Sunday, 20 June 2010

Ian's Cycle Begins!

The Start just outside Nice
Ian’s Cycle begins! (and my epic van journey!)

Nice to Geneva over the Grande Traverse des Alpes in stages.
Stage 1: Nice to St Martin de Vesubie – not technically on the route, but we’re reminiscing from 1976, when we were last there with Colin and Morty!!
“Now this is how you switch the fridge off and change it to gas…This is how you secure the bikes…This is how you send a message to my phone, please don’t ring, or it’ll be bothering me all through the cycle….” The preparations begin!!!
Sally SatNav is chirping away as I climb up to St Clare and Levens. I don’t need her cos there’s only one way up, but it’s reassuring to hear another voice in the van, as I’m hairpinning around the overhanging rocks!! Vertigenous drops slow me right down, but for gran and those of a nervous disposition, don’t worry- I take no risks. I pull in regularly to let the fuming speedies go past!
From Levens I’m on a better road and on up to St Martin de Vesubie, at 900m. Could we find the place where we ate 34yrs ago! Can I find the campsite? Can I park the van?? Poor Ian . The road rises steeply to St Martin- a tight little village perched on the hill-side, with beautiful scenery dropping steeply into the Gorge de Vesubie.
St Martin Vesubie
I arrive at the campsite, la Ferme de St Josep, well actually, I go past the site and then ther’s a nervous few minutes trying to find somewhere to turn around, with Sally SatNav calmly but authoritatively telling me to “turn around where possible”. I am trying to, you stupid woman!
There’s a very tight entrance to one of the smallest sites we’ve been on with the van! Then a 3-point turn to park it, with a very nice French lady “helping” me to park in French. I expected the reception to be open. Still not used to the French way. It transpires that the office is open for an hour in the morning and a whole hour and a half in the afternoon. Fortunately the owner’s mum is there to receive me!
Right, switch gas on, fridge on, put deck chairs away cos it’s just started raining again, and get the kettle on. Message Ian to say arrived safe and sound. Feeling quite proud of myself that I’ve managed to successfully navigate my first alpine pass, find the site and park up, all without the slightest incident.
Only one big problem- little petrol – 55mls left! French mum says there is a garage at the end of town and when Ian arrives we fill up! Whilst out we book a meal in a pizzeria. It’s not where we ate 34 yrs ago, but I can’t keep going into various restaurants, muttering in poor French about having been here a long time ago and could I please have a look at the view from the soaking wet veranda- no – it’s not that one!! Ah well this one looks fine, it’ll do! We’ll have to leave our memories intact and as wonderful as they were!
St Martin
The weather became absolutely dreadful again, with pounding rain . Ian arrived soaked and pleased to have a hot shower. We waited for the rain to stop, long enough to climb up to the restaurant, me with plastic shoes on and better sandals in a plastic bag! The food was great and the pizza oven kept us lovely and warm. The place was very busy with increasingly sodden requests for a table being denied! Heavy downpours all night, falling as snow and sleet on the big passes. Might have to do a re-think as in two days Ian’s supposed to be climbing the biggest pass in Europe, and even more worrying, SO AM I!!

Ian Says “Not the best of starts. Have to go South to North because of the weather. Having decided to go from Nice, made a big error by getting lost on the crease of the map, and ended up climbing the wrong valley, resulting in an extra 800’ climbing on an already tough day. Didn’t take enough food, so was glad to see St Martin 39mls and 5000’ ascent. This is hard!

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