After a fun couple of days relaxing and enjoying having other people to talk to for the first time in five weeks it was time to move on to the final European destination of this adventure.
Up before the sun (& the heat) we headed off to catch the ferry at Porto Torres for the seven hour trip across to Toulon, France.
Now, consider this, Iain is not a happy sailor, I didn’t share this before but he did hurl on the ferry across to Italy…when it was in port! So, you can imagine he was feeling a bit trepidatious about this trip. He did look surprisingly excited though!
Sardinia
Corsica Ferries
Corsica ferries
Corsica Ferries
We arrived as the ferry was coming in and she was quite impressive looking. The roll off, roll on was quick and it wasn’t long before we were settled in and I was digging into a lovely cooked breakfast. Iain, of course, did not partake…just in case!
It was actually a very smooth crossing. We have been super blessed with all of our crossings. What a great ship though. I was very impressed with the facilities and apart from being told to take my feet off the furniture (!) we had a good sail. I spent the time catching up with the blog and photos while Iain read. He is up to page 200 now, quite the achievement for him, he’s been reading it for seven weeks now!
Arriving in Toulon, we disembarked and headed straight to the BMW Mottorad dealer there for some oil in preparation for the next oil change planned for when we get back to my parents. Really helpful and friendly staff They were interested in our journey and showed me some motorcycle travel planning sites to help us plan for our next adventure.
Back on the road, we enjoyed a three hour ride up out of the heat of the coast and into the hills of the Provence Alpes region, to the pretty little town of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and our next AirBnB. What a lovely welcome we had from our host, Jean-Phillipe, wine and home made parmesan chips, enjoyed on the patio while he explained the area and made suggestions for us on where to eat, ride etc.
Then he showed us to the room..and oh my, what a wonderful view 🙂
AirBnB
Airbnb
Officially listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, Moustiers is dramatically situated below two cliffs in the Regional Park of Verdon. Typically Provençal and looking rather like a nativity scene with the big gold star hanging above it, the village is full of charm with narrow streets and little squares to wander through, refreshing fountains, pottery workshops and cute boutiques. The town is dominated by the imposing Lombard Romanesque bell tower of Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption church. A spring flows out of the cliff creating a waterfall and providing water power as the waters cascade down through the center of the town
Moustiers Sainte Marie
Moustiers Sainte Marie
Moustiers Sainte Marie
Moustiers
Moustiers Sainte Marie
After a quick wash and change, it was time to venture out for some supper. Jean-Phillipe had advised us on the best route into town. A ten minute walk he said. Of course, we looked at the map and decided we could see a quicker way. I mean, why would we bother to listen to the man who has lived there for years and has advised innumerable people on how to get there?!?! Our “short cut” ended up being an extremely steep incline and we were about to pass out by the time we finally got to level ground again!
The next morning, we wandered back up to the village, the correct way this time, and enjoyed a delicious fresh breakfast before heading out for a day packed full of brilliant riding and cool photo ops.
Mousti
Moustiers
moutiers sainte marie
Moustiers
First stop was the absolutely stunning, Lac de Sainte-Croix. We had ridden round this sparkling blue lake on our way in and I had some ideas on pictures I wanted to take. However, I was thwarted at our first stop when I tried my very best French to be allowed through a “no entry” at the boat hire to get the bike down on to the beach area. The guys were quite adamant that we were not allowed but they did direct us to another area where I could get what I was looking for.
Lac de Sainte Croix
After messing about down on the shore for a bit (& generally annoying Iain with my positioning demands!) we took the road back round to the bridge where we got a great view of the boats and swimmers heading up and down the beautifully colored water. It was still early and relatively quiet but we had been warned that it would be super busy later and sometimes the river could have quite the traffic jam!
Lac de Sainte Croix
Lac de Sainte Croix
Lac de Sainte Croix
Lac de Sainte Croix
Lac de Sainte Croix
Lac de Sainte Croix
Lac de Sainte Croix
Anyway, as the heat was beginning to rise, we hopped back on the bike and started up to explore the fabulous roads that wind around the “Gorges du Verdon”, or the “Grand Canyon of Europe” as it has been nicknamed.

Brilliant riding! Starting on the north side of the Gorges, we followed the route des Gorges from Moustiers to Castellane.

 

Thought of as the most stunning side of the canyon, at times, the valley plunges 700 meters (2,300 feet). The roads were not too busy and we were able to zip around at a good speed enjoying the twists, turns and bends to our hearts content. We passed through, across and, at times, under some towering rock formations. The views were spectacular at the beginning and end of the route, though in the middle the road loops away from the deepest part of the gorges.
The best way to see the Gorges du Verdon from the north side is to take a detour, the route des Crêtes. This loop is even steeper and narrower, with vertiginous drops (and often without barriers). Part of it is one-way only and we didn’t find this out (poor map reading) until we got to the “no entry” sign and realized we’d started at the wrong end! Never mind, that just meant we could go back along the way we’d come and start again in the right place!
Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon
Back on track we made our way up to the town of Rougon where Jean-Phillipe had recommended the creperie as one of the best around. He wasn’t wrong!

We took the route de la Corniche Sublime down the south side of the canyon and were equally as thrilled by the roads and views as we had been heading up. As we came to the end, there were some absolutely stunning views of the lake again.

Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon
There was a bit of a blip in the ride when a bloody wasp flew in my helmet! I think I behaved incredibly calmly, politely asking Iain to stop the bike before freaking the hec out and whipping off my helmet faster than you’d think possible, ejecting said wasp and feeling extremely thankful that it hadn’t stung me!
Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon
That evening was the French/Belgium football semifinal. We ate out and joined the French to cheer on their team for the first half, then raced back to the Airbnb for the 2nd half with Jean-Phillipe and his partner although they really didn’t seem bothered about it all, continuing about the house with their chores while Iain and I cheered and whooped (sedately) from the couch!
Lavender Fields
Setting off the next morning for our two day ride back to mum and dads, we first rode through the beautiful lavender fields where row upon row of spectacular lavenders filled the air with their gorgeous fragrance. After a bit of persuasion I did manage to get Iain to go in the field for a picture, he was sure we were going to get shot at by a raging lavender farmer!
Lavender Fields
Previously I’ve told you how we prefer to take the backroads rather than the more direct interstate/motorway routes. This allows us to meander through the country, soak up the views and experience all the small towns along the way. The two day route route would take us approx. three hours longer each day than if we’d taken the motorway but instead of hustling with hundreds of other busy motorists and riding a straight line we got to enjoy the smaller byways, mostly to ourselves and really appreciate the ride.
We rode through loads tiny hamlets, cute villages and small towns, waving at the folks along the way and stopping in here and there at the cafes which were always set in the heart of the towns and the center of life in otherwise quiet, sleepy communities.
Our route took us through the foothills of the Provence Alps. A stunning region of medieval towns, clinging to the cliffs and looking serenely out over the surrounding countryside. We passed some interesting buildings, including a church set high atop a hill that looked as if it had been literally cut around it!
Provence Alpes
Provence Alpes
Riding through these towns and villages, you can feel the history oozing out of every structure. It was really amazing to ride through and I would wonder about the stories that lay behind the walls. The families that have lived there and how their lives have evolved and changed over the years as “progress” reaches these isolated areas. The buildings have seen so much, experiencing various conflicts and two world wars, fought on their very doorsteps. They say “the walls have ears”, I wish they could speak too and share their memories.
The landscape and farming crops was ever changing as we rode further west. We started with those magnificent lavender fields and then entered wine country, the Cotes du Rhone, with row upon row of vines and grapes growing big and juicy ready to make some delicious wine for me to enjoy!
Our night in between was spent in Clermont-Ferrand. Nothing super special, just a handy half way point but we found a good Irish Bar to eat and watch the England/Croatia semifinal. There really wasn’t much atmosphere so at half time we hot footed it back to the hotel where the manager had earlier assured us that they would be playing the game on a big screen.
In fairness, they were, but it was tucked away in a side conference room and it was just the two of us in there as we watched the second half. So much for that atmosphere we were seeking! In the end it was probably good we were alone…what a disappointing end. We had to face the truth; it wasn’t coming home 🙁
The second day, as we started to turn slightly south west, the scene changed again to more crop and dairy farming and the cows eyed us lazily as we zipped on past them while the harvesters were out cutting and baling the hay and the corn rose up high towards the sun!
Having the road to ourselves really made the extra hours worthwhile. The temperature was cool and we really enjoyed ourselves as we wound our way back across France to my parents’ house where we had started this adventure, 47 days and 6040 miles earlier!

It was lovely (and a relief) to see dad looking so much better than when we had left. Not perfect by any means but improved.
We spent a lovely couple of days with them again, just relaxing and sorting our things out ready to come back to England and start the four wheeled portion of the trip.

Mum & Dad

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Europe 2018

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Follow our posts as we prepare for our 13 week tour of Europe that starts in May 2018!

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