04 September 2010

St Tropez-Lago d'Orta-Lago Maggiore-Milan


I set out pretty early along the Cote d'Azur, from San Tropez through Antibes, Cannes, Nice, and Monaco. I had never been in this area, so was kind of looking forward to checking it out.  To see the sights I had to stick to the coastal road rather than the highway, which meant that it was very slow going.  To make a long story short, Antibes and Nice seemed very nice.  I didn't take many pictures, really nothing remarkable, although I did have to get a shot of the famous Casino at Monte Carlo:

The coast just past Monaco is also pretty spectacular:

Shortly after this spot my GPS directed me to turn left off the coast road to start north toward Italy.  I expected to end up on a highway, at least for a while, but I ended up on probably the twistiest mountain road I have ever been on, with more hairpins than a New Jersey beauty salon.  It was actually pretty brutal, but of course mercifully little traffic.  After a couple of hours of this, the road turned onto a slightly larger road through a beautiful river valley.  Really, nice, here is one pic:

At or near the border between France and Italy there is a really cool, long tunnel—very narrow, small, it felt like I was riding through a mine shaft.  Anyway, once I got into Italy I decided to pick up the pace, it was getting toward late afternoon, so I got on the highway and about 50 tolls later arrived at the beautiful Lago d'Orta.  I decided to stay in Orta San Giulo, which as far as I could tell is the nicest town on the lake.  It is quite nice, with a quaint old town and lots of artwork placed around the city.  Here are lots of pix, it is a very photogenic city.  Supposedly the island visible from the city (first pic below) is the "most beautiful lake island in Italy," but somehow it just reminded me of Alcatraz:


An un-Photoshopped sunset pic:

Nice city, but rather sleepy.  Next morning, on to another lake!



Did not have far to ride at all today, just over the Lago Maggiore, so I basically decided in ride in loops a bit.  Rode up to the north end of Lago d'Orta, then over the Lago Maggiore near Stresa, then down around the south end of Maggiore and back up the eastern shore via Angera (very relaxing day not withstanding riding through "Stresa" and "Angera").  From Angera, up to Laveno, and caught the ferry over to Verbania, then up to Cannobio.  Here is me on the ferry:

I had more trouble finding a hotel in Cannobio than anywhere I've ever been, very few hotels, and the ones I found were full.  Finally found someplace with a moldy-smelling room, but my only alternative was to ride to another town, so I took it. Kind of a pretty town, see the pix below, but utterly boring—don't think I'll be back here, ever, unless I'm just passing through somewhere…


Was not eager to hang about in my crappy hotel in Cannobio, so I left early, thought I'd try to do some shopping, maybe see if I could find a hotel in Laveno for future reference.  Took the ferry again, no shopping, no decent hotels in Laveno, just headed down to Milan.  I checked into a hotel in the middle of nowhere (near Mototouring), and then headed downtown to check out the sights.  The city seemed really dead, lot os stores closed, etc.  I stopped for lunch by the castello and then went and dropped off the bike at Mototouring and walked to the hotel.

The area around the hotel was remarkably boring and sterile.  I noticed that even the neighborhood strip bar was closed on a Saturday.  This place is boring!!!  I probably walked for an hour trying to find a place to sit outside and have dinner, but no luck.  The few bars with outdoor tables were fully of very seedy-looking characters.  NOTE TO SELF:  next time stay downtown…  Anyway, as I walked around I poked my head in a few Italian restaurants, but all of them looked to be run by Koreans.  Finally I gave up and had an average dinner in one of the Korean/Italian places.  I also noticed that most of the local populace walking about on the streets were carrying take-out pizza boxes.  Kind of funny.  Later on, I didn't even bother looking for a bar, I knew it was hopeless.

Next morning, I woke up and got the hell out of Milan via a very expensive ($125!) taxi ride to the airport (NOTE TO SELF:  Next time get hotel downtown, near express train to airport…)

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