Advertisements

Switzerland

Monaco and the Grand Canyon du Verdon

wpid-fb_img_1437766210996.jpg

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.

DSCF1528

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.

IMG_20150606_162230229

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.

IMG_20150607_091143558_HDR

Monte Carlo, Monaco

DSCF1530

Monte Carlo, Monaco

IMG_20150607_091614013_HDR

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.

DSCF1541

Monte Carlo, Monaco

DSCF1543

Famous turn from Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, Monaco

DSCF1544

Marina near palace

DSCF1538

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.

DSCF1546

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!

IMG_20150607_162107578

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.

IMG_20150607_165155650 IMG_20150607_162946144

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

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

French Alps

IMG_20150604_060734410_HDR

Brienzersee

Waking up to the pinks of a beautiful sunrise over Brienzersee is the way to start any day. We parked up and headed to Interlaken looking for a place to have breakfast. All the places we saw didn’t have parking except for somewhere down the street somewhere. We kept on riding since Interlaken was too touristy and ended up in Thun, at a wonderful on street Cafe called McDonalds.

It’s always fun to watch the double takes when people walk up to look over the bike and gear, make their way to the back to see where the bike is from, and BAM, they don’t have a clue. Our license plates from the United States just show the state, not the country on origin. The plates most non American people are used to are large and name the country of origin. After a couple confused moments we walked over to talk to them and most times the confusion grows. “You ride a motorbike from America?” and “Where are you going?”. It seems to always be an ice breaker.

IMG_20150604_092033839_HDR

Filling water bottle in Thun

Riding down through the countryside was fantastic we farms of fresh-cut wheat, cows, grape vineyards and back up and over a small pass in another National Park until, coming around a corner, we see in the distance a fabulous castle on a hill in the middle of a small town surrounded by perfectly terraced vineyards. At the same time we both exclaimed “Lets go explore”, so into town we rode, up a one-way street the wrong direction again, and parked at the front door. It’s great riding a bike and finding these close up parking spots.

DSCF1468

Aigle Castle

The Château d’Aigle has a 800 year old history with the two fortified tower being built in the early 1300’s. The Château d’Aigle throne since the late 12th century, in the heart of a renowned vineyard, has been a former residence of the Knights of Aigle, the Compey-Thorens and noble Bernese Governors and is now a wine museum. We took a self-guided tour to check this place out and thoroughly enjoyed our time spent here.

IMG_20150604_120052949

Several hundred year old wine press.

IMG_20150604_125336387_HDR

Old and New. Down next to the stairs is a beer and water machine.

IMG_20150604_115549693 IMG_20150604_115903048 IMG_20150604_121506239 IMG_20150604_122828902 IMG_20150604_124303161_HDR IMG_20150604_125023992 IMG_20150604_124944631_HDR IMG_20150604_125138634_HDR

The day has really warmed up and our gear has been setting in the blazing sun the entire time we were exploring.  We follow the road toward the French border and Monte Blanc and more passes. As we pass thru town and head toward the mountain passes the skies start to turn dark and menacing and it starts to rain a little, prompting us to rethink crossing the pass as we don’t want to be slowed down with the bad weather and caught on the mountain at night, maybe in snow. Since it’s already late afternoon we turn back and find a nice inn with views of Monte Blanc, with a bar and Italian restaurant. We hang up our gear to dry, get a drink and wander around town before the restaurants open at eight.

DSCF1479

Our room with restaurant below

IMG_20150604_172342529

Monte Blanc

image

image

Expresso break

The rain had stopped during the night and the day started with some blue skies peeking through non-threatening puffy clouds. We started out the wrong way and didn’t realize this until we got over the first pass. I was completely disoriented with my directions and didn’t want to believe the maps so we went a different way and ended up riding another pass, the Cormet de Roselend, with very few vehicles on it, just a bunch of bicycles.

DSCF1484 DSCF1486

In my confusion we ended driving by the of the passes that I really wanted to ride, the Col du Petit St Bernard. Oh well, how many stickers do you need anyway. The next pass that we rode ended up being the biggest treat, the Col dr L’Iseran. When we started on this road the clouds had come in a little and the wind had picked up and the road was in fair condition with wide open exposure on the edge of the road. After a few miles up past a mine and an deserted ski area we still had not seen one vehicle making me feel this might dead end somewhere up on the top of the mountain. It was exciting so we decided to continue on and see what was at the top. After about 45kms we got to the pass sign on top of the pass, still having not seen one vehicle, but the weather had improved, so we snapped a picture and continued on.

DSCF1489

Rounding the corner and about 200 meters up the road the pass was blocked because the snow had not been removed yet. A snow wall about 5 meters tall and 50 meters long blocked the only way back down the mountain. Today was the day that the pass was opening, so if we could wait for 2 hours, it might be cleared. We ended up waiting with several bikes on our side and there were several bikes and RVs waiting on the other side of the snow.IMG_20150605_155524454 DSCF1494 DSCF1493 IMG_20150605_150054942 IMG_20150605_150029980

After having a little party at the top with the other bikers they finally cleared the road but left a strip of only about 0.5 meters ice free. Some of the RVs coming up had a difficult time coming up the hill due to the ice. The ride down was just as deserted and we passed thru a couple towns that looked as if they had just been abandoned. A 2-up couple on a           Moto Guzzi chased us down the hill as the shadows began to increase signaling the coming of the end of another great riding day. DSCF1527

As we raced down the roads looking for a place to camp, we couldn’t find one. Traveling without a plan is so great because no never know what you are going to see. Coming around a corner we saw up on the hill a ENORMOUS castle. There wasn’t any information on it and it was closed, but we researched it later that night. It is called forte di Exilles and was built in the 1100’s as a military road protecting access through this valley.DSCF1516

image

DSCF1519

It was time to find food for supper and a campground and we were tired and hot. Passing through Montgenevre we found a Pizza place and ordered way too much food. It was just two single orders but the portions were huge. We both ate Melanie’s pizza and took my Calzone to go. Up ahead are some great twisty pass road getting us back up to some cooler temps and finding a small campground sign on the side of the road we turn off in search of a place to set our tent. Pulling into the rustic campground everything is locked up and as we get off the bike a guy shows up and, after I plead our case and quickly arriving darkness, decides we are worthy of a place to stay. We set camp away from the only other tent campers who were a couple Brits and super nice guys, which ended up with my Calzone since they hadn’t eaten tonight.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

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

Blog at WordPress.com.