Sainte-Maxime - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

November 8, 2018

Sainte-Maxime

(A note on today’s photographs: yesterday, provoked by a comment on a prior entry, we included a few more folks in the gallery than usual.  Today we perhaps overcompensated, and it looks a bit like a neutron bomb wiped out the population in southern France.  Not counting shots of Rachael, I see that only four other folks slipped into a frame today, for an average of 0.2 fpf (folks per frame).  Not many other signs of life either - no cows, no cats, just two gulls.  I trust you understand that it’s quieter here in the off season, but not THAT quiet.)

We’re in luck - it looks likely to be dry all day again.  We’ve got a fairly long ride ahead of us today, so we get a fairly early start to improve our chances of arriving in Sainte-Maxime before the rains return.  As they will - it looks like most days in the coming week will be damp or worse, so we’ll make the most of any breaks we get.  

Not long after 9 we walk over to the office where the friend of our hostess  Veronique has generously offered to store our bikes and pick them up for the last time.  Then we bike over to Rachael’s new favorite bakery in the world to pick up lunch, weaving past lines of Christmas lights strung out on the pavement - work crews are already out stringing them up for the holiday season - head back to our room to pick up our luggage, and bike west out of town.

First stop: Juan-les-Pins, just a mile away on the other side of the cape.  We’re stopping there to check out a store that is advertised as a GoPro dealer, in the hopes that Rachael can buy a spare battery for her new camera (which, although being a much higher quality camera, seems to use up its battery rather quickly).  No luck here though: we don’t find a battery because we don’t even find the store.  It looks like it no longer exists.

We do find the beautiful Mediterranean though, and a long, beautiful bay that stretches west past Cannes to the Esterel cape.  For the next fifteen miles we follow the coast, switching back and forth between busy stretches on the primary coast road and welcome breaks on strategically located bike paths.  It’s mild and very pleasant this morning, and despite the evidence provided in the photos, there are plenty of folks about - sitting on benches staring at the sea, walking the seaside promenade in Cannes to see and be seen, and even bicycling in large numbers.

Looking northwest from Juan-les-Pins. Cannes is just beyond the next small headland.
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Looking south from Juan-les-Pins, along the west coast of the Antibes cape. Biking at this time of year gives us some difficult riding situations, but as compensation it gives back endlessly interesting sea and skyscrapes.
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The waterfront promenade, Cannes. We biked through here once in late September, and the beaches were crammed with lounges, umbrellas and sunbathers.
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It’s taken years to master this step.
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We checked in at the Carlton, thinking we might change our plans and stay over here in Cannes; but they eyed us over, sniffed, and said that unfortunately they were complet.
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We’re here, with the place to ourselves!
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Eyeing the Massif d‘Esterel from the beach at Cannes. Beautiful from afar, and more so up close.
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A bit east of Cannes
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A look back at the bay before rounding Esterel
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Beyond Cannes and its suburbs to the west, we leave the bay and start circling the base of the Massif d’Esterel, the low mountain range that reaches the coast between Cannes and Saint Raphael.  This is an absolutely stunning road, past rugged brick red cliffs and rocky promontories reaching into the sea.  The colors are really magical.  We’ve long thought of the Corsican road between Calvi and Porto as the prettiest coastline we’ve ever biked, but after today I’m reconsidering.  The lighting conditions are difficult for the camera today, and the photographs don’t really do justice to how exceptional it all feels.  Rachael’s too-short video (her battery gave out again) gives a better feel for it than the stills.

Surprisingly, the ride around the cape really is nearly as quiet as the photos indicate.  We don’t see many cars at all, and maybe fewer than the frequent bikers that pass us by.  One of the benefits of being here at this time of year, I think.  I can’t imagine that this isn’t crawling with tourists in the sunnier months.

Climbing the eastern face of the massif, the views back west toward Cannes grow more spectacular with each bend in the road. Progress is very slow for the next ten miles.
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The view southwest. Fortunately the rain is still seemingly far out at sea, and not as threatening as it looks. We hope.
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A final look back east before rounding the cape
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For nearly ten miles we biked beneath red escarpments like this, often towering a few hundred feet above us.
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Esterel - a short coastline, but among the prettiest we’ve seen anywhere.
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Finally we move on beyond the cape, and can pick up the pace. The rest of the day’s ride is basically flat.
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The morning has all been spectacular and interesting enough that we make terrible time.  By one thirty, as we eat our lunch by the side of the road staring at the amazing red cliffs surrounding us, we realize we’ve gotten less than half of the day’s ride in.  We still have 25 miles to go, and the sky is getting a disturbingly darkish cast to the west.  When we leave the cape behind and come to the outskirts of Saint Raphael, we pick up the pace and bike steadily the rest of the way, with very few stops: a few times for photos I can’t bear to pass up, and to layer up - we cover the panniers and don our raincoats when the threatened rain arrives, and for the last ten miles we splash our way home.  It isn’t too bad, really - it’s fairly warm, there’s a bit of a tailwind, and it only rains for about three miles.  After that, it continues misting for another five miles, with the sun shining tantalizingly through it and making us feel like we must be about to come through.  Finally, perhaps a mile from the hotel, we do.

We’ll be in Sainte-Maxime for two nights.  Tomorrow looks to be seriously wet, so we’ll likely leave the bikes in the garage and take the ferry across the bay to Saint-Tropez.  We hear it’s worth a look.

Uh, oh. Maybe we shouldn’t have spent so much time looking for a spare battery.
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In Saint-Raphael, looking up the short channel to Fréjus
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Most of the way from Saint-Raphael to Saint-Maxime was on a bike route. Though not always as separated and lovely as here, it was especially welcome to be separated from the traffic as it splashed through puddles beside us.
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Etang de Villepey, on the outskirts west of Saint-Raphael. I like this for the unusual arc of the clouds and their reflections.
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OK. We’ll stop for one last shot.
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Jen GrumbyBeautiful!!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyMerci, Mme Rahn!
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1 month ago

 

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Ride stats today: 48 miles, 1,800’

Today's ride: 48 miles (77 km)
Total: 2,286 miles (3,679 km)

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