What do Evian spring water, Gruyère cheese, and St. Bernard canines have in widespread? Previous to occurring the Western Alps Journey with Adriatic Moto Excursions, I didn’t have a clue. However on the seven-day bike tour by means of Italy, Switzerland, and France this previous July, we bought to go to the locations the place this stuff originated.
Nobody goes to the Alps – particularly not motorcyclists – for overpriced bottled water, sturdy cheese, or large slobbering canines. We go for the roads, significantly the winding type that rise and fall as they crest passes the place the air is ethereal and the sky is so blue it seems to be like a backdoor to heaven.
We go to lose ourselves in marvel, to have our heads within the clouds – actually and figuratively – as we soak up heart-achingly stunning vistas and admire peaks and valleys value preventing wars over.
However, ugh, planning a bike journey by means of the Alps is such a ache. How will you lease a motorcycle? What route must you take? The place must you keep? The place must you eat? And what’s French for “I’ll have one other giant beer, please”?
As an alternative, I depend on the specialists, the parents who’ve scouted the routes, the lodges, and the eating places. It’s all new to me anyway, so I’ll take a curated, stress-free expertise over being my very own bumbling tour information any day.
I flew into Milan, Italy, a day early to get acclimated. Coincidentally, I arrived on the identical flight as Jim, an lawyer from Seattle who’s a veteran of greater than a dozen excursions with Adriatic Moto Excursions.
After checking into our resort, a former royal villa constructed within the early 1900s that now has trendy air-conditioned rooms, a restaurant, and a stunning pool, Jim and I took the practice into Milan to go to the Duomo, one of many largest cathedrals on the earth.
The subsequent day, we met our guides and fellow riders. Along with Jim and me, we met a 3rd American, David, a tanned retiree from Florida. Hailing from Canada have been Ben from Toronto and Simon and Marie-Claude from Quebec Metropolis, and there was Linda from Australia and Malcolm from New Zealand. Matej, our tour chief, and Jure, our van driver, are each skilled guides from AMT’s dwelling nation of Slovenia, and so they stored the tour operating like a well-oiled machine. Everybody was straightforward to get together with, and we rapidly gelled as a gaggle and shared inside jokes and pleasant feedback on WhatsApp.
AMT’s rental fleet consists of largely BMWs plus just a few Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha fashions. Bikes come geared up with a high field and a GPS unit pre-programmed with each day routes, which permits riders to enterprise off on their very own with out worrying about getting misplaced or discovering the resort. Lodging on this tour have been snug and charming, our baggage was all the time delivered to our room earlier than check-in, and meals have been scrumptious and distinctive to native areas.
Some excursions begin off steadily, however the Western Alps Journey kicked off like a cowabunga cannonball into the deep finish of the pool. After a brief stint on the freeway to get out of Milan, we crossed into Switzerland, and it was recreation on.
First, we summited Nufenen Move. Subsequent, we stopped on the Resort Belvedere, which is located inside a hairpin overlooking the Rhône Glacier and was featured in a automobile chase scene within the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger. Then we climbed somewhat greater to Furka Move, all earlier than having lunch within the ski resort city of Andermatt.
Whereas attempting to digest quattro stagioni pizza, we rocked and rolled our approach to Susten Move. Down, down, down we went into the valley earlier than making our fourth and closing climb of the day to Grimsel Move, the place our resort was positioned on the shore of a postcard-perfect alpine lake. Earlier than dinner, just a few of us took a bonus journey on a slim panoramic highway that goes to a glacier.
We ended our first day with beers on the patio overlooking the lake and a consolation meals dinner of potato soup, veal piccata with pasta, and panna cotta. Sleep was well-earned, deep, and enhanced by clear, cool alpine air drifting in by means of the home windows.
Day 2 began with dawn over Grimsel Lake and a hearty Swiss breakfast, fortifying us for one more full day of driving. Bombing again down the winding highway from Grimsel Move with zero site visitors was like being on a personal monitor.
After that early burst of adrenaline, the remainder of the day was mellow. We rode right into a valley of excessive cliffs with glacier-fed waterfalls and had espresso close to Lauterbrunnen. We had lunch in Gruyères, a medieval walled hilltop village the place we had the eponymous cheese blended in a shredded potato dish known as rösti. Within the afternoon, we summited Jaun Move and crossed into France for an in a single day cease in Évian-les-Bains, a metropolis on Lake Geneva that sends its bottled mineral water around the globe.
Using within the Alps is sort of a yo-yo: up and down, mountain to valley, valley to mountain, time and again, with hairpins, sweepers, and each conceivable kind of curve. Day 3 was scenic, nice, and unique sufficient to remind us that we have been removed from dwelling, experiencing one other a part of the world. We had espresso in Annecy, often known as the “Venice of France” due to the canals that run by means of the outdated city, after which lunch at an outside cafe at Col de Granier, a notch carved within the Massif de Chartreuse. At our resort within the ski space of Villard-de-Lans, we had a connoisseur dinner on a patio with mountains rising throughout us.
On Day 4, we rode by means of the damp, darkish, slim Gorge de la Bourne, the place the highway cuts into the limestone partitions because it runs alongside a mountain stream. We climbed excessive and rode Combe Laval, considered one of France’s “balcony” roads chiseled into and thru limestone cliffs. Then we summited a number of passes – Col de la Machine, Col de Rosset, and Col de Grimone – and cruised by means of fertile valleys filled with sunflowers and lavender.
Make no mistake, it is a rider’s tour, with days filled with twisties, climbs, and descents and minimal sightseeing. On Day 5, our relaxation day, we forfeited the “relaxation” half and rode over Col de Vars and into the skinny air of Mercantour Nationwide Park. Slightly below Col de la Bonette, we relaxed in Adirondack chairs and sipped espresso within the pure alpine air on a bluebird day after which looped across the treeless Cime de la Bonette. What goes up should come down, and we retraced our route for a very totally different expertise. Each proper grew to become a left, each foot of climbing grew to become a descent.
Day 6, July 14, was Bastille Day, France’s nationwide vacation, and we celebrated by bagging 4 alpine passes, together with Col de Montgenèvre and Col du Mont-Cenis, the place we rode alongside the shore of a turquoise lake. After having oven-fired pizzas on a patio for lunch, the excessive level of the day was climbing greater than 3,000 toes in 8 miles by means of inexperienced mountains lined with wildflowers and reduce deeply by snowmelt waterfalls and creeks to Col de l’Iseran (9,068 toes), the very best paved cross within the Alps.
After our fourth cross of the day, Col du Petit St-Bernard, the place we crossed again into Italy, we rode by means of the 7.2-mile Mont Blanc Tunnel. We emerged again in France close to our resort in Chamonix, a bustling alpine metropolis filled with hikers, mountain climbers, and vacationers.
We started our final day with a gondola journey to the highest of Aiguille du Midi to see Mont Blanc (15,778 toes), the very best mountain in Western Europe, and the encircling peaks and glaciers. After summiting Col de la Forclaz, we started the lengthy climb to our final cross, Col du Grand St-Bernard, the place a hospice based in 1049 used St. Bernard canines in mountain rescues.
Upon arriving again in Milan, Matej and Jure popped corks on bottles of prosecco, and all of us toasted to a implausible tour. Grazie mille, Adriatic Moto Excursions!
The subsequent Western Alps Journey runs July 13-21, 2024. Go to the Adriatic Moto Excursions web site for extra info.