Fine clear start in Barcelonnette but chilly. Leaving the friendly town centre hotel that’s been run by the same family for four generations and riding up the north approach to the Col d’Allos (2250 m.), it’s not a road for speed but it is one of the very best for nature.
Fine clear start in Barcelonnette but chilly. Leaving the friendly town centre hotel that’s been run by the same family for four generations and riding up the north approach to the Col d’Allos (2250 m.), it’s not a road for speed but it is one of the very best for nature: stunning views both upwards to the wall of rock which is the border with Italy and downwards to the torrent running in the ravines. Stopping at a waterfall for photos and a chat with a Belgian biker riding a Fireblade from Liège, the photographer for a group of cyclists. Pushing upwards the road winds through forests and then pastures and the view opens out. Vultures circling above, I counted a dozen. The col is understated and unspoilt - the cafe is 500m down the north side to enjoy a panoramic view. Then a tight zigzag down to the ski village, that has invested hugely in recent years. The benefit for the biker in the summer is the well-maintained road down the upper valley of the river Verdon, an easy ride and, if you want to, a fast ride.
The river Verdon started as an Alpine torrent, it’s first marked at the ski village. The road follows the river as it passes gorges and widens to a valley that is to me reminiscent of the Lamar valley in Yellowstone in Wyoming. No bears here. There’s the fortified town of Colmars, a one time the frontier between Italy, Savoie and France. A family of friendly donkeys were happy to do a selfie with me. Further down, the freedom and wildness of the Verdon river is tamed as it is trapped by a concrete dam and its water makes a graceful lake above Castellane. Lunch stop in the square at Castellane, popular with bikers.
Following now the river down to Marseille, riding a section of the Route Napoleon (that guy had an eye for a good bike road!). The topography opens out, the sky is a hot blue and I smell lavender just coming in to bloom. The Provence rainbow includes violet once again. This is summer in Provence, nearly the longest day, and the thermometer passes 30°C with some margin.