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France – Alps by Motorbike


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In the summer of 1995 we made an epic 2000 mile journey to the Alps and back, keeping to the high passes that border Italy and Switzerland.  It was soon after I’d passed my test and bought a motor bike, a 1000cc BMW police bike. We travelled through Burgundy on minor roads down the Yonne Valley from Auxerre to Nolay, where we stayed in a friend’s house both on the journey out and back.

From Besançon we rode through Switzerland over the Forclaz Pass in pouring rain to beautiful sunshine in Chamonix.  We skirted the Vanoise National Park, where we’d been the summer before and Mont Cenis where we’d skied the previous winter. Our goal was further south where we planned to walk in the Queyras. But to get there we had to cross the Petit Saint Bernard, walled in by 3 metre snow drifts, the Col de l’Iseran, Mont Cenis  and the Col d’Izoard.

On reaching the Queyras we met a young man called Michel who invited us to stay at his family home in L’Eychaillon, What we didn’t realise, when we agreed to follow him on his motorbike, was that his home was high up above the valley and the only way there was up a switch back dirt road. We left the bike there and went off walking on a mini tour of the Queyras, staying in delightful mountain refuges and dining properly in the French way.

We had to race back for a friend’s wedding covering 550 miles on the last day, but nevertheless found time to sample the Ecrins national Park and go white water rafting near Briançon.  It was a great adventure.


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