Europe Bike Tour 2009
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Whether or not the little dog ever made it to wherever they were going, or ended up as roadkill on some Italian roundabout we'll never know.......We can only hope!
Strange lot these foreigners!
Day 1 - Run to Hull, 120 miles
So here we are once again - summer, or what we Brits laughingly call summer, the weather gurus were promising us "barbeque weather" .....they lied! Given the propensity for poor predictions & pissing down precipitations so far this year, we're glad to have booked some time away from it all to ride motorbikes in hopefully sunnier climes - namely Europe. Lets be honest it can't be any worse over there than it's been here so far in 2009.
So it was that we found ourselves splashing our way along the M62, mid July in torrential rain heading for Hull to catch our overnight ferry to Zeebrugge. "We" being me & Wee Jim, plus Wesley & Morticia. To be fair until we're 10 miles from the ferry port it's only normal rain, the "torrential" bit arrives as we approach Hull. Bikes for this 3 week road trip are my Honda VFR800 V.tec and Wesley's Moto Guzzi V1200. A rough idea of the route we plan to follow is illustrated below
Day 2 - Zeebrugge to Metz. 250 miles
The idea of the first few days is to get as many miles of boring northern French / Belgian roads out the way as possible. We've set a maximum limit of 250 miles per day - well, we're not getting any younger ya know!
Des and Steve are also away on a Euro bike tour, but they've put their bikes on a train and travelled with them from Holland down to Bologna - lightweights! As we're halfway around the manic Brussels ring road though, it occurs to me that they may have had the best idea! We'll be meeting up with them later on in Andermatt, Switzerland - the only place on both our tours that our routes cross!
The 250 mile run down to Metz is done on the autoroutes to get us around Brussels and Luxembourg. Not very inspiring, but it gets us to where we're going by mid afternoon, namely the Ibis Metz Cathedralle Hotel where we're soon booked in and ready to set off to explore the city. Just what we were expecting Metz to be I'm not sure, but it's not what we get. It's a truly remarkable little town, steeped in medieval history with some fine old buildings dating back a few centuries. The beer's not too bad either!
Day 3 - Metz to Waldshut 203 miles
Nice little town Waldshut. Small but perfectly formed, and very twee - aimed squarely at the tourist market. The main street here is all pedestrianised - and guess where our hotel is?.... Correct! Smack bang in the middle of it! Mercifully there's an arched passageway leading through from the road at the back which saves us a long trek with the panniers and top boxes. It's a good place to spend a night, with many little bars and a few half decent restaurants, the hotel is ok too.
Walking down to the Rhine
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Riding down to Waldshut
(complete with dead fly on lens!)
Day 4 - Waldshut to Bergamo via Andermatt 240 miles
If you ride south through the Black Forest past Schluchsee, Waldshut is the last town you'll pass through before crossing the border into Switzerland. In fact the border is on the road bridge that crosses the Rhine about 1 mile out of town. Crossing the bridge will see you in Koblenz, on the road south for Lucerne - and from here 80 miles riding will bring you to some the most spectacular mountain passes the Swiss Alps has to offer. Unfortunately, the weather's started turn a bit murky as we're about to leave, which doesn't bode well for crossing the Gothard pass - something we'll have to do later today.
Start of the Gothard Pass on the way to Andermatt and it's just starting to rain.
Today we'll be meeting up with Des and Steve at Andermatt, the 100 mile run down is interspersed with showers but nothing too heavy - yet! At the other side of Altdorf we pull in for coffee and cake (something we do a lot when Wesley is with us - he loves a nice cake). As we make ready to leave, there's a guy parked next to us on a big muddy Beemer GS with a German plate, it's loaded down to the gunnels with kit. We get chatting and he asks where we're headed, so he gets the whole 9 yards - our plans for the next few weeks and the mega amount of miles we'll be doing, the rescuing of damsels in distress on the Spanish main and the killing of dragons in deep dark forests!! I ask him where he's headed and he tells us, "I've juzt spent zree monthz riding down in Kasakhstan and Uzbekistan, 'tiz gutte yah?".......We slink back to our toy bikes and ride away - quietly!!
We eventually reach Andermatt and unsurprisingly find Des and Steve loitering around a bar just on the ourskirts of town We don't hang around for too long because we've still got a fair way to go to Bergamo, the the weather is closing in and we still have to cross the Gothard Pass. So, we say our goodbyes after a quick coffee and head off. As we climb the pass the rain gets heavier until it becomes a torrential downpour. It's a real disappointment because I had earmarked this run to shoot some vids from the bike, the Gothard is spectacular in decent weather. Near the summit of the pass we come across a diversion, we're being sent off the main pass and down the old original cobble stoned road. I know this one well and on a bike it can be tricky in the dry - but in this weather ......!! We have no choice but to go down it, mercifully they've now put tarmac on the many hairpin bends for which I am eternally grateful. Doesn't stop my arse cheeks clenching all the way down though. A fully loaded viffer on wet cobbles in the pouring rain with a steamed up visor and a pillion isn't the best way to see this one! Doesn't seem to bother Wesley though - but he's mad and Guzzi's are quite agricultural, peasants use use them for ploughing fields you know?.
Unfortunately, not many photos of Andermatt and the Gothard due the the horrible weather, but it does clear up for us by the time we reach Bergamo and we soon start snapping once more.
Arriving at the "Residenza il Fiore" a superb little self catering hostel in Bergamo. It's now not only
stopped raining but it's getting pretty damned hot too!
By the time we arrive at Bergamo, get showered, dressed and accept an invite to the hostel owner's nearby bar for free drinks it's getting a bit late in the day, so we have to take some shots here in the dark. Bergamo is quite an industrial city, our only other dealings with it was when we did the Milan bike show in 2008, we landed at the airport here which is a "satellite" for Milan airport where all the cheap flights land. It's truly is a shit'ole of the first order, not a place you want to sit around waiting for delayed flights that's for sure! The main town of Bergamo is nothing special but a short ride into the old "Citte Alta" is well worth the taxi fare. Lots of good places to eat and drink up here. Bit of a bugger trying to get a taxi to take you back though!
The Cittte Alta is a lovely, peaceful old place to wander round after dark
Day 5 - Bergamo to Chioggia 147 miles
Coffee and cake stop near Sirmione on the way to Chioggia
It's getting warm now as we ride further south. Chioggia lies at the southern tip of the Venician lagoon, it looks a bit like Venice but is a little quieter! The perfect place to stay for a visit to Venice, the hotels are cheaper and the run up the lagoon by boat and bus is quite a pleasant way to spend an hour or two and approaching the big place from the water is without doubt the best way to see it. We have two nights stay here which gives us a day to make the trip to Venice
A favourite pastime here in Chioggia
sitting with a beer & watching the manic bikers and scoot riders on the main
drag - mostly cobbled - in the old part of town. Why nobody gets killed or
seriously injured here on a daily basis will remain one of life's little
mysteries, they're totally nuts!
Lots of this goes on around here - although why they don't just buy a Pentax is beyond me - it's a lot quicker!
The view from the front of our hotel looks very nice, but just to the left of this shot there's a lot of building
work going on as the canal is being extended - all bit yukky really! Be nice when it's finished though.
Day 6 - Venice / Chioggia
A day off the bikes today, they're all tucked up and safe in the Hotel garage. Around mid-morning we catch the little ferry which will take us on the first leg of our trip up the lagoon to Venice, the journey involves a couple of boats and a bus ride that will take us up the island of Lido. On the north end of Lido we pick up our final boat which will take us to St Marks Square in Venice itself. This is a great way to approach Venice, it makes a very picturesque sight across the water - far nicer than the bus ride from Mestre.
I'm not a big lover of Venice but the back waters are far nicer to stroll around than the main tourist areas
Short video of Venice
Packing up to leave Chioggia and head north for Lake Como.
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