The second Saturday in June, saw seven of us on the 0900 Channel Tunnel crossing, having stayed in the Canterbury Travelodge the night before. The plan was simple, ride our bikes, see some scenery, and have a great holiday over the next 9 days. Starting on the coast road Calais to Boulougne, a great road near the crossing terminals, then the Autoroute & main roads to our first night stop (the only hotel pre booked), south of Reims. Do you remember that Bonnie Tyler 70’s hit “Lost in France” – Dick, John, Keith & Kathy do! We go split up in Soissons, and Ian, Pete and I hung around for 20 minutes, before deciding the four lost, were ahead of us & we’d see them at the Hotel. So we cracked on & arrived at 1800 – no fellow bikers here. We were a little worried, until they turned up around 1930 – they’d taken the scenic route thru the Champagne villages, and had the best roads/scenery of the day.
Next day we were heading for Meiringen, Switzerland, 300 miles away, on twisty interesting back roads, having done the Northern France slog yesterday. Well, we got to the border & stopped for a mid afternoon coffee, then decided to stay the night in Gourmois on the River Doubs. So much for Meiringen!. Being the international travellers that we are, we went for a pre dinner drink in France, then crossed the bridge, for an evening meal of river fish in Switz.
Meiringen cannot be far, so we planned to get there for lunchtime, then do the tourist bit up the mountain railway to Reichenbach falls. No such luck, too many photo-opportunities, views of the Alps, meant we didn’t get to Sherlock-town, till mid afternoon. Then we had to find a hotel, Meiringen is around 50 miles from Bern, one of the centres for some Euro football kick-about going on at the time, and the place was packed with fans, mainly from Italy. I think it was the fourth hotel that had rooms, although we had to share, the only time on this trip that we struggled to find a bed. Why Sherlock? – its Sherlock Holmes Hotel, Sherlock Café, bar, rail station etc. Amazing how a tourist industry can be built around the death of a fictional character. And, in the story, he didn’t die there anyway!
Day of the Seven Passes. Today we are heading east, via Davos (ski resort of future kings) to Bormio in Northern Italy. First we’ll go up the Susten Pass, and back down again as the other side was blocked !. 40 miles in vain? – No – great roads for our first “proper” pass, and Dick took one of the best photo’s of our trip – Ian’s red Yamaha against a snowbank. Now the Grimsel, Furka, & Oberalp out of Andermatt. After Davos is the Fluella Pass, 1st time I can recall progress being restricted not by visibility/road condition/traffic, but by Pain ! Yep, a heady mix of summer gloves, and hail the size of large peas, meant more than 20mph was too painful on the hands! Onward now via Ofenpass, & finally the Umbrail, a hard packed gravel road into Italy – the hairpins were interesting!. Dropped into Bormio, & found rooms at the “Albergo San Lorenzo” Hotel, with luxuries such as marble floors, ornate ceilings, & hot & cold in the rooms, it was the best in the area when built in 1924, so OK for us bikers on tour.
Stelvio today, re-trace our route from yesterday – The Umbrail joins the Stevio 2 or 3 miles from the top, & on to the 9080 feet summit, the 2nd or 3rd highest pass in Europe depending who’se claim you believe. This was the most technically difficult road of our holiday, with very sharp, narrow hairpins, the ability to swivel your head like an ostrich to see the road ahead (which was actually behind you after the hairpin) was a distinct advantage. Another hazard was the downhill cyclists with no brakes – or none they wanted to use!
Our plan was to stop tonight in Austria, & on to the Black Forest hotel I’ve stayed at several times, & every tour now seems to include a visit. Somewhere near Landeck, the sat-nav told us the Black Forest was “do-able” tonight if we pushed on. Everyone was up for getting there tonight, with a day off the bikes tomorrow, so “Linguist Pete”, phoned the hotel & booked us in. – Most of us get by with “Merci” & “Danke”, but Pete chats away in France/German & a bit of Italian, very useful. A couple of delays, including another “Lost” moment, meant we didn’t arrive until 2000, Pete had phoned earlier no problem, we’d get a meal whatever time we arrived. Most of us had the Swartzwilde-Fleisch special, of wild boar, & two types of deer – not sure what but it tasted great. Try www.altersbach.de for a relaxed stay in the south Black Forest.
Did the tourist bit, with a ride into Frieburg (10 miles) then lunch at the top of the Kandel mountain, & back to the hotel, for a walk in the forest.
Heading for home now, we went North on the back roads, & stayed at Bernkastel on the Mosel, a lovely old town, with timbered buildings, and as John & Ian know, a bar that stays open until dawn!
Our last night we’ll spend in Brugge, so, a mix of back roads and Motorway saw us finding a hotel in the tourist city in the late afternoon. Tomorrow we go home.
The bikes – two Cruisers (John & Dick), Triumph Tiger (Pete), Yamaha ThiunderAce (Ian), and the correct touring tools, a pair of BM’s (Keith/Kath, & me). Seriously, you can tour on anything, all bikes ran without drama, apart from Dick picking up a couple of scrapes on his exhaust on the passes day – pity, but then again, those Cruisers are too shiny anyway!
Cost, was higher than previously, due to the strength of the Euro, still paying 40/50 Euro’s for a room and 15/20€ for a good meal. Germany seems better value than France/Switzerland.
Article by Andrew Pratt
Photo’s by Everyone.