2019 – Jungfrau Treffen (pt 3)

9th September 2019

Well, after breakfast I’m on my own from now on. I pack my car and wave to a number of friends as I make my way out of Grindelwald. It feels a little strange without the line of other 3-wheelers and unusually I feel a little nervous. I’m so used to seeing Shaun and Libby’s white helmets in my mirror that I keep looking for them.

Its a drizzly drive out this morning and I head up to the Grimsel pass again. It is cold this morning and I am glad to have my new heated jacket. One of the tunnels on the way up is closed today and i am diverted round a precipitous cobbled road around it. Quite spectacular and I am glad the tunnel is closed.

This time I turn onto new territory as I head down into much better weather. I stop for coffee in Fiesch at last under sunny skies. Views of the mountains ahead cheer me up. it could be a good afternoon.

I press onwards south west then more directly south from Brig-Glis then over the breathtaking Simplon Pass. This is a spectacular pass that takes you up to 2005m, passing over the dramatic Ganter Bridge. This bridge built in 1980 is the longest spanning bridge in Switzerland and is an unusual concrete hybrid design.

The road continues on up rewarding me with huge expansive mountain views before changing dramatically to the narrow Gondo Gorge. The weather is perfect at the moment and great for taking photographs.

After the gorge its on to faster roads down the side of Lake Maggiore before heading for Turin. I skirt the city and then head up a lovely little windy road up to Sacra di San Michele.

My little hotel is rather more basic than the hotels so far on this trip but it is clean and comfortable. It is a little family run place and the owners are a charming couple. I enjoy a drink and head up to view the monastery. It is a spectacular clifftop complex built between 983 and 987 on the top of Mount Pirchiriano that was the inspiration for the excellent book ‘The name of the Rose’ bu Umberto Eco. The views are superb and you can see right down the valley to Turin.

Unfortunately as so often happens on this type of trip, I am too late to take a tour and have to settle for a view of the outside… but what a view.

I have my evening meal at the hotel which turns out to be excellent before I turn in for the night. It has been a good start to this section of my journey with lovely weather after the initial dampness. The weather tomorrow looks decidedly dodgy so it looks like the waterproofs will be coming out.

10th September 2019

The owners prepared a lovely breakfast for me this morning. I took my time as the weather was not looking too good. I decide to get the waterproofs on right from the start. I chat with the two other guests at the hotel who are touring on Harleys before setting the satnav and heading back down the road I came up yesterday then heading out on to new unexplored roads.

Its a run on motorway this morning heading south then west towards Cuneo before carrying on on single carriageway roads. The plan was to go up and over col de la Bonette but the rain is now turning to snow. The signs tell me that it is closed so i take the road rather north at lower level that leads me to the opposite end of the pass not too far from my hotel.

It has been raining for much of the day but it looks like i have finally found the right wet weather gear that works for me. I have an excellent Rukka motorcycle jacket and Rohan waterproof trousers. I also wore my Keis heated jacket for its first real test. I bought a waterproof neck collar made by Halvarssons which stops the water wicking down your neck into your jacket. I have a new helmet which allows a clear bubble visor to be pressed on for days like today. All in all, though it has rained for most of the day, I am warm, dry and comfortable.

Now I can’t come this far without at least trying to go up the pass so I make my way upwards from the side I should have been coming down. The rain soon turns to sleet then to snow. It is quite a special sight but the snow soon started to settle. One wheel drive really isn’t suited to these conditions and I really did not want to get stuck or slide off the road. I had to abandon my attempt to reach the top but it was definitely worth the effort. Maybe I will have a chance in the morning.

I find my hotel in the ski resort of Le Sauze. At least I have a garage tonight so I can unload in the dry.

It is very much out of season so my walk around the village finds only closed shops and restaurants. I eat at the hotel which is surprisingly good. I turn in early hoping for better weather tomorrow.

Not many photos today due to the rain but I think the video reflects the day…

11th September 2019

I love travelling. But some days turn out to be extra special. Today was one of those days….

I wake up to clean skies. I have an excellent breakfast. I check out and I pack the car. I pack away the waterproofs. What a difference a few hours make. I enjoyed my day in the rain and snow yesterday but sunshine is always better and of all days, today was the day I really wanted good weather.

I head back to the bottom of col de la Bonette but the signs are still showing it as closed. Oh well, I will have to come this way again one day. I follow my original plan and head West. The roads were extremely enjoyable with great views down to lakes as I drop out of the Alps.

I find a little cafe for coffee in a little village called La Breole. I don’t think they had seen anything like me before! I continue on along great roads cross-country with hardly any traffic whatsoever. I pass through Sisteron and cross La Durance river and on to the Ventoux region.

I have never been to this part of France before but it really is lovely. I will come this way again. By lunchtime I reach the little village of Montbrun-les Bains where there is a little restaurant with plenty of bikers sitting outside. I decide to stop and I am glad I did. I had an excellent salad with ham topped with hot fried goats cheese. Delicious.

After the usual pointing, photographs, smiles and waves I set off for the main reason I decided to take this route from Grindelwald to home. Mont Ventoux or ‘the beast of Provence’ is famous for its inclusion in the Tour de France. It is separated from the Alps and stands alone in the region reaching up to 6263 feet (1909m). The top section is bare limestone with no vegetation. Winds reach over 90kph for 240 days of the year and over 200kph has been recorded.

You can’t rush the ascent as there are so many cyclists testing themselves on the mountain. The views were spectacular. The air was so clear you could see for ever. The top section is strangely beautiful like another planet after the forests lower down. The road is easy for the car and I take my time. I am able to park at the top to take in the massive views all around.

I don’t know why I like finding these places but I really do find it uplifting being in places like these on days like today. Well worth the huge detour.

I linger at the top, buy the inevitable sticker for my box and have a drink before it is time for me to head down. Suddenly a fighter jet barrel-rolls directly over my head as if to tell me its time to go.

The journey down is beautiful and I continue westwards through some beautiful countryside. The mountains give way to orchards then vineyards. Somehow the miles just waft by today with everything working beautifully on a stunning day. Before I know it I am at my destination for the day at Nimes. After a walk around I have a very light meal after my lunchtime indulgence before heading for bed happy after an excellent day.

12th September 2019

By now, my morning routine is second nature and I’m quickly ready to go. I leave the underground car park but finding my way out of the town doesn’t go quite so well with the sat-nav taking me in circles until finally finding the way out.

Once out of town and after a quick stop at a supermarket to buy an additional memory card the route turns out to be rather nice. There are some nice shady lanes following the river and I make good progress. I do have a specific thing to visit today but first I just enjoy the countryside. The weather is warm. The sun is out. The car is running well. What’s not to like?

One of the reasons for taking the long way home was to visit the record breaking Millau Viaduct. At 343 metres high (higher than the Eiffel Tower) and 2460 metres long the Millau viaduct holds the world record for the tallest bridge. It spans the Tarn Valley touching the valley in just 9 places. Conceived by the French engineer Michel Virlogeux and designed by the English architect Lord Norman Foster, the very slender, slightly curving steel roadway supported by stays is a spectacular engineering achievement both from the valley and from the car deck.

I pass over the bridge admiring the achievement. it is difficult to appreciate the hight you are travelling at but it is clearly a very elegant design. The slight curve (20km radius) allows you to see the entire length of the bridge and all of the stay towers as you pass over it. Just after the bridge I pull off the motorway and take the exit to the visitor centre. Here there are informative displays, models and a film which are well worth a visit. The best part is that there is a path up to a viewpoint looking down on the bridge. It is a hot walk up but it is so worth the effort.

I continue down into Millau itself and along the valley to get another perspective on the bridge. It is probably even more impressive from below. It is impossibly slender and long. I am glad I made this detour but it is soon time to press on again.

I avoid the motorways from here and enjoy the beautiful weather. I continue on westwards skirting Rodez and onwards on minor roads. After 220 miles for the day I roll into Cahors in the early evening.

After checking in at the hotel I walk out to view another famous bridge though this one is rather different.

The Pont Valentré is a 14th-century six-span fortified stone arch bridge crossing the Lot river to the west of Cahors. It has become a symbol of the city. After the decision was made to build it on 30 April 1306, construction began on 17 June 1308. It was built between 1308 and 1378 with six Gothic arches and three square towers. It opened in 1350. A major restoration was performed from 1867 to 1879. Today has definitely been a day of beautiful bridges.

13th September 2019

Today was expected to be fairly routine heading from Cahors, heading west then north to La Rochelle. Yesterday though I received am message from Chas who had been following my little lily videos. He has a place an hour or so away and invited me to visit. As it happened it really doesn’t take me out of the way at all so it was too good an offer to refuse.

I headed out from Cahors passing the beautiful bridge on the way out of town. It was a very nice drive this morning through rolling countryside. I had plotted a backroads route to see Chas and enjoyed the lovely weather en route.

It was great to catch up and get the tour of Chas’s place. It is a fabulous place in a lovely setting. I especially like the tree-lined driveway. I am treated to coffee and croissants and could easily have lingered for much longer. I am very jealous indeed. Thanks Chas.

I carry on again in beautiful weather to La Rochelle. I find my very modern hotel which has secure underground parking. It was quite a drive today at over 240 miles but as usual there were no hold-ups and I made good time.

I walk into La Rochelle for my evening meal as the sun goes down. It has been another lovely day 3-wheeling through France. Unfortunately I am getting very much towards the end of this trip.

14th September 2019

Navigation should be easy today. All I have to go is head north until I get to the sea. Its not the most inspiring route and apart from coffee and lunch stops I press on. I get in to Cherbourg some 300 miles away by late afternoon. I have a walk around and explore a little bit.

My room for the evening is a small B & B 15 minutes out of the town. La Maison des musicians is basically a house that takes in the odd guest. I arrive but the gates are locked. I can’t get in and there is no-one around. the Booking.com app comes to the rescue and I call the owner. They are just a few minutes away and I am soon inside. They have kept me space in the car port. I unpack and find my little attic room.

I am recommended a seafood restaurant a short drive away right on the coast. They book me a table and I have moulds for my last meal in France. Excellent it was too.

15th September 2019

Its an early start this morning to catch the ferry. The owner of the house is big enough to get up just as early to make me a fresh breakfast. It is clear and cold this morning and I pack quickly. I have to remove the two cats from the tonneau of my car before I can get set to go.

Very quickly I get to the port and queue for my ferry to Poole. After a short wait I am safely aboard and I settle in for the 4 1/4 hour crossing. I enjoy the sunshine on the top deck for a while and before too ling I can see the chalky cliffs of goon old England.

My aim today is to get near home by 4:00 pm to go straight to my niece’s house warming. I cover the 320 miles and make it just a few minutes late and it is great to see Eve and the rest of the family. I have to admit though I am glad to finally reach my home.

It has been another excellent trip. The journey to Grindelwald with the rest of the gang was great. Grindelwald was just spectacular as it is in any weather. I also really enjoyed the solo section of my trip to visit places I really wanted to visit. The car has run superbly again. Can’t wait to set out again….