Distance: 82 kilometres (51 miles)
Time: Around 4-5 hours depending on your pace
Difficulty: Somewhat Difficult – long with several climbs
Elevation: 1070 meters (3510 feet)
I first started riding my bike in the Nice area in 2003 when I came to France for a cycling vacation with my friends Les and Theresa. We spent about two and a half weeks in France, splitting our time between the Alpes, Paris and Nice. Exploring the Côte d’Azur and surrounding territory on bike was a dream come true for me and after that I started coming over to France at least once a year, gradually spending more and more time in Nice. It became somewhat of a tradition to make the first ride from Nice up to La Turbie via Eze. It’s a relatively short little outing, not too long, not too hard, the perfect ride to get reacclimated after spending almost twenty-four hours traveling from the U.S. Not to mention that the scenery is absolutely spectacular. Once I discovered Vence (about 20 kilometres / 12 miles northwest of Nice), and started staying there instead of Nice, I adapted the ride a bit and now I still make this same ride on a regular basis: Vence > Cagnes-sur-Mer > Nice > Eze > La Turbie and back. Here’s an account of one such trip from a few years ago (with some updated information). It can easily be adapted to start from Nice (or elsewhere along the coast) instead of Vence.
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Vence To Nice
On this ride I left Vence around 9:00AM, taking the “back road” out of town, Avenue Général Leclerc (M36). The sun was up, it was a beautiful June morning, though a bit windy with some high clouds. It’s all downhill from Vence to Cagnes-sur-Mer, about 10 kilometres (6 miles). At about 5.5km out of Vence there is a roundabout where the M36 and the M336 come together. I kept to the left, staying on the M36 all the way into Cagnes-sur-Mer. The road ends at Avenue de la Gare (M136) where I turned right and which I stayed on for just a couple of blocks and then I turned left on Rue Bonaparte. A right turn on Boulevard Maréchal Juin led me straight down to the sea.
Once you reach the coast there is a great bike lane that runs all the way from Cagnes-sur-Mer to the east end of Nice. It runs right along the beach so you have a great view of the ocean. I followed the bike trail past the Nice airport and on to the wonderful Promenade des Anglais, the beautiful, wide boulevard that runs the entire length of Nice along the coastline. Next to the actual road is a very wide “promenade” full of joggers, cyclists, walkers, skaters and much more. (In the last couple of years the promenade has been revamped to include a dedicated cycling lane that is just magnificent. It runs all the way from the end of the airport to the port and provides a wide lane just for bikes.) The wind was very strong along the beach, I’m guessing maybe 32 kilometres (20 miles) an hour and I was heading almost straight into it, but it was no big deal. I knew with just a bit of luck I’d have this as a tail wind on my way back.
I rode leisurely along the promenade, enjoying being back in Nice, thinking of all the times I’d been there before and how it was always so great to come back, until I reached the Nice port where I turned right on Quai des Deux Emmanuels and then left on Rue du Lazaret and right on Boulevard Stalingrad. Boulevard Stalingrad bends to the left and becomes Boulevard Franck Pilatte. As it winds around the beaches and restaurants it turns into Avenue Jean Lorrain. There’s a terrific little climb near the end of the road before it ends at the M6098, Boulevard Carnot.
Nice to Eze
Once you’re on the M6098 it’s a short ride into Villefranche-sur-Mer (another wonderful little town, the almost picture perfect example of a “Riviera” port) and then, just after passing through town you make a left turn on the M33 and head directly up the mountains to reach the road to Eze. There’s one tricky little turn on this road, but if you watch for the signs to Eze and make sure to stay on the M33 you’ll be good. It’s a series of switchbacks through what has to be some very, very expensive real estate (lots of beautiful “villas”). It’s steep, quite steep in a few places, but not too long and once you arrive at the top you are on the road known as the “moyene corniche,” the M6007.
From Nice to the Italian border the mountains come almost right down to the water. This is one of my very favorite places on earth, I just love the combination of mountains and ocean. There are three main roads that run along the coast in this area: a low road that runs along the beach (basse corniche), a high road that runs up near the top of the mountains (grand cornice) and a middle road that runs between them (moyene cornice). The moyene corniche runs straight to the little town of Eze, a wonderful “perched village” that is maybe 1,000 years old. I’ve been here many, many times and taken all my friends up here when they are with me. Eze can be a bit “touristy” and very crowded during the high season, but it’s still worth a visit. You can walk through most of it with your bike if you want an extra little adventure.
Eze to La Turbie and Back to Nice
From Eze it’s just a short 3 kilometre (2 mile) trip up to La Turbie, a town I first discovered when Carole and I stayed there for one night on our honeymoon (after getting lost). Stay on the M6007 going east out of Eze and very shortly you’ll see signs for La Turbie. Take the M45 (Route de la Turbie) and follow it until it joins up with the D2564 (Route de Nice) which will take you right into the village. It sits just above Monte Carlo and the view from the edge of town is terrific. It’s also famous for the ruins of a 2,000 year old Roman monument. To get the best view turn right on Avenue Prince Albert ler de Monaco. It will run straight into the entrance for the Trophy of Augustus monument. Just keep going straight on the sidewalk and you’ll come to a fantastic “overlook” from which you can view Monte Carlo and much of the French Riviera. I stopped in La Turbie for a few minutes, ate a Cliff bar, refilled my water bottles and then headed back down to Nice, this time taking the “back” way, along the “grande moyene” which runs a few kilometres behind Eze through a wooded park area. When you leave La Turbie you’ll go back via the D2564, but instead of turning left on the M45 stay on the D2564 and it turns into the M2564. This road that leads all the way back down into Nice via the Col d’Eze which cyclists ascend every year in the famous Paris-Nice bicycle race. It’s a long, steep and very fast descent straight into the northeast side of Nice. You’ll come out at the Boulevard de l’Armée des Alpes. (If you’d like to try a ride where you climb the Col d’Eze instead of descending it, I’ve got one for you.)
Home to Vence
Riding through the very busy streets of Nice can seem quite dangerous and in some ways I suppose it is. But, on the other hand, drivers here are much more considerate and aware of cyclists, so in the end I think it balances out. You just have to be careful and very aware of everything around you. It’s really almost impossible to give directions through Nice without them getting quite long, so just head for the Place Masséna (a big grand open “square”) and then take another nice ride along the promenade. On my ride I had the wind at my back and it was easy to keep a 20mph pace barely working at all. Back past the airport, into Cagnes-sur-Mer and one more climb up the hill into Vence the same way you came down and you’re done.
Important Notes: This is a fairly long ride with some climbing in various parts. There can also be a good amount of traffic on certain portions of the route at certain times of the day. If there is any sign of rain I would suggest leaving the ride for another time. As always you’ll want to make sure you have a good bike and plenty of water. The best time to make this ride in the summer is early in the morning when it’s the coolest, the best time in the winter is early in the afternoon when things have warmed up a bit. You’ll want a helmet and sunscreen no matter what time of the year you go. You’ll be able to find food and drink all along the route. If you are riding alone make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you should be back. I always wear an identification bracelet that I got from Road ID.