Day 13 Turin to Le Bourg dÓisans, France

We had arranged a week before to meet old friends Sarah and Jerry at a campsite in Le Bourg dÓisans in the French Alps. We were heading that way anyway and they happened to be staying there for a few days in their great VW camper van. Dave had not seen them for 10 years. We first met Sarah in 1996 when we rode around India together for a few weeks along with a motley group of other bikers met along the way.


The ride from Turin was fast and easy along the motorway. There are some very long tunnels as you approach the French border. First impression of the French Alps is that they are not as pretty as The Dolomites. Higher, yes but less forested and there are more ugly ski resorts. The villages are mostly newer and do not have the atmosphere of Italian villages. You do see more snow though and lots of waterfalls.The highlight of this short trip was the Col Lauteret at 2,200m with great views from the top of the pass. It was bloody cold though. Only in France will you find stalls selling local delicacies on a high mountain pass. We bought some jam from a woman who claimed to make all 16 varieties herself. I am sure that making the jam is a lot more rewarding than standing out all day in the cold trying to sell it.


It was great to see Sarah and Jerry. Jerry had just come back from riding over one of the high mountain passes, Col Galibier, 2,600m, on his bicycle! The campsite Ferme Noemie was stunning. Run by a friendly British couple and very laid back. It was strange to be surrounded by so many British people. It did not take long for the beer and wine to be broken out. Sarah cooked a veggie curry and a very nice evening was had.



Days 11 and 12 Lecco to Turin

We agreed that we needed a hotel night. Wifi was needed to update the blog and book a hotel for Grenoble next week. We also needed a change from riding and camping. We have covered 6 countries in 11 days and that is quite tiring.


After much discussion, we decided to head for Turin and we booked a B&B. We left Lecco after a hearty breakfast of veggie burgers and fried veg and decided to stay north where the roads might be good. After about an hour of sitting in traffic on congested, dull roads, we were forced to abandon this idea and set the GPS for a direct route to Turin. We bombed down the motorway for 90 minutes, covering a lot of ground in a short time at a cost of 12 euros in tolls. Again we stayed dry, for which we were very grateful.


Arriving in Turin, our first impression, of the outskirts was that this is a pretty multicultural city. The GPS did a great job in navigating through the tiny cobbled streets of the old city, directly to our accommodation.The only problem was that it was on a pedestrian shopping street and the check in did not open for another 30 minutes. Many of the B&Bs in Italy keep costs low by not having permanent reception staff. You have to inform them of your arrival time and they are there to meet you. We brazened it out, parking the bike up outside and sitting in a cafe to wait. About ten minutes later, a police bike went by and paid us no attention whatsoever. Italy is very laid back like that-made for rule breakers. Having said that, we did get a ticket in Lake Garda in 2012.


The B&B Le Due Matote is manned by Jack White`s (the rock star no the other one) better looking brother and he seemed very disappointed that we did not want to know about museums and sites to see. He was not convinced by our approach to seeing cities of wondering around and soaking up the atmosphere. He directed us to parking 2 minutes away- only 10 euros a night for secure, underground parking. By the time we walked back it had started to rain heavily. The B&B is on the 4th floor of an 18th century building and the room is very quaint and tasteful. One of the highlights is the tiny lift, just big enough for two, that rises very slowly to the top of the building. Jack White´s brother gave us a bunch of 5 keys that we needed to get in and out of the building, so tight was the security.


The rain set in for the night. We bravely ventured out for a beer and a prosecco and even sat outside under a table umbrella but we were eventually forced to look for a restaurant indoors and bought a brolly from a street vendor as the rain became very heavy. Turin was like a ghost town. We were very lucky that the first open restaurant we found was warm, if a bit lacking in atmosphere and the food turned out to be really good. They served bruschetta topped with sautéed spinach- a vegan´s dream. The pizzas were amazing, cooked in a wood fired oven, with thin crusts at the centre and thicker crusts on the outside and the wine was great.



Overnight, we decided to stay for a second day so we chilled out until about 9am and ventured out into Turin. It was raining heavily again. We very stoically headed for a camping shop that we found on the internet. It was a bit grim about town, the streets were empty and the puddles were getting deeper. We were fortified with some Italian coffee and breakfast and we visited some piazzas which must be stunning in the sunshine but were harder to appreciate in this weather. The rain forced us inside the many arcades where the architectural details were really stunning and the signage probably the best we have seen anywhere-even more interesting than Prague or Paris. Turin is full of old fashioned shop fronts and tiny purveyors of tobacco, wine and other old fashioned things. It is very charming and has a unique quality- even in the heavy rain.

By lunchtime the rain had stopped and the sun came out briefly. The city started to come to life and pavement cafes reopened.

In the evening we found the perfect bar offering free tapas like snacks with the wine and beer and there was a much better atmosphere than the previous night, although still no sunshine. After dinner, we wondered back to the room just before it started hammering down with rain again. So glad we were not camping.

Day 7 Forni di Sopra, Italy to Bellamonte, Italy

Passo Giau

Passo Giau

This is what it’s all about. The top of a mountain pass in the Dolomites. Roads are great, sweeping hairpins and bikes are plentiful. I (Dave) like to think I was riding pretty well but that didn’t stop a guy on a Panigale acing us on the penultimate bend.  A bit rich, considering we were two-up carrying bloody great Touratechs.10329776_10152627036324515_4655936189179795460_o This was the best day we had had so far. The Dolomites at their best. We love riding over the high mountain passes in The Alps and luckily today the weather stayed dry for it. The Passo Giau is over 2,200m. The ride up was pretty easy, compared to some, like the Grossglockner and Stelvio Pass which we conquered last year. The views at the top were just as good, however. There were a lot of bikes out, as it was a Saturday, but that just made it more fun.10453037_10152627035619515_2366674586931231238_oIt was interesting to see that almost everyone at the top of the pass was over 40- cyclists, hikers and bikers. Wonder what young people do at the weekends. The cyclists are always impressive when you watch them cycling up. They must be mad of course. Some were even pulling little trailers!10496075_10152627035949515_8822673059710334068_o

This is by far the most stunning part of The Dolomites and, for us, so far, the whole Alps but we have yet to get to France. The Dolomites are not as high as the French Alps but they are very vertical, so more impressive than you would expect for their height.
We had a very nice espresso at the top of the pass and we ate some locally made dark chocolate while we soaked up the scenery.

We finished the day at our beloved Camping Bellamonte near Predazzo.