Thursday, 9 October 2014

All good things come to an end.

Well... there hasn't been much chance for blogging over the last few days and not always a reliable internet either. And also not much chance for photos since arriving back in England.

We left Paris on Friday and rode to Calais, got the ferry to Dover and caught up with Janelle's old mate Loui in Hastings for a couple of days, and then Paul and Alan in Brighton.

The weather has been switching between atrocious and bearable except for last Sunday which was just perfect.

In the last 4 days we've visited a real life castle (Bodiam) hung out in a health club, been almost blown off the road, soaked to the skin... and today, after 5 weeks, completed the loop back in Royston and  sadly, reluctantly, gave the bike back to Paul and the crew at Open Road Rentals.

We now have normal suitcases again. Different clothes to wear and all our bike gear is packed away. We have the next 2 nights in a guest house near Notting Hill. In 48 hours we'll be on a plane heading for Dubia, then home.

So tomorrow Ill try to find some faster internet so I can upload the last 3 or 4 days worth of fun.  For now, let me just say that we travelled 6403 kms and spent just over 95 hours actually on the bike. We averaged 68kph and hit 191kph on an autobahn near Berlin and 214 kph on Nurburgring. We visited 8 countries, stayed in  26 different places, jumped off a mountain in Switzerland, climbed the Eiffel Tower, raced the awesome Nordschleife, and got ourselves engaged along the way.... in Venice... as you do.

What a trip. So many stories, so much to tell. So very much.

So I'll try to get as much on here in the next few days as possible. Till then... it's late, we're tired and a little emotional too if we're honest. So it's goodnight from London... for now at least.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Paris: By motorcycle.

I figured after conquering all those mountains, I honestly couldn't let a little thing like Paris traffic scare us away.

But you don't need to take my word for it. Here's the whole sordid detail in wonderful High Definition.

It's in 3 video's cause that's how Go Pro makes it. Editing it together is just not on option on the road sorry.

So while the whole thing is an education in craziness, you may want to skip to the real fun bit.  The Arc de Triomph.  If you go to vid 2 and start at 9 min 60, you'll get us turning onto Champs Elysses (and you'll miss me saying a naughty word) and the run down to the Arc. An honorable mention at 7 min 10 where you can catch a glimpse of the top of the Tower just before we turn right over the river (and almost skittle an american tourist)

But wait, there's more... as a free bonus, Janelle also filmed it on the camcorder.  So you have 2 points of view.  The camcorder gets our voices more clearly, and can swing around a little more.

Anyway, enjoy, or cringe, or cry. Whatever you need.

Here a 40 minute ride along the Seine and across Paris, in all it's ugly glory.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Large on board videos.

We've managed to upload a whole lot of the longer movies.

So sit back, chill out, put on some music if the continuous Ducati engine gets too boring, as we present for your viewing pleasure, some of Europe's most beautiful, and most scary roads.

Lets start with Stelvio Pass.  Here is the descent in 2 separate vids.  The first starts with the camera facing backwards, and we turn it around at 9 minutes 10. But make sure you watch at 11 minutes 30, where some roadworks gave me the opportunity to remove the Go Pro and hang it over the edge for a few seconds.

And now the climb to LÁlp Huez with Janelle filming on the camcorder.  We only went to the village, not the peak, as time was getting away and we still had a long ride to Grenoble.

Ok, next, again in 2 parts is the ride to the top of the world. La Bonnette at 2702 meters. The highest paved road in Europe (that isnt a dead end) and the 3rd highest overall.  This is where the landscape became a moonscape and we were higher than everything we could see.  Truly awe inspiring.

And here is the descent from Col d'Liseran. The 4th highest.

And leaving the prettiest till last.  We rode to the very north of Switzerland, then across in a south-west direction avoiding the main roads completely.

The morning we left Appenzell it was drizzling, but just simply beautiful.  This is the Switzerland most of us dont see.  High rolling hills instead of snow capped mountains.  I'm sure there was some blond chick called Heidi yodelling at the cows somewhere in this vid.  Anyway... see for yourself.

Paris: The tower and the lock

Well. Didn't blog last night. The hotel in Nemours doesn't bear thinking about.  You know... one of those places where there are 20 tradies vans parked outside, and the start rating goes up because a girl stayed there... who wasn't paid for. Needless to say... no wifi to speak of.

Anyway, this morning we made the short hop into Paris and have treated ourselves to... ready for this... 2 nights in an Executive Suite at the Novotel (Paris - Charenton).  Just lovely.  Can you believe the mini bar is complimentary!

So there were 2 things we wanted to get done today.  Visit the tower again, and track down the little love lock that we left on Pont des Arts bridge last year. We did both, and climbed the tower, yes I mean using the stairs, to the second level.

Now... here's my 3 stage cure for vertigo. 1) Ride a motorcycle over Grossglockner Pass in Austria. 2) Ride over a dozen or so other passes in Italy and Switzerland including Stelvio, Susten, Grimsel and La Bonnette. 3) Jump off the side of a bloody big mountain at Zermatt suspended only by a parasail and a swiss guy who you hope knows what he's doing.  Now if you do all that, I promise you, climbing this Eiffel Tower thingy they have here is a easy peasy.  You can even go right up the the wire mesh to take photos and not have the slightest problem. Dead set.

Then, we used up the last of our leg muscles by waking back along the river to Pont des Arts where we found our lock we put there a year ago.  Was actually quite a special moment really.  And to cap it off, I hassled a pommie busker into letting me play his guitar... actually on the bridge.  Not quite sure what the asian couple having their wedding snaps taken at the same time thought of it all... but hey... that's Paris.  It is what it is. 

And just to demonstrate just how anything can happen in this place. We chilled out on the grass for a little while, as you do, and just near us were a young couple with some juggling balls and a ukelele.  Out of nowhere  he pulled out some music, she sat down and in their best attempt at english started playing a song.  I managed to film a little. You can just make it out in the vid (turn the volume up) but I have to include it.  Can you believe Midnight Oil's - Beds are Burning.  Seriously.  Brought the biggest smiles to our face.  I thanked him as we left.

So for you're enjoyment this morning I have attached lots of happy snaps. Some of the long haul to Nemours yesterday (partly in the rain) and also todays little hop.  And also our wanderings up the tower and along the Seine River.

You know, for all it's faults, Paris really is a lovely way to spend a few days.  But for us, it's a little more than us.  It's the little bit of relaxation before the run back to England, catching up with our dear friends, and then the ride back to Royston to return the best motorcycle I have even ridden.  More on that later, as she really does deserve a little mention all to herself.

So... here's some more of our ride from the last 2 days, and this afternoon in Paris.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Grenoble, via La Bonette and L'Alp d'Huez

We've in Grenoble tonight, but not after saying goodbye to the alps in style.

This morning we rode up to La Bonette, the highest paved road (that continues on) in Europe.  In 25 minutes the scenery changed from normal to a kind of eerie moonscape as we left the vegetation far behind.  We filmed the whole amazing transition and Ive taken a series of screenshots for you to see.  The entire vid will have to wait as there's no way it'll upload.

Then we took Kevin for a walk up the little trail to the very top at 2862 meters.  It seemed like we were on top of the world. I tried my hand at a 360 deg panorama photo.  It's not the best but you'll get the idea. See below.

We descended again, had lunch at the bottom and spent a few hours riding a series of the most pretty valleys to get to what we decided would be the last climb of our European adventure. The little hill made famous by the Tour de France... LÁlp d'Huez.

Because I'd used up all the batteries on the Go Pro earlier in the day, Janelle proved again just how awesome she can be, and filmed the entire climb on the camcorder. Again it's much too big to post, so maybe we'll just have to have a big movie night when we return.

Anyway, that's it for the mountains, tomorrow we make a big push towards Paris and expect to get there in 2 days.

Here's some pics of today's fun. No wonder everyone raves about the south of France!!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Col de l'ísersan

Here's the short video of only 2 or 3 minutes as we reached the top of the Col de lísersan climb with our French friends.

At 2770 meters it's the highest we've been so far.

More fun in the French Alps

Another big riding day today.  But what a joy. Perfect weather, almost perfect roads, the most amazing scenery in the world, and thousands of other riders out enjoying it all as well.  Just simply fantastic.

And that doesn't include all the little french villages we passed through, or stopped in, or the locals who did their best to chat with us (can't always guarantee english up here).

So this morning we hooked up with 3 french riders (a couple and a solo) on a GSXR1100 (2 up) and a Bandit 1200.  Only one spoke very stilted english, but after we explained (maps and miming) where we were going, they changed their plans and decided to ride with us to Col de lÍseran which just happens to be the 4th highest paved road in Europe, and the highest that you can continue on over.  In my opinion it beats Stelvio for all kinds of reasons, but mainly as it's not so well known there's no tourists vans/buses/winnebago's/homicidal Italians drivers wobbling their way up. Well except us, but we do a little faster than 20kph. Ive taken a vid of the last few minutes but it wont be uploaded in time tonight, so I'll post it separately tomorrow.

Then we continued over another 3: Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibeir and Col de Vars. By then the sun was getting low, and as we've changed our plans a little now, we stopped in a gorgeous little town called Barcelonette for the night. 

Tomorrow morning we'll ride the 26 or so kms up to Col de la Bonette, which is the 3rd highest paved road in Europe. (Stelvio Pass is the 5th apparently).

And that will be the end of the mountain adventures for us (for now?)  We've decided that if we are to have any time in Paris, and considering there's a few important people back in UK we really want to catch up with again (a wave to Paul and Alan, and to Loui) then we need to let Monaco and the Mediterranean go.  It's just too far down to turn around and come back up again.  Oh well, just means we'll have to return in a few years time.

So tomorrow we climb a huge mountain one more time, then come back down, turn north and start making our way to Paris, then Calais, then England. A bit sad really, but it's time, and this little lap of Europe has really been the most incredible adventure.

We spent most of the day taking videos, but here's a few pics to go on with till we can get them uploaded.

Goodnight for now.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Bourg St Maurice

We're in France!

A long gruelling day of dragging ourselves up and down all these mountain passes... again! You would think we should have learned by now!

See the guy who owned thd garage we left the bike in to visit Zermatt went and printed us up all these maps. Turns out you can pretty much go anywhere around here avoiding the crazy expensive tolls roads. As long as you're prepared to tackle some amazing mountain passes, navigate crazy complicated random villages, check out awesome scenery and hang out with hundreds of other motorbikes doing the same thing. Good thing we're not fussy isn't it.

And it seems we've scored this amazing weather window after the crappiest, wettest summer on record.  Not a cloud in the sky, 20 something degrees, even over the passes at 2000+ meters.

Anyway, we had to cross back into Italy for a couple of hours before we entered France around 4pm this afternoon. We'll miss Switzerland but it's really nice to be here.

Unfortunately the flakey internet is back so pics will have to wait. As will the amazing video of some of these passes.

Hopefully soon. In the meantime, goodnight from this ski resort town about 40 kms from Mt Blanc.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Matterhorn at dawn

Over about 30 minutes from 7.15 am this morning we watched this unfold.

Simply stunning.

Fast forward a couple of days... Zermatt.

Last couple of days have been so awesome!

Briefly, however long ago it was that we left Stelvio Pass, possibly the most overrated road in the world, we rode to the town of Livigno, booked a tiny bnb and got upgraded to a 4 star hotel complete with pool and spa.  Oh yes! What a way to spend our last night in Italy.

Then 2 days ago rode across to Switzerland (check the vid below for the differences) and just kinda kept going till we actually ended up way up north in the Appenzell area. Found a really cute bnb and the lady who ran it told us about all these magic passes that we could ride back down again and avoid the main roads.  I've forgotten most of their names, but Susten and Grimsel I wont forget for a while. There's one big difference between an Italian mountain pass and everywhere else.  The hairpin bends.  Everywhere but Italy they're widened to make them a real corner.  The Italian ones (Stelvio for eg) rely on balance and luck.  Check the photos and vids below and you'll see what I mean. (We have actually filmed the ride down Stelvio, but it's still uploading. Yes, seriously).

Anyway, so yesterdays awesomeness was a ride from the top eastern corner of Switzerland to the lower middle, while avoiding main roads all the way. We arrived at he hamlet of Brig last night, and this morning made the short hop to Zermatt, where you have to park down in the valley and catch the train up.  No cars here, except these tiny electric things that the locals use.  The main claim to fame in this place it the towering Matterhorn, that actually fills our hotel window.

And if that wasn't enough, on one of those spur of the moment decisions we decided to fulfill a deal that Janelle had with her friend that we would go paragliding. So we did. Simple as that.  Hooked up with a local mob that does it, caught a crazy train to the top of the mountain, caught a cable car even further, wandered along a dirt road to the edge. Connected everything up and... well... just jumped off.  And soared across the valley for the next 10 minutes or so.

What can I say.  One of the most fantastic things we have ever done.  And, got it all on film!  I caught the whole flight on my GoPro, while Janelle's pilot used a second one and switched between stills and vids.

So, below we've gathered a collection of pics and vids from the last few days.  Switzerland is really awesome. Really!  But don't take my word for it....