small city had been built overnight to support Le Tour de France Stage 11 finish line (Albertville to La Toussuire)! It was amazing to see how much portable housing and broadcasting offices were needed at the finish! Then there are all the team buses that are fully equipped with bike shop, numerous spare bikes, sterilizers for water bottles and a washing machines for the racer’s cycling kit.
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We made our way through all the equipment and setup for the finish to find the tour being shown live on a big screen TV. The crowd was very excited, especially for all the freebies being handed out. We picked up a yellow hat, a pok-a-dot hat, some candy, and of course baguette samples from a life sized baguette man!
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For a midday siesta we tried to be as French as possible by grabbing a fresh baguette and heading back to the chalet for some Rosé wine. We then headed back to the action to secure a spot near the finish line and podium. As the finishers came through the shoot we watched how they were totally bombarded by the media before even getting off the saddle. If you see an interview with Peter Velits (SVK), you’ll see Kevin frantically waving at the camera and giving his best smile.

The podium awards were handed out very shortly after the racers finished, we suppose it’s because the riders need to start eating their 4,000 calories in preparation for the next day’s ride and the mini city has to be transported to the next city for tomorrows finish. So less than an hour after the race finished, equipment was being torn down, things were being packed up, and bikes were being washed and turned up for tomorrow.
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We descended to St Jean de Maurienne the following morning just in time for the historic caravan (parade) of Tour sponsors. We didn’t realize that the caravan full of sponsor cars and makeshift floats ride 2 hours ahead of the riders along the whole course, tossing out shwag to the masses of spectators. Baguette Man ws back, but this time with his entourage of baguette covered cars!
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After the caravan had passed, we headed to what looked like a podium where everyone was lining up to see the riders. Then, almost one by one, the riders came up to the podium and signed their name as a type of roll call before Stage 12 began (Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay Davézieux). This was where the hard core enthusiasts were waiting to grab a signature of their favorite rider.
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We rode the alternate route back to the top of La Toussuire and imagined what it might be like to live in one of the cute little mountain villages. We agreed that if we did live up here, we’d have to get a different bike for each day of the week. That way we could coast downhill into the office, and just pick up all the bikes from town at the end of the week with a truck.  It would take a bit of planning but wouldn’t compare with the amount of planning that goes into the Tour de France! The Tour is definitely a spectacle to see, and must be a logistical nightmare getting the whole mini city to travel every day to a new place. Most impressing is how many support vehicles follow the riders! There must have been over 40 wagons with more bikes and spare wheels than the entire number of racers. It was very inspiring to see the cyclists and knowing firsthand how hard the hills are that they ride. Maybe next time we’ll follow the tour with a campervan or better yet a sag wagon!
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 03:02 Archived in France Comments (1)

Cycling the French Alps Part I, France

Col de Tamie, Col de Madeleine, La Toussuire

sunny 75 °F

The riding portion of our cycle trip through the French Alps was done in two sections with a three night rest stop in La Toussuire. This post will cover the first section of our bike touring starting from Annecy, riding over Col de Tamie, Col de Madeleine and up to La Toussuire. The route looked like this:

On our first day we arrived in Annecy via train in the afternoon then rode around Lake Annecy and camped along the water. This was the individual time trial route in a previous Tour de France but since this was our first day in the saddle, we took it easy on the fantastically flat bike path!
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The following day, we set off on our first full day of riding with the goal of making it over Col de Tamie and into Albertville. Just prior to riding over the col, we stopped for some coffee and the mandatory Pan de Chocolate to get Robin up the hill. This was a great introduction to the mountain riding, as Col de Tamie is only 907 meters high.
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The area was buzzing with excited bikers getting ready for stage 11 to begin from Albertville in just two days’ time. The town was ready with a great set of local riding maps and route numbers posted along the way. We followed route 2 out of Albertville towards the base of Col de Madeleine where we found a nice spot off the road near a waterfall to set up our campsite.
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There were lots of cyclists with us on Col de Madeleine because it was the day before the pro riders in the Tour would ride this same road. One of them we literally ran into at the base of the mountain was a fellow Cal Bear triathlon team member, Owen, who we road with for the rest of the day.
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It was exciting to see all the official tour vehicles preparing the route with arrow markers and garbage cans. At one point, a van road past Robin and handed her a water bottle, just like in the Tour! Towards the top, the mountain road filled with spectators setting up their campervans, wine, and baguettes.
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It was amazing how slowly the last 9 km went by. We rode an average of 8% incline for 24 Kilometers before reaching the 2,000 meter (6,562 ft) high summit. Luckily, we met up with a nice English man named Robert who entertained us the whole way with his British accent. We descended for what seemed like forever, and by the time we made it into St Jean de Maureiene (about 75k for the day) Robin was thoroughly exhausted. We picked up a key for an apartment that we thought was in St Jean de Maureiene and were ready to collapse on the couch. Unfortunately (and fortunately) for us, the apartment was actually a chalet in La Toussuire -- which just so happened to be on the very top of the 1700m mountain! Kevin had to lure Robin up 17k (~1200m elevation gain) with a liter of boxed wine in his water bottle cage and even took all four panniers at one point to get Robin up the mountain. . .
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. . . and then somehow we managed to make it onto the chalet deck just in time for the sunset.
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 06:25 Archived in France Comments (2)

Lyon, France

Sunday must translate to siesta in French

sunny 75 °F

We arrived in the second biggest city in France on a Saturday evening via train from Venice --> Milan --> Lyon. Our plan was to pick up rental bicycles, a tent, sleeping bags, a sim card, and maps for a departure into the Alps the next day to watch some of the Tour de France. This is when we found out that France is basically closed on Sundays … like omg, not even the mall is open! Luckily, our bike shop had an open house on Sunday so we were able to collect our touring bikes and test them out in the beautiful city of Lyon. So, we enjoyed our Sunday siesta by falling in love with Lyon’s bike paths along the rivers, numerous parks and friendly people.
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We even stumbled on to a velodrome in Parc de la Tete D’or with some track racing, which got us even more excited about Le Tour.
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We didn’t expect much from Lyon. So, what was to only be a pit stop to pick up bikes became much more of an adventure when we met Vlad and Clarie. We had fun conversations about music and France while they showed us around the old city. We stayed with them for a few nights and they were kind enough to let us borrow their sleeping bags and store some of our excess baggage with them while we were on our bike tour!
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Monday morning came, and France opened its doors again. We filled our panniers with everything we needed for cycle camping in Le Alpes and boarded a train to Annecy, where we would begin our cycle tour which will look something like this:

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 08:24 Archived in France Comments (2)

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