La Côte d’Azur is a nice region. Too developed, from a touristic point of view, though. It was hard to find places to camp easily, as every square meter belongs to someone, and most beaches are not wild at all. The roads were good, the weather as well, so we couldn’t complain too much. Also, we could get to the sea at all time. And there is nothing better than having a swim to wake up! We had a quick stop in Nice, where we met art teaching of Nico’s high school, whom we visited the old town with, and ate some of the delicacies, including salade niçoise.
Nice, old town
We said goodbye to the sea and started our ascension towards the north, cycling through vineyards. Vineyards, everywhere. And at the right time : it is vandanges time, meaning that the grapes are ready to be picked up and start the wine making process. We spent a couple of night sleeping among the grapes, and found friendly winemaker who, beside letting us sleep on their land, always gave us bottles of wine from their production, as well as some of their local products : tomatoes, dry meat or pâté have been our daily meals.
We found out about a small music festival in Aix-en-Provence, Zik Zac, and decided to go there…which allowed us to have a relaxed day in Provence. We cycled by the Sainte Victoire mountain, and observed locals playing ‘petanque’ in remote villages.
Camping in the wineyards
am I closer???
We arrived in the late afternoon at the festival, where we found very friendly atmosphere. Musical discoveries of the day included Isaya, the -local- band of 2 twin sisters singing folk ballads, and Dabi Toure, a Mauritanian singer.
We gave one of our Kyrgyz hat to a bar tender, and got free drinks all night. Talking about hats, we gave one as well to a friendly cap collector who was hanging out with us, and he was so happy about the story that he started crying of joy when we gave him! Unbelievable. We ended up with the organizers at the ‘VIP party’ -where there weren’t that many VIP’s-, and enjoyed this warm night of late summer until the early morning. We got to sleep at some random place in the area, under the big bridge of Aix en Provence.
Making Zig Zag at Zik Zac Festival
We weren’t too fresh the next day, but had to get to Carpentras to meet Nico’s family, which was taking some days off. A slight downhill lasted for dozens of kilometers, which made it hard to not fall asleep on the road. Coffee breaks and music in the ears helped us getting there still awake 🙂
We had a first great surprise at sunset : a motorcyclist started riding with us and chatting on the road. He was also a keen cyclist and traveller, and asked us few questions about our project. After few minutes chatting with Nico (Yves was ahead), he hit the accelerator and left us. But then, at the next traffic light, he was there, waiting for us. “Where do you stay tonight”, he says. “We don’t know!”. “Ok, come to my place if you want. It’s up in the hills -a place called Eze, I have some wine, bread and saucisson. We can have dinner à la bonne franquette’”. “Sure, excellent. Let’s go!”. We followed him in the sinuous road for a sporty ride, looking at all the fancy houses, then arrived to his place, beautifully looking over the sea, with palm trees and all joys of the french mediterranean region. “Not bad for a first day in France”, we thought.
The view from the terrace
We relaxed on the terrace and started chatting with Alain, who is a security agent. Modestly, he explained us that he was the bodyguard of Chirac and Mitterrand while they were presidents of France, and told us, around a bottle of red wine, plenty of incredible stories of intimate moments shared with them : all the Christmas spent together, travels all around the world, protection of Mitterrand’s hidden daughter or support during the terminal phase of his sickness. Captivating. Then we learned about the area : “This is the highest concentration of wealth in the world. You see that peninsula there? It’s Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. Multibillionnaires from Russia, Ukraine and China are buying everything. I am working for one of them…whenever he goes somewhere, we are 25 around him”. Being described the lifestyle of those guys didn’t give us too much envy of becoming an ukranian billionnaire, though.
don’t move 😉
One of the good thing in France…Food!
After an evening of great stories, typical french food and wine with Alain, his wife Edwige and their son, we crashed on the sofa’s and woke up the next morning, looking at the sunrise on the sea. Pretty sweet place to live, we thought.
Before leaving, while eating delicious croissants and pains au chocolat, Alain gave us the contact info of his daughter Julie, who works and lives in Lyon, where we’d pass by few days later. That may be useful!
Thanks Alain, you rocked on every possible level! All the best with your future cycling trip 🙂
Good bye picture
Our night in San Remo was the last one in Italy. Yves feeling better, we left our BnB in the early afternoon, and went from the top of the hill down to the coast, then following the road until Monaco, meeting more and more fancy cars on the road. We had the chance to cycle on the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix race, ride the famous tunnels and take some pictures on the starting line. There was a boat exhibition on the sea, where we’d think we’d stop by to have the most expensive coke of the trip. This had to be done 🙂
In Monaco, Coca-Cola in a cafe cost about 5 euros. So with some advanced mathematical skills, you realize that it is slightly more expensive than the one from Uzbekistan. 5€/0,25L = 20€ per liter, versus 0,5€ per liter in Uzbek Chaihanas. Mmmh, this coke 40 times more expensive. Not bad at all! We didn’t stay too long there, posh places have never been our cup of tea. Back on the road. We officially entered France late in the afternoon, a bit skeptical about what we had ahead. French people do not have a good reputation abroad…so let’s see if they are true assholes!
Got the pole position 🙂