Take me to the River #8: In the Creeks of the Esterel

Riding for a long time in the South of France in the summertime often requires cooling down the engine, especially if you choose to traverse the side of a big ancient rock formation.

Crossing the Maritime Alps to reach the Var – from Nice to Saint Raphaël – is one of those outings that can be stifling on the mountainside, when the red rocks of the Esterel cornice radiate all the heat stored up during the night.

But if you plan ahead and slip a swimsuit into the back pocket of the jersey, your experience can be one of beautiful balance. It determines the choice of a jersey with big pockets of course, which is Mona on this occasion.

The first kilometres alongside the beaches of the Alpes Maritimes offer the usual service, a necessary road to take in order to go up into the mountain valleys.

Today it is a question of staying on the flat, following the sea, and leaving in the morning as early as possible.

Tourists with umbrellas and inflatables under their arms, the scent of sunscreen and donuts from the food-trucks. There’s no doubt summer has arrived on the Côte d'Azur.

Past Théoule-sur-Mer the atmosphere changes, the orange rocks have appeared, the stifling heat too. On the slopes of the Pic de l'Ours, the temperature flirts with 35°C, the Lac des Ecureuils in the heart of the massif has been dry for many weeks.

It is almost surprising given the scorching heat and the regular blowing of the wind that the roads are still open to cyclists and walkers. The sound of the cicadas becomes deafening as well, as if they too are feeling the heat. The freshness of the air which glides over the skin when the descent begins is a real relief.

And now it's time to find a secluded cove to discreetly switch into the aforementioned swimsuit and jump into the water. A simple luxury that you can afford in a few minutes, why deprive yourself of it? Here the water is more crystalline than anywhere else on the Côte d'Azur, due to the clear rocks that line the bottom. Do a few breaststrokes and then let yourself float on your back while gazing at the pure blue sky. Then a quick lie down on this submerged slab to enjoy the freshness for a few more moments.

It’s the end of the break. Almost 60 kilometres remain to be covered to reach the port of Nice. The next stop, in Mandelieu-la Napoule, will consist of eating Pan Bagnat, the most famous Niçoise sandwich. Arriving in Nice again, the urge to take out the bathing suit will briefly cross your mind, but here the beaches are crowded with people, with no hidden coves. The suit remains rolled up, still wet, in the back pocket of the Mona, and you will go your way.

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