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....

Friday, 26 September 2014

Flakey internet woes

So much to tell.
So many awesome photos and videos.
We're doing and seeing so much...

And if we were staying in high end hotels where high speed internet was the norm, then we would be.

But we tend to stay in lovely out of the way hidden places where wifi means 'a bit, sometimes, if youre lucky'.

So we will. Soon. Promise.
Just need to find a connection that either doesnt cost the earth or is stable and fast enough.

Hopefully tonight from Zermatt.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Magical things happen in Venice

This is written by Janelle.

My cousin Paul commented that Terry's post of Venice missed the romantic aspect.

Well, we actually do know this, and Terry deliberately left this important feature out so I could do this post.

There's a bit of delay between what happened on Sunday afternoon around 5pm, Venice Italy time, and my finally getting to tell you about it. This is because we had to make sure other people were told first (and didn't learn about it on our blog) and because most of Italy really didn't have a workable internet connection.

So, where was I?  Oh yes, walking through the labyrinth streets of Venice, while I was trying to follow signs back to where we could catch the number 6 bus to where we were staying, while Terry was trying to steer me in opposite directions, trying to find somewhere there weren't a thousand tourists (he told me so he could get a peaceful picture of us, the canal and a bridge).

After many attempts, we settled on a bridge, where moments before there were no people in sight, and an old Italian woman with a walking stick inconveniently appeared and took minutes to descend 5 steps, while complaining in Italian and pointing to her knee.

So with barely minutes before another hoard of tourists descended upon us, Terry presented me with a jewellery box and asked if I would consider marrying him.  The box had a very sparkly ring inside it. My heart was pounding very loudly and he then asked me if I'd like to spend the rest of my life with him.

This was always my plan, regardless of jewellery, but with my heart bursting out of my chest, I accepted without any hesitation and a passionate kiss, Terry and I are officially engaged.

So the last few days, I have been on Cloud 9 and fascinated by my new piece of jewellery and loving the way it constantly sparkles at me, while Terry has been navigating (and cursing) Italian roads and drivers.

Now about the ring. Terry apparently got it about a month before we left for our European adventure. He schemed with his daughter, Rho, and friends of ours, Nai, Tori and Haydan. He managed to hide it all this time, until he found "the right moment". BTW, any moment was the right moment. But with us both being quite ill the first couple of weeks, I'm so glad he waited until Venice.

So that's the magic (and romance) of Venice. It will forever have a special place in our hearts and memories.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Stelvio Pass

Yep. Tick that one off.  It's done. Got the fridge magnet.

Ok, and a few photos too.  Well, the couple that I took on my phone, cause the others, and 1 of the vids we took should be uploaded in... only another 2583 minutes. <groan>

So, what can I say.  Well, refer previous posts re road conditions and other users.  That aside, it's both awesome and over rated.  It's certainly a must do, but really only to tick off.  The road is just too narrow, most of the couple of hundred insanely tight hairpins are blind and even with 2 sets of eyes and our intercom it was harrowing and stressful.

I think if you could be sure there was nothing coming the other way, and guarantee a good, or even just a consistent surface, you'd probably have a fantastic run.  But in reality, yes it was a big one to tick off, but really only to say Ive done it for what it actually is. Not for any amazing experience that came out of it.

It's 2751 meters high, so 200 more then the pass in Austria, loads of bikes and a real little souvenir market village up top.

So I'll post the best of the pics and vids as soon as they're uploaded, but in the meantime, here's something to go on with. For more info the Wikipedia link is here.

And just to finish off, for a laugh, and maybe in some way an explanation, check out this photo I took at a fuel stop this afternoon. Yes, it is exactly what it says.  When you add that into the mix of everything else... well, let's just say we're very happy to be tunneling out of here tomorrow.

Lake Iseo

Yes we did find the Ducati factory in Bologna, and the Factory Store, which was closed. No reason, signs and everything said open, just door locked and no one there.
So Italy!

Getting around this place is really hard. Nothing is predictable.  From the road surface that changes from barely ok to goat track and back again continually, to huge pot holes and cracks all over the place, to homicidal drivers (yes really).  Ive said it before, but lane choice is optional, speed limits are whatever you want, overtaking is done just whenever you want, regardless of oncoming traffic.  Undertaking a fully loaded touring bike 0n the inside through a single lane roundabout seems perfectly legit, and you find trucks, buses and those awful deadly winnebago things on roads that are completely inadequate for them.  It all creates massive stress as the concentration levels have to remain so high.  The really frustrating thing is they just don't seems to care. No one cares about anything. Nothing matters.  It's completely crazy.

Ok rant over. Thanks for indulging me.

Then we found Lake Iseo.  It's a mountain lake up in the alps about a days ride from Venice.  And what a slice of heaven!  This is the Italy I came to see.  We fluked a hotel above the lake and... well the photos say it all.

So we chilled for the night and just soaked up the tranquility.  And it was so needed and appreciated.

So a couple of panorama photos from the hotel, and a small video of the ride along the lake.  Magic stuff. Despite the aformentioned difficulties.  Lots more pics and vids, but posting them isn't easy. As we're finding out, when wifi is advertised as available, more often then not it's very slow, flakey, constantly dropping out or no one actually knows the password.

Yeah. Kind of over it all a bit now.

Here, have some tranquility instead.

Monday, 22 September 2014


Well, what can you say about Venice. It's everything everyone has ever said, both good and bad.

First, yet, it's quite possibly the worlds biggest tourist trap.  It sucks up people from all over Europe and deposits then on this crazy little island, or bunch of islands, and offers nothing except hundreds of shops and millions of people and total complete craziness.  It's completely nuts. Really it is.  The ultimate in tourism in the (almost) compete absence of commercialism.

But, it's Venice.
Like... it's really Venice!
Like all the movies, and the postcards and ... well.. everything.
It's crazy, indulgent, mixed up, tourist filled insane Venice.

So, we walked around a bit, grabbed a coffee while we settled on a plan, then caught the "water bus" to the island of Murano which is apparently where all the glass is made.  You know... Venetian Glass. Word famous.  Yeah, that. Well except for the stuff that was made in China that is, but you could tell by the price if not the quality.

So we watched this little glass horse being made, and bought some pretty things, then caught the "bus" back to Venice.  From there we just had lunch, took in the sights, fought in vain to escape the crowds, but did manage to catch a quiet moment or two, and took a lot of photos.  Some of which we've posted below.

And the gondola ride? You've got to be kidding!! Anyone want to guess how much they charge for that? Go on....

So... that was Venice.  And the halfway point in our wonderful adventure. We've planning to head to Bologna tomorrow where they make these lovely Ducati motorcycles, then back up to the mountains.

Oh, and the haze...?  It's smog.  Yes pollution. Clear days are a rarity apparently.  Europe has no dilemma about climate change.  It's here, it's happening, and it's in your face every day.  Pity the word seems to be lost down our way.

Anyway, more on that later. For now.... here's our day in Venice.