Day Eight – Germany

We expected to have a disrupted nights sleep due to all of the noise and drinking going on around us, fortunately we managed to block most of it out and sleep alright. Today we’re aiming to cross the remaining 300ish miles of Germany, stopping at a couple of places along the way and finishing the day in Frankfurt.

Our first stop of the day at Dachau, wasn’t that far outside of Munich. We grabbed some breakfast from a local ALDI and then made our way over to the World War Two prisoner of war camp, getting a little lost on the way but eventually finding the entrance and car park. Once inside you soon get a sense of how terrible a place this was, each block/building was full of information, photos, recordings and relics from when it was in use. The feeling of sorrow was overwhelming, even the most emotionless of people would struggle to not shed a tear or two here, it’s well worth a visit and to pay your respects to those who lost their lives.

Dachau prisoner of war camp

Dachau prisoner of war camp

Dachau prisoner of war camp

Dachau prisoner of war camp

Dachau prisoner of war camp

We then continued our journey across Germany, our next destination was Stuttgart about 130 miles away. We grabbed some lunch here at a lovely cafe, sitting outside and soaking up the glorious sunshine.

Kevin in Stuttgart

It was nice to stretch our legs walking around the city and it’s various green spaces, not something you see very often in cities these days.







Back on the bike we completed the last leg of todays journey, stopping for the night in Frankfurt. We arrived late at the campsite and got a bit of an earful from the miserable old bugger running the camp site. Shortly after our telling off, a group of English guys arrived on a tour bus we saw back in Munich, they were making there way back to the UK. They got even more of an earful than we did, to the point where they were nearly not let in!

Tour bus in Frankfurt

We got the tent up before it was completely dark, quickly got changed and headed towards the nearest shop and eating establishments. We had kebabs for dinner, but not like you get in the UK as this was a proper sit down restaurant and not a grotty Kebab shop. These kebabs were lovely and much needed after a long day on the bike. We then headed to a little local supermarket to get some supplies for breakfast (and a much needed beer!), then back to camp site to call it a night.

Removing the rear panel

It’s been a while since I did anything substantial to the Cinquecento, mainly because life got in the way. However I have been making a concious effort to try and get things going again, having purchased a welder and all the paraphernalia to go with it I have no excuse to not crack on with it!

I felt the only way to properly repair the rust and holes in the rear of the car was to remove the rear panel, giving more access allowing for a neater job hopefully making the repairs invisible. Also at some point during this cars life it was repaired under warranty by Fiat for rust in the rear off side corner, they however didn’t do the best job so I will be sorting this out as well.

To get the back panel out you first need to locate the many spot welds holding the panel in, these mostly run around the back edge of the panel, one on either side of the boot line (which I missed…), four on both vertical edge in the boot and two on either of the “legs” connecting the panel to the boot floor. First off though you need to remove the wiring for the rear lights and the cable for the boot latch, these can all be pulled back though the inside quarter panel holes.

The best way to find the location of the spot weld is to run a bit of sand paper over the areas where you believe the welds to be, or where there is underseal around the bottom of the rear panel I used a screw driver to scrape it away leaving the tell tale dimple of a spot weld. I would recommend buying a proper spot weld removal drill bit, these help to stop you drilling through both panels making it easier to refit the panel later on.

Underseal and paint scraped off
Fiat cinquecento rear panel

Started drilling out the welds along the bottom of the rear panel
Fiat cinquecento rear panel
Fiat cinquecento rear panel

Edge of the panel
Fiat cinquecento rear panel

On the inside of the car, there are four five welds at either end of the panel. I thought there was four but when I come to remove the panel I found a fifth weld on the horizontal lip right on the edge of the boot, if you look closely you can see it in the light.
Fiat cinquecento rear panel

There are two more welds at either side of the rear panel connecting it to the boot floor, there isn’t enough access to drill these out, so a sharp chisel was used instead. This is the section with the rear panel removed.
Fiat cinquecento rear panel

If all of the welds are free the panel can be pulled out fairly easily, the flanges where we drilled out the spot welds earlier needed bending out the way slightly, but they will go back fine and the offside flange needs repairing as half has rusted away.

Fiat cinquecento rear panel

This is the worst hole in the boot, hopefully I can leave the flange in place and work back in to the wheel arch
Fiat cinquecento rear panel

This is the side which was professionally repaired by Fiat, you can see the bottom corner is completely rotton again and would end up like the other side eventually, a big chunk of the flange further down on this side is completely gone and needs replacing (can be seen in photo four above).
Fiat cinquecento rear panel

The rear panel
Fiat cinquecento rear panel
Fiat cinquecento rear panel

So I’m left with a completely backless Cinquecento, with more than enough access to fix the rusty holes in the boot and replace the damaged quarter panel section.
Fiat cinquecento rear panel

If anybody wants higher resolution versions of any of the photos featured in these posts, or would like a photo from another angle just send me a message and I will get one.

Day Seven – Austria and Germany

We didn’t sleep all that well last night due to very high winds up on the valley side, I actually got out the tent in the middle of the night to make sure the bike hadn’t been blown over it was that bad!

The mighty Triumph stood up to the alpine winds

The weather was still windy but now the rain had moved in again along with a lot of low cloud, not what you want when your about to pack away the tent and gear.

Fortunately we didn’t plan on covering too many miles today, this allowed us to have a slightly later start and relax a bit more during the morning. The camp site had really good facilities in one of the barns, you could see everything had been hand crafted out of local wood from doors down to the little door latches etc. It was nice to spend some time having a long hot shower and not have to get changed back in the cold tent, as there was nobody else around you could just get dried and dressed in the building instead.

Low clouds and showers all morning

Low clouds and showers all morning

The rain never did stop completely so we had to bite the bullet and put everything away damp, not for the first time either. We opted to not have breakfast and find somewhere to eat in Salzburg, Austria which was only an hour away.

Low clouds and showers all morning
Who said bike boots and shorts don’t go, this is one of my favourite clothing combos!

Low clouds and showers all morning

Low clouds and showers all morning

Low clouds and showers all morning

Low clouds and showers all morning

Low clouds and showers all morning

The ride to Salzburg was pleasant although rather chilly, taking in the typical Austrian winding roads through the valleys and mountains before ending up on the main road in to Salzburg. We parked up and went for a stroll about the town, which has an incredible river running straight through the middle and plenty of immaculate little streets and shops to investigate. Salzburg had a very “Alpine” feel to it, which you can see in some of the photos below. I also never took my thermal winter gloves off the whole time I was here it was that cold!

Salzburg, Austria was beautiful

Salzburg, Austria was beautiful

Salzburg, Austria was beautiful

Salzburg, Austria was beautiful

Salzburg, Austria was beautiful

We stopped in a cafe for some breakfast, which consisted of some form of bread roll with marmalade and I had a huge cup of some strange tea, to this day I’m still not really sure what it was haha.

Salzburg, Austria was beautiful

Salzburg, Austria was beautiful

Part of this trip included trying the local food where possible, it would be rude to come to Austria and not eat proper Austrian apple strudel! Which turned out to be harder than one might expect, we did however find a really nice local bakery selling freshly baked apple strudel, much to Kelly’s delight.

proper Austrian apple strudel

After finishing the strudel we made our way back to the bike for our next journey, we were now leaving Austria and making our way to Munich, Germany.

This ride took us about two hours, mostly on motorways (as you would expect in Germany) which are not very exciting but serve a purpose. As we neared Munich we came to some services, needing some fuel for the bike and a snack for ourself we opted to pull in and have a break.

German McDonalds

German McDonalds

German McDonalds

We both had Happy Meals and ended up with two children’s books in German, both of which I think made it all the way back to the UK unharmed!

Back on the road again and heading for our Munich camp site, whilst planning the trip it wasn’t until we started looking for a camp site in Munich that we found out Oktoberfest was on whilst we were here, so as you can imagine everywhere was fully booked and the whole process was rather chaotic!

Once we got to the camp site we were greeted with a sea of tents as far as the eye could see and more Australians than you might find in Australia! I can tell you now they certainly know how to drink!

sea of tents as far as the eye could see

sea of tents as far as the eye could see

sea of tents as far as the eye could see

Signed in to the camp site we headed in to the sea of tents to find a pitch, and not before we were moved on by a member of security on a scooter who took us to a couple of free pitches, they seemed “quiet” enough so we pitched up the tent.

Our Triumph parked on sea of tents as far as the eye could see

Not before long an English chap on a Suzuki V-Strom arrived, he pitched up next to us and was telling us a few stories. He wasn’t here for the drinking but to visit the grave of a deceased friend.

English chap on a Suzuki V-Strom

We were planning on getting the bus to the nearest train station, then a train in to the city center. This proved easy as you just had to follow the loud drunk Australians who were all heading there as well. Once at the train station we had a bit of a game trying to buy tickets, as you would expect all the machines were in German and there was no ticket office as such. Kelly got what she though to be the correct ticket, I said bollocks to it and didn’t bother getting a ticket, I doubt the sea of pissed Australians had tickets either!

After making it to the city center and getting off at the right station, we just followed the sea of drunk people who all seemed to know where the beer tents were.
I say tents, they were bigger than most of the pubs in England and looked like proper buildings! Oh and of course it was raining again.

countless amount of beer tents and hundreds of fair ground rides

countless amount of beer tents and hundreds of fair ground rides

countless amount of beer tents and hundreds of fair ground rides

countless amount of beer tents and hundreds of fair ground rides

countless amount of beer tents and hundreds of fair ground rides

It wasn’t how I expected it to be, there were countless beer tents and hundreds of fair ground rides and stalls.

By now we were both wet and hungry so we grabbed some food, this being Germany we both opted for curry wurst which was surprisingly nice. We then tried to get in one of the beer tents, which is actually stupidly difficult unless you were German or a lairy hammered Australian dressed in lederhosen. We did however eventually manage to get it, I would say the Germans were the most unfriendly people we met on the whole trip and to be honest we were not really surprised by it. The tents were really impressive inside, although not being German it was impossible to get a drink so we promptly left!

Inside one of the huge beer tents

We thought it may be easier to get a beer in one of the regular pubs in town, but still got turned away at the door as it appeared all the Germans book the tables in advanced, I would compare it to wandering in to a British pub on Christmas day! We did however manage to sneak in the back entrance, which was not as well guarded as the front. A quick trip to the loo and we both headed for a bar towards the back of the pub, we both felt like we shouldn’t have been in there as it had a “members only” feel about it, still we both managed to have a beer and grab seat!

Inside one of the huge beer tents

The place soon started to fill up so we left and headed back in to the main center where all the tents were, Kelly really wanted a Nutella crepe and made it our mission to find a stall selling them, which again proved difficult and took a hell of a lot of walking before getting one, which wasn’t much fun in my soggy cheapy Primark shoes.

With the time now getting on we followed the drunk crowd back to the train station, not before grabbing a coke from a little shop situated inside a deserted shopping center. After the short journey on the train we found ourselves with a different bunch of drunk Australians, who we got the bus back to the camp site with.
Back at the camp site we had a few beers accompanied with some nuts in the bar which oddly enough was the most sane place at the camp site!
With it now getting late we headed back to the tent for some sleep, although this camp site was far from a place where you could get a decent nights sleep, loud thumping music coming from the different party tents around the site went on for most of the night, fortunately those couple of beers helped put me to sleep without too much of an issue.

Day Six – Italy and Austria

We woke to a beautiful sunny morning in Venice, Italy. It was already nice and warm even at 08:00 in the morning, this made a pleasant change when compared with the weather we had over the previous few days. Whilst cooking up a bit of breakfast I thought I would make the most of it and have a little bask in the sun.

Kevin basking in the sun

I was nicknamed “The tent goblin” by Kelly, this position was one that I found myself in on several occasions throughout the trip, who doesn’t like a bit of early morning sun!

The Triumph in the sun with the clothes drying

We were soon showered and then started to pack the gear away again, fortunately the sun dried most of our damp clothes, by this time though all of the clean clothes were in one pannier, the rest were in other which was then named “The Stinky Pannier” and for damn good reason!

Back on the road we were now heading to our last destination in Italy, this being Udine. Fortunately this first journey of the day wasn’t too long, taking about one and half hours. After arriving in Udine, Italy We eventually found somewhere to park the bike, then headed off for a wander to find some lunch which would prove slightly tricky…

As you can see the bike was slowly acquiring more and more gear stuffed under the cargo net strapped on to the top box.

Lots of stuff finding it's way under the cargo net

After a bit of a walk around the town and giving our legs a stretch we set off to find some lunch. We visited the usual supermarkets but nothing really took our fancy, most of the food wasn’t really food to eat on the go and was mostly proper dinner meals. We eventually found a lovely little family run bakery, but of course this not being a touristy part of Italy nobody spoke a word of English! Kelly managed to order us some lunch (her Italian was better than mine) although I wasn’t sure if I got what I ordered, as I asked for a Frankfurer Roll which was on the menu and got this.

All is not what it seems

What appeared to be a fairly normal roll, actually did turn out to contain the frankfurters Kelly ordered! I can honestly say I was surprised when I took my first bite and found this!

All is not what it seems

They bake the sausages in the roll, how very clever! Never seen anything like it before, was certainly very tasty.

We sat and ate our lunch in lovely floral gardens, with a very peaceful river flowing quietly in the background.

Really nice and relaxing

Really nice and relaxing

Really nice and relaxing

Really nice and relaxing river

Really nice and relaxing

Shortly after finishing lunch it started to rain, we made a quick dash back to the bike seeking shelter under the trees along the way. Fortunately the rain quickly past, allowing us to set of in the dry. We were now leaving Italy and finally heading to Autria, or more precisely our camp-site in Taxenbach, Austria. This leg of the journey was going to take at least three hours and would involve crossing one of the highest peaks in the Alps (which at the time of planning the trip I failed to notice).

After about an hour on the bike and just before making our assent in to the Alps we stopped for a quick toilet break at a rather deserted shopping centre.

Quick toilet stop

At this point the dark clouds really started to close in and not before long the heavens opened!

Dark clouds really started to close in

Dark clouds really started to close in

The ride up through the base of the Alps was fantastic, the roads were switchback hairpin after hairpin clinging on to the side of the mountain. Unfortunately it rained hard and constantly, giving us a good drenching. When the rain eventually stopped I pulled in, cleaned my visor and took a few photos.

Base of the Alps

Base of the Alps

Base of the Alps

Base of the Alps

Base of the Alps

Base of the Alps

Base of the Alps

Base of the Alps

Shortly after the above photos we left Italy and entered Austria. The scenery opened up and the road snacked across a nice flat plane, which gave us a nice opportunity for a few more photos.

Alps, Austria

Alps, Austria

Alps, Austria

Having spent a few hours in the saddle without any lunch We stopped in a small town for coffee and cake, this being the first time we had to communicate with anybody neither of us was sure on the language, I think we agreed to speak in German in the end which they understood so I assume this was correct.

Back on the bike and the flowing roads continues for mile after mile, going past endless biker cafes and B&B. After a short assent we came across a little town where we stopped for a quick toilet break and I bumped in to an America guy who started chatting about what we were doing and about my Triumph (it appears Americans really like Triumphs). Back on the road again and not before long we came to a toll section, it turned out that the route we had planned took us through a huge national park high up in the Alps crossing one of the highest peaks! After stumping up about 22 Euros to get through the tolls and being warned several times to ride really slowly through the park as they were suffering with some heavy winds on the peaks, we were back on our way.

It’s safe to say the lady in the toll kiosk wasn’t exaggerating, it was seriously windy which isn’t what you want on a fully loaded tourer riding hairpin roads clinging on to the edge of a mountain with no real safety barriers! After a while we had to stop as it was so cold I could no longer feel my hands and opted to put my winter gloves on. We managed to grab a couple of photos before slowly riding back off round the mountain.

Seriously cold up on the mountain top

Seriously cold up on the mountain top

Seriously cold up on the mountain top

There was a lot of snow about up on the peaks but with the heavy wind I decided not to stop until we were off the mountain, which felt like it took an eternity! If the weather was dry and sunny it would be a great place to really let your hair down and find the bikes limits. I found this video of somebody else taking near enough the same route we took.

GrossGlockner Hochalpenstrasse

After making it safely to the bottom and discovering that burning brake pads smell the same as a burning clutch. By now we were both cold tired and very hungry oh and to top it all off the sun decided to come out, better late than never I guess! Our next challenge was to find the camp site, a quick stop to get fuel we were nearing our destination, on the way we stopped at a supermarket to get some food for dinner and breakfast. Following the GPS we found ourselves going along a very steep road up the side of the valley, which not before long turned in to a dirt road. I was convinced that we were going somewhere completely random and that the camp site wouldn’t be clung to the valley side, but lo and behold it was.

This was a slightly odd camp site as there was nobody around and it appeared to be in the grounds of two huge Austria houses. We set up camp as it was now starting to get a little dark. The views up here were amazing and it was so peaceful and quiet, a beautiful place to call home.

Setting up camp

Setting up camp

Setting up camp

Setting up camp

Setting up camp

After a while a German chap arrive in a converted van/camper, after having a chat with him it turned out he had driven from Munich to get away from the madness that is Oktoberfest, which is where we were planning to head next. He was telling us about a trip he took over to the UK in the 1970’s and how he had visited all of the main towns and cities, turned out this German chap had seen a lot more of the UK that we have haha, he was also a little confused as to who was in charge of the camp site and where he could pay for his pitch.

Nobody else did appear that evening, we managed to find the camping shower/toilet facilities in a big converted barn next to the houses, oddly the garage doors and main door to the house were all open but nobody was home. I can only assume they don’t have a problem with crime like we do here in the UK.

After a tiring day on the road it was nice to have a hot dinner, we opted to have our emergency camping food with some sausages we bought in the super market earlier and of course a nice can of lager or two.

Day Five – Italy

Today started well, the sky was blue with hardly a cloud in sight and the early morning mist rising in the distance. From our camp we had a stunning view over Verona, Italy with the immediate area being populated with many large trees.

Morning at our camp site in Verona, Italy

View over Verona, Italy

The view of Verona, Italy

Although the only draw back of the clear morning sky was the fact there was a chill in the air, this didn’t help our mass of soggy clothing which we was desperately trying to dry out before being packed away for the day.

The clothes were still a little soggy

Showers were had, although I might add the facilities here were a bit naff and I struggled with a cold/tepid drip which I wouldn’t class as a shower. The whole site was a bit hippy dippy and probably more suited to a travelling student back packer, although I’m only 24 year old, I have the mental age of about 60 ! Whilst trying to dry from my shower [sic] I struck up a brew, everybody loves a hot cup of tea first thing in the morning !

Tea is served

Kelly then returned from having a shower and doing a bit of washing up, back in her PJ’s with coat and towel…

Kelly returns

Warmed up and wanting to crack on, we started loading the bike and packing away the tent. We have a lot of miles to cover today so wanted to get going as early as possible.

Loading the bike

Loading up the bike

As you can see in the photo above, I was trying to dry out my leathers and boots on the bench outside the tent, it’s not a nice feeling sliding in to a set of wet cold leathers.

All packed up and ready to go, heading for our next destination which is Bologna, Italy, the home of bolognese sauce. Kelly’s one requirement whilst in Bologna, Italy was to eat a genuine Italian Spaghetti Bolognese.

We rode a fair amount of Autostrade to get to Bologna, Italy as we had quite a strict schedule and wanted to finish the day in Venice, Italy before dark. By late morning the sun was shining and the temperatures soon warmed up, once off the the Autostrade and on to the smaller busy town roads I was getting a bit hot. As you can guess the roads around any large town in Italy get quite congested, which isn’t much fun when your sat on top of a +100c motorcycle engine with the hot sun beating down on your black leathers. It’s safe to say the rain water soon evaporated from my gear, only to be replaced by my hot sweat, yummy !

After finding somewhere to park the bike, which is harder than it sounds because every little gap left anywhere was occupied by a small Italian scooter and my Triumph is certainly not small or easy to park with all it’s luggage. We wandered off for a little walk around the town, whilst keeping an eye out for somewhere to have some Spaghetti Bolognese for lunch. Although I now look back and laugh, I wasn’t having the most fun in the world due to the heat. This photo says it all…

It's a bit too warm

After having a drink I was feeling perkier and the walk around Bologna, Italy continued.

Looking at the buildings

More buildings

Bologna, Italy

We found a nice little cafe to stop for lunch in, Kelly got her Spaghetti Bolognese and I opted for a nice traditional Lasagne, all washed down with a much needed ice cold Coke. Feeling much better !

Kelly was also a little warm

Feeling refreshed

Now recharged and feeling better we had another wander around the town, taking in the main square on route.

The main fountain

Main square

This large building which I’m not 100% sure is, was being renovated. I liked the way they printed the front of the building on to the plastic sheet, so that it didn’t destroy the view too much.

Very clever

Bologna, Italy

Kelly some how managed to capture a photo of a large bird of prey in flight, completely by accident !

Bird in flight


Looks like a nice place to eat

Typical Italian street

Of course you can’t come to Italy and not go for a gelato, so that is exactly what we did next, stopping in a busy little gelateria and deciding from the huge selection of ice creams and sorbets on a nice refreshing lemon sorbet, simple but ever so tasty.

We headed back to the bike feeling refreshed and ready for a ride cross country to Modena, Italy, the home of the one and only Ducati Factory ! One thing I will mention which was a bit of a shock to me, was that shorty after escaping the busy town of Bologna and making it on to the Superstrada, lining the road was a few prostitutes ! You hear about them but it’s a shock actually witnessing them on the side of the road touting for business, not a pretty sight at all.

The sun still shining brightly and the not too busy roads made for a nice uneventful ride, taking in the Italy countryside whilst hurtling cross-country with a degree of haste, only we didn’t want to be late to the Ducati Factory, as you have to pre book the factory and museum tour weeks in advance, it would be a nightmare to come all this way and be late missing the tour!

The roads were a bit busier as we passed through Modena, Italy but thankfully we arrived at the Ducati factory with a little time to spare. I had read on-line before leaving that you are only allowed to park in the Ducati factory car park, if you are riding a Ducati and this even applies to the staff who work in the factory. Anyway I tried to enter the factory car park but they wouldn’t let me through the gate, confirming what I had previously read on-line. We parked up on the road side just out front, along with many other bikes who belonged to members of staff. Time for a quick photo…

Parked out front the Ducati factory

We waited at the entrance whilst other people booked on the tour arrived, an English couple on holiday in Italy were also booked on the tour, we got talking and they couldn’t believe we had ridden all the way from Buckinghamshire, England to Italy, I think the guy was a little jealous hehe.

We were greeted by our tour guides and taken in to the factory, as you would expect nobody is allowed to take any photos inside the factory. We were walked through a few production lines, and shown how they assemble the engines and to my surprise each engine is built from scratch by a single person, rather than many people assembling just a small part of the engine. Once complete the worker takes his engine to a test rig, where it is then plugged in to an ecu, exhaust system and fuel lines and started for the first time. Providing all is OK the engine is put in a box and stored until it is needed, if it isn’t OK the worker has to disassemble it and fix the problem.

We was then taken through to the assembly areas, where they have stacks of frames for all the different model bikes, racks and racks of suspension forks and rear shocks, the same for Brembo brake calipers ect ect, it was incredible. The next area is where the bikes are assembled, on your typical conveyor belt assembly line that most assembly plants use. It was amazing to think that every Ducati on the road today had come out of this one building.

We were then shown the locked door for Ducati Corse section, inside was where the future Moto GP and other race bikes are developed. All you could see through the window in the door was a couple of engines in display cabinets, everything else behind closed doors.

Now we were out of the factory and heading around to the Museum, which inside contains a whole host of historic Ducatis, along with a host of legendary world super bikes and on top of that every Moto GP world championship winning bike, excited was an understatement !

The tour started with a bit of history, telling us how Ducati started off producing radios pre WW2,

Ducati radio

They then expanded and began producing camera equipment,

Ducati camera

Then on to electric shavers and other radio equipment,

Ducati shaver

During WW2 the Ducati factory was bombed and everything was lost, people didn’t have money to spend on radios or other electrical luxuries, so Ducati had to change and in doing so came up with a solution to the current transport problem. In 1946 they created a system which converted a standard bicycle in to a motorcycle, at the time everybody had a bicycle and the idea took off.

Ducati engine

The product fitted to a bicycle,

Motor bicycle

It was now that Ducati was making money and could grow, their engines were used in racing and before you know it they were producing motorcycles for racing. I don’t remember everything which was said about each bike so I will show the photos I took and comment on any I know about.

Classic Ducati Motorcycles

Ducati motorcycle

This bike above was used for road racing, but in those days it wasn’t a closed well planned out course, instead you was given destinations and had to navigate there yourself using a map ! You can see the little loops on the top of the tank where the maps would have been tied to, I have much respect for the guys that competed in these races as it couldn’t have been easy playing the role of racer, navigator and mechanic for when the bike went wrong ! You can see them again on the following bike,

Ducati road racer

In 1957 Ducati were also involved in setting world speed records in this beast below,

World speed record


Ducati racing

On the bike above, situated on the fairing  you can make out a prancing horse, which many of you will associate with Ferrari who are based just down the road from here, this is a big part of Ducati’s history and can be seen on many of the bike from this era. I have pinched this snipped from the Ducati web site as the details escape me..

“For a short time, our racing motorcycles and a 98cc road version (called “Cavallino” in Europe and “Bronco” in the U.S.) sported on their side panels a horse identical to that of the Ferrari emblem. For those fond of old stories about Ducati, the symbol helped identify our motorcycles as “Ferraris on two wheels.”

Around 1956, Fabio Taglioni, Ducati’s head engineer, asked for and received approval to paint the noted horse on our motorcycles. The first bike donning this symbol was the 125 Triple Camshaft Desmo of 1956, which debuted and won the Sweden GP of that year. Later, other motorcycles such as the Marianna, several versions of the 175 F3, and the famous 250 Twin-cylinder of Mike HailwoodTM flashed the recognizable horse.

The reason why Taglioni chose the prancing horse is actually very simple: Fabio Taglioni was born in Lugo di Romagna, a town 35 km from Bologna. This same town was the birthplace of the most famous Italian personage of the First World War, Major Francesco Baracca, the Italian “ace” fighter pilot, who claimed 34 victories in air battles on the Italian front and then was killed on June 19, 1918 on Mount Montello.

Francesco Baracca was an official of the cavalry. In 1915, upon the outbreak of war against Austria-Hungary, he took his pilot’s license. When Baracca reached his squadron, he decided to personalize his airplane by painting the fuselage with a black horse on a white cloud. Many historians of World War I maintain that Baracca painted the horse not so much as a reminder of his past as a cavalry officer, but to pay tribute to the cavalry corps to which he belonged, the Second Piedmont Cavalry. Indeed, this unit’s emblem depicted a silver prancing horse against a red background.

In 1923, five years after the death of Francesco Baracca, his mother, Countess Paolina Biancoli, donated the symbol of her son to Enzo Ferrari as a “good luck piece”. That year, Ferrari ran the Lugo Grand Prix with his stable, then equipped with Alfa Romeo racecars. Ferrari had no symbol for his team at the time, so he used the black horse against a yellow shield and placed a tricolor band across the top. The yellow represents Modena, Ferrari’s birthplace.

An interesting fact is that both horses used by Ferrari and Ducati have their tails turned up, whereas Baracca’s original had its tail pointed down.

The decision by the Ducati management of the era to fold the official racing team owing to the high costs, as well as a lack of respect for the history of the symbol, resulted in the disappearance of the horse from the side panels of our motorcycles.

Thus an incidental link exists between the “rosse” on two and four wheels, consolidated by the history of two legendary personalities. “

You can see it again below on this race bike belonging to the racing legend Mike Hailwood,

Mike Hailwood race bike

Racing legend

They also had another of his later bikes in the museum,

Mike Hailwood race bike

Mike Hailwood racing Ducati

Racing leathers and helmets were a bit different back then as well,

Classic racing leathers

Ducati Motorcycle

I don’t remember the details about this bike/engine, apart from the fact it was a huge V4.

Huge Ducati engine

Nice twin shock Ducati,

Twin shock Ducati

Classic Ducati

Ducati museum tour


You may have noticed that Ducatis used to be mostly painted silver, it was in the 80’s that they were painted in the rosso that we know them to be today.


Duacti Rosso

Below the WSB championship winning race bike of Raymond Roche,

Ducato 851 desmo world super bike

Below the WSB championship winning race bike of Doug Polen,

Doug Polen race bike

Ducati was in a bit of a financial pickle, being funded by the Italian government who had now decided that they didn’t want to fund the company any more.  It looked like the end for Ducati, fortunately in 1985 they were saved by a lesser known Italian motorcycle company named Cagiva. They had a Dakar winning Cagiva here in the museum.

Cagiva dakar bike

Ducati changed hands a few times over the years before returning to Italian ownership in 2005. Earlier this year the company was bought by German owned Lamborghini S.p.A as a bit of a Trophy purchase.

It was in the 1990’s that Ducati built what to this day I feel is the best looking bike ever made, even as I type this is 2012 I have to say it still looks modern and sharp. The legendary Ducati 916, ridden by the also legendary Carl Fogarty.

Ducati 916


Ducati 916

All of Carl Fogarty’s WSB winning race bikes live here in the Ducati museum.

World super bikes - Ducati

WSB Ducati

Ducati even competed state side in the supermono single cylinder race series.

Supermono Ducati

We were then led around to a section where all of the Moto GP championship winning bikes live, riders including Loris Capirossi, Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden. The bikes in this room were those people only normally see on TV or from the stands at a race. Here I was inches from them able to look at every fine detail and poke at the odd component, it was better than all my birthdays and Christmases rolled together!

The Ducati Moto GP Room

The legends room

Motorcycle history - Moto GP

Huge exhausts

Ducati Moto GP

Ducati Moto GP

The carbon fibre frame from Nicky Hayden’s bike,

Nicky Hayden - Ducati Moto GP

The cock pit from Nicky Hayden’s bike.

Nicky Hayden - Ducati Moto GP

Even the trophy cabinet was huge,

Trophy Ducati

By now we had seen everything in the museum and decided to leave, our next destination being Venice, Italy which was at least a two hour ride away.

The ride to Venice, Italy was again rather straight forward and with the sun now slowly lowering in the sky as evening set in, it wasn’t as hot as earlier in the day which was a relief. The roads were mostly Superstrada and must more pleasantly to ride when compared with the large boring Autostrada.

We found the campsite without any issues, quickly signed in and setup the tent. The first thing I noticed was the abundance of mosquitoes flying about and already trying to eat me for tea, it’s a good job we came prepared with mosquitoe repellent !

Setup camp in Venice, Italy

Unpacked again

Before heading in to the centre of Venice to find some dinner we hung up some of our still damp clothing which had spent the day in a nice warm, damp pannier… I think you get the picture.

We purchased some bus tickets from the Camps reception and headed up to the main road to catch a bus. We had been on the bus for about 20 minutes before it became emptier and emptier, it then stopped in a city and the remaining passenger got off.. it appeared we had got on the correct numbered bus but heading in the wrong direction ! A quick conversation with the Italian bus driver of whom we didn’t really understand, saw us walking down the road to another bus stop, this time heading in the right direction !

Eventually a bus came, already quite crowded and even more so now the dozen people at the bus stop with us had boarded. Trying to keep to the back of the bus as we now had the wrong tickets for the journey we was making and didn’t want to get caught. Eventually the bus arrived in Venice, Italy and we set off to buy some dinner.

It was now dark which was a little frustrating as we wanted to see Venice whilst it was still light, which we would have done if we had not wasted an hour on the buses. Oh well worse things could have happened.

Unfortunately Kelly’s camera isn’t that great at taking photos in the dark , so most of the photos of Venice are a bit blurry, but you get the idea.

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

One thing we soon discovered was how expensive Venice is, all the restaurants were really overpriced and busy, I much preferred the less touristy places that we have been to so far. We bought some Pizza from a takeaway and wandered about the town taking in the sites.

Venice, Italy - Kevin having a wander

Wandering around Venice

More of Venice

A bit more of Vencie

We stopped and had an espresso each along with bit of cake, it had been a very long busy day and both of us were really feeling tired now. Now back at the bus station we jumped on the correct bus back to camp, before very quickly getting to bed and some much needed sleep.

I have to say I wasn’t impressed with Venice one bit, I know it was dark and we were both tired but it felt so touristy and spoilt, it made it hard to enjoy. Maybe one day I would come back but it certainly wouldn’t be in a hurry, unless of course people tell us different.

In the next instalment we will be crossing the Alps again and heading up to Austria.

Day Four – Italy

We were woken in Lake Como, Italy by the sound of torrential rain beating down on the tent. I had a rather poor nights sleep, Kelly decided she wanted to get up early and watch the sun rise over the lake, it sounded like a nice idea so I decided to join her. Unfortunately neither of us checked the time and it turned out to be 4am… it was raining and cold so we went back to bed.

When we woke again, still with the sound of rain on the tent, this time it was about half seven and time for breakfast. We walked down to some local shops and bought some Italian bacon, eggs and a baguette. Back at camp we knocked up some breakfast rolls, the rain still pouring if anything heavier than before. We waited to see if it would stop, it slowed a little but we was forced to pack everything awake soaking.

All packed and back in my nice cold wet leathers, we headed off to Milan, Italy. The roads were nice, hugging the edge of the lake before breaking off through the mountains, a lot of the roads were tunnels which gave shelter from the persistent  rain. This leg of the trip was set to take a good two hours and most of it turned out to be in the rain.

By the time we reached Milan, Italy the rain had finally stopped !

Parking the bike in Milan

Milan, Italy

Milan, Italy

I was actually about to start eating the left over Speck from breakfast

Kelly looking lovely as usual

Milan, Italy

We didn’t stay too long in Milan, we had a wander around some of the streets looking at all the expensive shops, before popping in to McDonald’s for a bite to lunch. Just as we left MacDonald’s the rain started again, another full on torrential down pour. We headed back to the bike and got on our way again. Riding in Milan was interesting, proper traffic light grand prix racing off the traffic lights against all the bikes and scooters. Some of the streets were cobbled which made for some interesting moments in the heavy rain, it didn’t help that my glasses had fogged up, along with my visor..

After escaping the chaos that was Milan, we were on the motorway heading towards Verona, Italy. The bad weather had slowed the motorway to a crawl and by now we had been on the bike for a couple of hours and wanted a break. We left the motorway and were greeted by some seriously flooded roads ! We took refuge in an underground car park belonging to a supermarket, the rain was coming through the ceiling and air conditioning vents. We grabbed a snack and drink from the supermarket and waited for the rain to slow, which didn’t take too long. We had to clock in at the camp site by six and the sat nav was saying we would arrive there at five fifty five !

A blast across the back roads eventually getting back on the motorway and filtering through the traffic, we made it to Verona, Italy. The roads were busy as people were leaving work for the day, it was now that I started riding like a proper Italian, dipping and diving around all the cars, grazing the odd mirror and getting beeped at, was most enjoyable !

We made it to the camp site just in time, it had even stopped raining and the sun had come out, result ! Before we knew it we had the tent back up and the bike unpacked. Using the heat from the bike to try and dry off some of our stuff.

It was nice to be in Verona, Italy

It was nice to be in Verona, Italy

It was nice to be in Verona, Italy

The Triumph was starting to look a bit dirty, but it does make a good radiator

Resting in the shade after a long day on the road

Verona, Italy

We got changed and headed down in to town, trying to make the most of the remaining sunlight.

It was nice to be in some dry clean clothes

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

This is one of my favourite photos from the trip

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

I was looking forward to having some dinner

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

I even found a little Fiat Cinquecento, which I had to take a photo of.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of a little Fiat Cinquecento

Verona, Italy

The Bell tower

Verona, Italy

The main square in Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

A fountain in the main square

The clock tower

We did the touristy thing and visited the famous balcony from Romeo and Juliet.

Juliet's House

People write little messages on the walls

People write messages on the walls

Juliet's famous balcony

Kelly was very [pleased that we found it

A statue of Juilette

Verona, Italy was beautiful, the architecture was fantastic and the general atmosphere of the place was really friendly. This is one place I would come back and visit.

Impressive ancient buildings

Impressive ancient buildings

Impressive ancient buildings

Impressive ancient buildings

A statue back in the main square

The same statue

We had some dinner, followed by a proper Italian ice cream. It was getting late so we headed back up to the camp site, hopefully the weather will stay dry and be a bit warmer. We have a busy day planned, we will be heading for Venice stopping at the Ducati bike factory along the way, so be prepared for lots of bikes in my next instalment.

Day Three – France, Switzerland and Italy

Another nice nights camping was had in Belfort, France. The weather stayed dry and was plenty warm enough the whole night, the camp site was nice and quiet being mostly camper vans this time of the year. We had a long day ahead, Belfort was quite close to the French border so it wouldn’t take long to get in to Switzerland, then over the Alps in to Italy. The facilities at this site were better than the previous, the showers were nice and hot and the whole block was heated so you wasn’t getting dressed in the cold. Showers were had followed by a quick breakfast of tea and pastries, oh and just a quick note to mention that dried milk is crap and my tea was lumpy, it takes a right knack to get it all dissolved properly. Some how we managed to get ahead of schedule, so we wandered around to a huge lake at the edge of the camp site to stretch our legs in prep for a long day in the saddle. Belfort, France

Belfort, France

Belfort, France

Belfort France. A nice place to go fishing

Even though it was still early, there was many a fisherman out on the lake. Can’t blame them really as it was a lovely morning to be outside.

Belfort, France

Kevin out by the lake

Kelly still sporting her PJ's !

We headed back to camp to get everything packed away and to put our bike gear on. Our first destination of the day being Basle, Switzerland. The weather was a little cool first thing, but at least it was dry. The roads were good following the same pattern as the day before, although the villages were more frequent. You could tell you was approaching Switzerland as the style of houses started to change, they all now had long sloped roofs which over hung the houses by a couple of meters, very traditional in style and I guess what you might call an  “Alpine house” , very pretty looking. The nice roads eventually turned in to motorway which after a fair few miles we pulled in at some services to have a stretch and get a snack in the form of a croissant along with a drink. The weather was a little foggy and damp, fortunately it wasn’t too cold.

View from the services

Cleaning my glasses at the service station in Switzerland

With the amount of miles we were covering my visor and glasses were getting coated in dead bugs, so I took a moment to have a clean and fortunately I packed a little spray bottle of visor cleaner for the trip. As the motorway entered Switzerland there was a check point were I stopped to purchase a “vignette” from a member of staff. In Switzerland you have to purchase a vignette, which is a sticker that allows you to drive on the motorways for that year, it was about forty Swiss Franks which is about twenty seven Pounds. The vehicles entering Switzerland all had to slow down to a walking pace where they were inspected to see if they had a vignette or not.

Back on the road again we arrived in Basle, Switzerland, the one thing I remember distinctly about Basle was the amount of tunnels, many of which have junctions and due to being underground the sat nav didn’t have any reception which lead to us getting a little lost. We eventually found our destination, only to discover everything is shut on a Sunday in Switzerland, even a huge shopping centre ! After having a little walk and a quick toilet break we decided not to stay here any longer and get back on the road to Lucerne, Switzerland.

Not much to report regarding the roads as we were mostly on a Swiss motorway, we came across some traffic as we entered Lucerne due to some road works, which then took us on a slight detour where we eventually dropped in to the main part of the city. There were plenty of bikes parked up out side the bus station, which is where I managed to squeeze us in between a couple of little scooters.


Lucerne is a beautiful place, I imagine it gets really busy here in the summer as even though it was cool and foggy when we visited there was still plenty of tourists about.

The view over lake lucerne

The lake

Lake Lucerne

There is a beautiful wooden bridge over the lake, decorated with a stunning array of bright flowers.

The bridge


Kevin in Lucerne

Kelly in Lucerne


Many of the buildings in and around the city were decorated with elaborate paintings and stories.

Painted building in Lucerne

Painted buildings in Lucerne

More painted buildings in Lucerne

By now it was lunch time so we went on the hunt for a cafe or cheap restaurant to grab a bite to eat, neither of which really existed here as most of the restaurants were expensive and a bit posh.

Time for some lunch

After walking about for quiet some time we found a sandwich / chocolate shop where we got a roll each, we then wandered down to the edge of the lake to eat and watch the world go by. I don’t know what I am doing in the photo…

Not sure what I am doing here

The local wildlife soon became interested in what we were eating.

This swan wanted some lunch


Once lunch was finished I had a quick trip to the loo, unfortunately there was only a men’s toilet and no sign of a public women’s toilet anywhere ! Kelly said to just stop at the next services we come across. Back on the bike we was now heading to our final destination of the day, Lake Como, Italy. This journey involved crossing the alps, something I was a little nervous about as I wasn’t sure to expect.

After riding for a while and passing through a few tunnels we reached a stunning flat area with the high mountains towering above, there were plenty of houses and farms in the area including a certain popular brand of German supermarket ! Unfortunately for Kelly everything was shut and not a toilet in sight. On a positive note the weather was glorious !

In the middle of the Swiss alps

The Swiss alps

The Swiss alps

The Swiss alps

The Swiss alps

You can't escape

Smile for the camera


Kelly's turn in front of the camera

Always time to have a fiddle with the sat nav, with weather and roads this good it was defiantly a time to avoid the motorway running through the valley.

Playing with the sat nav

In the following photo you can just about see the burger king in the bottom left corner !

You can just about see the burger king in this photo

Before heading off to the hills I managed to find a service station where Kelly could finally go  to the loo, unfortunately we arrive seconds after a coach load of Japanese tourists which was a bit frustrating for Kelly as most of them headed straight to the loo’s !

The roads were mind blowing, perfect tarmac hugging the edge of the mountains weaving back and forth around hairpin after hairpin, I just didn’t want it to end ! After a while we stopped to snap a few shots of the area which was to good to miss.

Half way up

The Swiss alps

I never want to leave

A small village within the alps

You couldn't ask for better weather

Nice Swiss house on the mountain side

The road awaits

Perfect bike for these roads

The views were amazing

Not a cloud in the sky

The stunning wife

Time to get back on the bike and crack on, we still had a few hours riding ahead of us and I really wanted to get to Lake Como, Italy before it got dark. I followed the amazing roads for a fair few miles, I actually went a little too far and ended up having to turn back otherwise I would have ended up riding for an extra two hours ! Off the nice roads and back on to the motorway which lead us in to the Gotthard tunnel, a tunnel straight through the alps and is over ten miles long, in the middle the temperature was incredibly hot and I can only describe it like riding againt a hair dryer on it’s hottest setting, even though we were doing 50mph the bike was slowly getting hotter and hotter ! That is one place I won’t be going back to in a hurry !

Shortly after arriving in Italy the weather become overcast, with some drizzle as we neared our destination. We stopped for a short break on the way as we had been riding for a few hours and we was starting to get a little sore. We checked in to the camp site and promptly got the tent up, time was getting on and I was getting rather peckish. Oh and my helmet needed another clean, it’s amazing I could see with that lot squashed on the visor.

Plenty of death on my visor

The tent was up

The bike with the tent in Lake Como

It was nice to get changed in to some normal clothes for once. Before it got dark we went for a little stroll along the lake edge. Lake Como is the deepest lake in Europe and full of melted glacier water.

Nice to be in  normal clothes

Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como

Lake Como

Lake Como

Lake Como

Kelly was glad to be off the bike

Time was now getting on and we was both hungry. The camp site had a nice bar area with in door and out side seating, they were even happy to order pizzas from a local pizzeria, result ! The drinks were also very cheap with a glass of red wine costing only one euro and thirty cents, the pizza were also great value at around five euros each.

It didn’t take long after eating the pizzas and having a few beers and glasses of wine before heading off to bed. It had been a long day and a lot of miles were covered, spanning over three countries. Tomorrow should be a bit more relaxing as we are planning on spending a few days in Italy.

New Beam and a Quick Hose Down

It has been a while since I have had time to spend on the car, I have not been able to get hold of a welder and didn’t really want to start working on the engine in the garage as I wanted to flush out the cooling system first.

Last week an advert popped up on the Fiat Forum for a chap selling a bunch of parts from a Fiat Seicento Schumacher edition, including a complete rear beam with suspension and brakes still attached for £20 !  It was up near Leicester but for £20 it was worth the drive as it was straight and only had a bit of surface rust.

Complete rear beam

On further investigation it has ABS hubs still with the sensors attached, they seem in good working condition so I will sell them on ebay as they are of no use to me. The whole lot came off a running car so the brakes, springs and shocks are in good condition, I guess I will know if the shocks are any good once I remove them from the beam.

I wanted to get the car out of the garage to hose down the rear underneath of the car, it was the one thing I forgot to do before putting it in the garage, the dirt was making it hard to see where the rust ended and the car started. It took a bit of man handling to fit the beam complete like this, but with a helping hand from Kelly we got there in the end. It was nice to get it out the garage, I though it was going to be stuck in there forever !

Sun light at last

I had a go at the aches and underside with a pressure sprayer and some strong pre wash, it quickly shifted the dirt and revealed the corrosion in the inner arches was not quite as bad as it seemed, although as you can see here it is still quite bad.

Clean and full of holes

You can see where the arch is bent in this photo

A view of the back

I like the look of cinquecento’s with the rear bumper off.

Looks a bit like a buggy

So that was my weekend, the car is now back in the garage waiting to come out to have the cooling and oil systems flushed, so I can then change the head gasket and anything else the engine will need. Hopefully I can get hold of the welding gear and work on the car over the winter.

Day Two – France

We awoke in Melun, France our first camp site of the trip. The weather was cool and the ground rather damp from the heavy rain the previous day, although the sun was trying to break through the early morning cloud so there was still hope that it could be a nice sunny day.

Kelly grabbed a quick shot of the tent

Another view of the camp site

Kelly grabbed some quick shots of our pitch whilst I was sorting myself out, as you can see the site had lots of trees which was nice, as most UK sites are just flat empty fields.

Most importantly it was time for breakfast, in the form of boiled eggs which were then peeled and mashed in to a now slightly limp baguette, yummy !

Limp baguette

The facilities on this camp site were a bit average, a rather cold toilet/shower block which didn’t have very large shower cubicles which made it tricky trying to get my soggy leathers back on, not really what you want to deal with first thing in the morning.

The gear was packed away, tent taken down and strapped back on top of the top box, we were now ready to leave. On the way in the previous night we noticed a nice river flowing just across the road from the camp site, a good opportunity for a few nice photos. By this time the cloud had gone and we were left with perfect Blue sky and a nice warm sun.

Blue sky and the early morning sun was shining

The fleece came off pretty quickly, it was lovely and warm in the sun shine !

Pretty river

Slight haze still about on the river

The bike all loaded up, ready for a good days riding in the glorious weather…

The sun was shining and the bike was ready to go

Time was getting on and we was already running an hour behind, back on the bike and off to Auxerre, France. The roads were the same as before, stunning single carriageway roads  running through the French countryside, dipping in and out of quaint little villages. One thing to make note of is you would be flying along at about 60mph and would then see a sign notifying road users of a rail crossing, then about 5 meter behind the sign were the railway tracks partially submerged in to the road ! No time at all to slow down and the first couple of times it happened I thought I was going to get a blow out. I quickly learnt to slow down when ever there was a sign approaching just in case.

Before we knew it we had arrived in Auxerre, a very nice fairly small town with an incredible cathedral situated inside. Unfortunately all the photos of the outside are close up due to some building works.

Cathedral in Auxerre

Cathedral in Auxerre

Cathedral in Auxerre

Cathedral in Auxerre

The organ reminded me of a battleship, never seen one with horizontal pipes before.

The battleship like organ

The stain glass windows were very impressive

The stain glass windows were very impressive, incredible detail to the point where they looked almost computer generated.

Cathedral in Auxerre

Cathedral in Auxerre

Time again was creeping up on us, just enough time for a quick coffee and a pastry. Kelly ordered “Deux cafe” which turned out to be two espressos, fortunately we both drink espresso so it wasn’t too much of an issue, the French do know how to make a nice coffee. I then had to order a bottle of water as I was still thirsty, this was done in my best pigeon French, all those GCSE French lessons finally coming to some use…

Having a nice French coffee

Kelly enjoying her coffee

A shot of the main square

A shot of the main square in Auxerre, several nice old buildings in view. It was a place you could sit and just watch the world go by… but we had placed to be, so we paid up and went back to the bike, this time heading to Langres, France. I had the planned a nice scenic ride which I was looking forward to.

We were soon out again in the stunning country side, part of our journey taking us through the famous wine village of “Chablis” which was just mile after mile of fields growing Grapes. The roads around this area were incredible, perfect tarmac flowing through the rolling hills putting many race tracks to shame, I could have done this stretch of road several times it was that good ! Further on we found ourselves on some rather worn tarmac which wasn’t all that great to ride on, the route itself was nice incorporating some switchbacks and hair pins as we went over the hills.

Before we got in to Langres we stopped in a LIDL for a quick snack as it was now the early afternoon and we were getting a bit peckish. Talk about living the high life munching on sandwiches in LIDL car park, I think the locals thought we were a bit mental. A short trip back on the bike and up a large hill we entered the historic walled town of Langres. The sun was shining so we took the opportunity to have a sit down in the sun on a nice green area.


It was nice to get my jacket off for a short while, fortunately the nice weather had dried our gear from the showers the previous day.

Get that jacket off

The green area was right opposite the towns small cathedral, which was interesting to look at whilst we relaxed.

The cathedral

Another show of the cathedrals clock

As you can see in this photo we had covered a decent amount of ground already, time was getting on but we wasn’t in a rush to get to our second camp site of the trip in Belfort, France which was just over two hours away. The roads following the same general pattern as the rest of France, which was a nice way to finish the day, even better the sun was still shining !

We arrived at the camp site for about 17:30, by now it was starting to get a bit overcast so we promptly checked in and put the tent up.

Sorting out the tent ready for the mats and sleeping bags

Tent is up at the camp site in Belfort, France

The top box contained all of our vital sleeping and cooking equipment for the trip, including two self inflating roll mats, two sleeping bags, two sleeping bag liners for when it got extra cold, two inflating pillows, a cooker and gas, a kettle pot and two mess tins plus cutlery. Also our wash bag lived in here along with a couple of torches and my multi-tool.

It all fits snugly in the top box

It only fit in that one specific way, which took a bit of trial and error to get the lid shut and locked.

Now the tent was up it was time to head out and get some supplies for dinner and breakfast, also Kelly had read that Belfort was famous for a huge lion carved from the stone cliffs, so a hunt for this was also on the cards.

After a drive around the town we found the steps at the base of the hill where the lion lived.

The Belfort lion

You can walk up the steps and through a few tunnels carved inside the cliffs up to the platform where the lion is perched. Being early we decided it would be nice to go up there, so we set off on what turned out to be a bit of a trek… After walk for what seemed like an hour walking up and down loads of steps and through many dark tunnels, around the walls of the castle we finally made it to the platform… only to find the gates locked and that it closes at 18:00, what a waste of time !

The gates were locked !

The views were nice from up on the cliffs, but it was starting to get dark and we still needed to find a super market to get some food.

The view from the cliffs

The best view of the lion was from the bottom where we started…

The Belfort Lion


The Belfort lion

After a bit of riding around and finding several super markets which shut at 19:00, we managed to find a large retail park with a huge Centre Leclerc, which I would almost say is like a French Walmart as they sold everything you could imagine ! The security guard wouldn’t let us in, something to do with our crash helmets but due to the language barrier we didn’t really know what the issue was, anyway he go a bit frustrated and let us in anyway haha result. Filled pasta along with a packet of bacon chunks plus a jar of creamy mushroom sauce was purchased for dinner, along with some nice éclairs to munch after, oh and don’t forget the four pack of bargain French beers.

Back to camp and dinner cooked it was time to call it a night, the long walk had finished me off and the couple of beers went down a treat. Tomorrow was going to be a long day, riding out of France and through Switzerland then over the Alps and in to Italy.

Day One – England and France

The day started early, at 03:30 to be precise and unfortunately I had only slept for four and a half hours due to staying up until 11pm looking for my recently purchased road atlas of western Europe, which to this day I still haven’t found. We loaded up the bike the night before so that we only had to stick on our bike clothing and could immediately head off to Folkstone to catch the euro tunnel, which was booked to leave at 07:00. The journey was a two and quarter hour ride, on mostly motorway during the freezing dead of night and rather unsurprisingly the roads were empty and the ride trouble free.

Once arriving at the Euro Tunnel check in you are greeted by several automated machines, which required either the card you purchased your tickets with or a booking reference number. Being organised I had the card in my bum bag, unfortunately the machine wasn’t having any of it and wanted the booking reference instead, which of course was in my rucksack ! Having to now get off the bike along with Kelly and have a rummage through my bag with my numb cold hands, the cars sat behind getting increasingly frustrated with the delay, the reference number was found and punched in the machine, the barrier goes up and I run through with the bike to get out of every bodies way. Rucksack on, gloves on, hit the button to start the bike and nothing happened ! Shit, now what’s wrong… now I blame it on me being half asleep at this point but I think I forgot to pull the clutch in, which you need to do to get the bike started, anyway the bike started and we headed off to the departures area. By this time I was cold, hungry and needed the toilet. Bladder emptied and coffees ordered we could now take a moment to relax, knowing that soon enough we would be in France and the tour would be well and truly under way !

Kelly enjoying a coffee and pastry

I was happy to be somewhere warm

Before we new it they started loading our train, so gear on and off we went to load the bike. We found ourself sat in the queue waiting to be sent around to the train, unfortunately our train was full even though there was still a dozen bikes and cars not on it, we were told we would have to wait for the next train which leaves in about 40mins, Joy. We were eventually sent around to the other train and on the way there we was waved through passport control, mainly because we were on a bike and it’s a pain in the bum to keep getting documents out.

We eventually got loaded on to the train, in our carriage a couple of cars and four other bikes on their way to watch the World Super Bikes, we spent the time chatting with them and laughing at them taking the piss out of each other.

On the train

On the train there isn’t anywhere to sit if your not in a car, so you either stood up against the edge or sat on the floor. The train does clonk about a bit and the bikes did move, it’s a good idea to stand near the bike just in case it does try to fall over !

Waiting to go

Before you know it your in France, I think the train was only moving for about twenty minutes which is a lot faster than the ferry ! Helmets on, ride off the train up the exit ramp straight on to a French main road, no Passport control or anything, only a petrol garage which for being in such a prime location was very well priced ! A quick stop for fuel we were now on our way. Due to a road closure and a lack of concentration we had a slight detour around  a place I think was called coquelles, followed immediately by a second lap of the same place… We eventually found the correct road and headed off towards Amiens, taking in some beautiful scenery in the process. The roads very similar to single carriage way A roads in the UK, running through the French countryside and going through many a nice small village along the way.

Arriving in Amiens for around lunch time, the sun was shining yet there was a chill in the air. We stopped in a cafe and grabbed a bite to eat and a drink, Kelly had a Croque Monsieur and I opted for a hot dog.

Sitting in the sun in Amiens


Kelly enjoying some time off the bike

Amiens was a nice clean town, with no tourists and gave the impression of being fairly modern yet you could spot plenty of older building down the smaller streets along with it’s stunning cathedral situated to one side of the town.

Amien cathedral

It was now time to jump back on the bike and make our way down to Paris. More of the same lovely roads and villages, unfortunately we came across another closed road and had to follow the diversion signs, which paired with the sat nav lead to us going around in another circle. We followed the diversion for a bit long but we soon hit a snag, the diversion signs said straight off in the wrong direction but the sat nav said to go down a gravel lane, which wouldn’t have been an issue if I wasn’t on a full loaded +200kg touring bike. Whilst deciding what to do a car pulls up and a little French lady asks if we are lost, she spoke some English and said we should go down the gravel track “It’s ok on bike and van but car will go long way round”, having spent a fair few days green laning in the past I though screw it lets take the gravel road, the lady drove about ten meters away then sat and watched, giving us a thumbs up out the window. The road was deep gravel and took some paddling with my legs to keep the bike up right but we made it to the end in one piece.

Back on the nice flowing roads we eventually came to the french motorways which run in to Paris and of course it started to rain, a lot. We eventually ended up on the Boulevard Périphérique, a ring road around Paris some of which is in tunnels and is solid traffic the whole way around, oh and to make matters even more interesting filtering through both gaps in the traffic were bikes, scooters and those three wheeled scooter things which I kid you not were doing at least 40mph even in the heavy rain ! It took a serious amount of concentration to try and keep up with them and out of the way of the cars, being beeped every so often by a scooter to get out the way because I want going fast enough, not being 100% confident how wide the bike was with panniers I didn’t want to push my luck, yet I managed to clip a couple of wing mirrors… just so you can see how bad it is I pinched these photos off Google, just image it’s pissing it down as well.

Paris ring road

Paris ring road tunnel

Would you do +40mph through that traffic on a fully loaded tourer in the hammering rain ?

After fighting through the traffic we made it in to central Paris, I went down in to a private car park but the bloke wanted to charge us four Euro’s for an hours parking, bugger that I will dump it up on the street with all the scooters ! Bike parked we then wandered off in the rain to find the Eiffel tower, I had never been to Paris before and though it was pants, it’s exactly like London except it’s French and I’m not that fond of London any way. Mandatory photos of the Eiffel tower taken, along with the river and place we was cowering under to avoid the rain, helmets still on to keep our heads dry !

Eiffel Tower

More Eiffel tower

Hiding under cover

Paris River

We headed back to the bike and would try to make our way out of Paris again via the Boulevard Périphérique and on to our planned camp site in Melun. Within a few miles of driving around Paris my fuel light come on, unfortunately I forgot to reset my trip meter earlier in the day so I wasn’t expecting it to come on already, not a problem I though I have the sat nav, I found the nearest petrol garage, then setting it as my destination off we went. Unfortunately the petrol was no more, instead some new apartments were in it’s place, we went through this process a couple more times before I though enough is enough, I will get out of Paris and find one, knowing though that I was running on fumes and wasn’t sure how far I would get.

We made it to an area outside of Paris (I didn’t catch it’s name), were the inevitable happened and we ran out of fuel ! I got out of the road and managed to ask a French lady where the nearest garage was, she pointed down the road and said it was about 3 minutes away, result ! After some huffing and puffing along with trying to negate some barriers to stop cyclist crossing the roads which wasn’t much fun we then arrived at a petrol garage, well two infact directly opposite each other ! Of course the one I chose was unmanned so pay at pump only and no surprise they didn’t take Visa, a bit more huffing and puffing later and we crossed the road to the manned BP garage and managed to fill up, what a relief !

Back on the road and out of Paris we headed to Melun, it was still raining so we opted for the motorways rather than the scenic route. Arriving at the camp site just before it got dark, with just enough time to get the tent up and unpacked for the first time. Rather than cook dinner we rode in to town where we had a Pizza and French Fries, then popping in to a local shop for a baguette and some eggs for breakfast. A short ride back to the camp site and that was us done for the day, soaked and tired having been up and on the road for nearly 19 hours we headed off to bed. We didn’t even take any photos this evening, but we did the following morning.

Overall a wet busy and tiring day, France is a nicer place than I expected and the people are lovely, but I don’t rate Paris very highly.