To Hyères-Plage - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

November 17, 2022

To Hyères-Plage

I woke this morning with an appealing set of images running through my head of the three quaint villages we so enjoyed in our ride yesterday, with Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World as the sound track.  I was considering which image to caption with “I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do.  They’re really saying I love you” When I wake up.

It wasn’t like that.  It was more like the unpleasant ride to Toulon that the Fenwicks experienced last spring, a distance to be survived rather than savored.

It began well enough though.  Breakfast at the Hotel de France exceeded our admittedly modest expectations, leaving us with warmer feelings about our stay here.  And we have to admit that our prison cell of a room was awfully inexpensive - €70 for a small room with a passable breakfast and a safe space indoors for the bikes felt quite fair.  If we’d wanted more we could have upgraded to something larger.

And Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume shows us a much brighter countenance as we leave it on a beautiful, sunny morning than it did in the dark when we were walking down its dark alleys trying to find an open restaurant without risking a humiliating encounter by walking past the one we just walked out on again.

Leaving SMdSB, for short.
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And the ride actually began quite beautifully as we followed the D64 south past vineyards and beneath plane trees, gradually climbing toward the crest ahead.  This is going to be a terrific ride, I’m telling myself as we near the summit and climb through pretty little Mazaugues, a place Louis Armstrong would have crooned over.  We’re getting all the work in early on this modest climb, and then we can relax and enjoy nearly thirty miles of downhill as we coat to the Mediterranean.

South of SMdSB, on the peaceful D64. If you bike south here, this is your route.
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Climbing toward the crest. Perfect autumn day.
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We’re ascending through Sainte Baume Regional Natural Park, a landscape that deserves protection.
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Now these are definitely beehives.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesWell yeah, but not particularly colourful.
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1 week ago
In Sainte Baume Regional Natural Park.
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Climbing through Mazaugues. We see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do. We have no idea what they’re really thinking though.
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Still climbing.
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Another canal. There are a lot of these in this part of the world.
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Nearing the summit. 30 miles down to the coast - let the fun begin!
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Our idyll abruptly ends though when we come to La Roquebrussanne.  Beautiful D64 comes to an end when it joins D5, a two lane, shoulderless arterial that has none of the blissful character of the D64.  Really, if you’ve come this way our recommendation is to turn back to SMdSB at this point, treat the D64 as a very nice day ride, and continue east along the EV8 instead.

We don’t know this yet though, so we plunge ahead.  We do the best we can in the coming miles to find alternate roads here and there, but much of the way is on this busy, fairly unpleasant winding road.  It’s too disparaging to call it a Death Trap - there are after all a few signs here and there advising drivers to Partager la Route, but there’s unfortunately not that much route to partager - but classifying it as Type 2 Fun feels perfectly fair.

Our hands and concentration are well occupied for the worst of it so there are no still photos, but the video gives you a sense of the experience.

Video sound track: Blue Rondo a la Turk, by the Dave Brubeck Quartet

And we do get a very nice but ridiculously brief respite from this peculiar bike path that maybe is just the beginning of something big?

Eventually though we come to a bridge across the Gapeau, the stream we’ve been descending along, and make our way down its west side as best we can through villages, parking lots, and short connecting trails.  Confusing and slow, but much more pleasant than watching the mirror with our jaws clenched.

Grampies favorite. Are we back in Kent?
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Rachael had some issues trying to get her bike through one of these gates where it was very steep, so I carelessly propped mine here and went back to lend a hand. I nearly needed a hand myself when I tried to dislodge it aftarwards.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesOh no-another trap.
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1 week ago
Passing through Solliès-Toucas, another pretty little village. So that’s two for the day.
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Very nice, really. If you unfortunately find yourself biking down the D5 yourself someday, it would be worth your while to look for your first chance to jump across to the west side of the stream.
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Beyond Solliès-Toucas we’re back with the traffic again, but not for long.  Soon we’re biking through coastal suburbs, and once we finally reach the coast it’s smooth sailing the rest of the way on a well developed littoral bikeway.

We arrive at our hotel at 3:30, exactly at its check-in time, and exactly when our Swedish host (with an American English she picked up growing up in Los Alamos, NM) arrives and unlocks the door.  It looks like quite a nice place, much more spacious than our small box in SMdSB.  We’ll be here for two nights before continuing east along the coast.

Lunch stop in La Crau, in front Of Église Notre-Dame de la Visitation. Look at those twinklers! Only about thirty shopping days until Xmas!
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Approaching the coast, we get a splendid view of Mont des Oiseaux. The mountain of the birds! I like that.
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We felt these hard-earned last few miles on the littoral bikeway were well deserved.
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It’s not just the larger room at Hôtel Le Méditerranée that makes it attractive.
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Ride stats today: 42 miles, 1,700’; for the tour: 1,880 miles, 103,000’

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 1,880 miles (3,026 km)

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Amber StarfireGorgeous scenery — some of which looks a lot like Napa :-). Sorry you had to navigate such narrow, trafficked roads; that can really ruin an otherwise beautiful ride.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Amber StarfireThe road wasn’t awful at least, just stressful. We can hardly complain - we’ve only had a few spells like this in the whole eight months so far.

And you’re right, suddenly it does feel like we’re in Southern California. Biking south from Hyères today it felt like we could be somewhere around Santa Barbara. I keep wanting there to be brown pelicans soaring over the waves.
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1 week ago