To Mandelieu-la-Napoule - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

November 21, 2022

To Mandelieu-la-Napoule

Our day could have started off better, with a second round of breakfast at the Bon Repos.  We could have sat at the red or yellow table this time!  Breakfast isn’t served at the hotel until eight though, and yesterday we were thinking we wanted to get an early start on our ride today to Cannes because there was a chance of rain in the afternoon.  Rachael did the research and found a cafe that opens at seven and has an attractive set of menu options, including omelets.  What a great idea, I thin when she proposes it, and immediately agree.

7:05 finds us at the door of Cafe Maxime, a large place on the waterfront that is just beginning to show signs of life.  We’re shown a table and soon enough the bar guy comes by with the menu and shows us the offerings for breakfast.  The simple breakfast: bread, a pastry, and coffee; up a notch and can add in jam and OJ; and top of the line, for €9.50 you get the fresh squeezed juice.  

Rachael asks about the omelet, but he shakes his head and points to the same list again.  The cook doesn’t arrive until 8.  

So that’s a sad start to the day.  Rachael feels guilty for talking us into this major disappointment, which helps - but it doesn’t stop me from imagining that wonderful bowl of coffee with a free refill we’d be having back at the hotel for just a few euros more.

The point though was to get an early start, after all; which we do, leaving at 9:30 after our host saves us from my defective thumb once more by opening the parking lot for us so we can retrieve our bikes. It’s overcast as we bike east along the bay, with the sun feebly trying to break through.  It’s still chilly but we’ve got a tailwind so we have no complaints.  Other than about breakfast, which still rankles.

Leaving Saint-Maxime.
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Keith AdamsA moody, atmospheric late November morning...
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5 days ago
Suzanne GibsonOne for the wall when you settle down...
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4 days ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonI was really pleased with this. There’s just the right of cloud cover masking the sun so that it doesn’t spoil the shot.
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4 days ago

We share the narrow coast road out of town with the morning’s light traffic for about the first half mile but then are back on the paved littoral bike path again, riding a safe, quiet, pleasant route that will carry us all the way to Saint-Raphael.  Really, except for a few short stretches the coastal ride has been excellent ever since we approached Hyères.

A few miles before coming to Frejus we bike across a reedy, marshy expanse where the mouth of the Argens River broadens out into a small estuary and lagoon.  I stop for photos of course while Rachael bikes on.  On the Garmin though I see she has stopped about a quarter mile ahead, presumably waiting impatiently for me.  When I catch up I announce I’m passing so she’ll know I’m in front now, but it’s too late - the two nutria she’s been watching immediately scurry to safety.  I apologize for interrupting her viewing pleasure, but she’s fine - she feels almost giddy at having them stay put for such a long time for her.  She’s gotten her nutria fix for the moment.

Cycling beneath the pines, heading east from Saint-Maxime. There’s no shoulder yet, but a bike path begins just around the bend.
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Looking across the bay to Saint-Raphael.
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It’s not a wilderness experience exactly with the coastal traffic often just a pine tree away, but it’s safe and very pleasant.
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Approaching Fréjus we cross a reedy wetland at the mouth of the Argens. It looks like an attractive place to explore, with planked walking trails snaking off through the reeds.
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Before coming to Saint-Raphael we ge a look up the canal to Fréjus, an ancient city at the junction of the Via Julia Augusta and Via Domitia founded by Julius Caesar over two millennia ago.  It looks enticing viewed from the mouth of the canal, and makes me think we should give it another try sometime.  We stayed here in 1993 on our return from Italy and Rome but were not particularly impressed.  It felt gritty and rundown 5o us then, but I imagine there have been changes over the last three decades.

Fréjus, viewed from the mouth of the canal connecting it to the sea.
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Almost immediately after this we find ourselves in Saint-Raphael, the coastal resort that’s essentially contiguous with its ancient neighbor.  We enjoy a pleasant ride along its waterfront for the next two miles before coming out the other side and heading toward the famous red rocks of Estérel, the cape we saw in the distance from our outings above Saint-Maxime yesterday.

Along the promenade, Saint-Raphael.
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Looking back at Saint-Raphael.
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At first I’m feeling disappointed by Estérel as we approach it from the west, a thin layer of red rising above a solid apron of houses lining its base.  We rounded Estérel going the other direction four years ago, and I have a memory of it as a spectacular place.

It’s not until we round the cape and start biking up its northeast side that it really reveals itself though.  It’s thrilling biking along this side of the cape, rounding one bend after another and coming to yet another stunning red formation.  It immediately brings to mind riding down the northwest coast of Corsica between Calvi and Porto, still my gold standard (or red standard, I suppose) of outstanding coastal rides.  And, in fact, the two are related - the Estérel Massif was originally attached to Africa but was separated when the Mediterranean Sea was formed.  Corsica was a part of the same formation until it too was separated.

Approaching Estérel, we stop to admire this magnificent pine.
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Keith AdamsKeep your heads down as you ride past!
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5 days ago
Another view of this great sprawling pine, its branches propped by a pair iron crutches.
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The Estérel Massif astonishes with one stunning vista after another. I’d like to come back and see this cape on a sunny day though.
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Agay, a small resort beneath the cliffs. We considered staying here at one point but were afraid it would be too small and quiet this late in the year.
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The cape at the south end of the Estérel Massif.
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Rounding the cape.
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The view southeast. The red northwest coast of Corsica is just a ways over the horizon, roughly a hundred miles out.
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On the north side of Estérel the wierdly eroded, cave riddled Calanque of Maubois is maybe its most dramatic section.
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The view southwest, shooting into the sun. Not the best exposure, but aren’t those remarkable clouds?
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Keith AdamsActually I like the huge contrast between the rocky silhouettes, silver sea, and the sky and clouds.

And yes, the clouds are very interestingly shaped.
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5 days ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsThose rocky silhouettes are the reason I stopped for this shot. I didn’t notice the sky until I was framing it.
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4 days ago

We’ve been stunned all along as we round the cape, but we’re really blown away when we come to a view to the northeast, with Cannes sprawled along the coastline and the southern alps rising above.  We can’t believe this view of the alps, white with what must be fresh snow from the recent rains.  We’ve never been here late enough in the year to see this astonishing view of the coast.

Cannes, Antibes, and the Alps. Incredible.
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A closer look.
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Keith AdamsBy the Power of LUMIX, that's impressive!
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5 days ago

Breathtaking, but we’re not quite done with the Estérel either.  What a fantastic ride!  We’ve got just over a week left in France before flying home, but today it feels like it could turn into one of the best weeks of the whole nine month tour.

Approaching Cannes on the north side of the Estérel Massif.
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Shooting the gap.
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Keith AdamsI'd hate to be the one tasked with changing bulbs on what I take to be a streetlight on the cliff to the left.
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5 days ago
One of the prettiest views I can remember seeing.
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I’ve never been particularly enthusiastic about Cannes, but this completely changes my feelings about it. It would be an amazing place to spend the winter.
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Video sound track: C’est What, by the Bud Shank Quartet

We’ve been talking about biking to Cannes today, but we’re not.  We’ve just been too lazy to remember the name of the tiny village to its west where we’ve booked a hotel, Mandelieu-la-Napoule.  Neither of us have ever registered it as a place before this but we were just looking for a reasonable place that halved the distance between Saint-Maxime and Nice, tomorrow’s destination.  

We don’t know a thing about Mandelieu when we bike in, other than that it has a well reviewed hotel and looks like it will have one or two restaurants open tonight.  We’re very pleasantly surprised when we bike in though to find that it’s a real village, not just some extension of the sprawl around Cannes.  It has a delightful, fresh character and is a place I’d definitely stay again.  We love our small hotel, and I do appreciate the fact that I’m served up a beer in their lounge not long after we arrive.  I had the thought that I would first grab the camera and take some shots around the village before the rains hit, expected to arrive in about a half hour - but I’m too late.  When I look out our window it’s already raining.  It must have began within about fifteen minutes of our arrival. 

So good job, Rocky!  It was a good thing you found us that so-so breakfast cafe this morning so we could hit the road early.  We needed it.

The central square of Mandelieu-la-Napoule, from our hotel room.
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We arrived just in time.
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Ride stats today: 35 miles, 1,700’; for the tour: 1,985 miles, 108,600’

Today's ride: 35 miles (56 km)
Total: 1,985 miles (3,195 km)

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