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Tour of France & Basque Country

6,585 kilometers to circumnavigate France and get a glimpse of the neighboring Basque Country in Spain.



It would take many pages to describe this tour in detail, but we try to best summarize the most evocative places we have visited.


French Alps

Ivrea, Aosta, Courmayeur, pré Saint Didier panoramic walkway, Piccolo San Bernardo, Val d'Isère, Col dell'Iseran, Annency.

On the first day we travel the fascinating roads of the Val d'Aosta surrounded by marvelous fortresses, we visit the beautiful historic centers of Aosta and Courmayeur and admire the peaks of Mont Blanc and Piccolo San Bernardo. We continue to Val d'Isère, a splendid mountain resort where we even find a camel to graze in the city center, and arrive at the highest pass in Europe with its 2,770 m where we meet other nice motorcyclists from Romagna.

Tired but galvanized by the mountain air, we take a hike up to Annency, located on the lake of the same name, a medieval town enchanting full of canals, flowers and small restaurants to eat cheese fondue (we advise you to stay there for a few days and enjoy the dives and the beaches on the lake).



Burgundy

Hospices de Beaune (Hotel Dieu), Dijon - Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.

From Lyon we reached Beaune to visit the Hospices Museum: a medieval hospital in use until after the 2nd WW which has preserved unique architecture together with ancient stories and methods for treating patients (including the wine!). Crossing the low and short vineyards of the region, we arrived to Dijon, where we couldn't resist buying the famous mustard. From Dijon, wander inland to discover the small hamlets with old houses covered in ivy. Unfortunately, due to bad weather, we were unable to visit these villages, but we recommend: Vezelay (basilica), Moret sur Loing, Provins.



Paris

Chateau de Fontainbleu, Paris (Latin Quarter, Notre Dame, Louvre, Champs d'Elisées, Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Pigalle).

A quick look at the Castle of Fontainbleu and its regal forest, before reaching Pariss..and we get there along the entire Avenue d'Italie. We park the motorbike at the hotel and begin to grind up the kilometers. In the Latin quarter, we are welcomed by a group of dancing gentlemen and we refresh ourselves with a good crepe. Let's see the Sorbonne, the Pantheon, and Notre Dame (from the outside of course) and visit for a few hours the Louvre admiring the main works such as the Mona Lisa (or at least seen from afar) and the Italian and French painters, the Nike of Samothrace, Cupid and Psyche, the Venus de Milo, the apartments of Napoleon III). We take a break in the Tuileries gardens and watch the children play with boats in the fountains. We set off again towards the Place de la Concorde, Champs d'Elisées up to the Arc de Triumph and then with a scooter, we compete to get to Trocadero where we admire the Eiffel Tower.

In the evening we go to Montmartre, a magical place from whose staircase you can admire the city of light while drinking a beer and listening to street artists. We wander around the square and the narrow streets but decide to eat at Pigalle, in the Moulin district Rouge, where we find the historic bouillon restaurant (open until late and visited by young people and not patrons of the night) with excellent dishes and at really modest prices.



Painters and Normandy

Giverny (Houses and Monet's Garden), Étretat, Sword-Juno-Ohama Beach, Arromanches, Pointe du Hoc.

Discovered during the trip, the home of the impressionist painter Monet it detects one of the most beautiful places visited in our entire tour. An explosion of finely chosen and arranged colors invade the eyes and mind when visiting the garden (with the famous water lily pond) and the house where the painter lived and painted. A fairytale place! Following his paintings, let's see with our own eyes the cliffs of Étretat, that stand out in the blue sea and we settle on the kiosks along the beach with the first oysters. The village lets you breathe the air of the past and we discover that it is also linked to the history of Arsène Lupin.

From a place of vacationing painters and writers, we move on to beaches that have seen horrors and blood and that exude death. We visit Normandy under an insistent drizzle but which is well suited to the places and historical moments we are recalling. We see the remains of the marine bridge of Arromanches, the trenches, the bunkers, the war memorials, the museum with the testimonies of unprepared civilians and brave soldiers, and the bomb holes at Pointe du Hoc ..stories close to us that must be remembered.



Mont Saint Michel and Brittany

Mont Saint Michel, Saint Malo, Cap Fréhel, Fort La Latte, Le gouffre de Plougrescant, Concarneu, Pont-Aven, Carnac alignments, Quiberon.< /span>

Mont Saint Michel is so beautiful that you can't take your eyes off it. We have visited it both during the day to see it at low tide, and in the evening with the sea surrounding it. The little hill is a maze of shops and restaurants dominated by the abbey in which there is a beautiful panoramic cloister. In the late evening, however, everything is silent and you can really perceive the suggestive atmosphere, with the light on the abbey and the sound of the sea.. we also found a group of girls singing Gregorian choirs.

To reach it there is a parking area with an area for motorcycles, you take a ticket and pay it when you leave at the end of the day. The shuttles run continuously until after midnight, but we recommend that you at least walk one way to enjoy a unique view.

To stay: Aux Chambres du Mont with a view of the mountain and excellent sandwiches to take away.


We continue towards Saint-Malo, Cap Fréhel, a green and fuchsia cliff full of flowers that stands out against the blue sea, and Fort La Latte a well-preserved historic castle.

Le gouffre de Plougrescant is the famous little house among the rocks, where they still live, nearby there are also beautiful beaches for relaxing (if the weather permits).

We didn't manage but we would have liked to visit also Locronan, Brest, Huelgoat Forest, Presqu'île de Crozon, La point du Raz. Further south, however, we stop at Concarneu with its particular fortified town in the middle of the port and Pont-Aven the little town made famous by Gaugin's laundries. To the south the alignments of Carnac, among the megalithic complexes largest in the world with 3,000 monoliths erected 6,000 years ago and, the nearby Quiberon peninsula where we can enjoy the wild beach of Arche de Port Blanche

To house: Au gré du Marais, near Ancenis on the Loire road...with the goats!



The Loire Valley and its castles

Castle of Villandry, Chenonceau, Manor of Clos-Lucé (Leonardo da Vinci), Rochecorbon, Tours.

Let's start with Castle of Villandry because they told us about its particular gardens with symbolic shapes, initiatory paths and hundreds of decorative vegetables that we would never have dreamed of seeing; we are also surprised by the children's rooms with the games of the past. We continue to the elegant Château de Chenonceau which reflects its forms in the water and we discover the history of its ladies and the enormous kitchens. During the week of August 15, they organize evening evenings in the various castles and we take the opportunity to see the Manor of Clos-Lucé in Amboise where Leonardo Da Vinci lived and died, the event recalls the life of the genius with dances and shows and colors the games in the park. On the way to Rochecorbon, particular details can be noticed houses carved into the rock.

We recommend buying tickets online a few days before to avoid not entering.

To stay: Les Palombes in Rochecorbon, with very kind hosts.



Bordeaux and the Dune of Pilat

Melle, Cognac, Bordeaux, Dune du Pilat

From Tours to Bordeaux it was really hard, scorching heat, in the middle of the French countryside without shade or air. Along the way, however, we discovered some gems such as the church of Saint-Hilaire ( church of 1080 Unesco heritage on the pilgrims' path to Santiago de Compostela which with its mighty walls gave us refreshment), our oasis in the desert the bar Bora Bora and Cognac with a beautiful old town, the river and the vineyards around. Bordeaux, on the other hand, is a city where modern and old coexist peacefully giving it a unique style. The narrow streets of the historic center, the Cite du Vin and the neighboring area of the Quai Lawton with cafes on the canal and French music are suggestive.

If the sun had burned us the day before, on the big day of the Dune of Pilat the sun didn't show up. However, the spectacle of nature remains incredible: the highest dune in Europe, the arga 500 m long, 3 km and 110 m high which grows several meters every year and which separates the forest from the sea. You only pay for the parking and you can reach the top using special ladders and then have fun running down the slopes.



The Basque Country in Spain

San Sebastian, Getaria, Zumaia-Itzurun, Guernica, Bilbao, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Pamplona.

The Basque Country is very different from the rest of Spain and also from France, it can be seen in the ways, the culture, the landscape and the prices. San Sebastian is a beautiful Baroque city, famous for its Concha beach surrounded by a portico below street level and close to the old town with many small shops and places to eat the delicious pinchos. Getaria is folkloric with steaming grills covered with large fish. We stop to take a dip from the Itzurun beach at Zumaia. The roads border the sea and are beautiful to travel by motorbike, so we continue to the beach of Karraspio and then we go down to Guernica. In the evening we sleep in Bilbao which we expected more lively, but it fascinates with its contemporary buildings with particular shapes as if to create a new city around the Guggenheim. We eat delicious chicken at Rita Grill.

The next day we take a short walk on the cliffs near Getxo then continue to the famous hermitage of < strong>San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (the location also of Games of Thrones): reservations must be made online ticket but it only serves to get closer on the path because the stairs that connect the islet are closed due to the pandemic and renovations. The view from the mirador above is beautiful, allowing you to see the entire islet.

We get back on the bike and stay on the coast to then go back to Guernica and go towards Pamplona, the city where I'm 30th today and tomorrow 10th.. we obviously found 10th, or rather 9th. Covered up to the eyes, let's go downtown to drink some wine! Near Plaza del Castillo is the famous Calle de la Estafeta (where the bulls run), the historic Cafe Iruna and many taverns: the renowned Gaucho is too crowded so we go to Calle San Nicolas and get inspired.


Be careful where you park, the motorbike can only be parked in the car parks for engines, otherwise, you will be fined.



Pyrenees

Pyrenees, Lourdes, Grotte du Mas d'Azil, Mirepoix, Carcassone.

We proceed towards the Pyrenees, it seems to be in Texas with the arid and reddish earth and we stop to admire the blue of the Embalse de Yesa, a lake surrounded by colored rocks. We begin the ascent towards the mountains and pass between perched villages and forests, when we reach the top we find horses, sheep and cows grazing happily at high altitudes. The sheep in particular make us smile because they are stained with colored paint so that they can be recognized on foggy days. We make some famous passes of the Tour de France, but with the fog, we can't appreciate them to the fullest so we deviate by Lourdes - after all the times that they sent us, perhaps it is better to take advantage of it - whose church is as impressive as the whole context created around it.

On the way, we discover the extraordinary Grotte du Mas d'Azil, a prehistoric cave in which a road passes in the middle and you can also go and visit the interior with the finds. We continue to Mirepoix, a fairy-tale village with colored facades and wooden houses and, we arrive at Carcassone, although it is a reconstruction from the sensation of reliving in the Middle Ages and we recommend eating the typical cassoulet.

To sleep: a bit out of the way but a magical place to spend a night.



Camargue and Provence

Agues Mortes, Saintes Maries de la Mer, Arles.

Beautiful to ride a motorbike among canals, flamingos and white horses. A Saintes Maries de la Mer we spent the day at the beach, between the sun and an aperitif at sunset, then we went to the center to hear the flamenco (played everywhere!). Arles is not to be missed, a city full of life ..we were also lucky enough to find the huge local market with many typical products and we admired the famous Cafe de la Nuit by Van Gogh.

In the area, we also suggest Pont du Gard and Avignon.



French Riviera and Principality of Monaco

Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Monaco

Arrived in Cannes we immediately went to the beach to dive into the sea, then in the evening we went out on the seafront to see the festival building and the trendy clubs (due to COVID you had to book). From Cannes, we went around the Antibes peninsula and stopped for a dip, then continued to Nice along the sea where we stopped to eat and take a walk. Immediately after Nice, the Villafranca peninsula on the sea can be admired from the road with the beaches on both sides. We continue to Monaco where the police stop us to check our documents as soon as we enter. The Principality is a parallel world with cars and jewels of impressive costs and dimensions. We look at the fauna among scruffy tourists like us and rich people who show up by car; noteworthy the Place du Casino and the underlying Yacht club near the Grand Prix tunnel. Still dreaming with our eyes open, we set off again towards Italy and we treat ourselves to the 5th lands as the last stop, to do them again on a motorbike.

In the area we also suggest Saint Tropez and the Gorges du Verdon where you can go kayaking.