France: Day Ten – Aix en Provence to Les Issambres (Cote D’Azur)

Although we spent most of this day with rain threatening & evident all around, we didn’t actually get wet. Perhaps as well, as we got enough punctures, plus a case of mangled gears to make us think we’d been really bad boys in our younger days. The punctures, we think, were a result of having to use the hard shoulder on the busy dual carriageways, which of course carry all the grit, glass & general debris. However by about the seventh one it was all past a joke & in particular when mine went for the second time in an hour, on the downhill section to the coast. It went with such a bang it was a real shock, but all I could feel was relief as it could well have had me out of control & over the edge. However by now we didn’t have any spares left so I jumped in the van & we went in search of a bike shop which we found, after some reluctant French help, in St Maxime. Bright blue tyres on a red & white Specialized frame were not going to do my street cred much good, but as soon as we arrived at the hotel, I fitted same & promptly got back on the bike & headed back to St Maxime to get my 80 + miles in for the day & to make sure the bike was fit for the final push, tomorrow.

La Caravelle at Les Issambres was beautifully situated, right on the coast & the landlady was a joy who couldn’t do enough to make us welcome. The rather quirky rooms & temperamental plumbing might not be to everyone’s taste but it was good fun & at less than Euro100 for two, including a decent breakfast, not bad value in this expensive part of the world. At the landlady’s suggestion, we went to Maison Fleurie (I believe it was called), a short drive away. After an initial slow start whilst we were studiously ignored in favour of the locals, we eventually got fed & watered & our (probably drunk) hostess was good fun & served some surprisingly tasty food, off the set menu. A good precursor we felt, for the final push to Nice.

Stats for the day – 81 miles, average 14 mph, max 32 & 5 hours 43mins in the saddle.