Author: Larry & Norma Blackmore
Our Third European Motorcycle Trip
Thursday 12th May to Thursday 8th September 2022 – 4 months
UK & Ireland, Northern Spain & Portugal, Sardinia & Corsica, Northern Italy & Switzerland, Northern France & Belgium
This time we’re on a BMW F900XR Tour. We’ll do 12,000klms in 65 Ride Days with 52 lay days
This is basically a test and a re-direction of this Blog Site to a new one at https://larryandnorma.wordpress.com/ because we’ve run out of media storage on this blog site. Please join us there.
Below is the current plan and a couple of pics of the bike.
Weeks 14 & 15 – S’th’n England & Home
Sunday 30th June to Friday 12th July
Roscoff France, Plymouth England, Plymouth Loop, Burton Bradstock, Ryde IoW, Findon, Forrest Hill, Felixstowe, Gatwick and Home
Sunday 30/06/19 – Ferry; Roscoff France to Plymouth UK
Today we’re up, packed and loaded, and down at the Brittany Ferry terminal by 8am. We’re hoping there’s a cafe there for breakfast, and there is, but alas it’s closed 😦 We bid Europe farewell and thank you for the enormous pleasure. England is on the horizon.
We disembark and do customs with the minimum of fuss. Our accomodation is at McBrides Hotel in the old town of Plymouth. It’s directly opposite where the Mayflower left for the new world all those years ago.
We do our normal wander of the local area, and a very famous area it is too. This is where Sir Francis Drake deferred from immediately engaging the Spanish Armada to finish his game of bowls. Never mind that the tide was against him anyway, so it seemed a good thing to do at the time.
You know you’re in Blighty because there’s a Fish and Chip shop on every corner. We had mushy peas with ours.
Monday 01/07/19 – Ride Day; Plymouth Loop
It’s looking like perfect riding weather as we head off on a loop of northern Cornwall and all is going well until I feel a slight vagueness in the front while going around one of the million roundabouts we encountered in England. A quick check of the Tyre Pressure Monitoring screen shows that the front tyre is down to 28psi. That’s not good. We pull into a convenient servo and 15 minutes later we’re on our way after inserting a plug.
Our first stop is Port Isaac after a delightful jaunt through Cornwall’s countryside. It seems everyone else in the world thinks Port Isaac is a good place to visit today as well. I can certainly understand that though as there’s something very appealing about these old harbours. I think the TV show ‘Doc Martin’ is filmed around here as well. We cheekily park in a nook beside the footpath.
We turn north and ride through the hedge lined lanes to Boscastle via Tintagel. We walk out to the harbour mouth and I marvel at the work that’s gone into building these walls.
Of course no visit to Cornwall would be complete without sampling a traditional Cornish Pasty. OK, so I’ve now done that.
Crackington Haven is next on the plan and then home via secondary roads. The thing about riding through these areas is that the countryside looks absolutely stunning in it’s patchwork quilt of paddocks and soon to be harvested fields. The trouble is that you rarely get to see it because of the way they built the roads back in mists of history. It seems that their plan of attack was to dig down to find a solid base on which to build the road itself while piling the overfall on the sides of the roads, and then planting a hedge on top of that. So needless to say you can’t see a thing while you’re riding along.
Tuesday 02/07/19 – Ride Day; Plymouth to Burton Bradstock
We have our normal ‘in the room’ breakfast which consists of yogurt and a banana purchased the previous evening (in this case from the local Post Office would you believe), with muesli. A quick stop to wash the bike and we say goodbye to Plymouth and its history and mushy peas; we head east. The reason for the bike wash is that today we’re going to visit my sister Jill and her husband Phil. Phil rides a Triumph Sprint, so I have to be sure that the Guzzi will outshine Britain’s best. Easy peasy 🙂
Another delightful days ride as we pass through one English village after another. We stop at Dartmouth for morning tea and then catch the little ferry across the typical harbour.
On to Brixham and by-passing Exeter we continue to Sidmouth for lunch. Seems like all those tourists that were at Port Isaac yesterday are here today. Who am I to say anything?
We take to the road again, the Guzzi is loving these roads as we pass through Seaton and Lyme Regis before pulling in to Charmouth Beach where we take a nap under a tree.
We arrive at Burton Bradstock in the mid afternoon and it’s great to see Phil and Jill again after last seeing them at the end of our 2016 trip.
Wednesday 03/07/19 to Friday 05/07/19 – Lay Days; Burton Bradstock
We enjoyed perfect weather as we lazed around in perfect company and lovely surrounds.
Saturday 06/07/19 – Ride Day; Burton Bradstock to Ryde IoW
Time to move on, thanks for the wonderful hospitality Phil and Jill. Phil accompanies us for a ways along the route as we continue east through the beautiful surrounds and little villages with their narrow streets and too many parked cars.
Lulworth Castle was closed
And Corfe Castle was in disarray
The day was heating up as we pulled in to the world’s most popular chain of restaurants for our first Maccas in 3 and a half months. Still a feeding frenzy.
Then south through The New Forrest with its abundance of free roaming horses.
Further south to Lymington where we caught the ferry across the Solent to Yarmouth on The Isle of White
To Osborne Castle of Queen Victoria fame. It is beautiful.
We dropped in to Fishbourne to check out tomorrow’s ferry departure point before finalizing the very pleasant days ride at Ryde in what would once have been a fairly grand hotel. We took a wander around town as is our wont.
Sunday 07/07/19 – Ride Day; Ryde IoW to Findon via Goring by Sea
Mmmm, that noise outside is rain so it’s on with our, what Norma has come to call, Panda Bear Wear and we head for Fishbourne and the 8am ferry which means we forfeit our included breakfast at our hotel, not happy about that. The crossing to Portsmouth is uneventful if wet and we stop and grab a pic of the Victory of Nelson fame
before taking to the congested freeways to Bruce and Sheila Martin’s place at Goring by Sea. I boarded with Bruce and Sheila when I was in England some 49 years ago. Needless to say we have all aged. We enjoyed a lovely meal at a typical English pub and talked about old times. We then rode the 15klms to a tiny out of the way village called Findon.
Monday 08/07/19 – Ride Day; Findon to Forrest Hill
Via Arundel and it’s perfect castle
Petworth and East Grinstead where we stopped at the local Moto Guzzi shop in the hope of seeing the latest V85TT, but they didn’t have any on the floor.
We then headed north towards London. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this section of the days ride and I thought we’d be engulfed by traffic. But by sticking to the lesser roads we had what was our final day of solitude and wandering enjoyable roads and lanes before the last 10klms to my Uncle Albert’s.
98 years old, lives by himself and still has all his marbles and a huge store of experiences. We’re all claiming his genes 🙂
We had a thoroughly enjoyable lay day with Uncle Albert and took the opportunity to get to better know my cousin Tristan and his family. We hope to be back.
This pic of Norma and myself in Albert’s garden. Looking pretty relaxed, you can see all those cakes and icecreams have caught up with me.
Wednesday 10/07/19 – Ride Day; Forrest Hill to Felixstowe
Today is the final day’s ride of this wonderful adventure and was predominantly a freeways day as we negotiated the constant traffic. We stopped at Ipswich and washed the bike for its return to Aus and to hopefully please our picky quarantine inspectors.
We booked into the grand old Orwell Hotel which had seen better days but was still not too bad. We celebrated our blessings and each other with a fine meal in the fine old dining room before retiring and sorting our gear for the return of ourselves and bike to Australia.
Thursday 11/07/19 – Felixstowe to Gatwick
A bitter sweet day as we left the life of fantasy behind and faced the prospect of reality as we dropped the bike off at the shippers
and caught the train to Gatwick airport.
A quick glimpse of the Shard Tower from the train window was as near as we got to London on the way through.
Friday 12/07/19 to Saturday 13/07/19 – Gatwick to Melbourne
A final glimpse of England’s perfect patchwork landscape as we head east and we’re done.
We did 11,903klms on 66 ride days and had 40 lay days.
I fitted new Michelin PR4 GT tyres prior to leaving which have worn exceptionally well with probably 60-70% wear and one puncture.
We used mainly 95 E5-10 fuel, or whatever we could get and I don’t think it matters what fuel I run through this Guzzi because I can’t tell the difference in performance or fuel consumption.
The bike used about 250mm of engine oil but I think most of this was seepage from the leaky oil pressure sensor switch.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to undertake the second trip of a lifetime. This wouldn’t have happened without the encouragement and support from such an amazing lady as Norma, not to mention the fact that she was there for every kilometre, every laughing moment and also the few tense moments we encountered with hardly a murmur, although goodness knows what she was thinking on a couple of occasions – thank you so much my love.
We are also both thankful of the fact that we didn’t have one incident of any real concern with the bike nor any problems with our health. One cannot ask for any more than that. The weather was also very kind by in large.
So until next time, if there is a next time, thank you for following us and participating in our journey. God Bless.
Week 13 – France West Coast
Sunday 23rd to Saturday 29th June
Royan, Saint-Navarei, Lorient, Roscoff.
SUNDAY & Monday 23&24/06/19 – LAY DAYS; Royan
The plan for Royan was to relax and possibly laze on the beach for a couple of days, but alas the weather once again conspired to protect the public from confusing me with a beached whale. It didn’t rain a lot but it did blow a lot, so we contented ourselves with taking some long walks along the long waterfront where we took some pics of some of the few remaining grand homes.
And also a few other landmarks.
It was an easy and pleasant 2 days.
Tuesday 25/06/19 – Ride Day; Royan to Near Avrillé
Today was a circuitous route to visit some aged friends of my Mum and Dad’s whom they first met in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand many years ago, when they were sailing their 34′ Bowman sloop on a 12 year circumnavigation – now that’s the way to do it.
We tootled up the coast through some lovely seaside towns with their grand homes and past what seemed like a never ending stream of camping grounds.
Now this is where I’m coming unstuck in so much as when I started the blog back at the end of March, I used to do it daily which eventually became a bit of a burden, but at least I could remember where we’d been, stopped and done. In the last four weeks I’ve taken to relying on my memory to do it once a week which is proving to be problematic in terms of my memory.
Enough to say that today was another beautiful day for a ride and that we stopped at a couple of lovely places and saw some great sights.
We arrived at Paul and Pierrette’s lovely secluded bush surrounded home in the mid afternoon and availed ourselves of their perfect hospitality.
It was great to talk small ocean going sailing boats again with people who, like myself, have never lost the passion or the dream even if age and circumstance have limited the actuality.
200klms for the day.
Wednesday 26/06/19 – Ride Day; Near Avrillé to Saint-Nazaire
With the weather promising to get hot, and after a lovely breakfast, we said fond farewells to Paul and Pierrette and set ourselves west and north through continuous rolling farmlands rich for harvest. We had a break at Saint-Gilles-Croix-De-Vie (pronounced entirely differently from how it’s spelt, as are all French place names).
We called into the tiny inlet of Port Du Bec.
And then even smaller Les Champs
As well as Les Brochets before finding lunch in Pornic. It was getting very hot by now so we pushed through to Saint-Nazaire where we took a rest before looking around the old WW2 submarine base and the rest of the town.
A 180klm day in trying 30c+ conditions.
Thursday 27/06/19 – Ride Day; Saint-Nazaire to Lorient
With temps in the mid 30c this would be our most uncomfortable days riding of the entire trip, although a couple of days in Greece were hard as well . I’d rather ride in rain than in those temps sucking every little bit of moisture out of you in full riding kit, even though we hydrated extensively throughout the day.
But it must be said that the scenery certainly compensated for the discomfort. We took a break at La Baule-Escoublac before moving along to Vannes where we happened upon a passing out ceremony of some type. We also stopped for lunch overlooking the packed boat basin.
On through Auray to the prehistoric Alignements de Carnac. These are pretty amazing, hundreds of rocks, big and small, all precisely arranged with some age old superstitious reasoning. We passed some 5 or 6 fields of them and then 10klms further on another field. I wondered if they’d imported them from the Croatian coast.
We continued on to a pleasant interlude at Etel.
And so onto Lorient where we’d scored a room without air-con which is quite normal for these parts, but a cheap fan would have scored them points on booking.com. They couldn’t have cared less, so they didn’t score well.
A difficult 175klms today.
Friday 28/06/19 – Lay Day; Lorient
In spite of the heat we ventured forth like good little tourists to visit La Base,
where we visited the Cité de la Voile Eric Tabarly, a tribute to Eric Tabarly who was a Frenchman and a sailing superstar in my days of sailing for his incredible feats of singlehanded sailing and sailboat design. His line of Pen Duick boats continue to hold fame in the world of sailing.
We also saw a couple of modern day short handed ocean racers as well as Gitana 17, which currently holds the record for the fastest trans Atlantic crossing for a sailboat of any type. An amazing speed machine.
We then visited the submarine museum and got to look through a submarine. It’s hard to believe just how complicated those things are, nor to comprehend how confined they are. Maximum height is 1.8m so I don’t need to volunteer.
Saturday 29/06/19 – Ride Day; Lorient to Roskoff
A cool change had come in so it would be a much more comfortable day. We called into Moelan-Sur-Mer which proved to be less than captivating so we moved onto the fortress in the middle of the harbour at Concarneau. Neat place. We indulged and a had a milkshake although I hadn’t intended in paying for the entire cow.
Past Quimper and on to Chateaulin. What a delightful place. We took some pics and moved on.
Further up the road.
Next on route was Sizun, a little town sitting on a cross roads that attracts quite a number of causal travelers including us. We ran into Stephane who was riding a 90s Moto Guzzi Centauro which was in immaculate condition and also the proper color, red and white of course. We spent a pleasant half hour together.
Stephan suggested we make a detour to Huelgoat and so we enjoyed some of the days best riding and visited the days cutest town.
Morlaix was next and desperately needed as we were running perilously close to pushing the bike when finally found a fuel station. Nice bridge.
And so onto our final destination on the continent for this trip. The road to Roskoff (pronounced Rosko) was a delight as we chased the estuary to the sea then curved our way along the coast road to this point of departure to the UK and eventually home.
A 230klm day, which had come to be quite cool as we scouted out a place to celebrate au-revoir to Europe. Thanks for the pleasure.
And so onto the final phase.
Week 12 – NW Italy to France West Coast
Sunday 16th to Saturday 22nd June
Aosta, Geneva, Saint Romain de Gal, Clermont Ferrand, Treignac, Royan
Sunday 16/06/19 – Ride Day; Aosta to Geneva
Today was the day we basically set our course for home. This trip has been about Southern Europe but now we’re heading north and west even though there’s still close to 4 weeks to go.
We started the day with a lost battle with one of Europe’s most confusing machines; the self serve fuel bowser. It’d be OK if they gave the option to speak/display in English, but they mostly don’t of course. At least the banks have got that figured and the ATMs mostly have the option – banks are smart like that.
So no fuel this morning as we took the SS27 over the Grande Saint Bernard Pass. This is the original and very scenic route, as against the E27/T2 which is a tolled and snow-free covered/tunneled route.
As we got higher it got colder and the vista more majestic. 4c at the top and we had it pretty much to ourselves that early in the day.
Then down into Switzerland where their fuel bowsers made it easy for them to extract your money. We took a few pics of the classic Swiss countryside, just like the post cards.
We hit Lake Geneva and turned left then stopped on the border with France for a break and a coffee.
It was then further west and back into Switzerland to ride through Geneva then south into France again where our reasonably priced hotel was, just outside of Switzerland where absolutely nothing is reasonably priced.
It had been an enjoyable and interesting run of 200klms.
Monday 17/06/19 – Lay Day; Geneva
Breakfast then just up the road to the bus stop where we lost the battle with the automatic ticket machine – it only takes coins, how does that work in 2019. So we rode for free into a very quiet and pleasant Geneva where we visited the Tourist Information place where it was explained to us that it was Monday (we knew that) and on Monday all the museums are closed, so Monday was always a quiet day in Geneva apparently. This suited us just fine as we don’t tend to do museums from the inside and we’re pretty much done with tourist crowds.
So we spent the day wandering around Geneva which we found to be very nice. Took some pics
And caught the bus back to France. It was looking like another free ride because the ticket machine hadn’t gotten any smarter in the interim. That was until 4 really official looking ticket inspectors boarded the bus. At least they didn’t have guns so it looked like we’d live and they were quite understanding that we were dumb Australian tourists who had notes and a card but no coins. No problems, there’s a card machine at the back of the bus sir, no kidding. So one of the nice inspectors marches me back there through all the tut tutting obedient Swiss so that I can pay my fare, which, by the way, would be free if we were staying in a hotel in Switzerland, but I’m a cheapskate staying in France so I have to pay. Typical of any machine wanting to take your money even the nice inspector couldn’t work out how to use it, but we eventually managed to extract the tickets by which time we’d arrived in France.
Tuesday 18/06/19 – Ride Day; Geneva to Saint Romain en Gal
The well thought out and planned trip itinerary took another direction as from today. Originally it had been to scoot across France from Geneva to just south of Paris where we’d do a 4 day circuit around the numerous chateaus that proliferate in the region, then onto Paris for a few days before heading for the UK etc.
But we decided that a leisurely amble across central France to the west coast was more to our taste. Less hustle less bustle.
So today, instead of pointing north and west, we started by heading directly south through some wonderful French countryside, which around here looks picture postcard Swiss. First stop was the quaint town of Annecy which has a bit of a Venice thing happening albeit on a miniature scale. People like it though, and it is nice, so we struggled through the tourist throng once again and took a few pics
Before continuing south, virtually shaving the very abrupt escarpment edged Alps. With the snow capped mountains to our left and rolling tree covered hills to our right we had an enjoyable run down the back way into Chambery.
This is where TomTom Go Mobile nearly got us deported. “At the end of the road turn left, then turn right” Sounds reasonable, except that left hand turn put us on a buses only stretch of road which I didn’t realize until I saw the very faded road sign. Got out of that and suddenly the whole world got very wha wha noisy and blue light flashy with an angry looking man in a ridiculous tonka toy police car and a really official looking uniform indicating that I should pull over right now! These guys were not impressed so off with the helmet and on with the big ‘I’m an idiot’ smile. Apparently it’s a cardinal sin to travel in a buses only lane in France, obviously and invariably worse than cutting blind corners and parking at random in the middle of the road while nipping in and grabbing a morning espresso, oh and a quick bonjour.
After a pleasant chat about the bike and it’s number plate and ‘amazing, all the way from Australia’ (that’s what the big AUS stands for mate, not Austria) we were on our way with a stern warning that we don’t break the rules in France. We grabbed a quick coffee and a bite to eat in the shadow of this and left town.
We turned west and cut out across some of the most beautiful countryside you’re ever likely to see. Through some pleasant little villages, farmland and wooded areas we tortled our way to Saint Romain en Gal where we took up a one night residency in a lovely little ‘win’ studio apartment owned by a vivacious little Frenchman who had the bar downstairs. He insisted I park the bike in his back alley shed. He spoke no English and me no French, we had a ball.
We had dinner and went for a bit of a walk. Saint Romain en Gal is on the River Rhone and has an interesting and very long history. Took a few pics.
Another lovely ride in paradise of 210klms.
Wednesday 19/06/19 – Ride Day; Saint Romain en Gal to Clermont-Ferrand
Today we rode some of the best cruising roads you’re likely to find, through some of the best scenery that requires riding at cruising speeds.
Today it’s Clermont-Ferrand which is where Michelin tyres are manufactured. There is a museum that you can visit that gives a good history of Michelin. I walked down and visited the museum, but not before having some words with the Nigerian bloke who owned our ‘lose’ accomodation who couldn’t understand why we’d want TWO towels.
A very pleasant day of 195klms.
Thursday 20/06/19 – Ride Day; Clermont-Ferrand to Treignac
Yet again we were blessed with great roads and spectacular scenery.
We started the day with an attempt at scaling the Volcan Puy de Dome but the only way up there is by train, so we took a bad pic and rode on.
We were riding through Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne with it’s perfect roads of short sweepers through farmlands, natural wooded areas and plantation forests.
I caught a glimpse of this through the trees and decided to turn in and have a look. Château de Cordès is pretty impressive.
Immediately up the road we were lured into the delightful little village of Orcival.
And then immediately down the road from there we were captivated by Roches Tuilière.
Just along the wonderful winding road it was market day at Le Mont-Dore
Continuing south and west took us to the Barrage de Bort-les-Orgues, the hydro electric dam of Lake Dordogne.
It was then onto Treignac through near deserted roads through natural bushland from one ridge to the next valley and so on and so forth.
Treignac is one of only two places we’ll stay that we stayed in 2016 – the other being Makarska. There’s no real reason to stay here but it is a lovely little town that just so happens to be in the way of our little wander across France. Last time we were here we had a forced stay because of a split rear tyre. This time we stayed with lovely English couple Andy and Allison at Maison Billot which they’ve done a marvelous job of renovating.
We took a look around town and took the same pics as last time.
Another glorious day of 195klms.
Friday 21/06/19 – Ride Day; Treignac to Montrollet
This is Ride Day 50 for a total of some 9500klms. The route for today is a little unusual but it’s actually a route I’d planned for us to ride last trip before we lost 3 days with tyre issues.
A number of the routes I planned for this trip and our trip in 2016 I pilfered from Toby Ballentine’s detailed Motorcycle Journeys Through Western Europe and today’s is one of his suggestions. Only 3 things wrong with today’s ride. It rained, the roads Toby suggested have obviously deteriorated over the last 10 years and the Inn was full at the lovely little village of Mortemart so we had to stay at lost town of Montrolett.
But we still had a good day of 215klms.
Saturday 22/06/19 – Ride Day; Montrollet to Royan
The sun has decided to shine so today we scurry towards the coast through vineyards and ready to harvest grain fields with the many con trails of airlines overhead all pointing to Paris, where we’re not going.
We happened across a carwash and so cleaned a grubby Moto Guzzi 1200 Sport Rosso Corsa SE .
Apart from the issue with the Oil Pressure Sensor the bike has been an absolute delight, and when it’s clean and shining is, in my humble yet biased opinion, one of the prettiest bikes you’ll ever see, and although it’s neither sport nor tourer I’m very happy with its ability as both with its 105bhp giving ample power and 105nm of torque producing all the pulling power needed for a bike as heavily loaded as this one is.
Ain’t she pretty; promo pic.
And fully ‘bagged’.
A fairly easy day of 200klms. To Royan, which has been quite a surprise.
OK, so that’s it for this week. It takes me hours to do this blog so I hope you’re all getting something out of it, and if nothing else I hope the motorcycle travel bug will bite you.
Week 11 – Italy Nth – Pt2
Sunday 9th to Saturday 15th June
Orvieto, Cortona, Florence, LeVanto, Aosta
Sunday 09/06/19 – Lay Day; Orvieto
Well it appears we’ve arrived in town on the biggest weekend of the year. The place is packed. We had a bo-peep around town.
And descended and ascended to 500 steps of the old water cistern.
The event is Orvieto in Fiore (Orvieto in bloom) and finishes with the Palombella holiday celebration, when the city is filled with flowers and horticultural exhibits and local craftsman booths. It seems everyone decorates their properties.
They have bands playing and much noise and celebrations, culminating with a pageant in the Piazza 20m from our room. It’s a medieval re-enactment of some sort with costumes and dancing then finishing with a cross bow competition. Those guys were pretty accurate from 30m with those old weapons.
Monday 10/06/19 – Ride Day; Orvieto to Cortona
After another ‘all day’ breakfast we were on the road early. And it was a gorgeous day to be traveling Tuscany’s hidden back roads with spectacular views and a steady parade of hill top and valley towns. Viceno, Centeno, Abbadia San Salvatore, Pescina and Piagge all tempted us.
before we stopped to lunch on a huge punnet of fresh strawberries in Montalcino.
Then it was on through more wonderful vistas via Pienza to Montepulciano where we got gloriously lost and ended up as far as the road and lanes went, but which didn’t go far enough so we did a U turn and retraced our track. I’ve got the video of it 😨 Norma’s laughing about it now, but …..
And so to Cortona which is my pick of the hill top towns we’ve stayed at. You can walk from one wall to the other in under 10 minutes if you don’t get delayed by some charm or another.
We bought panini and dined sitting on the high church steps while remembering other places and times. I could go back there.
This was a good day among a lot of other good days. 175klms.
Tuesday 11/06/19 – Ride Day; Cortona to Florence
Another tranquil Tuscan day that was threatening to heat up so we were on the road early.
First stop was Arezzo where we’d been told to visit the Piazza Grande. What we hadn’t been told was the hazard of getting there through a maze of one way streets that seemed to get ever narrower, steeper and rougher before spitting us out into this.
And we had it all to ourselves, which is understandable considering how difficult it was to find. We spent a quiet hour here before moving on to meet the Melbourne Blackmores via Skype at Bibbiena. It’s always great to talk to family. “When are you coming home? You’ve been gone FOREVER”.
So on to our Agriturismo 4klms outside of Florence.
It had been a leisurely 120klms for the day.
Wednesday 12/06/19 – Lay Day; Florence
After an entertaining and sumptuous breakfast complete with liqueur ‘for the day ahead’ according to Giuseppe our host, we caught the #23 bus into Florence, where we came across what seemed like most of the rest of Europe. It was Florence Fashion Week. Good timing. We did what tourists do.
First of all we climbed all those steps to get the best views of town. Mmm, too much cake.
Then joined the crowds. Not that these pics show too many people because if you wait for the right shot…
Now here’s where I have a pet beef. Why is it that people take forever to take a picture on their mobile phone and then stand right THERE and look at it, right in the middle of the footpath, road, gutter or wherever else they’ve taken the space, time and picture from. Completely oblivious to anyone else. MOVE ON. Admire it, edit it, critique it somewhere else. Good grief.
Florence is quite impressive although we didn’t join the cues.
Thursday 13/06/19 – Ride Day; Florence to LeVanto
A long hot day chasing the roads less travelled over the mountains. We could have used the freeway but that twisted tarmac is so inviting. Besides which there was hardly a vehicle on the roads we rode, but so many cyclists. We stopped occasionally to hydrate and carbonate 😀 And took a couple of pics of the glorious surrounds.
We stopped at Lucca for lunch and had a gander at this church. That bloke in the glass case is St Davido (I think) and he’s been dead for something like 1100 years. Makes me wonder.
265klms for the day which is a long day on those roads through that country in over 30c.
Friday 14/06/19 – Lay Day; LeVanto
We caught the boat to Monterosso to buy Roman’s present and have a coffee overlooking the beach. 5 down, 1 to go. Who’s idea was it to buy presents for Grandies? We’ve spent the entire trip looking for things that are small enough to carry yet are significant enough to matter, not to mention the cost. The saddest part is that I’m the one mainly at fault. We should wait until we get home and just visit Myers 😂
We then caught the train back to LeVanto which is through a tunnel the entire way.
We spent the afternoon on the beach, and in the evening joined the locals as they danced in the town square. Oh, and it’s Friday, and we know what that means.
Saturday 15/06/19 – Ride Day; LeVanto Aosta
Today was a 330klm day and a lot of that climbing from the sea level to the higher plains so for the first time we’ve taken to the freeways in a big way, 200klms and cost €22 in tolls, but worth it. The final 40klms we did on a B road and it was a lovely ride as we entered the southern part of the Italian, Swiss or French Alps, and they are spectacular.
No pics today but right now there’s a war of thunder happening in the mountains up behind where we’re staying. Tomorrow we start the final stage of this wonderful journey.
Week 10 – Croatia to Italy
Saturday 1st to Saturday 8th June
Makarska, Ancona, Norcia, Orvieto
Saturday 01/06 to Wednesday 05/06/19 – Lay Days; Makarska
We’ve been on the road for 9 weeks and it’s time for an extended break, so what better place to do so than in Makarska. This place has some significance for me as my Dida, my Mum’s father, was born and raised in the hills behind here before immigrating to New Zealand in the early 1900s.
We scored a win with our accommodation and settled in for 6 nights. We’d hoped for fine weather but had a lose there as it was overcast and rainy for our whole stay, but never mind, we enjoyed ourselves anyway.
There were a couple of things on the agenda and 1 was to meet a second cousin who we’d missed seeing last time we were here in 2016 as his father was seriously ill. But we caught up this time and had a delightful time.
The second thing was to visit the now apparently abandoned village of Socic where my Dida came from. I mentioned in my 2016 blog that I’d always thought of him as a little hard, not that I had any right to as he never mistreated me. But visiting the place of his upbringing was certainly an eye opener, as to eke out a living from those rocks you’d have to have real strength.
Sadly the place is even more overgrown than on our last visit but the views on the way up the range were just as amazing.
The other thing about Makarska that stuck us was the increase in the number of tourists. We’re here in the shoulder season and it’s busy enough, but the locals tell me it’s crazy in the full summer.
Says me the touristy traveler. We took lots of pictures of the various nooks and crannys.
And the harbour, of course. There was a constant stream of arrivals and departures, mostly out of my pocket range but enjoyable none the less.
We took a ferry across to Sumartin for coffee and heart stopping cake.
Watched some sunsets.
And took a small boat cruise to Podgora with a local in a converted life boat. It was good to be able to talk small boats with someone again.
Thanks Makarska, we loved every minute of it.
Thursday 06/06/19 – Ride Day; Ancona via Trogir and Split
On the road again. In terms of road klms it was a mere 120klms, but we added around another 260klms taking the ferry from Split to Ancona.
To start with we took a leisurely ride north and dropped in on a few coastal villages on the way. I’ve lost the pics somehow 😦 Except this GoPro Grab
Trogir is 25klms west of Split and well worth a visit we were told. So we did, and spent most of the afternoon there. We checked out its back streets.
And some of its other buildings
Before riding back to Split and catching our ferry to Ancona.
Friday 07/06/19 – Ride Day; Ancona to Norcia
We landed at 7am and had no problems with customs, but we did have problems getting out of the port area and on the road where we followed the road south through Italy’s Le Marche region on a glorious morning before stopping at Sirolo for breakfast with the locals. There’s just something about these small towns early in the morning before the crowds arrive.
We continued on south following the coast past what seemed like a million beach deck chairs/umbrellas to Porto Recanati where we turned inland and stopped at Loreto and visited the Basilica della Santa Casa which has an interesting if totally unbelievable history.
Then on to Macerata where we stopped and had a Skype call with our Adelaide family which is always a lot of fun.
From Macerata our plan had been to visit the devastated hill town of Castelluccia where we’d spent a few days back in 2016, just 2 nights prior to the earthquake that virtually destroyed the whole region. We rode in from the north to within 13klms of the town before coming to a gate that informed us the road was closed ahead. At least this time we had plenty of fuel so turning around wasn’t a problem as we took another remote road that skirted the hills into Norcia, our stay for the night.
It was heart wrenching to see the destruction and devastation left behind those earthquakes as witnessed by the vibrant towns we’d ridden through in 2016 now being virtually ghost towns.
And Norcia had fared no better than the rest.
You’d have to ask the question regarding the point of trying to do anything in way of resurrecting some of those buildings, what’s still standing is only there by the grace of good scaffolding. Indeed entire areas are condemned and shut off.
There were still some pleasant scenes.
It was a bitter sweet day of 180klms.
Saturday 08/06/19 – Ride Day; Norcia to Orvieto
Today we were on the road early because we wanted to backtrack and visit Castelluccia via the south road, and secondly because it promised to be a hot day.
The views climbing the escarpment were just as beautiful as 3 years ago.
And the view looking across the plain to Castelluccia was just as breathtaking.
But that’s where it ended. The town was a virtual ruin.
We paid homage, took the pics, had a coffee, and left via the east road which led through some amazing country, but also town upon town of destroyed dreams, past, present and future.
Everything changed once we joined the SS4 at Arquata Del Tronto and rode its joyous twists and curves all the way to Rieti where we stopped and wandered through their preparations for a sports festival – all pretty laid back. We took our pics
and then hustled along the lovely SS79 to Terni. There is some truly amazing scenery through here, which is the norm as we were about to find out.
We stopped at Terni for an hour as the day was becoming hot and heavy.
Now we were in Umbria and hay making was in full swing with much other evidence of cultivation going on. It seemed that there was a steady stream of classical Italian hilltop towns
interspersed with the rolling hills and occasional small range just to make the riding amazing and the scenery, well the scenery;
We arrived into Orvieto and navigated our way to our B&B right in the heart of town. We accomplished this in spite of the finger wagging and stern looks that said we shouldn’t be doing that, but that’s why we ride a red and white Italian motorcycle, which says in return ‘I can and I don’t care’. In actual fact I do care a bit, I just don’t know how else to get where we’re going. Works for me.
It turns out our reasonable B&B is in an old convent and still run by Nuns. We were pretty tired by the time we arrived as it’d been a hot and fairly long day for us. 260klms.
And so we continue.
Week 9 – Romania, Serbia, Bosnia & Croatia
Sunday 26th to Friday 31st of May
Turda – Sebes – Orsova – Belgrade – Sarajevo – Makarska
Sunday 26/05/2019 – Ride Day; Turda to Sebes
We woke up to a fine day so got on the road with a view having a look at Cheile Turzil natural reserve which we missed yesterday. What little we saw on a short walk was impressive.
Seeing as today was going to be a rather short day we decided to do a few roads that I doubt too many travelers have ever seen, and they certainly beat the main road even if a little slower and less maintained. The first loop took us well west of the highway.
This brought us out at the town of Aiud where we had a coffee sans cake, and listened to the church bells competing before running down the highway to Alba Iulia where we stopped at the Cetatea Bastionară Alba Carolina which is well worth a visit. We spent a pleasant hour over lunch.
We then took a loop eastward through some lovely farmland.
We arrived in Sebes in the mid afternoon and booked into our 5 star hotel. Well not exactly 5 star, but it was for us considering a couple of our immediate previous lodgings. It’s certainly a bit of a lottery when it comes to doing accommodation on a budget because you never really know what you’ll get in spite of the reviews and pics posted on booking.com which is what we’ve been using as a rule. Mostly they’re pretty good, but there’s been a few that haven’t been. Sebes was great with dedicated secure motorcycle parking.
There’s actually not much to see in Sebes, it just happens to be a convenient jump off point for the Transalpina Highway, which remains closed until 30th June. 135k for the day.
Monday 27/05/2019 – Ride Day; Sebes to Orsova (Iron Gates)
With conflicting reports on whether or not the Transalpina was open we decided on the side of caution and took the western road which in itself turned out to be a great ride.
But first we ran even further west to see the Fortress of Deva which is pretty spectacular, by all accounts anyway, because when we got there we couldn’t see 50 metres in front of ourselves because of fog. This is what we should have seen, but didn’t.
So we turned around and retraced the road to the E79 and south. There was snow on the peaks and it became quite cool as we wound our way down and ever down to emerge at Targu Jiu where we took a break.
And so we arrived in Drobeta-Turnu Severin where we played tourists on a motorcycle.
We passed the famous Iron Gate I Hydroelectric Power Station which is the largest dam on the Danube river and one of the largest hydro power plants in Europe. It is located on the Iron Gate gorge, between Romania and Serbia.
It was becoming a long day as we headed west towards Orsova and our lodgings in what was once a communist era apartment block. Not a lot has changed and this one was marked as a ‘miss’ in the lottery. You pays your money …. 335klms today which is one of our longest on this trip to date.
Tuesday 28/05/2019 – Lay Day; Orsova (Iron Gates)
Today we played tourists in a leaky boat as we joined 10 other game souls in what could well have been a communist era bath tub with a Johnson outboard on the back. For A$15 each we got to see the Iron Gate Gorge first hand while our tour guide gave us a running Romanian commentary. Luckily we were seated next to a bloke who spoke far better English than we understood Romanian.
The Danube River is not Blue, but it is big at 2,850klms long and passing through 10 countries.
Wednesday 29/05/2019 – Ride Day; Orsova to Belgrade
Today I thought it prudent to take a major border crossing from Romania into Serbia. This is because of the third party property insurance, or Green Card, that we carry and the uncertainty with its acceptance in Serbia even though there is a footnote (in German) to say that it is. I’d gone through the trouble of getting said footnote translated and hoped that Google Translate wasn’t telling fibs.
So we headed back and crossed the dam wall at Iron Gates. Did we have any trouble? Yes we did, but on the Romanian side which insisted we wouldn’t be able to enter Serbia with the above mentioned Green Card, not that it mattered to them really. I’m thinking they were just feeling extra bureaucratical that early in the morning and once I showed them the screenshot of the translated text they merely shrugged their shoulders as if to say ‘be it on your own head fool’.
So what happened on the Serbian side you ask. Absolutely nothing. They didn’t even look at the bike papers, just stamped our passports, smiled and said ‘welcome to Serbia’. You just never know. Let’s see what happens when we enter Bosnia tomorrow where we’ll have the same issue we had entering Turkey.
We counted our blessings and followed the mighty Danube for 130klms. We got to see some of the sights we’d seen yesterday.
And passed a few other sights before stopping for a brew.
Belgrade seemed to be in turmoil when we arrived with traffic jams at every turn, but we finally found our ex communist/dictatorship era apartment block ‘miss’ for the night just before a torrential thunderstorm. The thing is with these places is that they can be very nice inside, as this one actually was, but a total mess otherwise.
After the rainstorm we played tourists for a couple of hours.
It had been a good day of 260klms.
Thursday 30/05/2019 – Ride Day; Belgrade to Sarajevo
I’d originally planned on spending 2 nights in both Belgrade and Sarajevo as well as a night in a place called Mokra Gora but extended threatening bad weather and an obscure border crossing into Bosnia helped me decide to take a quick and easy run to Croatia and a 5 day rest period in Makarska.
The threat of inclement weather had us togged up in our wets for an early ‘beat the traffic’ start out of Belgrade. Total fail, but eventually we got out of town and rode through Serbia’s heartland, stopping in a small village where we brewed our coffee in the local park before heading for the Bosnian border.
You can just never predict how these border crossings will turn out. Exiting Serbia with perfect paperwork was a bit of a drama. Entering Bosnia was a ‘stamp your passport, not interested in your moto, see you later’ 30 second anticlimax.
We headed into the foothills of what I think are the Balkan Mountains, and it started to rain. But these were virtually perfect roads so the riding was really good. That was until we got towards the top of the ranges where we ran into dense fog/cloud before breaking through into clear skies over the top then the reverse on the way down. Still, hills and great roads, short sweepers and a powerful motorcycle make for an enjoyable time, even if it’s cold and raining. We stopped for fuel and a much needed comfort stop 40klms from Sarajevo and hot chocolate tasted just fine.
It was an easy ride into our ‘win’ lodgings in Sarajevo which even had heated floors in the bathroom much to Norma’s delight. It was a definite win for her after a different and probable uncomfortable day – I am blessed man to have such a willing partner. We had a shower and had a quick look around the Turkish Bazaar like old town before an early night. Another decent 290klms for the day.
Friday 31/05/2019 – Ride Day; Sarajevo to Makarska
I managed to coax Norma into her wets and away from those heated bathroom floors and we were on the road by 8am through some of the most delightful riding we have done so far. Perfect roads, amazing views, lots of corners and little traffic; what more can a man ask for?
We generally like to stop for morning tea around 10am and that requires finding a convenient stopping place preferably with a table and chairs for our aging bodies. Today we had to settle for AMCO for seating, but the scenery didn’t disappoint.
We continued on our way to Mostar specifically to see the reconstructed Mostar Bridge.
We joined the throng of tourists, took our pictures, and left town via the high road on our way to Croatia where we had no border issues. We chased the new tollway along the mountains before dropping down to the coast through a tunnel.
And so to Makarska where we found a car wash on the way in and spruced the Guzzi up a bit before finding our winwin accommodation right in the heart of town.
We had stopped here in 2016 and it was a little like coming home although there are a whole lot more tourists around. We enjoyed dinner overlooking the beach as the sun set.
255klms today and time for a well deserved break. See you next week.
Week 8 – Bulgaria & Romania
Sunday 19th to Saturday 25th May
Edirne – MotoCamp Bulgaria – Corbi Ami – Bran Castle – Targus Mure – Turda
Sunday 19/05/19 – Ride Day: Edirne to MotoCamp Bulgaria
It’s goodbye to Turkey this quiet Sunday morning as we get away early after aother ‘day long’ breakfast and head west for the border to enter the EU once again. This was a bit of a baffling experience as we negotiated no less than 6 border control booths with each one of them going over the same paperwork with the same “These are your registration papers, where are your moto papers?” “In Australia they are one and the same” “No, you must have different papers” and around and around we’d go. We got through eventually. And headed north west.
Now the reason we’ve headed in that direction and not due west for Plovdiv as planned, is because our trusty Moto Guzzi has developed an annoying oil leak/weep from up in behind the left hand cylinder, not bad but just enough to be messy. I have a fair idea that the problem is a weeping oil pressure sensor unit and I’m not impressed as it’s been a recurring issue with the big block Guzzis since 2001, SO WHY HAVEN’T THEY FIXED IT? So we’re going to MotoCamp Bulgaria where they have a workshop I can use and accommodation we can stay at.
MotoCamp Bulgaria is located in the village of Idilevo, about 35 km north of central most Bulgarian town of Gabrovo. Hidden in the heart of the Balkan Mountains, far from the madness of the modern world, Idilevo has less than 100 residents who happily live in a village that time has forgotten. MotoCamp Bulgaria is a motorbike centric establishment that offers all sorts of services to travelers such as us.
So that’s the plan for today. Pretty much immediately we encountered what has become the norm for these ex-communist countries, and that is that the roads leave a whole lot to be desired unless you’re on a freeway, and I don’t like travelling on freeways very much because I find them boring. So we put up with the patches on the patches on the patch, or played dodge the pothole while traveling through some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen, and that includes New Zealand.Sorry Kiwis but it’s true.
We rode Shipka Pass which is a scenic mountain pass through the Balkan Mountains and is famous for the Battle Of Shipka Pass that took place in the late 1800’s between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. We stopped halfway up for a coffee brew and enjoyed the scenery.
Before continuing on to the top of the Pass where we visited Shipka Monument that commemorates those who fought and died in the above mentioned battles.
Then on to MotoCamp Bulgaria.
I pulled the tank off the bike and moved the air box out of the way. Just as I thought, a leaking oil pressure sensor. It actually leaks from around the terminal shroud so I devised a fix with JB Weld on the inside and epoxy glue on the outside, then let it set hard overnight.
It had been a big day and so it was thoroughly enjoyable to bask in the quiet of this out of the way place.