We were at the STOP24 services, which is just minutes away from the tunnel and all of our Magellanites were on time and raring to go. It was an overcast morning with the forecast set to rise to a whopping 19 degrees centigrade during the day in northern France with only the slightest chance of some showers. Our crew had met each other the night before, so with introductions out of the way it was time to get going!

We got through the checking in procedure for the tunnel with relative ease, although, an overzealous ticket attendant managed to put in the reference for Kev’s crossing as his wife Kate’s in error, therefore making it impossible for Kate to enter the same reference number when she got to the ticket office. It was all sorted out at the Information Desk and we were soon on our way under the Channel.

Arriving in France we immediately tackle the French autoroutes to cross northern France as quickly as possible to get to the main event, so, with cruise control and music on I led all 9 bikes (including three riders with pillions).

Arriving at our first stop Marion pointed out that my 19 degree forecast had not materialised yet… However, later in the day we did see temperatures reach 20 degrees plus some sunshine! Phew!

We reached our first hotel and settled in with a well-deserved beer! We then had a nice meal and a reasonably early night as tomorrow we would be tackling the Vosges mountains.

Day two saw us climb into the lovely twisty scenic roads that adorn the Vosges mountain range. We are fortunate in that our route allowed us to ‘play’ in the mountains for quite some time, passing the remnants of the snow that would have covered the peaks not so long ago but now only remaining in patches by the roadside.

Unfortunately it was here that Clive clipped a boulder on the road and damaged his front wheel. He lost some air pressure and got quite a fright! However, Kev came to the rescue and managed to get the tyre re-inflated back to the normal pressure using a portable pump he carries and Clive made his way to the nearest BMW dealer to get the wheel looked at.

The rest of us made our way to the hotel which is near to Besancon, in the heart of the famous Franche-Comte region. The hotel was built in the sixties and all of the rooms are spacious and have balconies. The secret gem about this place is the food and we were not let down as our evening meal was delicious and all home cooked.

Our group split up the following day as the BMW garage was closed by the time that Clive got there so I rode with him to Grenoble via the motorway taking it easy so as not to risk damaging the wheel any further. The rest of the group, ably supported by Phil, rode through the very damp Jura mountain range to skirt Geneva and through the Chartreuse region before dropping down to Grenoble and joining us at the hotel.

The following day, Clive and I left early for the BMW garage in GAP (the BMW garage in Grenoble was closed) taking the Route Napoleon in such poor visibility that I was delighted to be following a transit van at about 40kph through the low clouds! Once the clouds lifted we got glimpses of the high mountains surrounding this beautiful route before getting to our destination.

Clive was covered by BMW Assist and they handled everything including arranging a new wheel and a hotel as a stopover plus a hire car for Clive to get around in until his bike was ready. This however meant that he was to miss the next few days and join us in Corsica instead of Sardinia.

Our group less one stayed that night in Manosque which is in the heart of Provence – a lovely bijou hotel right in the heart of the town. Kev had introduced a game where a Koala bear was awarded each night over dinner to the person or people who made the biggest ‘foo-pah’ during the day – that evening I was awarded the bear due to loading the wrong day into my SatNav the previous day!

The Grand Canyon of Europe – more commonly known as the Gorge du Verdon was our next destination and what a sight! Sheer drops to the gorge below where the azure waters of the river and lake are around every turn. This really is a stunning road to ride however, we were catching a boat that evening from Genoa therefore we had to wave goodbye and drift down toward the Cote D’Azur and the Autoroute for a three hour blast along the coast to the Italian port.

An overnight crossing in reasonably calm waters meant that we all awakened to the sight of Sardinia in the distance and soon we rode off the ship and onto the Sardinian roads.

Our route took us inland past villages, farms and relatively flat countryside before heading down the lovely mountainside along twisty smooth tarmac with views of the Mediterranean in the distance all the way to our lovely beach side hotel where we were to be based for two nights.

Kate and Nigel managed a swim in the sea whilst others took to the hotel pool for some exercise and relaxation.

The following day a route had been planned along the coast which was sublime, lovely smooth roads with granite cliffs and the sun-kissed sea to our right. Lots of photo opportunities and lots of stops along the way including the small villages with their beaches and lovely cafes.

We then went inland again, and I managed to tag along with John and Amanda. We stopped for a coffee in the early afternoon along with the obligatory cake from a marvellous selection at the counter. Returning back to the hotel we opted to take the coast road again given that it was so nice to ride on the way down.

Northwards the next day saw us climbing into more mountainous and wooded countryside very similar to that in Corsica.

The roads were fantastic as were the views to the sea. Our hotel that night was again right on the beach and when I arrived I noticed Alan and Tanya sitting by the pool chilling out with a drink by their side. From this hotel we could see the mountains of Corsica which were covered in clouds only a short distance across the strait – they would be our destination for tomorrow.

The crossing to Corsica was only an hour and we arrived at Bonifacio which was once a fortress guarding the strait from its high vantage point on the cliffs. It’s spectacular ferry port using the natural lagoon which is cut into the cliffside giving shelter from any weather.

Soon we were off and riding north along the east coast of Corsica. Sandy beaches, small towns and villages, the Mediterranean to our right and the wooded high mountains to our left. We headed into the mountains via sweeping bends with the high peaks in our sights, climbing gradually until we arrived at our first coffee stop – which was closed. Plenty of others en-route and we soon found another at the next village where some had a spot of lunch at the relais café which turned out to be a popular stop for bikers and bus parties!

On we rode climbing higher and higher on more narrow roads with steep drops and rugged scenery. Wild goats, pigs, and cows often in the roads and cars or bikes often on the wrong side of the road – riding in Corsica is not for the faint hearted!

Eventually we got down to our hotel in Porto Ota which is a lovely small but very touristic village. Clive was there to greet us and we were once again a complete Magellan Family!

Our ride the following day was a nice trip down the coast then into the mountains back to some of the route we rode to get to Ota before getting back to our base – two hours approximately depending how long everyone stopped to take pictures or have coffee or lunch.

Neil, Clive and Phil opted for a longer route going north through the mountains which by all accounts they thoroughly enjoyed whilst the rest of us either rode some or all of the shorter route or like Ken and Francesca, used the opportunity to relax and take a day off the bike.

Our evening meal was in a local restaurant which both myself and Clive have eaten in previously and we were not to be disappointed by the good choices on the menu and the quality of the fayre. Richard and Marion, the previous holders of the Koala, due to a navigational assumption the day before, opted to hang onto it for another night rather than present it to anybody.

Unfortunately our third day in Corsica started off wet with a poor forecast but it soon brightened up with Kate venturing out on an electric bike, some opting to run down the coast, others up the coast whilst John and Amanda opted to go the circular route into the mountains which took them down to Ajaccio followed by a scenic trip back to base.

Our last day saw some, including me, take a swim at the lunchtime stop en-route to our ferry. What a nice relaxing day it had been, however the wind was picking up and our overnight crossing was a little more choppy than normal with some looking a bit unsteady by the way we bounced off the sides of the corridors when leaving the bar..

Back onto the French mainland and by the time we got out of the busy roads near Toulon and Aix en Provence we were ready for lunch in the lovely city of Arles. Our ride then skirted Nimes which is an unavoidable drag, before getting back to lovely twisty roads as we made our way to Meyreus and our overnight stop overlooking a bubbling stream and more importantly, decking over it where beer was served!

Millau Bridge, under and over were on the menu the following day and some of the photos are simply stunning!

Twisty roads, long sweeping bends and great tarmac was for desert bringing a smile to everyone’s faces over dinner at our hotel where most ate a big lump of steak which is the regional speciality in Limousin.

The weather had climbed to what are more average temperatures and we were getting cosy in our riding gear but, after some of the rain we saw at the start, nobody was going to complain. Chartres and our hotel right in the centre was our final destination and after dinner some took advantage of the very central hotel to see the light show.

Our final day and some took to the motorway from Chartres, some followed the recommended route and there was some mix and match in between. Those that rode with me certainly enjoyed fast roads with great bends with blue skies and a constant 26 degrees – what a finish to a wonderful holiday.

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