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.

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.