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Archive for the ‘Biking Routes – Italy’ Category

It’s the 24th of May and today I’m going to take it easy as by this stage, with 1700+km since leaving Cherbourg I’m getting pretty knackered so I take a short 90km ride back into Italy and another bike-tastic road, the N25 up to Mont/Lac Cenis and back down into France.

And what a road for a biker, smooth sweeping curves and a couple of hairy ones to keep up on your toes. At the top a beautiful mountain vista awaits, a couple of café/restaurants with 50 or 60 bikes parked outside.

As we cross the border again the N25 becomes the N6 on the French side and this great road changes its scenery to alpine pasture and empty ski stations. As perfect a way to cross a border that I can think of.

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Jour & Nuit Restaurant/Bar/RoomsI really did not want to leave, I loved the little town of Torgnon in the Aosta Valley and for me the little place I had stayed in was perfect, rustic, full of character and charm. If your ever up there it’s worth staying with them, I’ll insert the GPS location soon, but for now you can check the place out at: http://www.jouretnuit.it/en/index.htm.

As the pass from Italy to Bourg St Maurice in France via the D1090 and Col de Petite St Bernard was closed I had to take the A5/A32 motorway via Turin then through the pass at Montgenevre, back into France and Briancon, my destination for the next 2 nights. A rather boring trip except for the pass from the French border down to Briancon which has some fantastic views and as with all good mountain roads in France there were plenty of motorbikes blasting their way up and down the pass utterly disregarding the speed limit which seems to only apply to car drivers.

It was still only lunch time when I got to Briancon, so I dumped my gear off at the hotel and went for a quick burn out of town on the iconic D902 to Col d’Izoard which is a high mountain pass (2361 metres) in the Hautes-Alpes. It is most definitely closed for the winter months and right up to the summer, but luckily for me it had been opened up a few days before. Both the road and the scenery is absolutely mind blowing. About half way up the road to the pass I hit the snow line, and it’s a very surreal experience riding a motorbike along a road where in places either side is bordered with 3 metres of snow which seems to threaten to collapse in on top of you. Upon reaching the summit the road plunges into another valley where again the scenery shocks the senses, the view of the Alps ahead, the deep valley far below is truly breath taking which is not hard as the air here at this height is getting a little thin.

Riding down the D902 from Col d’Izoard towards Guillestre there are forbidding and barren scree slopes with strange protruding pinnacles of weathered rock on the upper south side. This place is known as the Casse Desert and has formed a dramatic backdrop to some key moments in the Tour de France. I had been through this pass a number of years ago, but that had been in early Autumn and there had been no snow, now in early summer the snow transforms the road into a very different riding experience and not to be forgotten.



Tomorrow I’ll head back into Italy and up to Lac Cenis.

Denis

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Friday, 21 May 2010

As I write this, eagerly awaiting my boar stew, I look out over the mountain vista where across from the restaurant the owner’s son tends his goats, the faint sound of their bells hinting at the desert of goats cheese to come. Jesus, I wonder if I am really here or am I dreaming after getting stoned off my tits watching Heidi on the classics channel? It’s like something out of a kids story book, except I’m in it!!!

Road to CerviniaThis morning I awoke at 5:30am, got my camera kit together, hoped on the bike and headed into the Alpine valley towards the great mountain peak, and for the 30km of twisty roads with utterly indescribable views, I realised my face had become wet with tears of pure joy, what a ride, I have no way of describing the sheer walls of rock and ice with heights that staggered my senses. And I was not the only one, on the way up I pulled in beside a group of German bikers, the look on their faces and the look on mine said it all, within seconds all of us had stupid grins, shared smokes like we had known one another for years and stared in dumb struck awe at the most powerful view I have yet to see, honestly it was like kneeling in the shadow of Titans! Nothing can really prepare you for seeing this place for the 1st time. Do yourself a favour and put this place on your list of things to do before you die or you will surely die before really living.

Mont Cervinia (The Matterrhorn)Tomorrow I head back over the French boarder but as feared the best and highest pass of Col de l’Iseran is still snowbound and no place for motorbikes so I have no choice but to take the motorway south to Torino and head west over the Montgenevre pass into France and the old Roman outpost of Briancon at an altitude of 1,326 metres it is the highest town in Europe.

These photos are geotagged, so just drag and drop in to Google Earth to see the locations of each shot. These shot were taken with just a compact camera. I’ll insert the links to the really good photos when I get a chance to go through them all.

Bon Route
Denis

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Thursday, 20 May 2010

A difficult day as I lost a screw on the GPS holding bracket so the GPS got a knock and somehow lost the maps I loaded for the route into Italy with the result being I had to use the old fashioned way of navigation. After more then a few wrong turns I managed to find my way through stunning scenery up into Switzerland where I immediately got skinned by Swiss customs for 30 Euro. What for? Well in Switzerland you need to buy a 30Euro sticker to use their motorways, and in some ways it’s probably a better system as you don’t have to keep stopping at toll booths, it’s a 1 off payment.

I hadn’t been in Switzerland in many years and I forgot how dangerous it is to drive there, its so hard to keep your eyes on the road as the mountains on every side climb to incredibly imposable heights, you cant help but stare until you realise your about to barrel into the back of a bus. The motorway round lac Lausane has magnificent views which brings you up to the St. Bernard Pass and the route into Italy where I headed into the Aosta Valley and Breuil Cervenia, home of Mont Cervinia (The Matterhorn)

After a long 10 hours on the road I eventually found my destination, a little pizzeria with rooms above hidden in the Matterhorn valley in the hillside town of Torgnon. And what a wonderful place it is to stay, the restaurant called Jour et Nuit is a wonderfully rustic wooden mountain building, the pizzas are excellent and I should know as I spent 12 years as a chef. My room in the mountain style hints of wood smoke and overlooks a deep valley with insanely beautiful views of village spotted, forested mountains with snowy peaks with the tip of the Matterhorn 30 km away.

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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

What a day, Normandy in early summer is amazing, blue skies, and green fields emblazoned with yellow flowers of rapeseed, the vibrancy of the colours almost a shock to the system after the grey seas of the journey over. Unfortunately I had little time to take photos ass the route I chose is mostly through D roads with 650 kilometres before my next stop in Avalon.

While the route is incredibly beautiful it was far slower then I had anticipated, with the result I had to jump onto the A6 motorway near Charles. Still it was a solid 8 hours on the road. The hotel Ibis outside Avalon felt like an oasis upon arrival and a great hotel for a stop over. Good food, friendly staff and absolutely spotless, one of the cleanest hotels I have ever stayed in and just 3 mins off the A6, I can wholeheartedly recommend this place as a stop over on your way south or south east.

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