In the footsteps of Paula
This is the beginning of the adventure. That of the Paula track and that of Massacan. A pebble path that invites you to take your bike for a crazy day at the foot of the mountains. It's our little madeleine. A nugget that we share with you.
We meet at Nice station for the first train and leave the city on the rails. An option that allows us to do as much gravel as possible, far from the city. There are two options: stop at Sospel or terminus at Breil-sur-Roya. For us, it will be Sospel with a visit to the bakery. We stock up on good things: sandwiches, pichade, pizza and sweets. A coffee on the small terrace. We pack all our food in the saddlebags as much as possible and we hit the road.
From there, take the direction of Oliveta. Already a little taste of Italy…it rises slowly to the start of the track. A first ass kick that deserves. I dare you all to climb without setting foot on this breathtaking track. On arrival, if you are not staggering like an asthmatic, hat, or capette, finally, congratulations. And, welcome to Paula's trail. A discreet path that winds up to the Col de Brouis at 879 m. For us, it is quite a symbol; the beginning of the Adventure. This track is the gateway to all our getaways, for a day or to cross passes and borders. A world of sounds, smells and colors of which only long hikes have the secret. So it's decided, our first gravel bike will bear the name of Paula.
Our destination for the day: the Authion. There are several variants that lead to the summit. It will be by the southern slope, like the first time we took it. A more or less concrete road that ends in a track. We gently feel that we are moving away from everything. Behind us Breil-sur-Roya and a few houses that disappear into the vegetation. We take height. Only our strong breath (at least mine) and the noise of the pebbles accompany us. Sometimes we stop for a photo, a croc or for the view. Regardless of the season, it's always a slap to be there when the very morning we were on the train of wonders. The train that connects the villages of the valley to Nice. And above all the best way to escape.
It is almost 1 p.m. when we arrive on a set. There, we stop for a snack. And as we have time, we brought with us the Jetboil and enough to make a little coffee. It's already a well-established ritual for taking out the equipment, measuring out the coffee and boiling the water. A simple pleasure to get off to a better start.
The summit is about 20 km. You cannot miss the Fort de la Redoute nestled at the highest point: maximum altitude 2080 m. It is the first fort in the Alps built to defend France from the Italian invasion, but which ultimately served the Germans during the Second World War. For the curious, I invite you to do your research. We will remember that history has given us all the same the most beautiful and the highest roads that only two-wheelers can take.
It's time to go back down the road. A beautiful descent to the Col de Turini where we never fail to stop at the Hôtel des Trois Vallées. A gourmet stop to taste the famous blueberry tart. The bikes against the wall outside, we are too happy to steal a little heat, the boss greets us, we are regulars of the place.