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I’ve covered many biking and boarding opps along the coast of Cote d’Azur that are most worth going to and reachable from Nice. But there’s a lot more happening up in the hills behind Nice, but to get to them I need transportation. This past weekend a friend lent me her car, and as Flo was out of town, I could use the bike rack and put the paddle board in the back of the car and head out and do some exploring.

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Lake Cassien with glass-like conditions for a paddle

Day One: Lake Cassien

I’d found a lake near Cannes that looked interesting for paddling called Lake Cassien, which is a damned lake situated behind the hills of the Esterels.

There are numerous ways to access the lake, with a number of restaurants along the shoreline that, along with providing food and drinks, also rent out small boats. The most popular boats I saw were paddle boats, driven by two people peddling a paddle wheel, with a slide on the top. It seems that gas engines are not allowed on the lake, as the only engines I saw were small electric ones.

The lake is surrounded by forest with just a few homes actually on the lake and only a few on the hillsides above. One roads actually goes right over the lake by bridge, but other than that, and when you far enough away from the bridge, it is extremely quiet. I paddled north on a glass-like surface with very few other people around, just a few fisherman. On the way I had a swim in clear green fresh water that was simply wonderful – out in the middle of the lake with no one around, just me and my board and the green hills around me.

IMG_2258But when I got to the far north shore and turned around, a big black cloud had rolled in and along with it, strong winds. This made it very difficult for me to make it back to where I started, as I was 3-4 km from my launch site and the wind was right on my nose. I sat down rather than standing, to help me make headway. About halfway up the lake the wind (fortunately) subsided and I could stand back up again and make it back to the car.

Once I was packed up I crossed the bridge and head north passing through Tourney, Les Veyans and Speracedes. I made my way up to the interesting town of Cabris, which sits out on a rock formation that provides great views of the valley below, Lake Cassien, and the Med. From there I went to Gourdon and then made my way back to Nice.

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Day Two

IMG_2272I put the bike rack on the car, loaded my bike and headed northeast towards the town of Sospel. Sospel is high in the mountains and close to the French/Italian border. It is very popular with bikers with great rides both off and on road. The on-road rides are on windy country roads that bend, meander and climb over the tall mountain ranges that surround the town. It is also very popular with motor bikers as a stop-off place for lunch. I took route 2204 from Nice up to Sospel. It was a little windy but incredibly scenic, especially in the spring with the wild flowers, as it is in the fall, as well, when the leaves are turning.

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Village of Breil-Sur-Roya

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View from D93 Summit

I parked and then headed by bike northeast towards Breil-sur-Roya, a small but charming town, situated alongside the Italian border. It was a tough, windy climb to the summit, but then a wonderful ride down into Breil. Stopped for a bit there and then headed south on highway E74 towards Ventimiglia, turning part of the way down onto D93 which took me back up to Sospel. It was a tough climb to the summit on this road as well, but it is a narrower, less travelled road so more enjoyable.

Day Three

Got back on my bike again to take on a circular route that took me up to the ski resort of Varberg. I wrote a separate post here about it.

Day Four

Got up early and went for a paddle around the bay of Villefranche. It was a busy day on the bay as it was a Sunday and also a long weekend. Beaches were full, lots of boats on the water… a lot going on. A little too much for me. Did the paddle around the shoreline, had a swim and then headed home for lunch and rest. Great long weekend!

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