When your husband buys a new bike and talks you into sacrificing a Caribbean beach holiday for a Motorbike Tour from the North East of England to Venice you know you’ve uncovered the meaning of true love……..and I mean him for his bike!!! I had a number of concerns as a pillion, quite a list actually, as most women would. Will there be other couples? Women? Will they all be bike fanatics? Routes, maps, safety, language barriers, riding gear, meals, hotels and how on earth were we to pack everything into 3 panniers? When our information pack arrived from Magellan, I was relieved to read the answers to a lot of questions I’d been chewing over. Our guide was happy to help with any other questions via email too. The information pack was extremely professional and the level of detail in it demonstrated the expertise of the tour operator. Excitedly we began the countdown to our motorbike adventure ……..
DAY 1: Calais to Reims via Cambrai, Montcornet and Gueux GP track
We met everyone in the carpark near the Euro tunnel and were surprised and pleased to see the group awaiting us included four other couples. Introductions and briefing complete we were on our way. Our guide spoke with everyone on the Eurotunnel ensuring Sat Navs were programmed with the waypoints and before we knew it we were riding through France heading for Reims.
Highlights of the day – the long straights through the agricultural backdrops, the scenery, sights and smells – a mix of pine shrubs, lavender, juniper and the sweet flowers of the Champagne province. Notre-Dame de Reims and its spectacular light and music show ‘Rêve de couleurs’ commemorating the 800th anniversary of the cathedral and discovering this tour was the honeymoon for one of the couples ????.
DAY 2: Reims to Baden Baden
239 miles of curves sweeping through fields of barley, gold with sunshine, interrupted by small towns and beautiful traditional villages and their churches. Senses were assaulted with the aroma of the fresh country air, oh and pungent cow manure! We encountered a road closure and a friendly German speaking villager attempted to redirect us, following his directions we then boarded a free ferry to cross the river. Amusingly the ferry flaunted a French and German flag at its bow and stern. When we reconciled with the rest of the group later, as we were greeted by hotel staff wearing lederhosen offering beer and bratwursts, it was apparent not everyone took the ferry! We viewed it as added bonus to another amazing day.
DAY 3: Baden-Baden via B500 to Oberammergau
Starting point of the B500 literally the Black Forest High Street, steep and curvy roads, hairpins and excellent surfaces littered with speed limits. Fantastic vantage points for photographs, epic landscapes of green forest, enchanting lakes, rolling hills and the surroundings just grew more magnificent by the mile.
Nearing Oberammergau the architecture of the buildings began to transform, the frescoed Bavarian charm began to present itself until we felt like we’d entered a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The mountainside town with so much character framed by the majestic mountains of Austria was literally alive with the characters painted onto the town’s buildings.
DAY 4: Oberammergau across the Alps to Lake Garda via the famous Timmelsjoch pass
Riding a few straights alongside the glacier blue rivers heading for the mountains filled us with excitement. We were guaranteed an unforgettable experience as we climbed the Alps towards Timmelsjoch with a maximum altitude of 2509m. We welcomed the drop in temperature and the bite of the clean crisp air. When we reached the summit, the panoramic views were completely breath taking. We had unlimited visibility great for the many challenges and thrills we were to encounter on our dramatic descent. Terrifying hairpin bends proved to be a pleasure ground for those of us who love a challenge. An ultimate ride and as the adrenaline began to settle we continued our journey through tunnel after tunnel feeling the heat of Lake Garda approaching.
DAY 5: Italy – Venice (Non bike day)
I was in awe of the fact that we had rode all the way to Italy and today we were to visit Venice with its labyrinth of canals, small cobbled streets, whimsical bridges and colourful buildings. We enjoyed the obligatory gondola ride with some of our fellow riders. As we glided through the serene waters against a stunning backdrop of baroque buildings our gondolier chose not to serenade us so we enchanted him with a chorus of ‘just one cornetto’. We enjoyed a relaxing day sightseeing and looked forward to the next days cruise around Lake Garda.
DAY 6: Italy – Lake Garda (Non bike day)
Time needs to be spent slowly savouring the beauty of a place so we decided upon the all day boat cruise across the blue beauty of Lago di Garda. Stunning views of the lakeside mountains mirrored in the surreal blue waters, the tall slim pines scattered across the hillside and cuddled on the shores were the picturesque towns. We enjoyed a swim in the cool water and visited a lemon factory on the shore of Gargnano. After our two days respite we were itching to get back on the bike as we knew the best was yet to come.
DAY 7: Lake Garda to Flims via Stelvio Pass.
We were raring to go for a long day in the saddle as the tunnels leaving Lake Garda carried us towards Stelvio, the place of pilgrimage for petrol heads. It just felt so surreal as we approached this busy high alpine mountain pass and began to climb those famous giant serpentines like we have seen in pictures. We stopped for the many photo opportunities that presented themselves up the twisties. We rode the Umbrail pass hairpin after hairpin beside a cascading waterfall as the road continued to climb across to the Fluela pass and onto our next destination, Switzerland.
DAY 8: Flims to Meiringen via mountain passes
Five passes today that made Stelvio look tame! Words fail me for the unforgettable day we spent riding this glorious journey, absolutely mind blowing. This was to be my favourite day of the tour. The spectacular views of the tall powerful snow topped mountains, looking down upon the ribbons of road we had travelled. The James Bond Street on the Furka Pass, an amazing location used for a scene in Goldfinger, (we looked anything but Bond like tackling this white knuckle ride!) The cobbled Gotthard Pass climbing steadily through a picturesque valley with cow bells ringing and mountain walls above us. The striking contrast of the glacial blue water against the grey and greenery of the hills – a truly magical day.
DAY 9: Meiringen to Vosges
We started today’s journey riding pristine back roads through isolated villages in unprecedented heat. So much diversity and outdoor grandeur along with a combination of beautiful scenic elements and some gorgeous curvy roads were the ingredients for another fantastic riding day. We stopped for a late lunch at the top of the Col du Ballon in the Vosges Mountains and took time out to admire the classic cars, the high end sports cars and the parade of motor cycles that had shared the route up there with us.
DAY 10: Vosges to Bouillon Belgium
Today we journeyed down the other side of the Vosges where we picked up some fast roads across Northern France to visit the war memorial in Verdun. The Ossuary contains the remains of soldiers who died on the Verdun battlefield. The ceilings and walls bear their names. A sombre experience the Ossuary is beautiful yet sad. The cemetery is an impressive impactful sight which has been well preserved to remember the fallen.
From here we headed to Bouillon to spend our last evening of the tour.
DAY 11: Homeward Bound Calais via Ardennes Forest
Homeward bound through the Ardennes forest back into average temperatures we decided after our lunch stop we would make our way back onto the motorway to make good time for the Eurotunnel. Time to reminisce about the entire tour and be thankful.
The planning and execution of this tour was meticulous from beginning to end. Well-chosen coffee and lunch stops complimented the itinerary and the hospitality we experienced at each hotel was second to none. We met some truly wonderful people on the tour from all walks of life and they were a delight to share time with. We enjoyed many delicious breakfasts and evening meals in their company. Our guide the fabulous Felix was just that. He looked out for everyone and involved everyone and made the tour memorable. We enjoyed the freedom and flexibility this tour allowed us and were overwhelmed by the scenic routes, the accuracy of the timings and the precision of the sat nav programming. This was a lifetime experience we will certainly repeat with Magellan and I am so thankful for my amazing husband who made it all possible.