As it's Sunday, we had a leisurely breakfast in civilised clothes before changing into the Lycra. We didn't want to upset the residents of this spa town after all. Then, a short ride into town to stock up on bananas, nuts, peaches and a large chicken baguette and we were on our way.
Today's route is best summed up as 'generally uphill except for when it's downhill' but overall it was an uphill ride for the first 20 miles. Irritatingly the incline was not enough to engage a really low gear and grind but enough to wonder if the tyres were pumped up or if there was something sticking to the wheels. After yesterday's elation at riding in such a beautiful area, today was nothing to blog about and so we just slogged along.
A highlight was a fly infested coffee at Allemagne en Provence, translated as Germany in Provence, which struck us as curious. All the roads were named after resistance fighters so I can only think this is a village with something of an identity crisis. It does, however, have some delicious cool and potable water flowing from the fountain so we filled up our bottles and set off again.
Next stop was a field beyond Riez where we ate our banana, nuts and generally told ourselves to man up. The pep talk got us to 680m where the road turned downwards at last. We freewheeled down to the plain before Moustiers-Ste-Marie which looked beautiful so we took the effort of turning off the main road and climbing up to visit it. Big mistake. Hundreds of coach borne tourists were there, hogging the cafés, so we turned our bikes around and made a dignified exit.
A couple of miles further on we found a delightful field with a shady tree to sit beneath and a lovely view of Lac de Sainte Croix. A vast lake that is an unnatural bluey turquoise from the minerals of the area. The lake is a big tourist attraction and it's shores are dotted with campsites and boat hire companies.
Our picnic spot managed to look at the lake but excluded the campsites so we enjoyed our picnic in peace and tranquility. Knowing about the climb to come, we drank as much water as we could and ate all our baguettes, chocolate brownies and peaches to provide fuel. From where we were sitting we could see Aiguines perched on a pimple way above us. It helped focus the mind.
Filled and water fuelled, we set off and turned on to the D 19, leading to The Corniche Sublime route that follows the south side of the Gorge de Verdon, the French Grand Canyon. Our target was to get to Aiguines (823m) tonight as a staging point for the big ascent tomorrow when we should top 1201m.
Well, I'm delighted to report that we made it here safe and sound and at a steady but sweaty 5.6 mph.
Emma did have a small issue with blindness, 'Bryn, STOP! I can't see!' but this turns out to have been a simple case of sweat in her eyes rather than anything more alarming, although she did also report suspected burst blood vessels, tomato face and exploded lung syndrome.
We got to the village at 3pm and sat beside the fountain outside our hotel, ordering Oranginas and dripping while we waited for our booking in time. The waitress looked horrified lest we scare away all her fat tourists and Eurobikers; we were clearly ruining the neighbourhood. Well, tough, we've earned our drink!
The noise the bikers make as they throttle their jet engine Kamikaze Macho Turbo super bikes that are bigger than most cars is stunning. Whole packs of them roar through these villages blasting everyone with their exhausts and then, if they deign to stop, the waitresses fawn all over them and ostracise the decent if rather sweaty and no doubt smelly, British touring cyclist. They sit in the cafés in their leathers, looking exhausted with their efforts, but what have they done all day apart from roar past honest and silent cyclists?
Mind you, the Bikers aren't as bad as the Coach Tourists. A huge coach wallops past the cyclist and then arrives in a beauty spot and disgorges sixty or so waddlers who just about manage to make it to the cafe, where they take all the tables, or they dominate the viewpoint, where they ruin the view.
So, I know this is going to be slightly controversial. I think the locals should impose a heavy tax on those who don't exert an appropriate amount of physical energy. Walkers, horse riders, cyclists, even runners would of course be welcomed, but cars, motorbikes and coach passengers would be subjected to an Effort Tax. I commend the idea to the house.
Our Lycra is washed and hanging in the window. Our room overlooks the village square and we look forward to a night noisy from the revellers below, no doubt all people who have got here using infernal combustion engines. The town clock is about 50 m away and goes off every quarter of an hour, we have to keep the windows shut because of the wasps and the weefee (wifi) has dropped off yet again. Rain is forecast.
On the bright side, this has been the most wonderful trip, every day is unique and has its own experiences and challenges. I suspect that tomorrow will be the most challenging to date but we always knew that and frankly, if we can't take a joke we shouldn't have come.
Once tomorrow is over it's nearly Fini and we are already wondering what life sans Lycra et sans Velo will be like. Well, we'll just have to come up with another plan.
As we worked our way up the hill (ok let's call it a mountain) a car slowed down to shout ' Allez, Allez!' ... Emma's reply was ' Alright, Alright!'
Onwards and Upwards to The Corniche Sublime!