If we had a slice of cake for every time someone mentioned cycling in Mallorca, we’d be bursting out of our cycling kit. So, when one of our guests told us there was a ferry running between Toulon and Alcudia we were quickly cooking up ideas and investigating the timetables for an end of season “sortie”.
Riding there and back really appealed to us, the idea of not even spending a night on the infamous island amused us more and the destination… well it had to be THAT lighthouse, Cap Formentor!
There was one date in October when the “Mallorca for the day” challenge would work, with an overnight ferry arriving in the morning and departing that same night. Our friends, Maryanna and Phillipe, were keen, or crazy enough, to join us and the tickets were quickly booked before any of us could change our minds.
With the season over at Serre Des Ormes and the unusually high autumn temperatures, conditions were perfect. We had spent hours planning route options and decided on taking 2 days to cycle to Toulon with an overnight stop near Manosque. With bike bags packed unpacked… repacked and packed again we set off up the valley and over Col de Negron heading southwards into the Alpes-de Haute Provence. Once over the col at 1242m, it was all downhill for the day… well almost!
The perched village of Simiane-La-Rotonde was the planned rest bite for lunch, Maryanna only just managing to stop on the steep cobbled streets!
Refuelled, we set off, but it wasn’t long before we had our first mechanical of the trip with Kate’s gear shifter failing. Fortunately, it was the front shifter so we headed on hoping to get it repaired in Manosque. The folks in Bachelas bike shop were great, dropping tools to investigate the problem but we only had time for a quick pastry and quiche from the boulangerie before they confirmed our fears that it was irreparable and with no shifters in stock, Kate had to battle on . With heavy bikes, a hilly route and a touring mentality the loss of the big ring was not such a big issue and we pressed on to our Chambre d’hôte, La Clape, for the night and just in time for a quick dip in the pool with the sun setting over the Provence hills.
The next day we continued our way southwards towards Toulon, sticking to the smaller roads as much as possible to avoid the traffic… although the hunters lining the roadside were more of a concern at times! I confidently told everyone that our route into the city would avoid as much traffic as possible, failing to mention that this meant a 20% climb up to the viewpoint of Sollies-Ville on narrow streets. It was all worthwhile though, avoiding most of the traffic and still making the ferry terminal in good time. The “Mega Express” run by Corsica Ferries was soon boarding and it wasn’t long before we were under way. Maybe it’s the efficiency of it all but there is something very satisfying about waking up as you approach your destination, and we were able to watch the approaching Mallorcan coastline as we tucked into breakfast on board.
There was only one goal for our “day-out” on Mallorca, the famous Cap Formentor lighthouse. This stretch of road was actually my first overseas ride on a cycling holiday back in 2010, naïve, I had no idea at the time it was so famous! Kate, however, had never ridden on the island and was keen to see what all the fuss was about. After leaving the ferry we headed along the coastline to Puerto Pollença. The cycleways were impressive, almost bigger than some of the roads we are used to riding back home ? ? We stopped for a coffee surrounded by more Pinarello’s than I’ve seen on Ventoux in a single day…. but the café con leche was well worth it and much more satisfying than the café au lait we are used to back in France.
From the seaside town we headed out along the cape, it really is a fantastic stretch of road, up, down round and round, weaving it’s way between the forests and spectacular views eventually reaching the lighthouse. There you have to pick your way around the cars, queuing to reach the limited parking spots, it’s more chaotic than the top of Ventoux on Bastille day! We skipped the usual obligatory café stop, instead opting to head back to Puerto Pollença for a beachside lunch… not something we are accustomed to in the Hautes-Alpes!
We had talked about climbing to the Lluc monastery but perhaps our plans were bigger than our leg muscles and we settled for a more leisurely tour of the old towns of Pollença and Alcudia.
Before long it was time to head back for the ferry, after a disappointing meal in the restaurant on the outward leg, we opted for a picnic and the shopping bags made negotiating the final few km’s to the Port more challenging, but we arrived in good time. Too much time in fact, so, to spice the wait up a bit Philippe decided he would nip back and find a cycling top. After a nervy wait for the 3 of us he appeared grinning with the prized jersey ?
We were quickly back on board and heading back to Toulon and the return journey back to Serre Des Ormes. Despite the forecasted showers, we all wanted to complete the challenge by cycling home rather than taking the train. We had booked into the same chambre d’hote for the night, so knew what awaited us but managed to find different roads back allowing us to explore even more of the area. Finally, we could see Sisteron on the horizon and as Napoleon once said “we are nearly home,” well he allegedly said “nous voilà sauvés, nous sommes à Paris !” (we are saved, we are in Paris) but I had a similar feeling.
It may seem a little crazy going to Mallorca for only a day but I suppose that added to the adventure. It really is a cycling mecca and now we know it’s so close I’m sure we will back, well that was until I found there was a similar overnight ferry to Sardinia….