As the Europrez meeting was in England this year, to get our fix of European travel, we joined the Summer 2000 tour organised by Carlo and Zozzo for our main holiday.
Kate's new bike 'James' was kitted out with Touratech Panniers and a Garmin GPSIII+ GPS by Bracken. The panners were excellent, and the GPS proved to be invaluable. Both are unreservedly recommended!
In the two weeks, we did 10 countries and about 3000 miles (4500 Kilometers).
The countries we visited were:
Using the GPS, and the excellent Garmin MapSource software I have a map of the route taken.
Route: Home to Channel Tunnel via MIK and MEL's
To get a head start, we decided to impose our company upon MIK and MEL who conveniently live in Kent. So, after work we loaded Kate's bike up and set off. After an uneventful, if damp, trip around the M25 we arrived at MIK and MEL's, had the usualy fantastic greating and evening meal. I also bored everyone that would stand or sit still long enough with the plans for our trip. We also tried, unsuccessfully to convert the headlight for use on the other side of the road, a simple task if the manual was to be belived!
Up, and after a breakfast of bacon sandwiches, off towards the Tunnel. Of course, as usual we'ed left it a bit too tight, and arrived at the toll booths at about the time our train was due to leave. This time however, it wasn't delayed. No problem, we're now booked on the next one. I love the tunnel. It is so simple, shame that it is so expensive!
Countries: France and Belgium.
Route: Channel Tunnel to Caratz in Antwerpen
Out the other side of the tunnel and take the now very familar motorway straight to Antwerp. Due to a combination of the GPS (I had managed to get a waypoint set very close to the actual position of Carlo's home) and Kate's navigational abilities we were able to go straight to Carlo's without any problem.
As Carlo was out having fun swanning around somewhere on a Scooter, we were able to spend some time visiting his delightful Mother. A very nice touch was the Belgian Francs she gave to Kate to "put in the charity box" when she got back, thus helping to ensure her safe return.
When Carlo turned up one of his neighbours children was fascinated by his bike. So Carlo had to give him a lift into the garage!
In the evening we went out, with Carlo, Gabi and the children, to an Argentinian restaurant for a great meal. While we were waiting for our food, Frank Fensie and his wife turned up. So a brillient evening with good food and company. A fortaste of what was to come!
Route: Antwerpen to Malbuisson
Countries: Belgium, Luxembourg and France.
We met Danny Fensie outside Carlo's, and set off for Malbuisson. The journey was motorway to Nancy via Brussels, Luxembourg and Metz. Then fast single carrageway to Pontarlier via Epinal, Luxeuil-Les-Bains, Vesoul and Besancon. The last leg was a nice twisty road up into the foothils of the Alps and along the lake La De St. Point, arriving at the hotel in the early evening.
The hotel was great, nice and clean with a lovely 'family run' atmosphere.
The restaurant was something else!
We met in foyer for pre-dinner pastis before going through to have an excellent meal in the Michelin starred restaurant. Carlo had arranged to meet a couple of friends for the dinner and excellent company they proved to be. Of course, Danny was on form. At some point in the evening we started discussing the BBC commedy Goodness Gracious Me and the "That Thing You Do With Your Hand" series of sketches was discussed. This was to become a major theme of the trip.
Route: Malbuisson to Susa
Countries: France, Switzerland and Italy.
The journey started by riding up into the mountains behind Malbuisson on a wonderfull twisty road towards Lausanne. This joined the motorway round Lac Leman, one of the more scenic motorways I have traveled on, past Vevey to Montreux, where we stopped for a short break.
|Lac Leman from the motorway above Montreux||The bikes, and Danny videoing.|
From Montreux we left the lake and rode up the valley to Martigny. Here we took the St. Bernard pass road towards Aosta in Italy. Shortly after entering the St. Bernard tunnel, we turned onto a small and narrow road signed Grand St. Bernard pass. Suddenly, from a fast dual-carrageway, we were on a twisting narrow alpine pass! This was probably not the best introduction....
At Aosta we decided not to take the Petit St. Bernard, instead taking the motorway to Torino. Here we left the motorway and took the main road to Susa and, after stopping for directions, found our way to the pretty little village of Novalesa.
|Main street Novalesa.|
The hotel looked great and it was fantastic to meet up with everyone again. Unfortunatly, the rooms were in another building a few hundred metres up the road. Also, this was our first introduction to Italian towels... However, dinner was good, and the company excellent!
Route: Novalesa to Pra Loup
So, back to Suza, and off up a little side road that climbs up through the trees. At one point there is enough room to park on a hairpin bend and take some photographs.
|Suza from the start of the Passo delle Finestre.|
A little further up, and we emerge from the woods. As we do so the tarmac ends! Once the heart got over the initial shock and calmed down a bit, we realised that the surface was actually very good. Of course Kate's R1150GS lapped it up and dispite being two-up gave me a great feeling of confidence. Of course, by this time the height stopped me from getting over-confident! Eventually we arrived at the top, and had a chance to look around. Wow!
|The road up the Passo delle Finestre from the top.|
|Us in action (photo by Andrea Brigatti - his trip report is at: http://www.europrez.com/~andrea/NovalPics1.html)|
|Various people milling around.||Kate's bike (James) at the top.|
|The way down.|
And then it was down! Half-way down a few of our number took of along a longer gravel section. The rest of us went back onto tarmac at soon as posible! Down in the valley floor we once more turned of the main road and onto a gravel track. This time though we only went a few hundred metres before the road ended at a castle - Forte S. Carlo. Here we stopped for a picnic, olives (or course), some fatastic flat bread with fennel in it, and some Greek Goats Cheese. Lovely! This castle is on the Route Napolion, the track of the journey he took from exile in Elba back into France, and then on to end up at Waterloo. There were some re-enactors there.
Countries: Italy and France.
From Fenestrelle, we wound on into France, stopping for lunch at the Mont Genevre pass. Then onto the lovely hillside town of Briancon. This is a small fortified town set overlooking one side of a steap mountain valley. The otherside is an imposing looking fort. Together they control the pass.
|The view over the valley to the other fort.||The view down the valley.|
|Looking down the main street.|
Countries: Italy and France.
Leaving Briancon we headed up to the top of the Coll D'Izoard. As you can see from the writing on the road, Le Tour had been up there the week before.
|On the Coll D'Izoard.|
|Europrezzes milling about (Duner on 'Assface').||We're going that way.|
From mountain pass to valley floor, and a lovely river running through a steep ravine.
Note the parapit in the bottom of the photo.
|Now look at the depth on the other side.||
Now look at the nutters!
Some people will to anything to get a photograph...
Then back up to a mountain pass again, this time the Col De Vars where we stopped for a drink.
|The view from the cafe on the Col De Vars.|
From there we went down to Barcelonette then onto Pra Loup and the Hotel Le Prieure. Another excellent hotel where we had a great dinner.
Route: Barcellonette to La Palud
After a night in the Hotel Le Prieure in Pra Loup (near Barcelonette) we set off for the big one! The highest paved road in Europe (apparently there is a higher road in Spain, but it is not paved).
|The 'shortcut' just before the, one way, Tour de la Bonette.|
We rode round the 'Tour de la Bonnette'. Although it doesn't look it from the photograph, it is seriously high, and very steep! So steep that when you are riding along the road, you cannot see the sides. Or the bottom...
|The Col de la Bonette with Carlo Antoniotti setting off in the forground.|
|The way up.|
Having gone "round the top" of the Col du Bonette, I saw a signpost for Nice, and was heading off to the safety of down when I noticed that we were the only bike around. Yes, the mad fiends had stopped the other side of the "one-way bit" for a photoshoot. So, I pulled up, Kate got off and walked back, and I did a U-turn!!!!! Scary!
After the photoshoot, we set off down the mountian in the direction of Nice. At one set of hairpin bends, we were passed by two Ducati's (well, we were two up, with two weeks worth of luggage...). Slipstreaming the Ducati's was someone on a racing (push)bike! At the next straight, much to the suprise of the Ducatisti, he over took them!
Following lunch, the 'core die-hards' of the trip set off for Verdon Gorge and the Hotel Panoramic in La Palud du Verdon.
I had seen photographs of Azure coloured lakes in tourist brochures and postcards, but always belived them to have been a trick or some such. Well, they don't do the real thing any justice at all! The lakes we passed on the road to Castellane were the most fantastic colour.
At one point the group got split up, and Danny, Zozzo, Stelios, and us (Kate and me) took a more scenic route. At one point Danny collected an 'insect' in the cylinder head fins that looked like, and was the size of a small chicken...
|This photo was shamelessly "pinched" from Stelios' trip report.|
By this time, we'ed had enough of the bikes, so with the exception of a short trip into La Palud for supplies, we spent the day hanging around the Hotel. For lunch we took our supplies (Olives, bread, cheese, and so on) and had a picnic in the woods opposite the Hotel. We then send the afternoon by the pool.
|Carlo and Zozzo.|
|The view from the Hotel towards the Verdon Gorge.|
While we were in La Palud, Dave Brick (of Village Idiot fame) who was in France on a house swap was able to join us.
Route: La Palud to Lacoste
We rode through the heat and lovely countryside of Provence.
Everywhere there were fields of lavender.
Which is a shame really, as Kate can't stand the stuff...
So, she ended up riding along with a sprig of rosemary (picked wild off the side of the road) jammed in her crash helment under her nose.
For lunch we stopped of in the typically picturesque Provancal hill town of Bonnieux.
|Lunch in Bonnieux.|
After lunch we walked up to the top of the hill and had a look around the church.
|The hill from the restaurant.||The hill from the top.|
Carlo took the opportunity to catch up on his sleep:
The views were quite spectacular:
|Lacoste from Bonnieux||Mont Ventoux|
After the sightseeing, we rode over to the next hill along and the town of Lacoste, former home of the Marquis de Sade. There we stayed in a fantastic room in the Relais du Procureur.
|Our hotel room from the bathroom (sad I know)|
|The view from our hotel room||Kate's bike (James) parked up|
Route: Lacoste to Lacoste
We went for a gentle ride up to Carpentras and did a little shopping. I bought some sweets in the Fruits Confits Clavel shop on Rue Porte d'Orange.
We then had a wonderfull ride around the Provencal countryside following Zozzo. We stopped for a great lunch in a small town (who's name I can't remember), and later on in the afternoon stopped for ice-creams and coffee at the Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. Where Stelios kindly let me use his camera to take a photo:
Then it was back to the Hotel for a swim before dinner.
|The pool from our bathroom||Close up of Danny and Stelios enjoying the pool|
Route: Lacoste to Nice
This was a transfer ride to Nice. Most of which was on the A8 motorway. At some point, we moved down to the coast road, where we all got split up due to heavy traffic. Eventually we all met up again at the Hotel Ibis in Nice (the least I say about this hotel the better).
A friend of Carlo and Danny had moved to Nice, and he took us to dinner at La Vesuvio, a great restaurant by the harbour.
The next day, Zozzo let us (Kate and I - on James) over to Monaco where we rode round the famous Formula One Grand Prix track!!! Absolutly fantastic! One thing you do not get from the television, is just how steep this 'track' really is. We then rode back to meet the others for lunch in St. Paul-de-Vence. A very pretty fortified hill-top village.
We spent the evening wandering around Nice, a city that really comes alive at night.
Route: Nice to Orino
Countries: France and Italy.
We split up, with Carlo, Zozzo and Kate and I riding out of Nice through a typical Mediterranean summer downpoor. We took the top road towards Monaco, the views from this road are fantastic! From Monaco we crossed into Italy. At the River Rioa we left the coast and folowed the river inland. The river is popular with white water rafters who have painted faces on some of the rocks in the middle of the river to great effect. Back in France we followed the N204 north back towards Cuneo and Italy. After Cuneo we joined the Autoroute for Turino and then Milano Eventually arriving in Orino after a long days ride.
In the evening Carlo2 (Carlo Antoniotti) took us to his local Pizzeria - Fantastic!
Route: Orino to Neuenburg
Countries: Italy, Switzerland and Germany.
After spending the night imposing upon Carlo2's hospitality he gave us a great breakfast of local honey and biscotti on his patio.
|Carlo Due's front garden looking down to Lago Maggiore.|
|Breakfast on the Patio.|
After breakfast we said goodbye to Zozzo an Carlo Due (again) and set off across Maggiore towards the Simplon Pass.
|On the ferry across Lago Maggiore.|
|View from the ferry.|
After the Simplon the journey was uneventful, and mostly motorway, with the exception of our lunchtime fondue catching fire. Finally we arrived back at Zur Alten Muhle (somewhere we have stayed almost every year since EP2).
Route: Neuenburg to Antwerp
Countries: Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium.
After a quick visit to Sascha we were back on the familiar long run from Neuenburg to Antwerp.
Route: Antwerp to Home
Countries: Belgium, France and England.
After another great evening at Carlo's we set of home, another fantastic holiday over.