At our first night stop, we were waken up in the middle of the night by a hailstorm hammering the roof of our small hotel in the sleepy coastal village of Cerbere, the first French town after Spain in the Eastern Pyrenees.
This I thought, as I laid in bed with my eyes open starring at the ceiling of the darken room, did not forecast anything great for the coming day. And we had a challenging pass ahead of us.
Not very long about 30 km or so, but mountainous terrain on narrow roads in heavy rain and thick fog would require extra care. So we would proceed cautiously as we entered Languedoc-Roussillon to cover the road from Cerbere to Racou-Plage.
As expected we woke up to find gloomy dark skies filled with low hanging black clouds just waiting for us to take the road to unload their fury. And so it rained, and rained, and rained.... Steady and at times hard for the next four hours.
Well this was a chance to further test the adherence of the Michelin PR2’s, and get a chance to practice my cornering skills under wet conditions. And so I did.
What I did not mention is that today’s forecast included a violent wind warning for the southern coast of Corsica. Although I did not worry too much about it, a little voice in the back of my head told me that the day was not only going to be wet, but maybe a bit windy. The great thing about very wet, then very windy weather when you are riding a motorcycle is that you get very dry, very fast.
As we entered Camargue, the salty-marsh region of France just ahead of Marseille, famous for among other things spectacular wild white horses, sea salt, sea rice, sand wine, and an indigenous species of Bulls.
And Flamingos too apparently.
We got hit hard by the wind, but I mean hard. I am used to riding in the Canadian Prairies where it can get pretty gusty, but this was out of this world.
Coming from the south over the sea, the wind stroked, spanked, battered, and pummeled us as never before. What a wallop it was. Because we were so close to the sea, we actually tasted salty-grainy-wet air through our helmets.
Once we entered the actual Park of La Camargue, the rain eased up, but the wind pick up even more. During that stretch my top speed never exceeded 82 km/hr on the straights, I was leaning on the tankbag, and Liliane was leaning on my back to reduce wind resistance as much as possible.
The elusive white horses, they brought back childhood memory of the stories of Crin-Blanc.
The top box was creating a lot of turbulence, and the wind was hurling through the microphones in our helmet. We could not stop laughing until we had to close our mouth, so we could lick the salty taste of the ocean of our lips.
By the time we hit the busy port of Marseille, and heavy traffic, the elements had beaten us into submission, we had enough tumultuous riding for one day, and we were ready to call it a night.
We slept in Aubagne just a few kilometers from Marseille for a well-deserved rest.
We woke up the next morning after spending a night at l'Étape (a chain of cookie cutter motel type), but clean, comfortable and only 39.00€.
We woke up rested the next morning, and after having made the minor gaffe of draining the battery, from having GP on while we loaded and geared up, we were on our way to Italy via les Crêtes.
The first thing I noticed was the flags dressing the entrance of our motel now resting softly against their mast, as opposed to the violent bat-out-of-hell flapping of the night before. The weather called for possible thunderstorms, but more to the west of us, Italy promised a bit of clemency.
The ride from Aubagne to Genova was extraordinary.
More twisties overlooking the sea’s crashing waves. Sheer cliffs of red earth sculpted with deep grooves by the relentless motion of the white foaming, blue breakers.
It was magnificent. Denime, Juan Les Pins, La Napoule, Cannes, Aix en Provence, and Nice came and went.
Into the village.
And back on the road.
Entering Cannes, just a few days past the Festival.
Jackie felt right at home.
A few glitzy hotels.
Then headed to Monaco and even glitzier (read full of hot air) Monte-Carlo.
We took a ride on the Grand Prix, and it was a good thing that the streets were busy, or I might have been tempted to see how much of the 260 km/hr showing on my speedo I could try to reach with the red needle before I chickened out.
We toured the small principality, and opted for the Auto Strada to enter Italy through Andorra, and San Remo so we could sprint the last 165 km to Genova where our first night booked in a youth hostel awaited us.
A classic -The famous casino-.
And a couple from the top.
As we entered the province of Liguria we were so impressed by the topography of the highway, long bridges closing the gap between very deep gorges, only interrupted by even longer tunnels plunging us into the depths of the mountains, some a long as 5 km.
We were now in Italy
This went on for a good 125 to 150 km, until we reach Genoa our first night in Italia.
Despite a few wrong turn, GP safely got us to our youth hostel, which sat completely at the top of the city. We were disappointed, not that we had high expectation but, call it clean and clinical, a huge building that could have once been a school or something of that nature, the place was mostly empty (we had a eight person dormitory for the two of us). Charges 20 € each instead of the advertised 16.
In Madrid we paid 37 € for a one star hostel, super well located in the downtown area with a TV and the internet in the room. At the youth hostel we had to make and strip our beds, and used our own towels for the first time of the trip. We are not opposed to doing any of it but the price should match.
Ok ok! We had a nice view.
Nighty night, tomorrow we look for the Stelvio.