Trip to La Colle sur Loup

When we first looked at properties to buy on the Cote d’Azur we quickly found a charming house in La Colle sur Loup, a pretty village just down the road from Saint Paul de Vence, which seemed to fit the bill. We pondered long and hard but eventually decided against it as it was a corner property, without a view, on what has become a much busier road. However it’s one of our neighbouring villages, home to one of our favourite restaurants, we enjoy visiting its Jazz evenings during the summer and its other festivals throughout the year.

I few months back I’d spotted it was having a Franco-German festival which we decided to visit. The festival – someone selling vin chaud and bretzels- was a decided let down, but it was fun to reaquaint ourselves with this tranquil and charming place, enjoy coffee and cake in one of its many cafes, plus purchase fruit and vegetables from its Saturday market stall.

A former medieval community, La Colle sur Loup was home to a feudal lord in the 16th century. Consequently, there are plenty of buildings of historical significance such as a 12th century Canadel priory now converted into a restaurant (L’Abbaye) which still has a fortified gateway, corner towers, cloisters and a listed Romanesque chapel. Plus, at the entrance to the village, you’ll find its 17th century Eglise de Saint Jacques Le Majeur which has wonderful stained glass windows and a square bell tower. The place also boasts 16th century Chateau de Montfort and Le Gaudelet, a hunting lodge with a Renaissance facade from the same era.

I like to wander through the village’s historic centre, with its narrow alleyways and lively shopping streets, which has shady little squares with fountains and honey-coloured stone buildings with wonderful carved doors. Formerly renowned for its production of rose perfume – celebrated annually with its Fetes des Roses –  today it’s better known for its antique dealers and decorators, and also for its fine restaurants. In addition, the village has always attracted artists and artisans, such as Yves Klein, the founder of the New Realists, who is buried here, Jacques Ferrandez the well-known cartoon strip artist, the architect Yves Bayard and Raoul Giodan, another cartoon strip artist.

Lying on the river Loup, the village’s surrounding forest is one of its greatest attractions, providing an oasis of cool and peace in the summer months. Activities abound, it’s a mecca for outdoor ones. You can ride horses, cycle, kayak, canoe, hike or fish for trout- or just spend the day with a picnic – you know how the French love to picnic – in one of its two public parks. There’s also a children’s amusement park and a local sports ground.  It’s well worth a visit, perhaps combined with a trip to neighbouring Saint Paul de Vence.

My mojo’s back

Yesterday was one of rest and relaxation ie no cycling. However, I managed to clear a lot of administrative stuff and ready myself for the onslaught involved in the renewal of cycling licences. This year, thank goodness, I will be flying solo, and using my own (foolproof) system.

On a regular basis my coach programmes an hour-long ride in a fasted state. Allegedly, a tried and tested method for increasing fat burning. This may work for finely tuned athletes but I’m more of a dromedary (two-humped camel) and it takes more than an hour’s exercise to stir my adipose. However, I’m always willing to give it a go.

Bearing in mind my rather sluggish riding over the week end, I elected to ride one of my regular circuits. When I first managed to ride up this, 2 1/2 years ago, it took me 75 minutes.  I gradually chipped away at the time until, at the beginning of this year, I went under the hour with 59 minutes and 32 seconds.  Thanks to my training programme, I have over the last 6 months reduced this further by, give or take, 4 minutes.

Mind you, I nearly didn’t make it at all. First off one of my elderly neighbours shot out from in front of the bus, right into my path, as I was descending the Domaine. Luckily for her I had slowed on account of said bus, which was picking up rather than  dropping off passengers. Generally, I find the elderly to be a little hard of hearing so, given that racing bikes don’t have bells, I shouted “Attention”  (Watch out!). She looked taken aback and I imagined that my ears would be burning at that afternoon’s bridge session when she recounted how she had nearly been mown down by the speeding, mad, English woman.

Next hurdle was at the first set of traffic lights where I took the left hand filter to turn left however, the Parisian registered Audi TT, on my inside, in the same lane, decided to go straight on. While I was signalling my intentions, he was not. Another close shave and I’d only gone 2km!

I headed on up the hill past La Colle sur Loup and towards St Paul de Vence where I encountered hazard number three. I had slowed  just past the roundabout to enable a coach party of tourists to cross the road. As they headed towards St Paul an oncoming group unaccountably stepped off the curb and into my bit of the road. Figuring that English might be a wiser option, I opted for ” Watch where you’re going” and they hopped smartly back onto the pavement.

Maybe it was the three brushes with mortal injury, or more probably plenty of bumps and bruises, that got my adrenaline racing. Despite the setbacks, I realized I could be on for a new, best time ever. And so it was. I reached the end of my circuit in a time of 51 minutes and 4 seconds. I should have more off days!

Bring me sunshine

As I woke up this morning I could see the clear blue skies and feel the heat of the sun coming through windows. There wasn’t a moment to waste after two whole days stuck indoors. I was up, washed, dressed and out on the bike all within 20 minutes. The roads were just starting to dry out from the deluge of the past few days.

One consequence of the heavy rain tends to be rather more dirt, debris and stones on that bit of the road normally used by cyclists. Fortunately, it was early and the traffic light. I decided to choose a route which would give me a dry descent in the sunshine. Another hazard to avoid on the roads at this time of year are figs. They fall onto the road and make a sticky, squishy mess rendered more dangerous by the rain. Explaining that your road rash was caused by skidding on a fig is more likely to raise mirth than sympathy.

Gourdon
Gourdon

I was feeling wonderful this morning, riding at a good pace with a high cadence. There were not too many other riders out on the roads. At Pont Sur Loup, I  opted to ride up to Gourdon, via Pre du Lac, before descending  the Gorges du Loup, back down to Pont sur Loup. I then rode up to Tourrettes sur Loup before descending back home via Vence and La Colle sur Loup. Unfortunately, the forecast is for more rain tomorrow.

Lots of firsts

I’m a girl who believes in lots of planning and preparation. If I’m doing a cyclosportif, I like to have cycled the route beforehand. This is so that a) I know I can do it and b) I know when to conserve, or conversely, expend energy en route. It also gives me an opportunity to scout possible locations for a pit-stop as these generally tend to be few and far between. I prefer to wear bib shorts or tights, so there’s no way I can discretely slip out of my kit behind a bush. It’s a full-scale strip job, so you can understand my concerns and preference for a toilet.

I am currently training for the Charly Bérard which largely takes place on the course of my first ever pointage. A year or so ago, one the girls at the club invited me to cycle with her on Sundays, promising that we could go at my pace. She cycles with two of the club’s very spritely octogenarians who are both glowing adverts for the long-term benefits of cycling. I can only hope to emulate them when I’m their age.

When I told my husband I was going to do that Sunday’s pointage he was somewhat dismissive of my ability to get up the climbs. This time however I will have to ascend a tad quicker for fear of falling behind the dreaded “broom wagon” and having my timing device unceremoniously removed.

Most of the club events I take part in are self-timed. You tell the person writing the certificate your time and they put it on your certificate. Whether you finish first or last, your club gets the same number of points. You just have to finish. There are usually two courses on offer: one 50% longer than the other with more points on offer for the longer course. Trophies are awarded to the clubs whose riders garner the most points. There are no individual prizes save those for the youngest and oldest male and female entrants to complete the course.

In preparation, this week I did my first ascent this year of the Col de Vence (963m). This has to be my closest and favourite climb. I did it for the very first time in early April of last year. Buoyed with my feat of climbing Col d’Eze, via the more strenuous Grande Corniche, I decided I was ready to tackle the Col de Vence. I rode the slightly longer but less strenuous route up to Vence via La Gaude before turning onto the Col itself. The first few kilometres are the steepest but it soon levels out and there are simply splendid views down to the coast plus some pretty pricey real-estate to admire as you pedal your way up to the Chateau du Domaine St. Martin and beyond to the open pastures full of sheep.

I took comfort from the road markers telling me how many more kilometres I had to travel and the average gradient (7%). The top is a bit of an anti-climax but I couldn’t resist sending my husband a text to tell him I’d done it.

The Top
The Top

Today I cycled the quicker, slightly steeper route via La Colle sur Loup. Under darkening skies and into a strong headwind, I managed to ascend the hill for the first time without stopping at all: another first. Col de Vence is my favourite col not because of the ascent but because of the descent. You can easily see what little traffic there is coming up the hill so you can throw caution to the wind, keep your hands off the brakes and pretend you’re Samu Sanchez.  With that tailwind, it was my fastest descent ever.