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Austria

Monaco and the Grand Canyon du Verdon

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As the sun woke us up we realized there was a town nearby so our hunger got us walking in search of a couple croissants and coffee. Every town has a bakery, right. WRONG. Not this one.

Packing up the bike we decided to head back to Forte di Exilles to see if we could walk around the castle. That meant we had to ride that pass two more times, like that is a bad thing. We passed through the ski town of Montgenevre again and grabbed a breakfast for way too much money, but it is a ski/golf town.

When we arrived at the castle we found out that it had been closed down again and there was no way in. We headed back, riding some great roads and headed toward Barcelonnette, which I had heard was a great town to see but I didn’t think it was anything special, except for the gas stop. As we were getting gas, three Lotus’s pulled in with young couples from Monaco. We had a good time chatting with the kids and sharing stories.

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As we chased the ribbon of asphalt across the next pass, the highest pass in Europe at 2715 meters, the Col de la Bonette, we realized we should probably stop short of the coast so we didn’t end up in Monaco at night. The choices were slim to none as we followed the river Le Var toward Nice.

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Col de la Bonette

So another cheap hotel tonight with brats, cheese, peanuts and wine for supper, since there wasn’t a restaurants nearby and the butcher shop had enough to get us by for the night. As we progressed further south the temperatures had increased again. If it had been cooler, the sleeping bag would have been used on the bed, the place was that bad. Oh well, welcome to France, and the manager decided today was his non-English day.

Bonne nuit

The views of the Mediterranean coming into Monaco were fantastic with orange tiled roofs on the hills looking out over the blue waters of the French Riviera. Following the coast the road stayed at elevation with views all the way to Monte Carlo.

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Monte Carlo, Monaco

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Monte Carlo, Monaco

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Happy faces. Monte Carlo, Monaco

Turning south we made our way to the coastal road and onto the course of the Monaco Grand Prix through Monaco. It’s such a thrill to follow this course and being able to divert to the marina or other neat little areas that would be unreachable if not on the bike. I know several times I was in areas that were off-limits but I was in exploring mode.

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Monte Carlo, Monaco

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Famous turn from Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, Monaco

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Marina near palace

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My little skiff

As the time moved toward noon the temperature started to soar and the traffic started to get crazy, so it was time to leave Monaco and the coast and head back to some elevation. The problem was I couldn’t find my way out-of-town. Twisting and turning, one way streets, tunnels and we ended up back at the marina, two different routes with the same results. Frustrated, I headed west along the coast with the traffic and finally got out and headed toward the Grand Canyon of Europe, the Grand Canyon du Verdon.

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Fields of Lavender

Stopping for fuel seemed to be an issue today as most of the stations were unmanned and the code on my chipped MasterCard had stopped working. We finally had to stop at a grocery store with an unmanned fuel pump and nothing would work, including the non-English speaking French people working in the store. Are you kidding me, none of you speak English. I guess the rumors about the rudeness of the French is true in this area.

After sitting at the pump for about 90 minutes trying to get some help, a couple English-speaking Germans on bikes stopped in. After explaining my predicament to them they immediately filled my tank with fuel. They refused to take any money for the fuel, but I insisted, and they finally said OK. Thanks guys!

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A couple miles later, as we climbed toward the Grand Canyon du Verdon the clouds started to build to a fullness that rewarded us with rain. It was lasted just long enough to make the roads slick, so much care had to be taken.

The Gorges Du Verdon in south-eastern France is a river canyon that is often considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful. It is about 25 kilometers long and up to 700 meters deep. It was formed by the Verdon River, which is named for its startling turquoise-green color, one of the location’s distinguishing characteristics. The most impressive part lies between the towns of  Castellane and Moustiers-Saint-Marie, where the river has cut a ravine to a depth of 700 meters through the limestone.

Bridge over the Verdon River

Bridge over the Verdon River

Riding around a bend back toward the gorge, this bridge came into view spanning the gorge, some 700 meters above the river. There was a tent set up in the middle of the bridge with people bungee jumping off the bridge into the gorge. What a site. I have a video posted on YouTube showing the jump.

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After they were done jumping we hopped on the bike and started to climb some more leaving the gorge and we got some hail, but just the tail end of what was a bad storm. As we were riding I was noticing leaves and branches all over the road and was expecting to see a road crew trimming trees. Then the unmelted hail/ice started showing up on the side of the road. We felt pretty happy that we got distracted at the bridge by the bungee nuts.

The river empties into a lake, the Lac de Ste Croix, that had the same turquoise water as was in the river. We found another full-service campsite on the lake, set up camp, and had a great pizza and a bottle of wine for less than $10. Just so happens as it was happy hour so plenty of friendly French folks were around, nice. We took a walk and played some cards and had just a fun evening.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

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Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Alps, Austria, BMW, Europe, Horizons Unlimited, motorcycle travel, Switzerland, Triumph, Trophy | Leave a comment

The Dolomites and Beautiful Lakes

Today and the next few days will be what bikers dream about. We will be riding first through the Dolomites then the Alps of northern Italy, Switzerland and southeastern France. Crisscrossing passes on tarmac ranging from perfect, with many bikes and famous names, to tarmac that is broken, worn from severe winters with pass names not so well known, and very few bikes. Those not so well known passes end up being the most memorable to us.

Waking up to another wonderful day, the sky a flawless blue, we pack the bike and enjoy a breakfast of croissants, fruit, homemade jelly and butter, one of our new favorites, Nutella, and fresh orange juice and coffee.

As we ride north the roads continue to improve, meaning straight to curves, gaining in altitude and scenery as the mountains go from blips on the horizon to taking the whole forward view. The skies cloud up with the tips of the ragged, craggy Dolomites thrusting skyward.

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Working our way north through the incredible Parco Nazionale delle Dolomite Bellunesi we wound our way to the scenic town of Arabba before climbing to the Funivia del Sass Pordoi and Passo di Sellajoch.

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The views from the top were breathtaking and we just stood in awe.

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We found a busy campground at Camping St. Josef am Kalterer See on a pretty little lake.I grabbed a bottle of $2 wine to drink, opened it, and before I could get the tent setup our German neighbors had already invited us over for several beers. Of course we went over as this is what traveling is all about, meeting new people.

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They wanted to hear about our adventures, so we drank and talked and almost missed dinner. The campground had a small restaurant with really good food at inexpensive rates. We split a salad and spaghetti, took a walk and headed back to the campsite where I had to finish my bottle of wine.

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Another beautiful blue sky greeted us in the morning on our walk to the lake. Several people showed up and stripped to their birthday suits, (Europe, ya know), and jumped into the lake for their morning swim. We headed back to break camp and our German neighbors invited us over for croissants and coffee, (if you read this, contact me. I lost your names).

Such nice people.

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As we rode out of town Melanie all off a sudden said “Look up”. Just ahead of us, straight up, was a castle on a massive rock ledge. It was so impressive that we pulled over and took a picture.


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As Lake Garda comes into view we ride right into a massive traffic jam. Choosing to ride down the east side of the lake to the ferry, we hit solid, very slow moving traffic as far as we could see. Several sport bikes zipped by us, lane filtering, into oncoming traffic so we jumped lanes and followed. Having spent some time in California I am used to people being pissed at motorcycles and cutting them off. As we came down the hill the cars moved over, on both sides to let us all go and all was OK. Not one angry person was overtaken as we could see. Brilliant! It actually works here.

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We stopped at a local deli and bought some crackers, salami and cheese (for me, not Melanie), and found a great place midway down the lake to have lunch by the water.

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Continuing south to the tourist town of Torri del Benaco was enough for us so we hopped on the ferry for a nice ride across the lake. The views from the lake were great of all the estates on the west coast.

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Catching a quick nap

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Riding off the ferry we headed west looking for a waterfront camping spot for the night. The town of Pisogne filled the bill within walking distance of downtown. The view from the campsite was incredible giving us a great show when the sun set and into the evening as the light of town reflected off the lake and a full moon rose over the mountains above town.

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We walked into town to discover the only thing available to eat at the several restaurants open until 8pm was, PIZZA, again. Past the outside tables in the square was a giant old church in the square with music playing behind it. Following the cobblestone walk toward the 60’s style, American music brought us to an outside party which looked crashable, but we resisted and wandered back to the square for a delightful evening watching children play in the square while we munched our pizza and drank our carafe of red wine.DSCF1366 DSCF1365 IMG_20150601_204627075 IMG_20150601_193002133

Tomorrow, the iconic motorcycle passes, Passo di Gavia and Passo di Stelvio.

Cheers

Greg “WANDRR” and Melanie

Categories: 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Alps, Austria, BMW, Dolomites, Europe, Italy, motorcycle travel, Slovenia, Triumph, Trophy | Leave a comment

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