Biking from Nice, France, to Monaco! Really!

Sorry, we’re a bit backed up on our blogging – we were having too much fun cycling and touring in France to sit on the computer editing photos and writing blog posts. We’re home now, and working on catching up. More coming soon…

Wow, what a concept – biking to Monaco! From here in Port Alberni it is 40 km to the next town east, and 110 km to the next town west. But from Nice, it’s only 20 km to the next country!! (And only 16 km beyond that to Italy). The Principality of Monaco is only barely a country (4 km long, and much of it only 400-500 m wide) but it is recognized by the UN.

Anyway, after hearing about this legendary place for years, we were both pretty excited about riding there. (We were riding graphite Trek Madone road bikes that we had rented). We didn’t have a map, but we figured that if we just rode east along the water, we’d get there… hoping that the roads we found would be somewhat bike-friendly. What an adventure!

Setting out from Nice, it was a bit hazy, but very hot and muggy. We had beautiful weather our whole time in Nice – always hot, usually muggy too, but great for riding.

There were coastal villages our whole way, one bordering on the next. The only way you could tell you passed from one to the next was by the road signs. This one is Villefranche-sur-mer, which borders on the east side of Nice.

And here WE are, happy to be out on this adventure together!

The route was nearly all along coastline. The only time we didn’t see the sea was when we passed through the village centres. And the coastline became cliffier and cliffier as we progressed…

Their were signs for Monaco at every intersection, so we had no trouble finding our way. And even though there was quite a lot of traffic on the roads, the drivers were really respectful, and clearly very accustomed to driving with bikes sharing the road.

As the shoreline became more rugged, we had to pass through some tunnels. I liked these tunnels!

In this spot, a long tunnel went through the rocky point (Cap Estel). We didn’t have lights, and it looked pretty scary to ride. Fortunately there was a walking/cycling route around the cape – from which we could look down on this lovely hotel! No one seemed to be staying there. Weird.

So we continued along… and after all the signs indicating the beginning/end of each little village in France, we suddenly realized that we are IN Monaco! No sign or anything!! And, next thing you know, we are getting sucked into this big tunnel system, with underground roundabouts and everything. (Land is at a premium in Monaco – the whole country is only 2 square km! So I guess they have to build their highways underground). I did NOT like this tunnel.

So we went through a few dimly lit roundabouts with cars speeding all around, and then spied a bit of light to our right. We turned, dragging our bikes under a metal gate, and emerged… here!

We locked our bikes up and wandered around town – found this AMAZING pasta restaurant. And we were pleasantly surprised to find that meals weren’t outrageously expensive (as we had feared).

Then we strolled down to the harbour, where there were all of these amazingly expensive yachts. Huge! And a beautiful 50 m outdoor pool right on the harbourfront.

After strolling around admiring crazily expensive yachts, we got back on the bikes and rode up the hill to the royal palace. Here’s a view of the harbour. That 50 m swimming pool is big enough that it is drawn to scale on the Monaco country map…. it must occupy a significant percentage of the country’s land area!!

And here we are again… really enjoying our day! Adventure doesn’t have to be wilderness… the adventure of this trip was just that everything was unknown, unexpected.

Now up top – this is the entrance to the royal palace. I rode back on my own a few days later (the day that Dave was racing) and this whole area was crammed full of people (a giant cruise ship was in). But the day that Dave and I were there, it was really peaceful.

You can really see why this area, where the palace is, was originally a fortress. It’s perched up top of a narrow cliffy point, easy to defend with cannons, and with protected harbours on both sides.

Bikes and cannonballs… not a picture you can take just anywhere!

And then back to Nice in time for an evening glass of wine up at the old Citadel, overlooking the port. What a great day!

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  1. #1 by Jamin on April 4, 2013 - 10:38 pm

    The riding sounds fantastic. Can you share where you rented bikes?

    Thanks

    • #2 by Jacqueline Windh on April 7, 2013 - 8:31 am

      Hi Jamin –

      I’m away running an ultra in Guadeloupe right now, and don’t have the info with me. I’ll try to remember to look it up and post it when I get home – but if I don’t, please comment here again to remind me in a week or so, and I will do it right away.

      Cheers,
      Jackie

    • #3 by Jacqueline Windh on April 18, 2013 - 9:03 am

      Hi Jamin –

      We rented the bikes (Madone carbon road bikes) from http://www.francebikerentals.com.

      They delivered the bikes to us in Nice, and picked them up, for a small extra fee. All the equipment provided was top quality. The rentals weren’t cheap, but we were very happy with the bikes, and used them a lot (which means we didn’t spend money doing stupid tours or anything). Highly recommended!

      Have a good trip.

      Jackie

  2. #4 by Terry on July 23, 2013 - 12:59 pm

    Wow! So you went their and back in one day by bicycle and had no problems; Wonderful. I hope to do the same trip in 6 months except I’m hoping to start in Cannes. Did you make any other stops on the way back or when you went two days later ? I’m hoping to stop in Cap-Ferrat, Èze, and La Turbie.
    Thanks for all the info.

    • #5 by Jacqueline Windh on July 26, 2013 - 8:36 am

      Hi Terry –

      We were in Nice for about 8 days all together, so we did lots of day rides from there. We rode around Cap-Ferrat on a different day, just cruising around and checking it out. It was a bit hard to know which road was which there, they wind all over the place – but you can’t get lost because you were surrounded by water! It was really pretty – a few very steep and narrow sections of road, but not much traffic, lots of nice expensive houses and fragrant jasmine hedges and pretty little coves. Very quiet compared to the main route to Monaco.

      We didn’t really stop much in the other villages on the way – but you could, they are all very pretty. The tunnels get a bit hairy – as you approach Cap d’Ail you will want to go around there, NOT through the tunnel – if you are looking, you will see that there is an older road, blocked off to vehicles but great for bikes, on the ocean side of the tunnel (with really pretty views, too). Going in to Monaco from the Nice direction, we went through the tunnel – a bit scary, but doable. Coming back, if you get a tourist map while you are there, you will see that you can take a route out of Monaco where you hardly go in the tunnels at all (south of the tunnels) which I recommend. I think we had to run our bikes across a highway once to do that route. Watch for signs as you come out of Monaco on your way back, because we almost went into a one-way tunnel that turns into an underground freeway a few km long (which would have been a BAD move).

      There is lots of fast traffic (everywhere in France) and the roads are mostly narrow, but we found that the drivers are really good, much more aware about bikes and how much room their car takes on the road than North American drivers. You need to be smart about everything, and be confident… but we had a really good time, had some amazing rides in that area.

      Jackie

  3. #6 by Rob on April 16, 2015 - 11:01 am

    Hi Jackie, I run a luxury cycling tour in Canada and just got back from Monaco. I was only in Monaco a few days and did not get a chance to cycle or go outside of Monaco. I know that you mentioned it was a good ride along the coast with sea views and the worst part was some tunnels you want to avoid. What I was wondering was how hilly the terrain was and was there a lot of climbing/descents or was it relatively flat even where you were by the cliffs and mountains? I am looking to do a tour that would start in France around Cannes or Nice and go through Monaco and end in Italy. We would do this in about 4-5 nights/days with hotel stops of course.

    Thanks for any advice.

    Rob

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