23 May 2010

Cross Continental Travels

Good morning All!

Wifi and internet access has been a bit more sporadic to find than we would have thought, so sorry for the lack of updating.

Currently we're in Chamonix in France, arrived here yesterday afternoon. There has been a fair bit of time spent in hire cars over the last week or so. We picked up our first car in Riccione in Italy, drove from east to west, staying at Monte Terminillo - where we saw a stage of the Giro d'Italia. Think I've already described that drive, but in brief involved a mountain pass with 6 foot snow banks on the side of the road. We then drove from Terminillo to Levanto - the Italian Autostrade network is crazy - 130km/h speed limit but this is more a loose guideline more than anything for the locals. The safest thing to do was just stick with the traffic flow, it at least allowed sufficient reaction time, rather than have traffic screaming past like you were standing still.

The drive was almost uneventful - I must confess to a small incident in the hire car. We came off an exit - 2 lanes - which was very quickly merged into 1 lane via some roadworks - unsigned and with no warning. A right turn was coming up, I had a car approaching at velocity on my left, I instictively hit the brakes and pulled right to avoid them - SMACK - took out the right hand mirror with one of the road work markers. No other damage, and apart from an elevated heart rate, nothing else wrong. Establishing the right hand limits while driving a left hand drive car has been a bit of an ordeal!

Luckily, 50 Euros was the only damage, and judging by the condition of most vehicles, these sorts of incidents are the rule rather than the exception. But I was a little pissed, having spoiled my nearly flawless driving record. Oh well - that is why they're called 'accidents'

Driving in Milan was a terrifying experience - at least in my mind. Practically though, the traffic was well behaved, moved well, none of the crazy horn blowing that one tends to associate with driving in big cities. Until we got to the train station, had to find the hire car office, and had to find a car park. That was an ordeal, and more through luck than anything we stumbled on the office, and made our train out of Milan with some time to spare.

Train from Milan to Grenoble (France) was spectacular - the line runs along the southern side of the Italian Alps - magnificent scenery the whole way. Grenoble was at first intimidating (having just sort of got comfortable with Italian, being thrown into a French speaking city was a shock) - but once we got out of town the countryside was awesome. Stayed in a little town called Bourg-de-Oisans at the base of d'Alpe d'Huez and woke up to street markets out the front of the hotel, baguettes and expresso for breakfast.

Had a crack at riding up d'Alpe D'Huez - not my day unfortunately - a broken spoke and badly collapsed and buckled wheel put paid to that idea - but we did get to drive up it and have a stickybeak around. Magnificent at the top, and more importantly, a very well stocked bike shop and all the Santini clothing you could possibly imagine. A serious wallet drain!

And so we are now in Chamonix, after a marathon drive yesterday through the French Alps, getting up as high as 2000 metres via the Col d' Glandon, some creative detours thanks to the GPS and some roadworks, and lunch at a random roadside bar.

And so today, up d'Aguille de Midi - which looks over Chamonix from 3845 metres. Not as high as the other peak looking over town - Mont Blanc at 4850 metres.

Going to be a great day...

Hopefully some more photos up later.


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