STEVE AND CAROLE IN VENCE

88 More Villages by Bike

December 1, 2020

In the summer of 2020 I set out on a 73 Villages by Bike challenge wherein I visited 73 villages in the Alpes-Maritimes department on my bike. I’d actually done the same thing several years ago (from 2004 to 2013). This time around I was able to do it in four months instead of nine years! The villages were from a book called Vu du Ciel: Villages – Des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var (you can find it in many bookstores in France and on amazon.fr). But here’s the thing: I have no idea how these 73 villages were chosen. Certainly many of them are among the best villages in the department, but, as I noted in my original article, there are many, many more that are just as beautiful (Biot, Gorbio and Bonson, anyone?).

So… I went to Wikipedia and got a list of every “commune” in the Alpes-Maritimes department, of which there are officially 163. French communes are analogous to civil townships and incorporated municipalities in the United States. Last time I also visited five villages that aren’t on this list (one was actually in the Var and four were too small be considred communes). That leaves 95 villages, towns and cities from the official list that I didn’t visit on my first challenge. I put together a list of everywhere that I still had to go and then took out the eight biggest cities in the department (Antibes, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Cannes, Grasse, Mandelieu-La Napoule, Menton, Nice and Saint-Laurent-du-Var). I’ve ridden through these large cities countless times and I didn’t feel a need to include them on this challenge. That brought the count down to 87. I snuck in one village in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department (Sausses) because it lies right on one of the routes. And a new challenge was born. 88 more villages by bike.

I started this challenge at the beginning of December 2020, so it definitely took a bit longer to complete than the last one. The winter months made it difficult and/or impossible to visit a lot of the villages in the mountains of the northern part of the department. But, there were quite a few down here in the south so I was be able to get a lot done while I waited for the spring months to return. Some of these villages are among my favorites in the area, including Gattières, Gars, Pierrefeu, Guillaumes, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Tourette-du-Château. In truth I probably went through more than half of these villages on the 73 Villages challenge. But, since they weren’t part of the official itinerary, I went back again to make things official.

The Villages

Steve and Carole in Vence - 88 More Villages by Bike
The 88 villages and towns.

Like last time, the villages are divided into eight different groups based on their general location:

Le Mentonnais et Monaco (6)
Beausoleil, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Cap d’Ail, Gorbio, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer

Le Paillon (11)
Bendejun, Blausasc, Cantaron, Chateauneuf-Villevieille, Contes, Drap, Falicon, Saint-André-de-la-Roch, Touët-de-l’Escarène, Tourette-Levens, La Trinité

Le Var Inférieur et le pays Grassois (28)
Le Bar-sur-Loup, Biot, Caille, Le Cannet, Castagniers, Châteauneuf-Grasse, La Colle-sur-Loup, Colomars, Courmes, Gattières, La Gaude, Mouans-Sartoux, Opio, Pégomas, Peymeinade, Roquefort-les-Pins, La Roquette-sur-Siagne, Le Rouret, Saint-Blaise, Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey, Séranon, Spéracèdes, Théoule-sur-Mer, Le Tignet, Valbonne, Vallauris, Vence, Villeneuve-Loubet

La Roya (2)
Fontan, Sospel

La Vésubie (5)
Duranus, Lantosque, Roquebillière, San Martin-du-Var, Utelle

La Tinée (4)
Isola, Massoins, Tournefort, Villars-su-Var

Le Cians & Le Daluis (12)
Amirat, Collongues, Daluis, Entraunes, Guillaumes, Lieuche, Pierlas, Puget-Thèniers, Saint-Léger, Sausses, Sauze, Touët-sur-Var

Le Loup et l’Estéron (20)
Andon, Ascros, Bonson, Bouyon, Le Broc, Caussols, Conségudes, Escragnolles, Gars, Le Mas, Les Mujouls, Pierrefeu, La Roque-en-Provence, Roquesteron, Saint-Antonin, Saint-Auban, Sallagriffon, Toudon, Tourette-du-Château, Valderoure

The Plan

Vence is situated very near the southern edge of the Alpes-Maritimes department, just about in the middle (from west to east). Keep in mind that the department covers 4,299 square kilometers (1,660 square miles), a fair amount of distance. It’s not realistic (for me, at least) to cycle from Nice (at one end of the department) to Entraunes (at the other end) and back in one ride. So, just like last time, I had a few realistic guidelines.

The Rules

  1. I cycled from one village to another, eventually visiting all 88.
  2. All rides started and ended at the same point. This made it possible to do these rides on my own, I didn’t need someone to pick me up in a car at the end of a ride (which would be necessary if I didn’t return to my original starting point).
  3. I made every effort to cycle as close as I could to the actual center of each village. Sometimes the road passes right through or close to the center of the village (for instance, Fontan). Sometimes it passes right on the edge of the village (for instance, Biot) and sometimes it passes close to the village but you must make a small detour (for instance, Sallagriffon). In the latter two examples I wwent up into the village and then returned back down to the main road. It made the rides a bit longer, but I really wanted to “see” each of the villages as best I could on my bike, not just pass them by from the road. I also got off my bike and spent considerable time walking through each village and exploring them all in depth.
  4. Once I reached one village on bike, I could then drive to that village the next time and use it as my next starting point. For instance, on one ride I road from Saint-Martin-du-Var (which I passed through on one of the rides last time around) to Toudon. The next ride I started in Toudon and rode a big loop through Ascros, Saint-Antonin, Sigale, Roquesteron and Pierrefeu. On another ride I started in Sigale and rode to several villages west of there. You get the idea. Eventually, I covered every inch of the roads between all the 88 villages on bike, but in a manageable way.

The Rides

For each ride I’m working on writing up an article with the details, including the route, stats, photos and information about the villages. I will post a little synopsis of each ride here on this page with a link to each more in-depth account. It’s going to take me awhile to get all the individual articles written, but I will! If there is one in particular that you are interested in and I haven’t written it up yet, drop me a line and I’ll make it the next one I do.

Ride #1
3 villages: Vence, Courmes & Le Bar-sur-Loup

Steve and Carole in Vence - 85 Villages by Bike - Vence, Courmes & Bar-sur-Loup
Heading up the road to Courmes.

November 30, 2020 Easy enough to knock out the first village on the list, Vence, since, of course, I live here. From there it’s west through Tourrettes-sur-Loup and a short climb up to the tiny isolated village of Courmes which is about 3 or 4 kilometers from the main road. Then back down to the Loup River at Pont du Loup and another short climb up to Le Bar-sur-Loup. From there it’s back home the way I came. A wonderful little ride, close to home. Much of this route I ride on a regular basis. [full details coming soon]


Ride #2
5 villages: La Colle-sur-Loup, Roquefort-les-Pins, Le Rouret, Opio & Châteauneuf-Grasse

Steve and Carole in Vence - 85 Villages by Bike - La Colle-sur-Loup-Loup, Roquefort-led-Pins, Le Rouret, Opio, Châteauneuf
An antique store in Opio.

December 2, 2020 Another little loop very close to home. La Colle-sur-Loup is just down the hill from Vence, a little past Saint-Paul de Vence. It’s an interesting little village, smack dab in the middle of the Côte d’Azur madness. You wouldn’t know there was even a little village there unless you took the time to seek it out. Roquefort-les-Pins is a bit disappointing, it’s just a relatively new town, no history, no old town. Pretty much the same for Le Rouret, though at least there is a nice church and chapel there. So, on to Opio where the tiny old town is a climb up from the main road. Fantastic view of the surrounding countryside. Finally a stop in Châteauneuf before heading home. Châteauneuf has a decent old town, again with fantastic views of the area. [full details coming soon]


Ride #3
4 villages: La Gaude, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Steve and Carole in Vence - 85 Villages by Bike - La Gaude, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Beaulieu-sur-Mer
Boats in the harbor at Villefranche-sur-Mer.

December 6, 2020 A coastal ride today. I threw in La Gaude because it’s close to Vence and I could route my descent down to the coast via this little village. All three of these coastal towns are very well known, very popular with not only the tourists but the native French as well. On this Sunday afternoon, one week after the COVID confinement was relaxed a bit, they were out in droves! I’ve rarely seen it so busy along the coast, even in the summer. Villefranche-sur-Mer is one of the most beautiful harbors on the Côte d’Azur. Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has some of the most expensive real estate in the entire world. Beaulieu-sur-Mer is another seaside village that attracts lots of the rich and famous crowd. A very nice, relaxing ride along a gorgeous stretch of the Mediterranean. [full details coming soon]


Ride #4
3 villages: Gattières, Le Broc & Bouyon

Steve and Carole in Vence - Gattières, Le Broc & Bouyon
An old, worn out road marker on the road to Bouyon.

December 13, 2020 These three villages, Gattières, Le Broc and Bouyon, are villages that I pass through on a regular basis. They all lie on the big Vence 7 Village Loop which I have done countless times over the past ten years. For this current challenge I made a special little “out and back” ride to knock the three of them out. Normally I would simply continue on the loop from Bouyon to Bézaudun-les-Alpes, Coursegoules and then over the Col de Vence back home. But, it being December and having rained recently there was a good chance there could be some ice on the roads at the higher altitudes, so once I reached Bouyon I just turned around and came back the same way. [full details coming soon]


Ride #5
5 villages: Pégomas, Peymeinade, Spéracèdes, Le Tignet & Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey

Steve and Carole in Vence - Pégomas, Peymeinade, Spéracèdes, Le Tignet & Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey
Two old doors in the village of Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey.

January 13, 2021 Due to weather, confinement rules, the holidays and more it has been full month since my last “villages” ride. I made up for some of the lost time today with a route that took me through five villages in the areas west of Grasse. Not my favorite area to ride in (way too much traffic), it was nevertheless a fine ride, the highlight being Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey. Peymeinade and Spéracèdes were mostly new to me (having just passed through quickly in the past) though Le Tignet and Pègomas were more familiar. The fact that I had to be back home to the 6PM curfew put a bit of a damper on things as I felt a bit rushed, but overall a good ride with some nice villages. [full details coming soon]


Ride #6
4 villages: Colomars, Castagniers, Sainte-Blaise & Saint Martin-du-Var

Steve and Carole in Vence - Statue by local artist Jean-Pierre Augier on the road between Sainte-Blaise and Levens.
Statue by local artist Jean-Pierre Augier on the road between Sainte-Blaise and Levens.

January 14, 2021 Another sunny, almost warm January day so I’m off again, this time to the other side of the Var River and up into the hills behind Nice. I drove down to Pont de la Manda (The Manda Bridge) which is, believe it or not, the only bridge across the Var River from the coast for 23 kilometers! From there I headed up to Colomars, over to Castagniers and Sainte-Blaise. All are villages I’ve been through many times, but now making them official for this challenge. From Sainte-Blaise I headed up to Levens and then down through La Roquette-sur-Var to Saint Martin-du-Var and back to La Manda. A nice ride through some fine little villages. [full details coming soon]


Ride #7
5 villages: Valbonne, Mouans-Sartoux, La Roquette-sur-Siagne, Le Cannet, Vallauris

Steve and Carole in Vence - Small building in Roquette-sun-Siagne.
Small building at a fork in the road in La Roquette-sun-Siagne.

January 17, 2021 Not one of my favorite areas to ride in, but I did discover some new villages I was not familiar with. This part of the Alpes-Maritimes, mostly north and west of Cannes, is heavily populated and there is a LOT of traffic. I started in Valbonne, a village I am quite familiar with, having been there numerous times riding, hiking and just exploring. Mouans-Sartoux has a wonderful castle and La Roquette-sun-Siagne is just a little blip on the map. The real surprises here were Le Cannet and Vallauris, both of which have very nice old towns and lots to see. I’ll be back to check these villages out in more depth in the future. [full details coming soon]


Ride #8
3 villages: Gorbio, Beausoleil & Cap d’Ail

Steve and Carole in Vence - Courtyard in the ancient perched village of Gorbio.
A courtyard in the ancient perched village of Gorbio.

January 19, 2021 An interesting loop, beginning in one of my favorite villages, La Turbie. Some very isolated mountain riding and some very busy city riding. Straight up into the mountains to the ancient perched village of Gorbio high up in the hills overlooking Menton. I’ve been to Gorbio many times, but it has been several years since I was there. Then a fast ride down to Menton, a quick loop around the Cap Martin and up onto the hill above Monaco for a stop in Beausoleil. An interesting village right on the border of Monaco and France, it’s hard to think you’re not in Monaco from the way it blends in. Then down to the coast at Cap d’Ail and a nice climb back up to La Turbie. [full details coming soon]


Ride #9
4 villages: Tourrette-Levens, Châteauneuf-Villevieille, Bendejun & Contes

Steve and Carole in Vence - The perched village of Contes.
The perched village of Contes.

January 24, 2021 Mostly an “out and back” trip with a newly-discovered little loop on the end. The ride begins in Asprement and heads down into the village of Tourrette-Levens where you’ll find a wonderful old castle perched high on tiny hill at the edge of the town. Then it’s climb up to Châteauneuf-Villevieille (another castle) and over the mountain range down to Bendejun in the next valley. On this ride I discovered a new road, Chemin de Remaurian, which allowed me to head straight over to Bendejun from Châteauneuf-Villevieille instead of going down into Contes first. From Bendejun it’s a quick little descent to Contes, the only village in the area I know of with a “funiculaire” that carries people up from the main road to the high perched village. Finally, back up over the mountain range to Tourrette-Levens and Aspremont. [full details coming soon]


Ride #10
3 villages: Bonson, Tourette-du-Château & Toudon

Steve and Carole in Vence - A small chapel in Toudon.
A small chapel in Toudon.

February 5, 2021 A wonderful little ride through some beautiful perched villages in the mountains north of Vence. I started today’s ride in Saint-Martin-du-Var north of Nice along the Var River. This ride is basically all climbing for the first half, then turn around and descend for the entire second half. The first stop is Bonson, situated right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Var and Vésubie Rivers. Continue climbing up through Revest-les-Roches and into Tourette-du-Château. Great views of Gilette below on this portion of the ride. Tourette-du-Château features breathtaking views of the valleys and mountains to the south. Toudon is a few kilometers further on. I turned around in Toudon and came back down via Gilette. The sun was out for a lot of the ride and the temperatures were close to 60°. Not bad for early February! [full details coming soon]


Ride #11
2 villages: Duranus & Utelle

Steve and Carole in Vence - Table d'Orientation in Utelle.
A “table d’orientation” at the top of Utelle. From here you can look out over a large portion of the Vésubie Valley.

February 10, 2021 The Vésubie valley is one of my very favorite places to ride. It begins at the town of Le Plan-du-Var (where I began today’s ride) and continues up the valley to Saint-Martin-Vésubie. Today’s two villages are located on opposite sides of the valley about a third of the way up. Duranus is a tiny village on the eastern slopes, about 5kms from the river. Not a lot here, but they do have a nice little church. From Duranus it’s back down to the river and up a longer climb, about 9kms to Utelle. The highlight in Utelle is also the church, much bigger than you would imagine for a small mountain village like this. You can also continue another 6kms past Utelle to La Madone d’Utelle another church up on the very top of the mountain. It’s also possible to continue over the mountains to reach La Tour in the Tinée Valley, a ride I’ve done once before and really enjoyed. [full details coming soon]


Ride #12
1 village: Théoule-sur-Mer

Steve and Carole in Vence - The road from Pégomas to Tanneron, mimosa trees line the sides almost the entire way up.
Mimosa trees line the side of the road from Pégomas to Tanneron almost the entire way up.

February 11, 2021 I needed to figure out a nice ride to Théoule-sur-Mer which is on the coast just west of Cannes. Unfortunately, there weren’t any other villages anywhere near it that I could use to put together a new route. However, earlier in the week Carole and I had visited Tanneron to see the mimosa trees in full bloom. I’ve always want to ride through the mimosa forests on my bike as well, so suddenly I realized I could make a great ride from Pégomas up to Tanneron and then down to Théoule-sur-Mer and back. And what a wonderful ride it was. Mid-February but the skies were blue, the sun was full, there was no wind and the temperatures were close to 60°! The ride up from Pégomas to Tanneron was absolutely beautiful, filled with mimosa trees the entire way. (The rest of the ride was also great.) [full details coming soon]


Ride #13
2 villages: Villeneuve-Loubet & Biot

Steve & Carole in Vence - A small alcove in the wall in Villeneuve-Loubet.
A small alcove in the wall in Villeneuve-Loubet.

February 18, 2021 It’s a short ride, almost all downhill, from Vence to Villeneuve-Loubet. There’s a castle there, a nice chapel and a church. The castle is only open a few days a month so I haven’t had the chance to visit it yet. Villeneuve-Loubet is built on a big hill next to the Loup River just a few kilometers from the beach. The village is small with lots of steep little streets that lead from the river up to the castle. From there I headed to Biot, one of my favorite villages in the area and one which I have been to too many times to count. It’s always worth a visit though and there’s a lot to see and do in the village. I spent a little time wandering around taking photos and then headed down towards Antibes where I took the coastal road back to Cagnes-sur-Mer. One last climb back up to Vence and I was home again. [full details coming soon]


Ride #14
4 villages: Puget-Théniers, Saint-Léger, Dalius & Sausses

Steve & Carole in Vence - Part of the unpaved road from Saint-Léger to Dalius that I inadvertently ended upon. Rock, web and muddy
Part of the unpaved road from Saint-Léger to Dalius that I inadvertently ended up on. Rocky, wet and muddy. No fun, especially going downhill.

February 23, 2021 Well this turned out to be an adventurous ride. I certainly learned a lesson that I’m surprised I hadn’t learned a long time ago. Check Google street view to see if they have actually mapped a certain road! This little loop started in Puget-Théniers, a small village on the Var River that is a great starting point for lots of wonderful rides. I headed straight north towards La Croix-sure-Roudoule but turned left on the D316 to go to Saint-Léger. A nice climb up to the Col de Saint-Léger and then a short descent into the village. From there I headed back down to the Var River and the small village of Daluis. Little did I know that the last 2 kilometers of the road were not paved! And very wet, muddy, rocky and treacherous. Like I say, lesson learned. The climb up to Daluis is short (only 1 kilometer) but quite steep with one portion over 18%. I also stopped at the village of Sausses though it isn’t really in the Alpes-Maritimes department (it’s in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) before heading back through Entrevaux into Puget-Théniers. [full details coming soon]


Ride #15
2 villages: Lantosque and Roquebillière

Steve & Carole in Vence - The Saint-Michel-de-Gast church in Roquebillière (also known as the Templiers Church) which dates back to the 1500s.
The Saint-Michel-de-Gast church in Roquebillière (also known as the Templiers Church) which dates back to the 1500s. It was damaged in Tempête Alex in October 2020.

February 25, 2021 The Vésubie Valley which runs from Plan-du-Var north to Saint-Martin-Vésubie is one of my favorite areas in the Alpes-Maritimes department. There are eight significant villages in the valley, four of which were featured in the original 73 Villages by Bike challenge and four more of which are featured in this current challenge. Today I started from Plan-du-Var and road the length of the valley, all the way into Saint-Martin-Vésubie with stops in Lantosque and Roquebillière. Lantosque was one of the first villages I visited in this valley many years ago while cycling with my friend Connie. Roquebillière, destroyed by landslides over the years, is now basically a divided village, the old village on the east bank of the river and the “new” village on the west bank. I was happy to visit Saint-Martin-Vésubie, probably my favorite village in the department, but heartbroken to see the destruction to the land around it done by Tempest Alex last October. [full details coming soon]


Ride #16
3 villages: Villars-sur-Var, Massoins & Tournefort

Steve & Carole in Vence - Very little of the old castle remains in Massoins, but what there is is quite charming.
Very little of the old castle remains in Massoins, but what there is is quite charming.

March 1, 2021 This is a quick little loop that starts in the Tinée Valley at Pont-de-Clans. I headed straight down the M2205 until I reached the turnoff to Puget-Théniers, the D6202. It’s almost all downhill, riding alongside the Tinée River. There was still a fair amount of work being done on the roads because of the big storm last October which caused quite a bit of damage in this area. The ride along the D6202 to Villars-sur-Var can be a bit busy but the road is big and wide so it’s not a problem. After about 10 miles it’s a right turn and a small climb up to Villars-sur-Var. From there you head back into the mountains along a very nice, very quiet small country road to Massoins. It’s a wonderful little village with the ruins of an old castle. There’s really not a lot to see in Tournefort. The old village is several kilometers outside of the “new” village and unfortunately the road is much too steep to cycle up and too long to walk in just my socks. Then just a quick descent back down to Pont-de-Clans. It’s a relatively short ride (under 40km) but the road from Villars-sur-Var to Tournefort is very nice. [full details coming soon]


Ride #17
2 villages: Sospel & Fontan

Steve & Carole in Vence - At the top of the Col de Brouis between Sospel and Breil-sur-Roya-sur-Roya.
At the top of the Col de Brouis between Sospel and Breil-sur-Roya-sur-Roya.

March 3, 2021 In early October 2020 a big storm (Alex) tore through southwest France leaving a large path of devastation and destruction. Flooding in the Roya, Vésubie and Tinée valleys caused so much damage it’s hard to fully take it all in. I started this ride in Sospel and village I’ve been through many times. Over the Col de Brouis and then on past Saorge into Fontan. Fontan is a strange little village, built right along the Roya River it’s dirty and run down. The facades of most of the houses and buildings are in terrible shape. Not one of my favorite villages, that’s for sure. I headed back down the valley to Breil-sur-Roya, on into Italy and then climbed back up to Sospel via the Col de Vescavo (which is not too long, but quite steep). I’ve been riding several times since Alex in the Vésubie and Tinée valleys, but this was my first trip back to the Roya. I have to say, I think it might have been hit the worse. The beautiful little village of Breil-sur-Roya was really sad to see. [full details coming soon]


Ride #18
5 villages: La Trinité, Drap, Cantaron, Blausasc & Touët-de-l’Escarène

Steve & Carole in Vence - Touët-de-l'Escarène-de-l'Escarène is one of those small French villages built with a main road running literally right through the middle.
Touët-de-l’Escarène is one of those small French villages built with a main road running literally right through the middle.

March 8, 2021 Not a very long ride but I was able to knock off five villages on this little out and back trip. I started in La Trinité which I really consider to be a suburb of Nice. It’s very busy, not particularly interesting and not particularly scenic. From there it’s just a couple of kilometers north to Drap though you’d never know you left one town and entered another with the road signs. Cantaron is a tiny bit more interesting (but not a lot). From there I took a back road up to Blausasc. It was nearly deserted which was a nice change from the traffic at the start. The road winds through scenic forests up into the hills and was quite steep in some places. Blausasc was one of the few villages I’d never been to before and I found some interesting things to see there. A little more climbing up to and over the Col de Nice, a short descent into L’Escarène and then a few more kilometers of climbing to the final village, Touët-de-l’Escarène which is on the road to the Col de Braus. It’s a small village, one of those that is literally built right on the road. My favorite village on this trip. [full details coming soon]


Ride #19
2 villages: Falicon & Saint-André-de-la-Roch

Steve & Carole in Vence - A lovely little square in the center of Falicon where the house owners have created their own little urban gardens.
A lovely little square in the center of Falicon where the house owners have created their own little urban gardens.

March 10, 2021 I needed two villages in the area just north of Nice so I looked at various ways I could pick them up. I could just park in Nice and ride up to Falicon and Saint-André-de-la-Roch, but instead I decided to do a loop beginning in Colomars and circling around via Aspremont and Tourrette-Levens. From there it was an easy descent and then a short climb to Falicon, a little village that overlooks Nice and the Mediterranean Sea. Located in the first foothills of the Alpes behind Nice, Falicon was once a frequent destination of Queen Victoria when she was in residence in nearby Cimiez. It’s a lovely little village with vaulted passageways, narrow alleys and the remains of an old Roman wall and aqueduct. Saint-André-de-la-Roch on the other hand was much less impressive. To be honest, I had a hard time finding anything like a “village” here, it seemed like more of a suburb or neighborhood of Nice. Maybe I was just looking in the wrong place, but I tried for awhile and couldn’t find to be excited about. [full details coming soon]


Ride #20
3 villages: Touët-sur-Var, Lieuche & Pierlas

Steve & Carole in Vence - The steep, narrow road up the mountainside to the village of Pierlas.
The steep, narrow road up the mountainside to the village of Pierlas.

May 3, 2021 After almost two full months of being locked down to a ten kilometer radius due to COVID restrictions, I was finally able to hit the road today and start visiting more villages on my list. As much as I like cycling around Vence what I really love is getting out into the countryside, especially the mountains. So, of course, the first thing I did once the travel restrictions were lifted was pack up my bike and head for the hills! A wonderful ride in the beautiful Gorges du Cians visiting two very isolated villages high up in the mountains: Lieuche and Pierlas. I started the ride in the village of Touët-sur-Var which, as the name implies, sits on the Var River just a kilometer or two away from where the Cian River empties into it. It’s a fairly short ride up the Gorges du Cians to the turnoff for the Lieuche. Steep climbs to both of these villages, but wow, the views and the scenery were spectacular. Pierlas in particular is a charming little mountain village that I really enjoyed. It’s located on the D428, which if you continue on past Pierlas will take you over the mountains to Ilonse and the neighboring Tinée Valley. There are only three villages located along the Gorges du Cian (the other being Rigaud) and they are all well worth a look if you’re in the area. [full details coming soon]


Ride #21
4 villages: Andon, Caille, Séranon & Valderoure

Steve & Carole in Vence - On the road between Caille and Séranon with stunning rock mountains in the background.
On the road between Caille and Séranon with stunning rock mountains in the background.

May 5, 2021 Starting from the village of Gréolières, I set out on this loop that takes in four villages. An early day in May, the air was warm, the sky was blue, but wow, the wind was blowing so hard I had to stop several times along the way for fear that I was going to be knocked right over by it. The only upside was that on the last 20 kilometers I had the wind to my back and I absolutely flew down the road. This area west of Gréolières is all part of the Parc Naturel Régional des Préalpes d’Azur and it’s a beautiful, diverse region. I passed through some lovely valleys, expansive plains and stunning rocky mountain vistas. The villages, however, were less impressive. Of the four, Caille was my favorite, though all of them are very small and somewhat nondescript. Andon, Séranon and Valderoure are really not much more than a couple of streets with some houses and the obligatory church. All in all a good ride, but not some of my favorite villages. [full details coming soon]


Ride #22
3 villages: Guillaumes, Entraunes & Sauze

Steve & Carole in Vence - The village of Entraunes at the foot of the climb to the Col de la Cayolle.
The village of Entraunes at the foot of the climb to the Col de la Cayolle.

May 8, 2021 A long ride (just over 100kms) alongside the Var River from Entrevaux up to the base of the climb to Col de la Cayolle. This is one of my favorite stretches of road to ride anywhere in the Alpes-Maritimes. It passes through the Gorges de Daluis and then continues on through Guillaumes, Villeneuve-d’Entraunes and Saint-Martin-d’Entraunes which were both covered in my last challenge, 73 Villages by Bike. In fact, this ride is very, very similar to that one except it goes a bit further up the valley (to Entraunes) and takes in a different extra climb (to Sauze). From Entrevaux it’s almost all uphill (except for a few minor spots), but it’s a very gradual incline that doesn’t always feel like climbing. The weather was perfect and there wasn’t much traffic on the road (which is not always the case). [full details coming soon]


Ride #23
3 villages: Consègudes, La Roque-en-Provence & Roquesteron

Steve & Carole in Vence - The village of La Roque-en-Provence with the church perched high above it on a rocky outcrop and the Estéron River below it.
The village of La Roque-en-Provence with the church perched high above it on a rocky outcrop and the Estéron River below it.

May 9, 2021 Starting in Le Broc, this ride makes a loop to the west and north through some beautiful countryside. Conségudes, the first stop, is a wonderful little perched village that looks amazing from the roadside. La Roque-en-Provence is perhaps better known by its old name, Roquesteron-Grasse. (The name was changed only a few years ago.) It features a church sitting high above the village on a tiny little rock. Unfortunately, it’s basically impossible to reach it in cycling shoes, so I’ll have to go back on another day via car to check it out. Roquesteron sits literally right next to La Roque-en-Provence, just across the Estéron River. It’s pretty rare to find two villages right next to each other like this in this part of France (I actually can’t think of any other instances) so there must be some interesting history here. [full details coming soon]


Ride #24
2 villages: Escragnolles & Caussols

Steve & Carole in Vence - L'Église Saint-Lambert in the village of Caussols.
L’Église Saint-Lambert in the village of Caussols.

May 12, 2021 I needed two villages in the area just northwest of Grasse, Escragnolles and Caussols, and there was really no way to make a loop out of them without going a fairly long distance, so I settled on a double out and back. I started the ride in Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey which I visited in January. From there I rode first to Escragnolles and then back to Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey. Then up to Caussols and finally back again to Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey. It was a nice balanced ride as both villages required mostly climbing to reach, but then I had a nice descent after each. Escragnolles is a tiny little village with not much more than a church, a Mairie and a small cluster of houses. It’s hard to consider Caussols a “village” at all. There’s really nothing there except for an old church and few modern buildings. Not sure what the history is on this “village,” but I’m interested in finding out why it’s a commune. [full details coming soon]


Ride #25
3 villages: Ascros, Saint-Antonin & Pierrefeu

Steve & Carole in Vence - A small covered passageway in the perched village of Pierrefeu.
A small covered passageway in the perched village of Pierrefeu.

May 15, 2021 A nice little loop to complete the villages in the mountains just south of the Var River running from Puget-Théniers to Malaussène. Starting in Toudon it’s a short climb to Ascros where you’ll find a nice church and the remains of an old castle. Then it’s downhill to Saint-Antonin, a tiny little village with a nice high point that features amazing views of the valleys and mountains all around and a couple of little “tables d’orientation” explaning what you’re looking at. The loop continues through Sigale and Roquesteron, but the real find here was Pierrefeu. I’d actually been to this village once many years ago by car, but I’d forgotten how delightful it is. Perched up about 4 1/2 kilometers from the main road it features a church high above the village, a large chapel in the center square and really beautiful houses and streets. [full details coming soon]


Ride #26
1 village: Isola

Steve & Carole in Vence - The Romanesque Lomabrd bell tower in Isola.
The Romanesque Lomabrd bell tower in Isola.

May 18, 2021 This ride is exactly the same as one I did on the 73 Villages by Bike challenge last August. Except that time I visited Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée, Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage. I also went through Isola on that ride, but since I wasn’t counting it as one of the villages, I needed to go again. So, I started once more in Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée and headed up the upper section of the Tinée Valley. It’s a beautiful ride and I had good weather (at least for most of the ride). I stopped in Isola and once again in Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée and Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage. The woman in the tourist office in Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage was kind enough to give me the key to the church so I was able to see the inside for the first time. [full details coming soon]


Ride #27
4 villages: Sallagriffon, Collongues, Les Mujouls & Amirat

Steve & Carole in Vence - A house in Amirat.
A house in Amirat.

May 24, 2021 On the 73 Villages by Bike challenge I did a loop through a couple of valleys that included the villages of Sigale and Briançonnet. There are actually quite a few village strewn along this loop and many of them require a short detour from the main road. In fact, seven of them were not included in the original challenge so now I’m visiting them to complete this second challenge. Today I started in Sigale and made an out and back ride on the northern portion of this loop. Sallagriffon and Collongues are very nice little villages fairly close to Sigale. Les Mujouls and Amirat require a bit more climbing to get to. A beautiful, sunny, warm May afternoon made this ride very pleasant. I’ll pick up the last three villages on this loop for the next ride. [full details coming soon]


Ride #28 – The Last Ride!
3 villages: Le Mas, Saint-Auban & Gars

Steve & Carole in Vence - A street in the tiny village of Gars.
A street in the tiny village of Gars.

May 26, 2021 The last ride! The route is identical to ride that I did on the “73 Villages by Bike” challenge except on that ride I started in Saint-Auban and only the villages of Sigale and Briançonnet were “officially” visited. It’s a big loop that altogether features 10 villages from the two challenges. Today I started in Aiglun and headed out for Le Mas. It’s a small, quiet little village with a nice church and not a whole lot else. Further on up the road is Saint-Auban which sits on the side of a big rock mountain and really looks great from a distance. Just pass Saint-Auban is the incredible Clue de Saint-Auban, a deep gorge cut into massive rocks. The real highlight of this trip for me though was Gars one of the few villages I had never been to. It required a 4km descent from the main road (and then the return climb) but it was worth it. A lovely little village, very picturesque and very well preserved. [full details coming soon]

7 thoughts on “88 More Villages by Bike

  1. If you haven’t done Col de la Madone already, try to wrap that into your St. Agnes trip. Bit of a luxury just to say you’ve done it, but it is a wonderful ride and, of course, you get to say that you have ‘done it’ – although, I suppose the real ‘done it’ is riding up from a beach in Menton. Nonetheless, also make certain to wander the fort at St Agnes to envision the beginnings of the Maginot Line.

    I look forward to reading the posts of your excursions. Have fun!

    1. Hi CJ:
      Thanks for the comment. I have climbed Col de la Madone many times! From the beach at Menton and from La Turbie and Peille on the other side. You’re right it is a wonderful ride. I wrote a bit about it on this ride. I’ve also got an article about the Fort Sainte-Agnes on our site as well.

  2. Great stumbling onto your blog as I am researching rides in your area. We live over in Céreste in Alpes de Haut Provence but due to the maudit Covid have been stuck home here in Canada. Our mission is to see as many beautiful villages as possible within driving distance from Céreste . We park somewhere & ride a loop any where up to 60km. I especially liked seeing your ride on Feb 5 as was interested in that area. Feel free to offer any suggestions 🤔
    Cheers
    Greg Griffith

    1. Hi Greg, thanks for getting in touch. I haven’t done a lot of riding in your area (yet), except for Mont Ventoux. I’ll send you an email to follow up.

      1. Thanks for the reply Steve. We are only 20 km from Sault so that route up the Ventoux is the closest. The Gorges du Nesque starts there as well, lovely ride!
        For rides in your area we would probably stay in Vence for a few days as it looks like lots of nice riding there.
        Cheers

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Steve and Carole in Vence