France   

Email Sent: Saturday, June 28, 2008 9:53 PM

 Monaco to Thonon-les Bains - France

On Tuesday the 24th we headed out from our Italian truck-stop camp site nice and early and headed for France.  About 50km from there in between two tunnels on a bridge we saw a sign board stating that we were crossing in to France.  We left the toll road about 30km before Monaco and drove along the beautiful twisting coastal road, past some of the most amazing villas, chateaus and beaches.  Wow, these people sure know how to build on steep slopes.  Most people drive small cars - Fiat, Peugeot, Suzuki - and the funny thing is that the GS has a bigger engine that most of them....  the rest of the people (male and female - young, middle aged and some really old) ride scooters, some with engines as big a 500cc!  It's wonderful to see the scooter riders dressed in beach clothes to suites, most are really friendly. 

The beaches looked wonderful with the coloured umbrella and sun loungers all in rows, with well tanned bathers relaxing and children playing in the sand. It was really interesting entering Monte Carlo, the buildings were just that much more better maintained than in other areas, some cars bigger and better - Bugatti no less.  Well the real excitement started when Johan realized he was riding on the Monta Carlo grand prix track - the little boy inside took over and we had to ride the whole circuit.  This was by no means an easy task, as there was plenty of traffic, people everywhere and it was hot - it was stop start stop start all the way but it was lots of fun!!  From now on, watching the race on TV will have more meaning and we will watch in awe at the skill the drivers as they negotiate the really narrow track, tight turns and a really steep uphill...  man those guys are good!  After the fun of the grand prix track we headed in the direction of Nice which is a huge city, so we only went on the main road on the outskirts. This road took us past Grasse where perfume originated from (sorry ladies, there was no time for shopping) and into the French Alps.  We found a picnic area in a pine forest and decided to pitch the tent for the night in a secluded corner under the very tall pine trees with a nice bench and table.  What a beautiful setting, the birds were singing and the air was filled with the wonderful scent of pine.  We had a bush shower - flexible plastic coleman water container with tap hanging in a tree, filled with freezing cold water from the river which you jump under to get wet, soap yourself and then clench your teeth as you stand under the cold water for a longer time to rinse the soap off, brrrrr!)  I had to shout to Johan to come and protect me as there were huge mosquitoes buzzing around and I had already been zapped on my leg and shoulder.  We had an absolutely peaceful, wonderful night! Praise the Lord.

 FranceThe whole of Wednesday was spent in the French Alps, we followed the signs that said "Route des Grandes Alps" and we went on roads that are seriously steep, we went left and right as they zigzagged up one side of a mountain and down the other side. We saw hundreds of waterfalls and rivers in the valleys and towns flowed with great force due to all the snow melting high up on the peaks.  We saw many people with kayaks along the side of the road, some all wet with big smiles talking to those preparing to go in the river. Man it is so beautiful, the air is so fresh, really cool in the tunnels or when in the trees of the forest areas but pleasantly warm in the sun.  Most of the roads we travelled on were part of last year's "Le Tour de France" and some of the towns we passed through were advertising that "Le Tour de France 2008" was coming through their town.  Due to this and the summer season (July & August), the people in the little towns are very busy doing maintenance and even road works.  They have beautify little flower boxes everywhere, on lamp poles right through the towns, outside shops and restaurants and of course the houses also have flower boxes in their window.  Everything is clean and tidy - one town after the next.  The towns and roads are already filing up with tourists; there are cyclist everywhere, people hiking and hundreds of motorbikes even up and down those seriously steep passes. 

All sorts of cruisers, Harleys, super bikes - new and old, some really large (650cc) scoots!  But believe it or not - we did not see any Aprillia road bikes.... even in Italy! Sorry Ron...  Plenty GS's everywhere, every time I see a yellow one, I wonder if itís Tim!! The one road we were travelling on - Col du Mont Cenis - should have taken us back into Italy, but about a quarter way up it was closed due to a landslide, so we had to turn back and the only other alternative was to take a tunnel that went through the same mountain, this tunnel is just over 12 kmís long.  It is unbelievable what the road engineers have achieved in the Alps and believe me such great work comes at a price and that little detour cost us 27 euro.  As they say in Dubai - "what to do" !!  We got off that road as soon as possible and headed for the nearest camp site.  The road to the camp site was up a little hill to a quaint little church with a clock/bell tower and the camp site neatly around it.  Yes the bell rang out on the hour for the number of times to reflect the hour (twice for some reason) and once for every half hour.  It's a wonderful sound but I was getting worried about what was going to happen at midnight, thankfully it stopped at 10pm and only started again at 7am.  There were quite a few camper vans and some bikers at the camp site.  Once again we had a peaceful night. 

 On Thursday we only left the camp site at midday and once again we followed the sign of "Route des Grandes Alps", and we were blessed with the most amazing scenery.  The mountains and valleys are absolutely breathtaking - I keep wondering how so many people in the world believe that the earth was created by a "big bang" and all I can think of is that they live in four little walls and have not experienced the absolute beauty of nature that only a true living God can make - with such perfection.  Praise the Lord!  From town to town, through valleys and over mountains it is a picture perfect moment even better than on National Geographic!  I just love the houses, some are so tiny and quaint, some built right next to each other, some painted and others aged with time, others with old stone walls but all have neat little gardens or flower boxes in the windows.  We rode next to beautiful lakes, the colour of the water is almost turquoise, the water is icy cold but the taste is unbelievable - a new meaning to refreshing!

In one of the bigger towns we found a supermarket that sold roast chicken and decided that it would be dinner as we hadn't had any chicken since Dubai!  So not too much further down the road and on one of the mountain passes we decided to set up camp in the bush on a little dirt road just off the main road.  It was right next to a fast flowing river and was slightly at an angle but we managed to pitch the tent, ate about half of the really juicy roast chicken and turned in for the night. I don't know if it was the angle of the tent or the fast flowing river but we both did not sleep very well.  We were up and packing at 5am on Friday morning and headed off once again on the beautiful mountain pass.  We stopped for a late breakfast snack of left over roast chicken, tomato and mayonnaise on a baguette at the edge of Lake Leman. What a wonderful location; fishing boats, sailing boats and barges, eagles catching fish and gliding on the updrafts next to the mountain and across the lake we could see Switzerland.

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