The South of France is a fantastic place for bikers. As a passenger behind my partner on his BMW GS1200, we can go anywhere, and do anything!
In Nice, for example, the town itself often gets busy, especially in the summer when it is congested with traffic. The bike is used as a scooter making it easier to get around. The climate on the Cote d’Azur is particularly clement, as it doesn’t suffer from the strong winds that rage down the Rhone valley or from the west into the Pyrenees Orientales.
Beyond Nice there are some magnificent roads. To find them, you’ll need the Michelin maps as they have all the roads with amazing scenery marked in green. No need for complicated plans, just follow the green!
It’s rare that the attractive roads are suitable for long-distance cruising however. The auto-routes (highways) or main National (N) roads are the ones with the least twists and turns, but with heavy goods vehicles pounding along whipping up the air, they are not pleasant to ride.
Riding from Nice through Provence you reach one of the most dramatic landmarks: Mont Ventoux. Riding up is a favorite with bikers and cyclists; indeed it is often included in the Tour de France. If you’re a keen cyclist, you’ll love Mont Ventoux!
Riding back down to the coast, one of the most delightful spots is the former fishing village of Cassis. It’s now popular with tourists who like to go there on a day trip from Marseille. The road from one to the other is a popular green road with fantastic views, and you can go on, along the Route des Crètes which takes you to the magnificent viewpoint of Cap Canaille. Marseille is one of France’s major cities but suffers from problems in the northern quarters.
North of Marseille, by some 30km, is Aix-en-Provence which has a rich history and charm, some marvelous restaurants and tempting shops. It’s very well-placed for both quick exits along the auto-routes, and pleasurable outings along the green roads.
Going west, you arrive at the Camargue, a regional park and area of outstanding beauty known for its salt marshes and wide variety of wildlife. On its eastern limit is the walled town of Aigues-Mortes, a smaller version of Carcassonne. It has a definite charm, but only out of season. The coast road towards Montpellier offers views of the lagoon on one side and sea on the other, with the city of Montpellier in the distance and on a clear day, views of the local high point, the Pic St Loup. There is a wine appellation called Pic St Loup which specializes in sharp, fruity white wine.
Montpellier is a university city with a vibrant student population but it’s popular with visitors too, and those who seek to retire to a city which is not too large, but has all the amenities and excellent medical facilities they require.