Monday 28 April 2014
Col de la Madone, Ste Agnes, Col de Garde, Menton, Col d’Eze, col des Quatre Chemins
Today instead of going back up the long steep hill to Peille, we transport our bikes on foot up the path to near Peille and also near to where the tiny road goes off up to the Col de la Madone. Here we turn right and rise steadily through the limestone Maquis, enjoying the scent of pines and seeing the views that were shrouded in fret last time we came this way.
At the top, we round the corner to a vow of the distant blue coast, through upland pines and newly flowering chestnut trees. Further down we come to breathtaking sheer precipices from the unfenced edge of the road which we had been cheerily unaware of in the fog last time. There before us is the marvellous sight of Ste Agnes perched high on its cliff. Described as a cite souterrain it is another very perched village. Here we are rewarded for the steep climb up by finding a superb restaurant with a terrace looking down to the sea and the winding descent of our onward journey. It is a bit cloudy when we begin lunch, a wonderful provincial affair, with sanglier, lapin and finished with the best lemon tart known to humankind.
Gradually the great black clouds pile up behind us and lower onto the tops nearby and thunder starts to rumble. We pay the bill quickly and ride off down the hill to Gorbio, on a wonderful clear road full of hairpins and views. From three miles away we can still look up back to the terrace where he have been sitting only minutes ago, and notice the dark black backdrop on the mountains there.
Here we notice a small road in addition to the larger road leading off to Gorbio, but in view of the impending storm we decide to go down to the Coast at Menton. Here we find rain, heavy traffic and the unappetising outskirts of a large town that has access to a motorway. I hate it wholeheartedly and fulsomely which isn’t fair on Jim who is trying to find our way out of the tangled maze of street that appear on the rain soaked map. Finally we decide to take the train along the coast to Villefranche sur Mer and stand crowded into the tiniest shelter on the station for about half an hour while the rain beats down.
Hoping that the train stops where we want it to, we jump on and sure enough it does. It aslo raining in Villefranche and there are landslides (eboulements) on the railway caused by the storm that delay the trains. Here though, we are right on the edge of the storm cloud. We ride along the pleasant front looking for a loo and when we find none, I have to take the most audacious wild wee I have ever had, right in the centre of town, in full sunlight, beneath a bridge with people visible walking above my head.
Good to go again, we navigate the warren of unmarked streets to find our way up to the Grand Corniche and the Col des Quatre Chemins. From here our way is down a narrow road to the hated La Trinite, but a giant sign tells us the route is barre, (yes you’ve guessed – eboulements). We go anyway, down this long one in four descent hoping that we are not going to have to retrace our path up again. Right near the bottom there is an enormous hole in the road which is being worked on. The works take up the entire roadway, but luckily the men stop to let us pass. La Trinite is choked with cars and even our cycles are forced to wait in long queues but eventually we are at the bottom or the final climb to our house which we attack with alacrity, as a way of fighting the fatigue, and get to the top in 15 minutes, which is half the time it took on the first day.