10 October 2014

Dolomites & Regatta

A friend of mine invited me to participate in a sailing regatta in St Tropez in late September-early October, so I decided to do that and take a couple of days to ride through the Dolomites in Italy before starting the regatta.  Here is the route:

24 SEP 2014:
I flew into Milan as usual, but had decide to leave the bike in Nice, just for a change of pace, and because it is closer to St Tropez.

I didn't know where I would stay the first night I arrived, so headed up towards the Dolomites to see how far I would get.  Ultimately, I stayed in a town called Brixen, at a historic hotel called the Elephant, where an elephant on its way to Vienna (or somewhere) died a couple of hundred years ago.  The hotel was expensive and pretty average, as was the town.  Oh well...

25 SEP 2014:
I got up early, and the guy at the front desk of the hotel gave me a couple of tips on roads to take, so off I went.  It was a bit chilly, so I stopped here for a coffee:
There were lots of cool mountains around:

After this little break I decided to head over towards a town called Arabba, which I reached by about lunchtime.  Usually I don't stop for lunch for for some reason I decided to stop here to have some gulasch and fresh bread--yum!
A couple of shots from the town:
From Arabba it was time to go over passo Pordoi, or Pordoi Pass.  Very beautiful:

I also didn't know where I'd stay tonight, so I kept on the lookout for cool places as I went.  I found a couple of decent hotels in some little mountain towns along the way, but for some reason decided to keep going until I got to Bolzano, where it took me a long time to find a hotel, despite trying to use the GPS, etc.  Bolzano was OK, nothing special...

26 SEP 2014:
At the hotel last night, I tried to decide whether to try to ride passo Stelvio, the highest pass in Europe (or something); I was worried about how twisty the road would be, whether there could be snow/ice already, etc., but eventually I decided to give it a try.  Here is a map view of the road over the pass, and a picture showing the road that I downloaded from the internet:
 It was a couple of hours from Bolzano up to the approaches to Stelvio, and the weather looked fine, so up I went.  I have to say that the turns were very tight and I didn't find the ride to be a lot of fun, but finally I made it to the top:

Nothing really special up top, so I didn't stay for long.  Heading down was much easier, fewer curves.  I was staying in Bellagio tonight, so I headed that way.

Here are the traditional Bellagio ferry shots:
 27 SEP 2014:
After a night in Bellagio, I headed out toward Port Grimaud, where we'd be staying during the regatta. I basically headed through Turin and then down towards the Col de Tende (Tende Pass), then through Col de Brouis and Sospel.  I'd been this way when I brought the bike to Italy from Spain and remembered the road as being very twisty.

I guess there is some construction going on at Col de Tende, I had to wait at this light for about half an hour before proceeding through the tunnel:
I'd bought some sausage and cheese in Bolzano, wanted to have a little picnic lunch today.  I saw a bunch of bikes parked at a cafe at Col de Brouis, so I stopped there:
Chatted with this woman from Manchester, who was part of the biker group, apparently it was one of their annual rides.  I spoke with several of the bikers, they were nice enough:

Looks like this spot would have been a bit more peaceful without an entire biker gang hanging out:
Anyway, from there down to Port Grimaud.  I found where we were staying easily enough, but they prohibit motorcycles from entering the grounds, so I had to find a golf cart to take me to our apartment!  Very irritating.  More on Port Grimaud later...  Here is our apartment:
 Port Grimaud is basically a fake traditional French fishing village (ala St Tropez) built in the 1970s; it is basically self-contained, with (bad) restaurants, (expensive) stores, and (cheesy, fake) "traditional" housing.  Let's just say I didn't care for it much, but it was very convenient for the regatta, because it is also a marina, and the boat docked right in front of our apartment.  Here is the first morning:
 Here is our boat, Rusalka:
Here are a bunch of shots of the regatta, in no particular order:

Here are some shots taken from a helicopter during the regatta:

Honestly the regatta was much more boring than the last one I went on, for a variety of reasons.

Other than the "racing" there were dinners, etc. every evening, here are some shots:

Finally, for the last night of the regatta, there was a big night out in St Tropez...apparently there was some kind of festival there, with all sorts of costumed revellers:

Then later we went to the most shi shi night club in St Tropez.  Not my scene, but here are some shots:

As you can see from the pix, loads of pretentious eurotrash.  Actually pretty ho-hum compared to Moscow.

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