We got up once again at 7:00, and got ourselves ready by breakfast time, which was 7:30. Unfortunately, we could not find the "boss" nor anyone else at the reception desk to the hotel, so we wandered outside for a few minutes before the bar opened and the person manning it assured us he could take the hotel money and give us breakfast as well. The breakfast was a bit anemic, but he was true to his word and gave us a hot drink as well.
We started climbing Col St. Rafael (876m), which wasn't especialy fearsome after all the high alpine passes we had already done. The grade was moderate and with our eagerness to get to Nice we spun up it rapidly. The day was already warming up and with the humidity that meant a lot of sweating. "I'm glad we didn't try to do this yesterday evening. It feels so much better in the morning." At the top of the Col instead of following along D2211 we made a left towards Ascros along D27, and was rewarded by the French equivalent of Skyline Blvd, rolling along a ridge with lovely views of the lower hills below, with mist rising from amonst towns, trees. Our view of Nice, however, was blocked by the mountains.
Moreover, the hill towns we rode through were gorgeous. The ride proceeded apace, though as we approached the high point of the area Ascros (at 1149m), the grade became steep once again and we geared down and drank almost all of our water. Fortunately, Ascros had lovely water fountains to which we helped ourselves, and we were soon descending not rapidly around the ridge. The grade was gentle but a little pedaling would get us at 30kph, which made things fun.
We elected to stay as high as we could before the road descended towards Gilette and St. Martin du Var. The road down to Bonson in particular was really beautiful, and though a couple of cars passed us, we soon caught up to them as they were caught behind an ambulance and a couple of other trucks. The descent took us down to almost 200m at the main highway, which we joined for one kilometer before I saw a sign for Levens and made the first left available to us. At St. Martin du Var, we stopped to eat bread and buy bananas before climbing back North towards Levens. The road up to Levens was as winding and steep as the road we had descended, but fortunately there was a lot of shade. We climbed and climbed and discovered that the hills around Nice were surprisingly high.
Even after we reached Levens the climbing continued for another 3km, which indicated to us that Levens was a big town. Sure enough, when we reached the intersection with the descent to Nice, we discovered that it remained level for a while. Finding a park with some trash cans, we ate what was left of our bananas and then proceeded with the rolling descent to Nice.
Since we had done all that climbing to Levens, the descent into Nice was fast and furious. I felt as though we should have some rock music accompanying us as we zoomed through little town after little town at better than 40kph. The road was narrow but the surface was good. Eventually the towns became more urban and soon we passed a big white sign that said "Nice." The road kept going downhill, though, and we took full advantage of that to keep up with traffic and occasionally overtake trucks and cars that were stuck behind something.
Tourist information for Nice was right on the waterfront, near the big 4 star hotels and the Promenade des Anglais. Mike went in, got some information, and then we walked down a side street to a restaurant where we could eat lunch and look over our options. I wanted air conditioning and sound proof rooms as well as a beach, but the prices dismayed me. Many were well over 200Euros.
We visited the Best Western and found it was full. We tried a couple of cheaper places, and discovered for our first time in France, that there were hotels that would turn away cyclists. Finally, we passed a hotel that had air conditioning. Mike went in and found they were charging 150 Euros. He said, "I'd rather be at the Radisson for 50 Euros more." I agreed with him, so we went down to the Radisson which had a room on the non-ocean side for 200 Euros. I asked if they had laundry service and they said yes. So we bundled our laundry into bags provided, gave them to room service, put on swim suits and ran out to the beach.
The biggest disappointment with Nice is that the beaches are rocky, not sandy. The sun was so hot that even in the shade I was brimming with sweat, so the pavement was almost unbearable for my bare feet. Fortunately, I had a towel from the hotel, so would put the towel down and stand on it when things got unbearable. The stones were rough so I spent most of my time sitting in the water , alternating between sitting and swimming. It felt good to be swimming in the Mediterranean again after more than 7 years of being away.
An hour on the beach being more than enough, we went back to the hotel for a shower, and to see if our laundry was done. Fancy hotels have all sorts of fancy shampoo and soap, so it took us awhile to figure those out, but we eventually got showered and the laundry got delivered. The price: 272 Euros. OK, we agreed to splurge in Nice, but this was ridiculous. Our minds were made up, we would leave Nice tomorrow!
We left the hotel in search of bananas, dinner, chocolate, a map of the area of Italy we were headed towards, and some powdered cytomax-type drinks, since we were rapidly running low on Endurolytes with the hot and humid weather. We found everything except powdered cytomax. Walking back in the night to the hotel along the beach sidewalk was lovely --- the air had cooled and we were relaxed. After all, we had gotten everything we wanted today, and tomorrow we might be in Italy!