Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

For more information on the Cafes I have visited and the latest cafe cycle news go to http://www.cake-crusader.co.uk/

Cake Crusader Book

There is now a Cake Crusader book available where you can follow my journey from humble local trips to world record attempts and near-death experiences. How did a simple method of keeping track of decent cycling café pit stops turn my life upside down? Track my adventures into Europe, up mountains and right across Great Britain as I become a 'rising star' on social media. Will I prove my critics wrong? Should cheese scones be served hot or cold? Do I really have nothing better to do with his time? A must read for lovers of cycling and cake or anyone wanting to make it big in the virtual world

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Saturday 21 September 2019

Cycling in the Alps Day 1. (Col de Vars)

Cycling in the Alps day 1
You may recall that last year I went in search of the best croissant you can find up a mountain in France. (see Across the Pyrenees). I did this via a ride from one end of the Pyrenees to the other incorporating 11 major climbs. Results were inconclusive and (SPOILER ALERT) I didn't really find the ultimate croissant I was after. Therefore this year I am returning to France to continue my mission but this time in the mighty Alps. 

It will be a two centre trip (see map below) with the highlight being an attempt on the iconic Alpe D'Huez on day 4 or 5 but more of that later (well in 3 or 4  days time actually). 
Map of routes
After arriving at Lyon airport yesterday we are now based in Barcelonnette for the first 3 rides. Last year I did the Pyrenees as part of an organised trip but this year I have just packed Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) as my cycling guest to make sure there is maximum time to check out the cafes.  

First task was to rebuild our bikes and hope to get them back on the road asap and for once this went smoothly so unlike my last two trips day 1 won’t be spent looking for a bike shop.
Bike successfully reassembled
Next it was time to test the first croissant at the nearest bakery (or Boulanger as we say in France). It was always going to be better than the benchmark croissant I had at Luton airport yesterday but on its ratings for Freshness, Frenchness, and Flavour it was only averagely good.
First Croissant of the week

With breakfast complete it was time for today's route which was planned to be a gentle start with just one proper climb up the Col De Vars (as seen on this years TdF) coming right at the start of the ride. I unpacked Andrew who was on top faffing form so pedals weren’t down until an outrageous10:30 guaranteeing a late finish.
A late pedals down for the first ride
The ride to the bottom of the Col was typical alpine with the requisite mountains and rivers but after an hour or so we reached the cat 1 climb and were off.
Typical alpine terrain on way to first climb
The climb itself was fairly straightforward with the last 6 kms averaging about 10% making it hard be not too difficult. I invented a new game called ‘where’s Andrew’. He is somewhere on the mountain below, see if you can find him.
Can you spot Andrew?
At the top there was a quick snap to celebrate success.
Top of the Col de Vars
Then the first mountain top cafe of the trip, rather imaginatively name Col Du Vars, to test out. The staff were proper grumpy french with nothing being too difficult. But I did manage to extract a hot chocolate, banana and croissant.
Outside the Col Du Vars mountain top cafe
When Andrew eventually turned up a few minutes later he too had croissant and banana with a coffee. The cafe did have a good range of fruit pies and pastries but we were a bit on the clock so had to get going again. The croissant proved disappointing and mountain top cafe ratings were distinctly average but it had been an enjoyable climb.
Disappointing refreshments
The ride down was a lovely straight forward descent with some spectacular views and we made up a bit of time.
View from the top
Once at the bottom we hit the worst section of the day which was about 15 miles along a busy road with the cycle path indicated by only a white line. By the time we got to our next planned stop we were more than ready for it. But despite google assuring me it would be open it was shut. The nearest open place was across the road and although it was neither mountain top or served croissants we decided it was best to get on with refuelling rather than hunt round town for a better option.
Plan b
Knowing Andrews history of under eating on our trips I took the lead and ordered us both emergency tea and Pizza as the croissant and banana we had had so far had probably delivered all the Watts they were going to.
Emergency tea and pizza

The next section was my favourite part of the day as we cycled around the lake to a smaller Col (col de Pontis). There are 7 Cols in the area and this would be the second one ticked off today although sadly we won’t get to do all of them during our stay.
Start of Col De Pontis

On the way up it was time for round two of “where’s Andrew” although I think this is an easier one.
Can you spot him

There were also some great views of the lake we plan to visit in more detail tomorrow.
View of where we will be going tomorrow

Once at the top it started to rain so it was jackets on for the final 25 mile run in.
At the Summit

It was a much more technical descent so we made up little time meaning that the last section was a bit dramatic as light was starting to fade, (yes I did bring lights and put them on) and with the supermarket soon shutting I was sent ahead (by me) to get provisions.
Light was starting to fade for the final stretch back

It had been a fine days cycling with many contrasts but a little rushed. No real progress on cafes and croissants but hopefully some joy there tomorrow. We have same mileage and distance planned for tomorrow as today but it will be pedals down at least two hours earlier!

Todays Route


Cafe ratings
Atmosphere and Ambiance
Col Du Vars
Chez Barulo
Café de Lac

Buvette du Lac

Auberge Roche Grande

Le Krystal Bakery

Alpe D’Huez

So Sweet

Boulangerie Du Entraigues

Chez Maria

Luton Pret
La Marandiere, Barcelonnette
Café de Lac

Trip statistics
Average Mph
Time on Bike
Metres climbed
Col Vars
Tour du Lac Serre Poncon

Three Cols from Barcelonnette

Alpe D’Huez

Quiet Cols recovery


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