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Posts Tagged ‘France

CΓ΄te d’Azur & Les Alpes-Maritimes

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Team orson embarks on a quickie, one-week venture across the border to the motorcycling playground that is the south of France.

Departing from team orson’s world headquarters in Parma, we stick to the backroads as we make our way across the Apennine mountains to the coast. The early fall temperatures combined with the altitude serve to feed the mighty, mighty goose with a horsepower boost in the form of cool, mountain air. We reach the coast by late afternoon and get a hotel room near Portofino. I didn’t take any pictures, so I’ll cheat and use a picture from a previous trip.

Portofino

In a bid to save time, the next day’s route will be a blast up the Ligurian coast along the autostrada, the same stretch used by Richard Hammond to race James May in a cigarette boat. The road features dozens and dozens of tunnels cutting thru the mountains that line the coast. I can’t even begin to imagine how long the trip must have taken before the autostrada was constructed.

Just after crossing the French border, we leave the highway and head up into the hills in search of twisties. As you approach Monaco, you begin to notice an increase in the amount of auto exotica. In a matter of a few hours, I must have seen four or five Bentleys and a couple of Ferraris. Porsches and Mercedes seemed downright pedestrian in these environs. This is the closest they will allow you to get to Monaco on a Guzzi.

Monaco

With the purchase of an iPad, this would be the first trip where team orson traveled with any electronic devices besides a digital camera. Perhaps lured by the flashing lights and whirring noises of this strange device, the team orson navigator threw caution to the wind and drunkenly decided to make a hotel reservation with the contraption. His reckless action would very soon come back to haunt team orson.

A tip that the ride along the coast to Cap d’Antibes was enjoyable proved to be wrong, as we encountered lots of traffic and very little scenery. With the skies beginning to darken forbiddingly, the decision was made to turn inland at Cannes and hit La Route Napoleon. A few years ago, BIKE magazine declared La Route Napoleon to be the “Best road in Europe.” While that would be a subjective opinion for sure, in my opinion they weren’t far off the mark.

Napoleon

Fast and flowing, La Route Napoleon may be short on photographic charms, but is top shelf stuff for releasing your inner Mike Hailwood πŸ˜€ For about sixty blissful kilometers, there are almost no towns or side roads to slow your progress. The mostly open nature of the terrain means that four-wheeled chicanes are easily dispatched.

Route

Approaching Castellane, the dark skies begin to release their moisture with a vengeance. In the past, team orson would have retired to the nearest warm and dry hotel room. But now armed with a newfangled i-Pad, team orson felt compelled to continue onto their reserved hotel room, some 100 kilometers distant. Harsh words were exchanged between the team orson photographer and navigator, as the benefits of modern technology were called into question.

The last fifty kilometers were a slow, wet slog along the road that hugs the northern edge of the Canyon du Verdun. Although it was raining heavily, brief glimpses of its grandeur occasionally revealed themselves. Thankfully, the rain began to taper off later in the afternoon, allowing for a few photographs thru the mist.

Canyon

Verdun

The following morning dawned with an improved weather forecast, and I spent the day meandering back along the northern edge of the canyon before returning along the southern edge.

Verdun1

Verdun2

Coming into a small village, I saw a large group of about 20 motorcycles leaving a gas station. My initial reaction was, “Oh great. I’m going to have to work my way thru the slow pokes.” Not to worry though. This was France and these weren’t a Harley parade. Within a minute, the group had blasted away. France has a fantastic moto-culture. Despite having roughly the same population as the UK, they have twice as many registered motorcycles.

Verdun3

Verdun4

I stayed the night in the picturesque town of Moustieres-Sainte-Marie on the western edge of the canyon. The hotel’s restaurant was fantastic and I left thoroughly bloated after a six-course meal. Even the dessert had a dessert.

Moustieres-Sainte-Marie in the morning light.
Moustireres

We headed north towards les Alpes Maritimes. The south of France is chock full of lazily, twisting two-lane roads.

Alps

I was amazed at how little traffic there was on these roads. I stopped to take this picture, and not a single car came by during the entire five minutes that I was stopped.

Alsp1

The mountains begin to grow as you approach Barcelonnette.

Alps2

Alps3

At Jausiers, I turn south and head up la Col de la Bonette. The road signs claim that it is the highest paved road in Europe, but Wikipedia disputes this, claiming that it is only the third highest road. As I begin the climb, the skies begin to darken once more. As I reach the summit and begin the descent, I catch a glimpse of the rain waiting for me in the valley below.

Col de la Bonnette

Fortunately, by the time I make it to the valley floor, the rain has dissipated and I scamper off to find a hotel room. I awaken the next morning to a blazingly blue sky and turn back north. I’m not sure if this is a castle of maybe a monastery high above the valley floor.

Castle

The D-2202 between Annot and Guillaumes…oh my, my :drool: Such a wonderful stretch of tarmac is the stuff of dreams. the pictures can’t begin to do it any justice. I rate the French highway system among the best, if not the best in the world. Most of the main roads a paved with smooth, well marked asphalt.

D-2201

A close up of the church in the distance.

Close up

Looking back at the D-2202 show it snaking its way alongside a riverbed.

River

After Guillaumes, the road narrows as it begins to climb la Col de la Cayolle. this climb seemed to go on forever.

Cayolle

About 10 kilometers short of Barcelonnette, I came upon this road works. D’oh! Merde Alors! I would have to backtrack almost an hour if I couldn’t get by.

Road Works

Using my high school French, I found out that they would open the road in one hour, so i decided to cool my heels and wait.

After topping up the gas tank in Barcelonnette, I turned south once more and headed up la Col de Maure. While the fall colors aren’t as spectacular as New England, there were a few spots of vibrant color.

Fall

After a long day slaying mountain passes, the mighty, mighty goose stops to absorb some of the scenery.

Scenic

The D-6202 is another wonderfully enjoyable road on a motorbike, fast and flowing, with hardly any traffic or pesky switchbacks to slow your pace. This trip to Provence has only served to solidify my belief that, the south of France has some of the best motorcycling roads anywhere on the planet. Wales & Scotland come close, but get knocked down a notch because of their infamously, soggy weather. Northern California and the south of France are the top of the pops in my book.

Once again I awaken to bright, blue skies, but alas, my time is running short. I point the goose back towards Italy for the homeward leg. I take a small detour off the autostrada in Italy to the bridge at Dolceacqua that was painted by Claude Monet.

Dolceacqua

Further up the road is the picturesque town of Apricale, perched precariously on a hilltop.

Apricale

Once again, I use the autostrade to blast down the Ligurian coast. Looking back north along the coastline.

Liguria

I spend the last night in Portofino. The view of Portofino harbor from the hotel room balcony.

Balcony

In an effort to blend in with the local populace, team orson purchased some spiffy, Italian loafers. Whereas team orson was treated as a furriner before, now people mistake us for locals and stop to ask us for directions.

Loafers

The next morning, we begin our final leg across the Appenines back to Parma. The scenic road leaving Portofino.

Guzzi

I stop for lunch in a small town and take a final photograph of possibly the most beautiful sport touring bike on the planet. Ten years on and the bike never missed a beat, still going strong after 80,000 km.

Guzzi1

Route Map:

Route

Trip stats:

Distance- 2,000 kilometers
Travel days- 8
Rest days- 0
Carabinieri sightings- 3
Gendarmerie sightings- 0
Deer sightings- 0
Bee stings- 2

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Written by orsonstravels

October 27, 2012 at 4:15 am

Reunion Island

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Recently, a co-worker of mine had talked about living on Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean. Intrigued, I decided to do some research on the subject. I googled a map of Mauritius, when I noticed another island nearby. I discovered that it was Reunion Island. Why hadn’t I noticed it before? I had read vague references to Reunion, but had never paid it close attention. Why was Mauritius relatively well-known and Reunion under a veil? The reason is that it is a French possession. It is a French overseas Department just like French Surinam in South America.

Reunion is a volcanic island that has been compared to the big island of Hawaii. Apparently, the French don’t appear too keen on sharing their version of Hawaii with the English speaking world, thus they have thrown a cloaking device over the island. I’ve always been impressed by the quality of French road system and a Hawaiian-like island with French maintained roads seemed too good to pass up.

I set out to try to organize an expedition. It proved to be harder than I thought. The only direct flights to Reunion come from Paris or South Africa. Any other flights had to be made to nearby Mauritius, where a puddle jumper could fly you over to Reunion. They weren’t going to make it easy for me. Hotel reservations sent via the hotel’s web page went unaknowledged. The same with any bike rental web sites. Not to be deterred, I finally found e-mail addresses and sorted a room and a motorbike, and everything was arranged.

A six hour flight south out of Dubai got me to Mauritius, where I boarded a small prop plane to Reunion. Arriving in the capital city of Saint Dennis around noon, I made my way to my hotel and rested until the following day when I would pick up the bike. I had arranged to rent a BMW GS 650, the same type of bike I had used on Madeira a few years ago. Herve was the owner’s name who ran a one man operation out of his house. Why people would want to rent out bikes to people who are going to thrash them is beyond me, but I’m thankful for them πŸ™‚

While Reunion has some nice beaches, it’s the island’s interior that stand out. The island’s geography is dominated by three calderas, created when an ancient volcano collapsed. The collapse left huge natural ampitheaters with stunning scenery. I made my way south along the west coast of the island towards the first caldera known as the Cirque de Cilaos where I had booked my hotel for the night.

Tropical cyclone Lola was close enough to the island to lash her with scattered showers, so under the threat of rain, I found a suitably twisty line on the map and headed south along the west coast of the island.

Heading south:

The main road around the island hugs the coastline and is fairly crowded, but I used it for a bit in order to make some time.

At the town of Saint Louis, I turned inland and started to make the climb towards the town of Cilaos. You masochists who love switchbacks would love this road as it was packed with them.

Looking back down at where I’d been:

Continuing the climb to Cilaos, I was impressed by the island’s mountainous terrain

The little beemer proved to be well suited for these roads. My impressions of the GS are the same as the ones I had from my previous rental. The single cylinder engine could use a few more ponies, but the wide bars and the comfy saddle make for a good combination of a touring motard, nice and light to flick thru the tight stuff.

I found my hotel and settled in for the night. Sugar is one of the island’s biggest crops and with that comes rum. One of the favored spirits on Reunion is rhum arrangΓ©. This is rum that is left to soak in a variety of fruits. Every establishment seems to have their own concoction which they insist is the best and you feel obligated to try some, which is served straight up like a brandy. In the interest of impartiality, this reporter took it upon himself to sample some at every occassion and was particularly in favor of the orange-pineapple blend πŸ™‚

The following day, I set about exploring the narrow roads inside the Cilaos caldera

By noonish, the clouds had descended again, and I began to feel rain drops. In the interest of staying dry, I cut short the explorations and made my way back to the hotel for more rhum. While reading my guide book, I noticed a section that mentioned,”Avoid travelling to the cirques during times of typhoons, as frequent landslides occur from the excessive rainfalls, causing the towns to be sealed off for days.” A little too late for that now! Reunion Island is known for its prodigious amounts of rainfall, holding world records for 12 hours, 24 hours, 1 week, 1 month, and 1 year totals.

The morning of the third day, I awoke to the sound of the pitter patter of raindrops on my window. I decided to tough it out and head for the coast, hoping to find better weather. It was a 1 hour slog thru a misting rain back down to the coast, but fortunately, the weather began to improve.

I headed south along the shore towards the island’s remaining active volcano, the Piton de la Fournaise.

Unfortunately, team orson’s photographer decided to store his camera in the front pocket of his jacket during the rain, and the camera started to malfunction. I honestly don’t know why we keep the idiot around. So, there are no pictures of steam arising from the lava fields on the south coast of the island.

Instead, here is an artist’s depiction of the road cutting along the coast thru the laval fields with steam rising

Fortunately for team orson’s photographer, the sun began to work its charms and the camera began working again. Banana trees and mountains. Typical Reunion island scenery.

Heading up the eastern coast to the town Saint Andre, I hung a left and made my way up into the hills to the second caldera known as Cirque de Salazie. The word awesome has been severely overused in today’s lexicon, but the road heading up to the town of Hell-Bourg is truely awesome.

This was a truely amazing road reminiscent of the Norweigian fjords or Yosemite. While the road itself wasn’t the best, the scenery more than made up for it. It may not a match for Norway or Yosemite, but it was purdy darn close.

Waterfalls dotted the landscape:

and sprinkled the roadway

Looking up towards the Piton des Neiges, the extinct volcano that is the island’s highest peak at 10,069 feet.

Looking back towards the coast. The road to Hell-Bourg comes up the canyon and around the bend

After securing a room in Hell-Bourg, I took advantage of the clearing skies to take some more photographs during the golden hour. This would be my best day on the road as I rode all the way til sundown enjoying the spectacular views.

Another look at the Piton des Neiges.

Hell-Bourg isn’t named after hell itself, but rather Monsieur Hell, who was a French government official overlooking the island during the 1800s. On the morning of Day 4, the skies were clear and I took a look around the town. The Creole architecture of main street with the Piton des Neiges in the background.

Hell-Bourg has been called one of the most scenic French villages and rightly so.

Many of the homes were designed in what is known as Creole style. Notice the huge ferns in the front yard.

Heading back towards the coast…yet another waterfall

Ok ok ok…another waterfall…we get the idea…sheesh

Many of the peaks would be veiled in clouds by midday, as if to say,”Foolish mortals, do not tread here, for here lies the lair of the skid demon”

All that rum has to come from somewhere. Sugar cane fields stretched for miles and miles, resembling Hawaii.

All the signs in towns were in French and few people spoke any English, putting my high school French to the test. In the town of saint Andre, I came upon a Hindu temple and my brain did a backflip. It had to take a few seconds to figure out where I was. The South Pacific? India? France?…oh right, I’m on Reunion Island. It was a strange place in that way. The people were a mixture of French, African, Indian, Malaysian and Chinese. I have to say, I never encountered any of the French gruffness that sometimes seems prevalent on the continent. Everyone I came across was pleasant and smiling.

Perhaps due to the copious amounts of rainfall, almost all the secondary roads had big water channels along side them with no guardrails. Woe unto the motorist who loses his concentration for a moment.

Clip that apex, just don’t clip it too close!

There is only one road across the center of the island, and a great riding road it is! In the highlands, the temperature dropped into the high sixties and the terrain began to look a lot like the north of England. Again, my mind had to stop for a moment and remind me that I was on an island in the Indian Ocean.

Now that the weather had turned to mostly sunny skies, I decided to return to the Cirque de Cilaos to get some more pictures.

The road heading up to Cilaos:

Inside the Cirque de Cilaos

Morning dawns in the town of Cilaos on Day 5:

Heading back down towards the coast:

Approaching the coast, the terrain turned to gentle hills dotted with palm trees and sugar cane fields.

I headed back up the east coast back towards the capital of Saint Dennis

Stopping for a plate of Creole barbeque. No I didn’t finish it all, but I tried!

The food was a mixture of French, Indian and Malaysian. Boy, did I eat on this trip! Some of the meals had 6 courses. Only the French could invent a mini dessert placed between the apperitif and the main course. A small portion of coconut ice cream swimming in a bath of…you guessed it…more rum.

On the sixth and last day, I would return the bike to Herve, but not before checking out some of the Creole architecture in Saint Dennis:

I had a great time riding through some amazing scenery. While the roads may not have been up to the standards of the French roads on the continent, the scenery more than made up for any deficiencies. The little beemer again proved to be a perfect bike for riding tight island roads. Hopefully I’ll be able to test the new BMW 800 GS soon. I would have to grade Reunion as a solid A as a touring destination. Friendly people, challenging roads, good food, and stunning scenery.

Recap:

Time: 6 days
Distance: approximately 1000 km
Gendarme sightings: 2 (both times on motorbikes, both times going faster than me.
Puckers: 0
Bee stings: 1

2008 France

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After an almost 7 month separation, team orson was able to reunite for a three week tour of France. The trip began with a one day layover in Amsterdam, where I took the time to browse the shops and visit the Van Gogh museum. This would come to have later repercussions on my trip.

The next day, I flew into Bologna and hopped on a train to team orson world headquarters at Moto Guareschi in Parma. One day later I was packed and on the road. Not wanting to delay, I made the tough decision to slab it to France under clear blue skies. Not such a hard decision though as the Autostrada passes through the Maritime Alps to get to France.

The Autostrada scenery

Along the Autostrada, they have electronic message boards used to flash warnings to motorists about road conditions. The message it was flashing in Italian was saying something about a “National Holiday in France. Avoid at all costs”. Oh boy. 😦

Rhones-Alpes / Languedoc

With its excellent roads and hilly terrain, southeastern France is motorcycling playground. Dominated by the Massif Central, the region is littered with excellent riding opportunities and the amount of motorcyclists on the roads attests to this. I usually don’t take my trips this early in the year and right away, I saw the effects of this decision as several mountain passes across the Maritime Alps were still closed, sending me further north than I had planned on. Chalk that up to poor planning.

Finally, I managed to find my way heading south towards the Mediterranean. Sure enough, I began to encounter the effects of this “national holiday” as many gas stations and even some hotels were closed. I began to sweat it out, wondering if I would run out of gas before finding an open station. Fortunately, I always seemed to find one when I least expected, although, once, I was running on fumes. The stress of worrying about being stranded made me decide to try to fill up when I had about half a tank left. Visions of the “end of oil” danced through my head, although there was no shortage. That’s just the way the french sell their gas. I tried asking a few people what the name of the holiday was, but it had a long name I couldn’t make out. Some sort of religious holiday. Dang festive festival people with their 90 holidays per year!

Filling up at half a tank seemed to allay my fears a bit and I managed to find a hotel in Nimes. Nimes is the site of the Pont du Gard, the Roman viaduct used to provide water for Nimes.

This is an impressive structure to say the least. That a provincial backwater such as Nimes had such a mammoth structure built for it really drives home the power and the strength of the Roman Empire.

From Nimes, I headed north to the Gorges de l’Ardeche. This is an impressive gorge created by the Ardeche River cutting through limestone rock. The road along the river is quite scenic, but not a place you want to try to get a knee down.

The famous Pont d’Arc over the Ardeche River.

I continued westward past hilltop villages…

I can see why the south of France is such a popular place to live for the British as it’s dotted with picturesque farm houses…

The road meanders along a river…

Continuing westward, I took the road through the Gorges du Tarn. While not as famous as the Gorges de l’Ardeche, I thought the Gorges du Tarn was just as impressive if not moreso.

Midi-Pyrenees / Limousin

After spending a day touring the Gorges du Tarn, I decided that I’d better make tracks towards Brittany, my final destination. The hilly terrain began to taper off slightly, but the French roads never failed to inspire…

This area impressed me with its rugged terrain that somehow reminded me a bit of the American southwest.

I tried to keep to the backroads as much as possible, running through small villages along the way.

The closer I got to the west coast, the more the terrain changed to gently rolling hills.

I was very impressed with the competency of the French drivers in general. If the speed limit was 90 kph, everyone drove 90 kph. There were no dawdlers crawling along and slowing things. Most made an attempt to scoot over and let you by when they saw a motorcycle in their mirrors.

The French moto culture is also impressive. With roughly the same population as the UK, France has twice as many motorcyclists. Almost all of them riding sport bikes or nakeds and of those, almost all of them had their bikes modified with aftermarket goodies or a spiffy paint job. I did see a handful of full dressers and Harleys, but the vast majority were into sporty mounts.

Brittany / Normandy

I arrived in Brittany and found a nice, friendly hotel in Vannes along the south coast. Near Vannes is where you’ll find many megalith stone structures similar to Stonehenge, but on a smaller scale. The most famous of these are the Carnac stones, an array of stones whose meaning has been lost to the mists of time.

After almost a week of perfect weather, as soon as I reached Brittany, the weather turned cold and damp, as is fitting of a region bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. Brittany is inhabited by descendants of the Celts, who came here from Ireland and Cornwall. Up until the time of World War II, there were still a few Bretons who spoke no French, despite the French governments attempts to squelch it. Nowadays, there’s been a revival of Breton culture with Breton music festivals drawing musicians from Ireland, Wales and Galicia in Spain, another Celtic homeland.

The setting sun silhouettes rocky islands just outside the harbor of Roscoff…

As in Galicia in Spain, the westernmost region of Brittany is known as Finisterre, or Land’s End. For some reason, I am always drawn to these end of the world type places. The Finisterre is where the Breton culture is more predominate. One of the delicacies of the region is a butter cake known as Kouign_amann. If you know how delicious the center portion of a cinammon roll is, it tasted like that. As far as I can tell, it is made with lots of butter, flour, eggs, sugar and more butter. I was lucky to escape before my Roadcrafter suit burst its stitches πŸ™‚

In the central part of the Finisterre region lies the hilly Monts d’Arree, evocative of the Yorkshire Dales in the UK. Millions of years ago, they were as tall as the Alps, but over time have been worn down to rounded stumps covered in gorse moors.

The treacherous Breton coastline is dotted with sharp rocks that have meant the end of many ships over the years, the most famous being the oil tanker Amoco Cadiz in 1978.

The Brittany coast is also where famous lighthouse photographer Jean Guichard took some of his most memorable pictures.

An idyllic cove

Heading eastwards now along Brittany’s north coast, I came upon the impressive Fort de la Latte. If you’ve seen the movie, “The Vikings” starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis, you may recognize this as the castle they stormed at the climactic ending. It’s notable in that it has not one, but two drawbridges. That probaly scored points down at the country club πŸ™‚

The road along Cap Frehel. Brittany had some impressive tides, leaving wide swathes of beach as it receded.

Brittany lies at the same latitude as Victoria, B.C. and Newfoundland with similar weather patterns, mostly cold and wet. I never had the vents open on my stich the whole time.

The picturesque medieval town of Dinan lies on the Rance River and has winding streets full of timber-framed buildings..

Two monuments to European engineering…Le Mont St. Michel and the V11 Le Mans. One of them is the most photographed object in France…

A shot by itself…

Viewed from the north, Mont St. Michel is but a bump on the horizon…

Leaving Brittany, I entered Normandy and headed for the beaches of D-Day. I passed through Ste-Mere-Eglise with its famous chapel from which a U.S. Army parachutist dangled on D-Day. If you look closely, you can still see him there.

Utah Beach. The tide was in so it doesn’t resemble the pictures from 1944.

The sand bank on Utah Beach that protected so many soldiers from enemy guns on that fateful day.

The cliffs viewed from Pointe du Hoc, scaled by the U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion on June 4th, 1944

I saw many a white haired fellow, looking down at the ground, seemingly deep within his thoughts

Where armies once clashed, today children bathe on Omaha Beach, next to a sculpture dedicated to peace…

The U.S. Cemetary near Omaha Beach. There really are no words I can contrive to give any semblance of a description. I was impressed by the amount of French school children on school field trips to the sites. Despite of our taunts of cheese-eating surrender monkeys, the French have not forgotten the price of their freedom.

I continue eastward to the Cote d’Albatre, the alabaster coast, which resemble the white cliffs of dover across the channel. The Falaise d’Aval is an amazing rock sculptured by the ocean waves over eons.

Ile-de-France

From this point, I turn south and start making my way back to Italy. After viewing some of Vincent Van Gogh’s work in Amsterdam, I suddenly decide that it would nicely tie up lose ends if I get a picture of his gravesite. Brilliant! The only problem is that the gravesite is in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, within the 100 km of Paris, the so-called “ring of death” around big cities that I usually try to avoid due to their intense traffic. For some reason, this didn’t phase me.

I made my way to Auvers and manage to track down the village cemetary. Sure enough, there lies Vincent or “Ici repose Vincent” next to his brother, Theo.

Just a few feet away from his grave lies the wheat field he painted in “Wheat Field With Crows”. I dunno…I think Vincent was putting more on the canvas than he was actually seeing. See if you can spot the similarities…

Leaving Auvers, I am hit by some curse as I run headlong into 5 consecutive red lights. It’s a rather warm day, and sure enuff, the Guzzi begins to overheat, coughing and snorting its displeasure. I find a shady area to park and consider my alternatives. This was supposed to be a pleasure trip and suddenly, the prospect of finding a tow truck and a motorcycle shop looms as a non-fun outing. I begin to curse myself wondering why i don’t spend my vacations on beach resorts like normal people. Eventually, cooler heads prevail and after a twenty minute cooling off period, the workhorse Guzzi fires up and is ready to go. Crisis averted, although the cloud over my head will take a while longer to disperse. Part of the problem may have been that I hadn’t taken a rest day up to this point. I usually try to take a day away from the bike after 10 days or so, but this time, it didn’t happen.

Burgundy

South of Paris, I enter Burgundy, the region famous for their wines. They take their wine making very seriously here. The terrain of gently rolling hills may not make for the best motorcycling roads, but the beautiful setting makes for a photographer’s playground.

Rhone-Alpes / Provence

As I make my way south, I re-enter the Rhone-Alpes region dominated by the Massif Central. The wonderful French D roads make me forget the problems encountered near Paris and all seems right with the world. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The French are master road builders although, every now and then you’ll find a harsh surface.

The foothills of the Alps come into view near Valence on the second to the last day…

Making my way towards Italy on the backroads of the Vercors Regional Park.

It was on the second to last day of the trip that I would stumble upon probably the best road of the trip. The D-518 south of the Col de Rosset. While I normally hate working my way thru switchbacks, this one had a wide assortment of tasty twisties between each switchback making it thoroughly enjoyable.

I must make it back for this one!

One last gorge

On the way home

The final day of the trip would be another slab dash from France to Parma. The weather had a nasty surprise in store for me with torrential downpours in my path. As I made my way to the Italian frontier, I began to notice rivers swollen with torrents of brown water. At one point the police had a section of freeway closed, diverting traffic to side roads. It was touch and go there for a while, but once I made it past Turin, the rain began to decrease. By the time I reached Parma that afternoon, all my riding gear had dried off. However, Turin wasn’t so lucky as on the news that night, I heard they suffered flooding and one death.

To recap, despite the overheating problems and a weak battery that made me wonder if the bike was going to start each morning, I really enjoyed France this time. I even failed to encounter any of the infamous French stuffiness, as everyone I encountered on the trip was pleasant and helpful. Of course, I stuck to my high school French until, exasperated, they asked me to speak English πŸ™‚

Riding Days- 21
Rest Days- 1
Distance- 6650 kilometers
Gendarme interaction- 1
Bee stings- 0
Deer encounters- 0
Tire replacements 1 front / 1 rear

Route Maps