Conquering the Alps part 2. We’re running late…
Turns out riding 300 miles through the Alps in one day is a big deal.
Somewhere near Saint-Martin-Vesubie we stop for coffee and call the bloke who owns the self-catering cottage near Menton we’re staying at, no answer. We’re running late and the sun is starting to go. We run the D70 on the valley floor, still well above sea-level, for an hour this fast road is another epic ride but as the sun vanishes we’ve got a choice to make; ride the quicker roads, but at over 90 miles it’s a long way or ride the 30+ miles through the base of the Alps – of course, we chose the Alps. We climb and descend with alarming regularity, it’s soon pitch black and we’re not making good time.
Eventually, very late we arrive in Menton, exhausted but manage another 15 miles over the border into Italy and Bordighera.
The remainder of the evening is spent negotiating dirt-track roads to the cottage in the hills we’ve booked via a mate, and then a thick layer of gravel to top it off. As we’ve no food (self-catering means you bring your own stuff, apparently), a kind friend nicks some meat, bread, tea and milk from a neighbour before we climb further to reach the cottage. Cold beers are in the fridge for us, we thank him and supp our coldies on the terrace enjoying this warm evening, overlooking the Italian village of Saso and in the distance, the lights of Monaco.
I wish I could call our German friend from Val d’Isere and the UK bikers we saw in Lac du Mont Cenis to tell them we’ve made it, mind you, they probably wouldn’t believe me – I almost don’t.
We get up late today, all those immense roads are taking their toll on us. Taking our breakfast overlooking Saso in the morning sun, this little cottage is perfect. Our host arrives to guide us out the hills towards Bordighera, we thank him and head off through the absolutely manic traffic of Italy. Our bikes are overheating and we’re sweating in the intense heat. Moving is the only way to stay cool but that’s impossible in this place. We cross the border again into France and ride the coast to Monaco. The traffic is just plain silly, but Stevie has got the driving mentality spot-on; ride through every gap you see, dodge the traffic and pay no attention whatsoever to road signs – it works. We both get a kick out of lining our bikes up with the F1 starting grid in Monaco, but by now its 12 noon. We park up and head for food by the harbour. This is the worst food we’ve had on the entire trip, we’re in a tourist trap now and can’t wait to get the hell out of Monaco. The 2008 yacht show starts in a few days, so the place is filled with marquees and tents, it’s too busy for us. We ride the coastal route towards Antibes, we’re tired after yesterday and agree not to do the Napoleon Route today as it would be too much, we’re gonna have a half day off the bikes and on the beach
We’ve not booked a hotel today as we didn’t know how we would feel or if would make it this far. I try a hotel on the beach which is full, reception tells me everywhere is busy as it’s the end of the holidays and the yacht show starts soon. Dammit. I ask if she can recommend anywhere, she takes pity on me and calls a friend, within minutes we’re parked up, 40 yards from the beach, in the sun drinking ice cold beer on the patio – Oh, happy days. Welcome to the Hotel Miramar in Antibes, the owner shows me how the ‘honesty’ bar works – drink what you like, write it down, pay for it when you leave. I love this place.
Stevie nicks the hotels towels, and we head to the beach for a swim. We’ve got our sun loungers, cold beers and then we take a dip in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, we point out where we’ve been on the horizon “look, there’s Nice, Oh, and Monaco”, “see those big mountains, that’s the Alps!” This is amazing and we’ve deserved every minute of this, we’re having a ball in 30-degree sunshine while the UK basks in rain once more. Nearing 6pm we take advice to go to Juan Les Pins for food, watch the sun vanish, enjoy our beers and dinner, grab a taxi and we’re crashed out early for the next day of riding the legend that is the N85.