Friday, 5 February 2016


“It started as a bit of a passing comment during a ride round the sights of Donegal, ‘wouldn’t it be great to take the bike to the Alps and back’, not a wise statement to make to someone who’s only had a licence less than a year. Back home the more I thought about the notionthe more it was being planned.What route? What countries? How long? Tunnel or ferry? Where to stay? Where do I start planning a trip like this?Myself and a mate had made our minds up, Europe here we come.
 Being from County Tyrone it takes a bit more of an effort to get to the continent, well, England is another whole country to cross.I’d passed my test just over a year before and this was the next challenge, I’d planned it in my head, so on the 4th June 2015 myself on a F 700 GS and my mate Davey on an R 1200 GS set off early from Omagh down to Dublin port over to Holyhead. A51, M6, M40, M25, M20 Folkestone, what a day filtering with Panniers, definitely a baptism of fire.Boarding the train at Folkestone, I thought they wanted me to drive to France. We headed for Haguenau where the temp hit 34 degrees at 7 o’clock at night.
After a great nights rest we headed on down the B500, a road definitely worth a visit, to Oetzin Austria to our B&B, avoiding motorways the scenery was breathtaking.Fresh from a greats night sleep and a generous breakfast off we set for the fabled Grossglockner via Innsbruck again staying off the main roads, view after view after view, everywhere you looked camera opportunities.The Grossglockner did not disappoint well worth the toll, the road is fantastic, definitely a bucket list road with ample vistas& obligatory coffee and buns at the top, we took a small back road (L13 & L237) back to Oetzwhich turned out to be an unplanned pleasure, nice twisties, open roads and deserted ski towns even when we were caught in a thunderstorm the scenery didn’t disappoint. After a large dinner, a walk around Oetzto explore.
Next day we packed and headed for the other fabled pass, the Stelvio, again the back roads were a pleasure to ride on, no hurry and plenty of coffee stops. We actually ended up doing the Stelvio twice because of my satnav skills but it was worth it, at the top was the most varied selection of bikes I’d ever seen from chromed out Valkriesto battletank off-road sidecar GSs. Stelvio was great but dare I say it, too many turns.We carried on driving and ended up riding alongside Lake Como, its easy to see why films are made alongside this lake, it really is amazing as well as having some very long tunnels with enthusiastic speeds. That night we stayed in an hotel I’d booked online in Como, not realising the size of the Town what I thought would be a lakeside view turned out to be 10 mile from the lake. Turned out there was a local restaurant Il Birrificiodi Como which serves very good steaks, so it wasn’t all that bad.Next day the push for France took us through another accidental pleasure near Moncenisio, Piedmont, Col du Mont Cenis is an ancient pass littered with old forts and superb riding roads leading into Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis, France.
We stayed on back roads again and kept going until Saint-Jean-Le-Vieux where we found out all the B&B’s were full but a plump local baker helped us out by jumping on his Honda 250 to take us to his friends newly opened guest house, I’ve never seen a 250 go as fast, weaving in and out, we arrived at an old country home in Jujurieux called L’Orangerie where we met our host, an escapee from Paris, the building was an old town house she had bought a year earlier and was slowly fixing, it was like a palace and the breakfast was great.
Next day we set a target for Lion d'Angers travelling at a leisurely pace to take in the countryside, when we arrived there was one hotel, which looked as though it has seen better times but the owners welcomed us and allowed us to park the bikes in an inner courtyard, you could tell the building had history by the 19th century architecture.After another great breakfast we headed to Cherbourg for the ferry, overnighter to Rosslare where upon arriving back in Ireland I was asked for my passport for identification, 3500 miles and the only time I’d used my passport was in Rosslare, its great to see Europe so open and its even better to see it from a bike.”