Le Lac

Day 7. Nice to Orange. 309 Kms, 191 miles.
And another fabulous chapter in our French adventure. We had a lovely time in Nice, it was like a holiday from a holiday, because we didn’t have to worry about the bike, wear layers of clothes, and count the hours til the next destination. But we were also looking ahead to the next part of the journey, so woke up at a reasonable hour (7 o’clock in the morning is pretty good going for a holiday wake-up time), and got sorted and packed. We checked out, and set off along the Promenade des Anglaise, in the opposite direction to the way we had arrived. This wide boulevard is lined with palm trees, with the sea and pedestrian walkway to one side, and glamourous hotels on the other. The Nicoise do a lot of jogging, cycling, rollerblading, promenading and other publicly accessible stuff along this walkway, and the taxi drivers and scooters dice with each other, and death, along the carriageway. In all, a good experience to live through, which we somehow managed.
The satnav took us parallel to the coast for a while, heading west, then swiftly hoicked us inland, and we started to climb the mountains once again. Pretty passes and mountains surrounded us, and the sweltering heat of the coast began to cool off. Lovely as the surrounds were, they werent a patch on the alpine views of a few days ago.
However, we gradually climbed, and suddenly our route joined the Route Napoleon again. We began to climb swiftly, and the views started to get more spectacular. The air definitely got cooler still, and riding the windy passes and twisty corners was a real pleasure, even though my bike doesn’t quite handle as smoothly since it got knocked over.
In fact, while we spent s few hours in alpine cafe sorting out the aftermath of our accident, we met a slightly eccentric German bloke and his family. He told us of a beautiful lake and canyon “vere ve haff to go unt svim”. So today we were headed for said lake. We rode up to the head of the gorge of Verdon, which began to offer marvelous views of a very deep canyon, and extremely blue water. We passed camping and activity sites, and saw quite a lot of river rafters going down the canyon.
The ride was again great, and eventually we came to the head of the gorge, where it drops away suddenly, by hundreds of meters, into Lac St Croix. The view from the top of the gorge over the lake was breathtaking. The colour of the lake was swimming pool blue. It was really amazing to see. It looked like a picture, not something real. At the head of the gorge, we saw people on little boats riding into the canyon, and that is where we were headed.

Very very blue water - st Croix
We got down to the lake, parked up the bike, and changed into our swimming gear. The wether had got overcast, but it was still nice and warm. We had stopped at a small supermarket to get our lunch, so we walked down to the lakeside and ate our picnic, then joined the queue of people waiting to hire pedalo’s and canoes. The queue was long, but not many people wanted to hire kayaks, so we volunteered for that, and jumped to the front. We geared up, and set off on our little kayak.
Men and women definitely think differently about things. We didn’t always manage to row in tandem, so took turns. Lena’s paddling always made the kayak head more left than forward. I could see that this was because she was holding the paddle unevenly, with a much greater part of the paddle being used on one side of the kayak, but even though I pointed this out, she persisted on rowing us in circles, while I spent much of my rowing time trying to compensate and steer. Usually we just took turns with me correcting her steering, when it was her chance to paddle. We headed into the gorge, which rose up hundreds of meters on each side. There were lots of boats in there, but it was only about 30 meters wide, so a fair amount of collisions took place. A little way in was a diagonal crack that could be climbed, and a bunch of boys were climbing up, then jumping form a reasonable height into the water. The highest leap was probably 10-12 meters, and reminded me of a time in Israel, when me and my cousin Jules leapt of the Banias waterfall, and my uncle nearly killed us for frightening him so.

Trying to paddle straight
A bit further up the gorge was a waterfall, which we rode under and got soaked. It was very cool water, and my rowing partner didn’t quite appreciate my steering as much as I did. Anyway, it was about time to turn around as our hire was for an hour, so we headed back downstream, exiting the gorge, and rowing the final couple of hundred meters back to the beach landing point.
We had a swim in the lake, which was refreshing but not too cold. Then the process of drying out, and getting dressed in our bike gear in the car park. Finally we were ready to go, having spent a few really lovely hours by a beautiful lake.
More biking, an area that was really deserted with very narrow and twisty roads, which then lead us into wine country as we headed towards Avignon and our final destination, Orange. We rode through fantastic aromas, given off by vast fields of lavender, and other herb that I could recognize, but not name. We also rode past huge fields of sunflowers, which looked fantastic.
We past some massive vineyards, and some pretty (and some not so pretty) towns. This area has a long and intereting history, and was where the French popes were based when there was a division in the catholic church. I am a bit hazy on the details, and am currently without google, so I can’t tell you more, but you can look it up.
We arrived in Orange around 730 ish, to a pretty little hotel. We showered and ate a meal that we had bought a bit earlier from another supermarket, with one of the nicest dry beef sausages that I have ever tasted, plus the usual few meters of bread batons. We also had a bottle of wine, which cost 2 euros, and tasted like it should have costed about 30. Lovely.
We couldn’t get online, and went down to reception to try get it going, but suddenly I got very tired, and bed was calling strongly. I think I was asleep in seconds, sleeping the sleep of the just and the brave.
I am typing this now on wednesday morning, still without any Internet connection, but will post this when we do get online, perhaps this eve. It is now pissing with rain, we have to pack up, get our wet gear on, and go forth on our northern conquests. Laters, dudes…

French roads

So I have spent a lot of time over the past week looking at French road names on my satnav. I have come to the conclusion that there are only 6 names that they give to roads here.
1. Every main road through a town or village is called Jean-Juares.
2. Every town, no matter how small, will have at least 13 roads named after Victor Hugo.
3. About 40% of roads in France are named Marechal xxx, where xxx is a typical and very long French name like Marechal de Tartuffe aux Vendres des Liognines.
4. A huge number of roads are named after Charles de Gaulle, whoever he was.
5. Many roads are named after what I can only assume are important dates from French history. You get plenty of “6st de Juin, 1944” or “22de Septembre 1493” or similar
6. All the rest are agglomerations of the above, normally a de Gaulle followed by a date, and maybe with another Marechal de Somebody tacked on for good measure. You get names like “Boulevard de Generalle Charles de Gaulle aux Siegny et 14 Novembre 1820, around 9;30 in the evening”, or “Marechal Folies de Andripones et Chirac du Symfonie 1812 Ouverture la Fins de temps”.
Anyway, they keep me amused while I am traversing the countryside. Mon Dieu!