After the exhilaration of finally completing La Route des Grande Alpes I did what any self-respecting Frenchman would do in similar circumstances, I enjoyed a superb dinner!
The hotel dining room was a snapshot of different times; high ceilings, grand chandeliers, soaring mirrors and crisp white linen table cloths. The food was equally impressive and the service impeccable. Best of all though was that from my window seat I could see not only the twinkling Mediterranean, but also Harls resting quietly in her secure area by the Hotel garden.
At Thonon there was that splendid bronze plaque marking Km Zero, but here in Menton, the original end-point there was nothing! The modern route has been extended to Monaco and Nice, but again, sadly, no end marker exists.
I decided to ride along the coast and complete the route into Nice, at least I’d know that I had ridden it all. Plus there was a small col, Col d’Eze, that was shown on modern maps as on the route to collect!
Next morning I woke early, it was still hot and still, the weather forecast promised a short spell of thunderstorms before lunch; perhaps that would clear the air. I grabbed a quick coffee and croissant , loaded up Harls and hit the road.
It was 37 kilometres or 23 miles to Nice and it took nearly two hours of hot, traffic jammed, purgatory to travel.
I know that this area is meant to be both beautiful and desirable to live in, in fact in Monaco you need to be a multi-millionaire just to rent a small apartment, but you can keep it! It’s not for me.
There is a narrow strip of land between the sea and the hills upon which everything is perched; roads, railway, houses, offices, shops, small industries and high-rise buildings all vie for space. The traffic is solid and progress painfully slow.
You enter the small Principality of Monaco at a snail’s pace and the only thing that changes is the type of shop, they are all brand names like Gucci, Chanel and Rolex. None of the shops display prices, because if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it!
There is one good thing about little Monaco, it’s the home of the world-famous Monaco Grand Prix, that every year sees Formula One cars thunder through it’s concrete canyons and along it’s harbour-side; I just had to ride that route!
Which is what I did.
Unlike modern racers such as Hamilton and Vettel or the glorious names from the past like Hill, Senna, Stewart, Fangio and Lauda who speed round the two-mile circuit in around a minute and a fifteen seconds, it took Harls and I much longer…traffic again! It was fun though, especially rounding the famous Station Hairpin and roaring through the tunnel; yes I did roar through it, I backed up the traffic behind me before we entered just to get some clear road and then let Harls have her head…she sounded wonderful!
Eventually we trundled through Nice, just as the rain came in, I turned Harls to the North and the mountains. “Let’s get out of here!” I screamed to myself.
This is another part of the French Alps that I am hopelessly besotted with. It’s more than just a love affair, it’s total infatuation.
Isola is best thought of a place to pass through. Not that it is in any way bad, it’s just unfortunately for the small village of Isola it is surrounded by much grander things, like two of the highest mountain roads that there are! We turned right in the centre of the village and headed for the ski station of Isola 2000; glorious sweeping hairpins greeted us.
If Isola is to pass through, Isola 2000 is to be ignored…a typical ski-station-summer-ghost town with about as much character as a vase of dead flowers; fortunately you can drive round it, which is by far the best thing to do, as beyond lies Col de la Lombarde!
At 2350m Lombarde is right up amongst the big ones and lies bang on the border of France and Italy. It is another place where the remarkable sentinels of the failed Maginot Line can still be seen eerily standing guard on the wild mountainsides, waiting for an enemy that simply drove around them.
I first came up here with Baby Blue some years back and not much has changed since then. Time for lunch.
Now my dear Blogonaughts, it’s time for a science lesson!
Before I departed my hotel that morning the lovely staff there insisted on making me a delightful packed lunch. As I settled down on the mountainside to enjoy it, I noticed something very interesting.
I’ve often banged on about how, as I make my various journeys into the mountains, the air becomes thinner. Not only is there less oxygen, but also atmospheric pressure drops too. There is a pretty neat and simple formula that you can use to calculate the pressure drop with altitude; in fact that’s what aircraft used to do all the time with barometric altimeters to find out how high they are flying, that was before satellite navigation.
For todays lesson though I’m using something much more simple, a packet of potato crisps (or chips if you are reading this in Chicago!).
We’d set out from Menton, right down at sea level and now we were at 2350m above, that’s almost 8000feet. The pressure drop by my calculation was about 5.9inchesHg or 196mmHg that’s 4psi or 0.26kgcm2, a drop of around 20%!
So what does this look like?
Well, like this, my lunchtime snack was blown up like a small balloon! Cool eh?
It’s the little things in life-like this that give me so much pleasure.
Anyway, it was time to ride on; back down to Isola hang another right and head for the mother of them all, Cime de la Bonette.
“Pressure, pushing down on me, pressing down on you.”
Catch you soon.