D-34 Antibes (F) – (MC) – Ventimiglia (I)

Camping and traveling by bike is one of those things that keep you very busy without seeing quick results. I spent all morning arranging things, storing stuff, and getting myself ready. A lot of work to have everything just as it was before, no improvement or anything to be seen. The kind of work that cleaners do, the best case scenario is to see no difference, otherwise something is wrong.

I finally get ready to ride myself towards the entrance of the camp site and find the owner with her daughter and company having lunch. They invited me to sit and have lunch with them but I was eager to cycle to my next destination. We started to talk and they were interested on my trip, I gladly talked about it now with a home made sangria on my hand. The camp site was built in the 50’s and now it was the 2nd and 3rd generation that was taking care of it. This was the typical, “I left my office job to take care of the family business at the beach”. We had a nice chat, shared some pictures and they were nice enough to not charge me for the night.

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I kept thinking about the 80 year old painter I met yesterday. It was a great example not only because of his age but the courage it takes to go to very different countries by only speaking French. I did not consider myself much of a traveller to do all what he has done on so many countries. I don’t enjoy much being a tourist, if there is something I really want to see about a place I do it and then flee from the area as soon as I can. Otherwise I’m fascinated by being a local person wherever I go.
At my age and with what I’ve gone through, I’m not embarrassed to recognize this, when I arrived to Bruges I left my stuff in the hostel, bought food and a white cloudy local beer. I ate and then took the beer and a book to sit at one of the main plazas, it was a bit cold but very sunny, the perfect combination for everyone to come out. A couple sat next to me with a camera, a map, a bottle of water, and that particular rush tourist have to see everything around them even if they haven’t done a tenth of that at their own hometown and even if they will forget everything they learn the very next day. They asked me how long I’ve been in town -expecting me to live there and being able to give some advise-. “3 hours” I ventured. They looked at me as if I was pouring my money down the drain by just sitting there. The fact of the matter is, I don’t enjoy much been a tourist, I just like to be a local everywhere I go. I have itchy feet and I like to relate to the culture I’m traveling too. So many new countries like the ones the old painter visited involved a lot of learning, maybe I’m just too lazy.

I had great weather before I got into Nice.

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I got into the city where Chagall and Matisse came from and started to rain right away. If you’ve been following my blog you will know by now that food quickly climbs up in my priority list. It was raining and it was a good opportunity to sit hopping for a clear sky. I did not feel attracted to the good restaurants, instead I could not resist stopping at a hidden rundown for-sale shop that sold sandwiches, pizzas, and sodas on a corner. The other three corners had shops that carefully thought on displaying their products nicely: a fine bakery, a gourmet ice-cream place, and a local branded body-shop. I don’t normally intend to be in the spotlight, I don’t mind if I have to or if I’m in a territory I’m comfortable with, like talking about my trip. It was rainy, I didn’t want to talk or meet people, and I was enjoying my simple vegetarian sandwich observing the people around which walked right in front and barely noticed the shop where I was or not at all. It was perfect. I’m sure even the must attention needy person dreamed to be in this situation. I changed a few words with the Iran owner and sensed two emotions competing with each other in his mood. One, I don’t care about this place cause I’m selling it, and two, I do want to do a good job selling this so I can be with my family in Sweden as soon as I can. I can tell he felt pity for me traveling alone, not having a family on my own, and not knowing where I was sleeping tonight, just like any other day for me. I liked his reaction, it matched the weather and the rundown place, the same way I saw people walking by I observed a tremendous emotion of sadness coming close. It was like watching a movie, stuff was presented to you, but it was your decision to allow that sadness affect you or enjoy it for a moment as a visitor and let it go. I shook my legs and arms to warm up, and wore my water proof jacket in the absence of a clear sky.

Monaco was a nice country to ride through but somehow difficult with all those little roads full of cars and not allowing much time to decide where to go. I followed what it seemed to be a bicycle path but became very narrow, short barriers protected the road. One from the cliff that lead to the see, and the other from the speed demons of the road. At some point salsa did no longer fit with the panniers and the last thing I wanted is seeing them fall to the sea or ran over by a car. I could not go back, so I pulled the panniers out and carried them to the end of the road and then pushed salsa. A couple of times I ended up inside a tunnel with narrow lanes. I passed by the start line where the Grand Prix just occurred and then checked out some nice yachts. The owners waved happily next to their crews when I stopped for pictures.

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The rest of the road back to France and then to Italy offered some great views of the towns and sea. The rain did not stop and I was a bit tired definitely not willing to camp. I found a hotel that ended up being at the tip of a hill, but was worth the climb. The receptionist -and very likely owner- reduced by half the rate after knowing where I came from. The dinner at the hotel was great.

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