Cagnes-sur-Mer – 5 days – 2 metres above sea level

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The Mediterranean! It was along its coast that we arrived by our last border and enjoyed the symbol of its meaning. We proudly took a photo in front of the sign of “France” and the sign of “Menton city”, without realising what was going on.

We did our first kilometres on one of the most emblematic road of the country: the South of the National 7, the famous road of the holidays. After crossing the city, famous for its delicious lemons, we reached the perched village of Eze. Julien’s uncle, Patrick, was waiting for us to enjoy a break with coffee, melon, ham and eggs from the garden.

We avoided Nice by taking the highway. The trafic was heavy. Between the cars, we didn’t see each other. Both sidecars took a different exit and we finally met on the promenade along the beach of Cagnes-sur-Mer, with an unusual empty trafic.

One hundred of metres further, René and Marie-Thé, Julien’s great-uncle and great-aunt, were warmly welcoming us for a few days off. We lunched on the terrace under a parasol with the fan on.

Mid-afternoon, two journalists from the local newspaper, named Nice-Matin, interviewed us to take some photos on the seaside. Questions and replies last two hours. For the first time it was difficult to summarize one year of trip in only one favourite place and the best story while we had thousands of memories. We dived in the swimming pool before to dine at the Carlos’ restaurant, a Portuguese chef specialised in grilled meat.

The following day was dedicated to the discovery of Nice, the capital of the French Riviera. We went along the Bay of Angels and using the promenade of Paillon, very animated during these hot days. Many children were playing with the water while their parents were having fun watching them.

We continued our walk in the historic area of the city. We loved the colourful streets, the delicious smell of the Mediterranean cuisine, the authenticity and the friendly atmosphere. 

We finished the day at Sebastien’s place, Marie’s cousin, on the heights of Nice.

We enjoyed a new day of break to discover the heights of Cagnes. This medieval village was on the seaside and isolated in the meantime as it was perched on a hill protected by its old castle. The narrow streets were lovely with the nice atmosphere from the South with breathtaking viewpoints over the Mediterranean and the Mercantour. There were signs on the walls about the worldwide competition of “square balls” in the next few days.

When we were back, René explained us this game as similar rules to bocce but the square shape allows to play in the narrow and steep streets of the Alps villages. Each year, from the 80’s, the streets (with a slope between 10 and 18%) were welcoming this unusual event. 

This Mediterranean break gave us the opportunity to enjoy again workout. The promenade along the beach was only for pedestrian. With its asphalt, it was perfect for a run. The gentle curve was passing by the famous racetrack, the luxury Marina of Villeneuve-Louvet before to reach the Cap d’Antibes.

The afternoon was dedicated to visit the town of Grasse, the origin of the luxury perfume houses. Located on the first hills of the Alpes-Maritimes. Its narrow streets are the archetype of the Provençal architecture. They had a delicious smell of fine fragrances. They naturally attracted us to the Fragonard Factory, a well-known house. We took a guided tour through the museum with the explanation of the process of making perfume and the different evolutions across the centuries. The tour finished by the shop were we could not resist to buy some of them.

The next morning was the day of our departure. After enjoying some croissants for the breakfast, we left René and Marie-thé to the road towards West. After a day driving on the asphalt, we passed the city of Marseille and we stopped for the night at Fare-les-Oliviers, nearby the Berre lake. We pitched the tent on the property of the soap family factory, “la Perle de Provence“. Fred, the soap maker welcomed us. We discussed with him several minutes about his passion about soap and his favorite bikes, the Ducati.

After this night in the middle of the olive tree field, we took the road in direction of North East, crossing Nîmes, then Alès and the Cevennes. An area that we were unable to place on a map, such as the Lozère and Aveyron, the next counties on our way.

Where to do a break?

The soap family factory “Perle de Provence”
D10 Le Vieux Mas, 13680 Lançon-Provence

A family with a big heart and the passion for the things well done. No secret, only good and nice products. You will also have the possibility to camp under fantastic olive trees, if you have the time.

Jalë and the crossing of Balkans – 6 days – 2 metres above sea level

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The first drops of rain started when we crossed the border between Greece and Albania. While putting on our rain suits, the border officer was smiling. He told us we were crossing the country during the only 2 rainy days of the summer.

Thirty kilometres further, we reached the Gjirokaster city at the end of the morning, one of the oldest cities of Albania. With our rain suits, we were walking in the paved streets. On each side, there were old houses with walls and roof made of stones. The biggest ones had nice balconies. The nickname of the city is “the city of stones” due to its architecture.

We walked up to the fortress. On his remparts, there was a beautiful view on the city and the surrounded valley.

For lunch, we stopped in a small shop of the medieval streets. We enjoyed our first Burek (puffed pastry stuffed with cheese or spinach), a local food speciality with an Ottoman influence.

Hoping to get some sunshine, we headed to the “Albanian Riviera”. To reach it, we crossed the mountains. Ten kilometres after a peak, we used a 2-kilometre path on the right hand-side. We reached the Blue Eye, a spring with an intense blue colour. That day, there was a mystic fog above the course from this spring. The place was quite touristic but this little circle of a 2-metre diameter was worth the visit.

We reached the coast by the seaside city of Sarandë. It was the good strategy to get a warmer and dryer weather. From this point, we continued to head North. Kilometre after kilometre, there were the main beaches become the favourite seaside cities of the Hungarian, Polish and Slovenian tourists. Some coves were more difficult to be reached and stayed more peaceful. We stopped on one of them for the first bivouac of the Balkans.

The Fier city was the end of our adventure of the Albanian Rivierea. We did a stop at the Post Office before to ride on the highway around the capital, Tirana. At tea time, we stopped for a break with crepes on a terrace of the little perched village of Kruje. Then, we visited the remains of the fortress.

The city of Shkodër was the last one before crossing a new border. Ten kilometres further, we arrived at the border with the Montenegro. There was a little queue before the border post. Kids were begging with insistence. As it’s usually done for motorcycles, a policeman authorised us to overtake the cars, in spite of our three wheels. We stopped just a few metres before the border office and in front of a rebelling Belgian couple. It was easy to cross as there were no true vehicle checks before to get a stamp on our passport.

Once arrived in Montenegro, we quitted the main road to go alongside the Skadar lake. We crossed the Virpazar city and didn’t really visit. The main objective of the day was the discovery of the famous Kotor bay.

The road was going down gently, towards the gulfs shaped by the green mountains.

The medieval city of Kotor was along one of these gulfs. At the bottom of a mountain, the pedestrian streets were full of people. The medieval city was indeed very touristic but the little paved streets were very cute with many houses made of stones. Next to these streets there were beautiful churches and nice squares where cats were relaxing. There were yachts and cruise boats at the port. One of them arrived from France that day. So there were many French tourists on the terraces and in the souvenir shops.

The road was going along the bay and the little villages including Perast with its churches overlooking the sea. On the road, we enjoyed the heights of the cliffs surrounding this “fjord”. Once we crossed the Donji Morinj city, the road was going up again to enjoy a last viewpoint over the bay before to cross the mountains of the Balkans.

Next, we arrived in Bosnia-Herzegovina. At the border, the administrative formalities were done in only 5 minutes as there was no one at this post lost in the mountains. The first road we took was going alongside the Bileca lake before to take a small road crossing the valley to reach Mostar.

This medieval city is famous for the old “pointed” bridge spanning the Neretva river. Built in 1566 for the first time, destroyed during the war of 1992-95 and rebuilt in 2004. From its highest point, people were diving for 10€, benefiting from an old ritual.

On each side of this bridge, there were the paved streets of this ancient Ottoman city.  We enjoyed a Cevapi, a pita bread served with fried meat and raw onions.

As we didn’t find an agreement for the next itinerary to reach the Plitvice lakes, each sidecar took a different path for the first time of the trip. Marie and Julien took the Southern road, while Emilie and I took the Northern one.

With Emilie, we reached the Jajce city in the evening. We walked in the streets and arrived at its fortress built in the 14th century. At its bottom, the ancient touristic buildings from the Soviet period gave an awkward atmosphere. In spite of its history, Jajce was also famous for its waterfalls before the Pliva river goes to the Vrbas river.

In Croatia, both team met together to reach the Plitivice lakes. We took the information to visit the park and decided to wait until 4pm to enjoy a reduced price: less than 20€ in spite of the usual 34€.

At the first kilometre to reach the big waterfall, we followed the crowds of tourists on the wooden walkways. But after a peaceful crossing of the main lake with an electric boat while the crowds were leaving the park, we reached the Northern part of the lake. We were on our own on the walkways, just above the water. We crossed the small waterfalls and small lakes of an unbelievable emerald green colour, enhanced with the sunshine. After a last viewpoint on the big waterfall, we went back to the sidecars at dusk.

The wild camping being forbidden in Croatia, we looked for a private land to pitch up the tents. At a first place, the owner refused. Finally, a few kilometres further, we were authorised to pitch up the tent in the garden of a hotel-restaurant, for free. To thank them, we took a pizza and nice Croatian beers in the restaurant.

We continued the trip towards North. Regularly, we stopped to check the frame of one of the sidecars due to a crack which appeared in the morning, just before to leave the hotel-restaurant. Before to reach the Slovenian border, we stopped at a welder place in the Karlovac city and fixed a few other things.

At the other side of the border, Alice, Manu, Zack and Loah, Julien’s family, were waiting for us to continue the trip with us for a few days.

Where to eat? 

Tamli Restaurant
Rruga Pazari Vjeter, Krujë

A good address for a break and a quick lunch before to discover the fortress of the city. On the menu, sweet and savoury crepes that you can enjoy on the terrace in the pedestrian street.