Day ride: Gorges du Loup - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

November 7, 2018

Day ride: Gorges du Loup

Hooray!  Dry all day!  We wait around until 9 , the earliest we can retrieve our bikes broom an office down the street - our place has no space for them, but our hostess found a friend who offered to let them stay in his office while we’re here - and then hustle out of town.  We have to be back before 5, when his office closes for the day; and before sunset, which isn’t much after 5 now anyway.

Our loop begins with a fast, easy dash east along the sea to Cagnes-sur-Mare.  I’m glad to get a chance to bike this stretch, which we would have ridden in the other direction if we had biked to Antibes instead of training it.  Much better in the sun than blinding rain.

Leaving Antibes, we head back east for a few miles along the beautiful seaside bike path that runs to Nice.
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Lighthouses at the harbor mouth of Villanueve Loubet
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Looking east toward Nice and Cap Ferrat.
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On the bike/pedestrian path, near Cagnes-sur-Mer. In a way, today was a frustrating day for photography - people out enjoying the sun kept cropping up and spoiling the photos. I was hoping it would be a bit quieter here in the off season.
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Bruce LellmanBut Steve Miller should be overjoyed to see so many people.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanI wondered if anyone would pick up on that. Today was all for him. We’ll revert to the mean soon, I’m sure.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonOr we could say the slightly emotive "regress" to the mean.

This all brings to mind a tricky question in photography, including travel photography: Do you wait for the truck, or person(s) to get out of the way of the shot, or do you realistically record what is actually there. 99.44% of the time we all choose the clear shot. Similarly, we almost always put in the photo where someone is smiling nicely, even if in most shots they don't, or aren't.
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Scott AndersonBut that would be such a mean thing to say.
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At Cagnes-sur-Mer we leave the sea and head inland.  The first two miles are still flat and relaxed, on a bike path that borders the river/canal.  Beyond that though it’s a gradual climb for the next five miles to Vence, a lovely balcony town that would be great to come back and use as a base some day. The climb is gradual, but not really that pleasant - we’re back on the arterial, climbing through fairly urban territory until we reach Vence.  It’s not bad but not so relaxing either.  I’m glad we’re here in a quiet season.

Along the channelized Cagnes river, we head north and inland. Same story here though - people everywhere.
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On the short but sweet bike path along the Cagnes. Soon we will leave it and start climbing the foothills toward Vence.
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Saint Paul de Vence, the first of a series of striking ridge towns we’ll see today. Probably crawling with people too, but fortunately we’re too far away for them to spoil the shot.
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Bruce LellmanI know what you mean, I can feel all the people down there.
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The climb was a bit zippier than usual this morning.  It helped having two days off to rest the legs.  He hyperlapse feature on Rachael’s new GoPro gave us a boost too. 

In Vence, crawling the flea market in Place de Grande Jardin. Nice that we have a dog and pigeon in this shot to add some balance.
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Hanging out at the flea market
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In Vence. The ash tree is believed to have been planted in 1578 in memory of King Francois I and his visit here.
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Jen GrumbyWow - that is an amazing tree!
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Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYup. Wish I had taken more photos of it. This isn’t even its best angle.
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In Vence. It’s a lovely town, and one we almost added to our overnight itinerary. We voted against it because of the weather, opting to stay close to the coast and train line.
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In Vence
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In Vence
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Looking north toward the pre-Alps from the belvedere in Vence
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Unlike people, there can hardly be too many shots of bicycles in your blog. Especially if there’s a pigeon to add color.
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Leaving Vence, we resume our gradual climb, continuing up for another seven miles before topping out at Tourettes-sur-Loup, one of several beautiful villages perched on either rim of the dramatically impressive Gorge du Loup.  Almost as soon as we leave Vence the quality of the ride improves significantly - traffic volume is much lower, the landscape is greener.  

At Tourettes we pause briefly, in a futile search for a public WC.  One is found, but it’s closed for the winter.  We could stop in at a bar for drinks and to eat our lunch, but we don’t want to spend that much time.  Better to plow on in search of a secluded spot by the road.

Tourettes-sur-Loup
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A bit of public art, Tourettes-sur-Loup. Plus two artfully placed bicycles.
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Habeas, Acte I, by Georges Sculpteur. Bronze, 2009
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Tourettes is the first of two equal high points of today’s ride.  In between, we drop for five miles down into the Gorges du Loup, cross the river about eight hundred feet below, and then climb back out the other side to Le Bar sure Loup on the opposite side.  These ten miles really make the ride.  A fast, sinuous descent to the river and then a slow climb out the other side, with striking views commanding your attention the whole way.  It’s really a spectacular ride, and one I vaguely remembered from our tour through here in the summer of 2003.  We were biking the other direction, on our way back to Nice, after spending the night in Bar.  I didn’t remember anything about this stretch of the road itself, except that it was really special.  It’s great to be reminded why.

We both definitely remember the night in Bar though.  We’ve reminded each other of it many times over the years.  Bar is on the rim of the gorge, but somehow we booked ourselves into a camping gite on the river, an extremely steep 800 feet below.  There’s nothing down there but the gite and the river, so we had to climb back up to find a meal, after an already arduous day had softened us up.

The gite itself was a piece of work too.  Completely unattended when we arrived, we were helped out by a hippyish guest who pointed us to a vacant room.  We weren’t really sure we had lodging until the next morning.  The restaurant at the top though was great, with a beautiful view across the gorge.

A small waterfall in the Gorges du Loup, just outside Tourettes
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I remember this striking bend in the road with its varnished wall overhanging the road and the old houses built into the cliff from our first ride through here, fifteen years ago.
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Looking back at Tourettes-sur-Loup
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Such excellent cycling country this is. Ten miles inland from the coast, you’re sneaking along cliff faces in the pre-Alps.
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The massive wall at the head of the Loup Gorge. We’re too close to it here to get a good perspective - we’re almost surrounded by cliffs like these on both sides of the gorge. If we could stand back far enough, we could see the famously scenic town of Gordon perched on top of the cliffs.
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At Pont du Loup, crossing the raging river to its right bank.
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So close, but somehow missing the best shot. Don’t they see that gorgeous bicycle there?
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Jen GrumbyTheir loss!
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Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyI thought so too. I almost walked over and pointed it out to them, until I remembered I don’t speak French.
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An exposed lunch break in the gorge, with Bar-sur-Loup in the background. Finally finding a place to sit down in a patch of sun, we risk leaning back and toppling into the gorge, or leaning forward into the path of cars careeening around the bend.
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Bar-sur-Loup. We stayed here fifteen years ago, and enjoyed one of our best meals of the tour.
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For several miles we enjoy this beautiful lane paralleling the main road, and enjoy a quiet, scenic ride into Bar-sur-Loup. With a pair of short tunnels and old iron bridges spanning small gorges, I think it must be an abandoned rail line.
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Well worth stopping regularly for a good look around.
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We both remember this road! Somehow, we managed to book ourselves into a crude B&B down on the river, several hundred feet below town. Too steep to bike safely, we had to push our bikes down. Then climb back up to dinner, and down again. And then push them back out again the next morning.
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Beyond Bar, our work is done for the day - it’s pretty much downhill all the way back to Antibes.  It’s not the best ride though - traffic is steady, the road is winding and narrow.  I’m glad we’re going downhill, and that the miles go fast.  If we come this way again, I’d look for a different route for this part of the ride.

We arrive back in Antibes in plenty of time, retrieving our bikes just before 4.  We could explore the village a bit more, but it feels like it’s just about to rain again so we happily just hang out in our own private slot canyon until the dinner hour.  A bit before seven we head off to the Picasso Museum again, this time to meet up with our new friends Kathy and CJ whole we ran into yesterday for an evening of dinner, wine, and stimulating conversation in our own language. A great way to spend the evening.

In Biot. Rachael is checking to see if there is a GoPro vendor nearby (she wants to buy a spare battery, because hers died today), while I bag another public art work for this month’s Cycle365 Challenge. This one is The Bird Cage, by Jacotre and Roger Capron.
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Stepping out for a bite
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Here’s to the good old days!
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The Antibes cathedral
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We ended the day at Mamelu, sharing a delicious Italian meal and the best conversation in a month with our new friends Kathy and CJ.
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Ride stats today: 40 miles, 2,700’

Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 2,238 miles (3,602 km)

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