web analytics

The Solo Scooterist

Documenting my travels on a Vespa

Month: November 2014

Tuscan Treasures

With Victoria serviced it was time to leave Pisa and do some exploring . People speak so fondly of touring Tuscany , so I thought not to be influenced by others I would do the same but on a Vespa .  I could not let the opportunity pass , to have your own ride to tour Tuscany  was just too good to be true , so into the world of sunshine and wine  we rode , heading  South again  , we set our sights on Siena with a few stops on the way .

 

Tuscan tunnel riding .

Tuscan tunnel riding .

I had set no specific destination , I thought that Siena could be a good start , we took the country roads , with the clean autumn air putting some life back into these riding limbs , we toured , passing through the famous San Gimignano , San Gimi  in short for  those who have lost their pronunciation ability due to much of that Tuscan red that  so robes many a tourist of their newly acquired Italian phrases , anesthetising tongue  and mind . Although San Gimignano ,  is the trap that trumps all tourist traps , still it is a delight to walk and absorb this charming well preserved piece of Tuscany . You can see I have not succumbed to the temptation of the Tuscan sangiovese grape,  espresso for me , two wheels and wine put you in the vines . I left around lunch time to make my way to Siena to try and find a place for the night as well as early enough to explore .

 

Vic hanging out in San Gimignano.

Vic hanging out in San Gimignano.

 

A million reasons to love Italy.

A million reasons to love Italy.

 

Life on the square.

Life on the square.

As I rode out of San Gimignano I noticed rows and rows of what I would refer to as the men in black .  Very well dressed drivers sitting or standing close to their equally pristine black luxury cars , waiting for their tipsy Tuscan tourists to emerge from lunch , belly’ s satisfied to the point of an ache and rosy red cheeks the colour of the vine that helped them pass Tuscan time . Tuscany as I would realise while riding is full of these black cars , driven by smooth Armani styled suits , with  the rear seat full of smiles or a head slumped to the side as the passenger dreams of Tuscany while being ferried home.

 

Back in the bush.

Back in the bush.

 

Lost in time . No cars allowed.

Lost in time . No cars allowed.

I passed through small villages , most of which seemed to have been removed from the map in the figurative sense , forgotten in time , but not by the tourists seeking a piece of Tuscan  life , be it only momentarily with the photographs being the proof  as the fly through .

 

Siena so distant.

Siena so distant.

We arrived in Siena , quickly found a place for the night , and off  I set to  walk the streets with what remained of the afternoon . As the afternoon passed so did the strength in my walking legs and my ability to hustle the bustle . I had seen a fantastic deli while touring , so I made my way back to stock up on some dinner items and some fresh produce for breakfast and took a hour walk through the streets back to camp Victoria.

 

zooming the city.

zooming the city.

 

Posing Vic .

Posing Vic .

 

Il Campo , without the crowds and horses racing.

Il Campo , without the crowds and horses racing.

 

Duomo , yes another one.

Duomo , yes another one.

 

Same Duomo different angle , yes this phase will pass.

Same Duomo different angle , yes this phase will pass.

 

Camper life.

Camper life.

After a fantastic home made dinner and some laundry it was off to bed , tomorrow we would tour a little deeper and further into rural Tuscany . My sleep disturbed by a French couple arriving in the middle of the night , these camper homes  don’t allow for much to go un noticed or heard . The  French are known for their passion and flair and tonight was going to be no exception ,  true to form they kept the camper in motion , with passion leaving them deaf and uninhibited to the world around them . Then the rain came in , I rushed out to save the clothing , no luck though . The next morning my alarm clock  the French rockers again  , so I packed , had breakfast while I put my now wet clothes in the drier .  fed with warm dry clothes packed we left , while the French slept , exhausted or sea sick from all the motion , I could not tell for all was quiet on the western front . You might wonder how I knew they were French , like I said , the divide in the single trailer we shared allowed the deaf to hear , every word heard .

 

Farewell Siena.

Farewell Siena.

 

Siena line in the sky.

Siena line in the sky.

 

Back in the country .

Back in the country .

 

Back to dust and dirt , exploring rural Tuscany.

Back to dust and dirt , exploring rural Tuscany.

The ride down to Montalcino was ravishingly beautiful with more than half the ride being off road in and amongst the vines , it was an incredible experience . I have always been a fan of the wines produced in this area , but not having my man in black , Vic and I just enjoyed the open road , the beautiful vines and the colours of autumn , stopping for the odd coffee and a stretch .  My mind saying , to this place I must return , with purpose , a man in black and my tasting palate primed .

 

Heading to Brunello country .

Heading to Brunello country .

 

As far as the eye can see.

As far as the eye can see.

 

In Brunello country.

In Brunello country.

From here it was down to Pienza , another magical town , not as infested as the others by the Tuscan tours , quaint and cool . Here we filled up and headed down to Montepulciano , wishing for another dust cut through the vineyards , like the better part of our day had been .

 

Tuscan Life in Pienza .

Tuscan Life in Pienza .

 

Montepulciano.

Montepulciano.

We settled for the night in the town of Arezzo , for the next day I had to trace the ride back through Florence , Pisa and then on to the Italian “Rivera” , the coastal road that would take me all the way to Cannes , Grasse and the up to Lyon. It was going to be long days in the saddle , we had 5 days to get across into the South of France and then up to Lyon , where I was meeting a good friend for a trans Africa celebratory lunch and our annual catch up .

 

The Barber shop.

The Barber shop.

After breakfast we took on the road to the coast , while riding  I came across this barber shop in the middle of a very small town , I thought it a great idea to enjoy the precision of an Italian barber , so we spent an hour together not understanding each other at all ,  while I watched as his scissors , clippers and arms ran my hair to the ground . My only distraction from the flamboyant movement and discussion that filled the shop were the numerous nudes that decorated his establishment in the form of calendar’s , no longer current in terms of day or year , but current in terms of the breasts and bodies that helped take your mind off the day , the cutting and the slowness of life here in the country  . Shorn , shaken and smoothed out , we shook hands , exchanged currency and smiles and Vic and I  rode once more  , my mind full of days , dates and of years long  gone .

 

Farewell Florence .

Farewell Florence .

 

Could this be the Duomo.

Could this be the Duomo.

 

What a view , from up here .

What a view , from up here .

 

Parting shot before we ride for the coast.

Parting shot before we ride for the coast.

The riding slow , but a wonderful way to impose your eyes on Italian life , the rain would stop the ride an hour or two before I had planned . Tomorrow was another day , time to stay dry . We just made it under cover before the ocean brought the clouds laden with a down pour that would have left us drowned if we had been caught with no place to hide , the strong ocean wind lashing the sheets of water like a rag doll , I watched from my hotel room as the rain bucketed down , dry warm and thankful.

Tomorrow we ride for France .

Until we meet again.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Rivera , Cote d Azur & following Napoleon

 

Weather from my window.

Weather from my window.

The previous days rain had run to the mountains , so packed up we took the coastal road heading to Genoa through the mountains , I was really enjoying the riding especially since banning the GPS from toll roads and highways. Alas it was not long before I caught up with the rain that had hit the coast the previous day . Within one hour we had gone from a sun filled coastline with cyclists of all shapes and sizes dominating the roads , pedestrians and dogs enjoying the promenade to the misty mountains and a deep slow wet seeping rain .

 

Towards the mountains.

Towards the mountains.

 

In the thick of it .

In the thick of it .

The roads got wetter and windier , I got soaked by the rain and moist mist that engulfed us for two hours . The ride got colder and colder as we climbed up  into the mountains . It took over three hours to crest and to find the sun that would follow us all the way to France .

I felt that I was caught up in  the land that inspired  Bram Stoker , the tall alpine firs packed thick and dense along the mountains steep sides , standing perfectly straight on 45 degree slopes , line after line. My vision limited not only by the dense mist  , but the sharp curves and bends that slowly stepped us to the top . The place perfectly still but for the motor climbing , the mist hiding all from sight not only on the road but all who lurked and lived in the misty mountains . Riding solo does let your mind run wild and free , so I enjoyed my land of Dracula high up in the mountains .

 

On the way to Genoa .

On the way to Genoa .

The sun saved us from the wet and cold and started to thaw me out as we came out of the pass and down to Genoa  , from here is was the Italian Rivera , full of spectacular riding roads and then France arrived at our wheels full of sunshine , opulence and dramatic coastline . Another border crossing , but not really , just a sign to tell you that the registration plates on cars now said F not I , bongiorno was replaced with bonjour , the architecture upped a gear and the amount of  posing people  exploded . Vic loved it here , the coastal road that took us into Monaco and beyond , just a great ride.

 

Another country .

Another country .

I think Vic and I really looked the part on the streets of this principality , amongst those prancing horses that would creep ever so slowly to the tunnel entrance , those LED lights low and ready to pounce , once the rear left the light , the ever proud owner would apply all of his will and force to the accelerator ,  the sound of that finely tuned motor would transform the tunnel from a path through a mountain to a place of pilgrimage for the owner . The car responds to his will , answering through the pipes sending a mechanical  wail of readiness , the launch and then brakes as the bonnet finds the rear of a slower car , down to a burble until the next tunnel.

The  badge of Bentley flying its spurs , the owner wrapped  in leather and wood , stitched and stern his face as he joins the peak hour jam , only his comfort can calm him . So many marques on display in this land , some bearing performance , others luxury and others  just A to B .

Vic and I had the usual advantage of two wheels and no jam , we stitched our way through , on to Nice , down to Cannes , enjoying this life on display , stopping to take in the cliff views , the deep blue and the people of the south.

 

Victoria en route  to the Principality of Monaco.

Victoria en route to the Principality of Monaco.

 

South of France Nice hey.

South of France Nice hey.

Arriving in Grasse we found accommodation , exhausted from a extremely long day on the roads of two countries , is was off to bed after a quick dinner , tomorrow more back roads as we make our way up to Lyon .

 

Grasse and scented streets.

Grasse and scented streets.

 

Autumn glory .

Autumn glory .

 

Alpine life .

Alpine life .

Todays ride was something I have not experienced before , we ended up on a road or a route that takes you out of Grasse and through the back , rural countryside of France , almost as high as Lyon . The road  referred to as route Napoleon. If ever you are in this part of the world , ride , drive or cycle it , what a spectacular two days of riding it would be .

Route Napoleon is very popular amongst bikers and being a sunny Sunday Vic and I had company and a lot at that . When we stopped people would pop out their phones , pictures and questions would follow , with a whole lot of disbelief .

The route is very challenging from a concentration point of view , with very steep descents , accents joined by curve after curve  , the going is slow and the distance travelled resembled Africa in many ways  , long hours to distance travelled. Damn it was fun.  Words fail , photo’s offer a little more .

 

 

 

Country and cottage.

Country and cottage.

 

land and lake .

land and lake .

 

Mountain Paradise

Mountain Paradise

 

True glacier blue.

True glacier blue.

 

Open country .

Open country .

 

Vic on high .

Vic on high .

 

Sun on snow .

Sun on snow .

 

Winter is coming .

Winter is coming .

 

Jet streams .

Jet streams .

The mountains full of families truffle hunting , for it is truffle season here in France and that black gold of the culinary kind is in very high demand , as we ride I see people setting off , back packs and baskets hoping to find their truffle at the end of the rainbow , just beautiful. We rode the Alpine roads all day found refuge in the mountains surrounded by the magnificence of this land turning rich with autumn . I sat outside watching the sunset , the twinkle off the first snows high up on mountain tops , the clean beautiful sky crisscrossed with the hand of the jet stream , what an incredible ride .

 

DSCN5885

 

streets paved with beauty .

streets paved with beauty .

The next morning after a delicious breakfast , French style , of fresh baguette , cheeses , cuts , that thick  lumpy  farm fresh yogurt and freshly brewed coffee , prepared me for the mountains and a eight hour ride to Lyon on roads that would even trump the day before as we rode higher and higher , Alpine style .

Just waiting for the snow .

Just waiting for the snow .

The ride took us through dramatically  beautiful Alpine scenery , with the colours of autumn in the sunlight  adding to this rich landscape . From the  delicate greens , the  golden yellows , the reds , browns and the magnificence of the blood rusted leaves , their colour so beautiful . It is like mother nature punished them for trying to hold on to their green for to long , when they well knew the new season was upon them , they  ignored her , held on so tight , in a vain attempt to elude her . She gave them no option to go from green to gold , her punishment so harsh she bled them to their death , leaving a colour indescribable in its beauty and the pain of its demise .

 

DSCN5830

 

DSCN5894

A day long , beautiful and cold , with coffee stops , vistas  and views that left your body fresh with the air , your mind clear with the light  , so cleansed by nature we rode into  Lyon in the late afternoon , with the briefest of light left on the city , we found the hotel , settled in , tried to wash the cold out and after persisting with that hot shower  the chill left my bones fleeing back into the night where it belonged .

Until we meet again.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Lazing in Lyon

I had not realised how exhausting the last week of riding had been , until I sat down to dinner with my great friend Robin , who had graciously flown in from Moscow , via Los Angeles and London to rendezvous with me , so we could celebrate friendship and a trans Africa scooter trip . Our first night in France was  met with jet lag and scooter fatigue , so after a brief catch up it was time to hit deep sleep for  tomorrow was our celebratory lunch .

My hotel room , when I opened the door and walked in caused me to turn around and walk out ,  back to reception to question the size of it . The good news was that my standard room had been upgraded to a suite for a reason even they could not explain , but there I was with my own lounge , dining area , kitchen and then the rest of the suite , so much space ,  so comfy it was I would end up staying a week , getting to know Lyon intimately and on some level I felt a little local  , with my local stores in the surrounding neighbourhood where I would buy my local produce and prepare great meals to music .

 

Truffle's and cream

Truffle’s and cream

Our chosen venue for the celebration , was to be the father of French cuisine with a pedigree spanning a lifetime , the all time great Paul Bocuse . Known for his old school genius , his food a symphony of  rich sauces , dishes wrapped in cream , full of flavour , rich and deep , yet as light as swan lake on your palate , flavours  complex as a Rachmaninoff concerto .  The attention to detail incredible , wines served at perfect temperatures,  , bouquets of deserts , a cheese selection worthy of more than just a mention , coffee , macaroons and chocolate to close . I do love the French , wow did we have an afternoon . Sadly the next day Robin had to return to London and I decided to get lazy in Lyon , spend sometime enjoying France’s second largest city .

 

Flying the flag.

Flying the flag.

 

All about opera .

All about opera .

 

Cathedral with a view.

Cathedral with a view.

I would spend hours walking the streets , like a spy looking , learning and absorbing as much of the city as I could . Morning coffee , street cafes , long walks along the Rhone or the Saone the two rivers that hold Lyon in their flow . Or I would take in the old city , cathedrals , steps to different vantage points , I was enjoying my time here , so the days rolled one to the next and it would be a week before I woke to ride back to Italy,

 

City of bronze .

City of bronze .

 

City below .

City below .

DSCN5914

DSCN5931

I would also spend this time investigating and trying to organise a way of getting the scooter home , which without the help of the Vespa guys in South Africa would have been a months process . I would also have an amusing dinner in a Thai restaurant where my lack of  French , his lack of French and English would result in me getting a starter I did not order but could eat , a great stir fry that I did and the power of language that turned a glass of red wine into a bottle . The chilli was spectacular , those capsicum lava balls dancing the foxtrot on my tongue . I think that heat kept me sober and warm on my walk home in the now almost winter chill.  The night temperatures falling  dramatically and the wind whipping cold.

 

DSCN5932

 

DSCN5961

The Rhone .

 

DSCN5957

One of the beautiful homes that line the park .

I woke up early on Sunday , the daylight  had already started to warm the morning  air , I decided to spend my morning in the park , and I think one day I would like to do a photo shoot and call it  people in parks , it is amazing what you see an entire world attracted to this green open space that supports life of all kinds . Just fascinating , such a rich insight  , a window to a little bit of Lyon life . I loved my sunny Sunday roaming the park.

 

Hot house flowers .

Hot house flowers .

 

DSCN5937

Another home on the park fringe.

So my week would come to an end and it was time to ride again , Milano was the city to explore next and prepare for the end  of my time in Europe , the place to prepare Vic for her shipping and to get me back on African soil , home was now just a ride and a flight away .

Until we meet again.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Altitude , Alpes and Alpothermia

It was time to get back to Italy and make the necessary arrangements to get both myself and Vic home , back to sunny South Africa , the shipping arrangements had still not been confirmed , the collection point was Milano so it was logical to make my way there and start the process. I left Lyon amidst the morning chaos that comes with a city and her inhabitants making their way to work by any means possible . The temperature had dropped by 10 degrees overnight and the steel of grey had moved in , with it that sharp cold that cuts to the bone as you ride. The first couple of hours passed very slowly in the heavy mist with the roads treacherous , narrow and wet . In the gloom our progress masked by the blanket thrown over us by the weather Gods.

I stopped every couple of kilometres to add layers of clothing to my body , which helped initially but as we climbed higher into the Alpes the additional layers lost their  impact as the higher altitude and lower temperatures ransacked my body of warmth , it was getting really unbearable , my clothing far from adequate for HELP D Heuz .

I was riding through the magnificent Alpes , on a scooter that had now been touched by all kinds of environments , some more physically uncomfortable than others , from the sands of the Sahara to the snow capped Alpes , we now made our way to our destination. The  route  from Lyon via the back roads to Grenoble up to Alpe D Huez , then on to Briancon , back into Italy , then Turin and on to Milano was both beautiful and bitterly cold .

 

DSCN5972

 

DSCN5975

 

DSCN5978

 

Climbing up into the sunlight thankfully offered some relief but by now I was wearing most of my clothing , plastic bags on my gloved hands and a couple of buffs to try and maintain some core warmth . With the below zero temperatures flashing on the billboards compounded by the wind chill factor , I was the blue of smurf combined with  the red of the nose reindeer , the shivers of a newly committed  addict into rehab and lips that could form no words or create a seal between cup and lip . Vic was loving it though , the fuel up here was 98 octane and the clean , crisp grey day matching her paint job gave her a sense of belonging .

 

Scooters and ski lifts.

Scooters and ski lifts.

I passed abandoned ski lifts waiting patiently for the season to open , hanging quietly , limp and cold . In a couple of months they will offer laughter , excitement and thrills for those they carry high up into the mountains , their cold steel seats full of the vibrancy and colour of the latest ski fashion , the bravado of the youth jeering or cheering each other on and the lure of  powder , off piste and pleasure .These towns  now like empty shelves , low on stock waiting for the new supplies to arrive , then they will once again burst with choice and plumpness for now they  are  just lost in the mountains ,with a skeleton staff preparing for winter wonderland and the ski invasion .

The bars will entertain late into the night , the restaurants will overflow , the streets full of laughter , conversations , the slip and swerve as the marriage between alcohol and ice fails , the victims of  schnapps and bravery nursing injury , so the ski season will return .The late night snowfall will hide the towns indiscretions , cover the foot prints and offer a brand new start and a day full of possibility .

 

Winter is here

Winter is here

By the time I crossed into Italy , I knew that it was time to choose the shortest and fastest way to Milano , which I did and by late afternoon we arrived in the city , all that remained for me to do once we found the hotel was to unpack the scooter , run a bath to stop the shaking and shivering , wolf down a bowl of  warm soup ,apply thermal underwear , imagine a bed full of Viking furs , not the thin  blanket before me and off to bed it was.

I knew winter had come , the cold  had removed all the warmth of Africa , it was time to return  . In the morning the preparations would start and with it the realisation that a journey had found the point of return.

Until we meet again.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

© 2017 The Solo Scooterist

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑