Tuesday, December 20, 2011

HB and Mike do France Part 3

Following on from Part 2.

We had been swithering whether or not to spend two nights at Val d'Isere. There was bad weather on its way, before we had went to bed the night before we could see lightning flashing in the next valley. I asked a few of the other bikers in the campsite what they were doing and the majority were going to head south and outrun the bad weather. We decided that was the best option and packed up our tent, our destination was Barcelonnette. To get there we would be going over some famous roads and, in my opinion, the best in the Alps. First up is the Col de l'Iseran. This pass is the highest paved road in Europe at 2770 metres (there are higher bits or tarmac but we'll cover those later). If you are in Val d'Isere and head south this is the road you take. Not long after we left Val d'Isere we were snaking higher and higher up into the permafrost. The views are stunning, we stopped a few times for photographs but a camera just cannot capture what your eyes are taking in.
col de l'iseran pano
HB and the GS at the top of Col de l'Iseran

Can you see the Winton Massif sticker?

Decorating the permafrost.

HB on Col de l'Iseran

We visited this fort on the way down the other side.

The weather was nice and warm for us. We stopped in a wee town called Valoire for lunch and a wee look around the market, then we headed up the next pass, the Col du Galibier, another biggie at 2677m. This is famous road from the Tour d'France and there's loads of writing and graffiti all over the road. While stopped for photos at the top we got speaking to another Scottish couple who were touring on their FJR, the first Scots we'd seen since Hammy and Claire left. The next pass was the Col d'Lzoard, like the Galibier it's quite contrasting scenery. You go up through some alpine meadows and a forest, with more amazing alpine smells and gophers running about the place, then at the top it becomes almost moon like, all rocks and dust. These passes are some of the most fun roads to ride on a bike, I had to calm my "spirited" riding as we started to scrap bits of the bike on the road. The pannier touched down on one bend! We stopped at the top for the photos and to buy a sticker and this big German guy came up to me and started talking away in German, all the slagging I get about looking like a German on holiday must be true. He seemed quite impressed that we'd came from Scotland and asked about our trip in fluent English. Its times like this that I wish I could speak another language fluently.

HB in Valoire. That's Hunter Thompson in the background. (its not really)

col du galibier
Going up Col du Galibier

galibier pano2
galibier pano3
At the top of Col du Galibier.


At the top of Col d'Lzoard. Germans in the background.

Ye need to get stickers!

Going down Col d'Lzoard

The next part of the road is in a gorge. Some of the gorge roads can be just as impressive and as fun as the mountain passes. HB kept her camera out to get some photos as we rode along the gorge before heading up 2111 metre Col de Vars. This was our last pass before we reached Barelonnette. 


We rode past this guy walking his donkey and playing his accordion. He looks well happy.

Col de Vars
I'd stayed at Barcelonnette before. Now, I don't know if I had been looking back through rose tinted glasses but I'd remembered Barcelonnette to be a really nice town. Now we were here it looked a bit of a dump. There was a fair bit of graffiti over all the old buildings and the place just had a run down feel about it. Maybe this was the reason we don't have any photos from our time there. We stayed in the campsite, which was pleasant enough and had a nice meal there but I was a wee bit disappointed that the place was how it was. We had talked about spending a couple of night there but decided to push on the next day.
You'll need to wait for Part 4 to find out where we ended up.
More drama to come.

Here's Part 4.


  1. What a great trip mate, I love reading about thses kind of trips, it motivates me for future dreaming! You guys are lucky that you can just hop on a ferry and bang you have all thses great roads, and different culture.

  2. Sounds like an awesome trip. You are making my bucket list longer, but I appreciate being able to see so much through the blogs of others.