Posts tagged verbier
Day 8 - Le Chable to Metz (France)
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One of the things I've been trying to avoid since Germany was motorways and despite this being a long long old day to get to Metz part-way up France I was determined to stay mostly motorway-free. Well, that and avoid paying the rather high cost of 40 Swiss Chuffs for a motorway vignette tax thing. The 40 Chuffs is an annual tax jobby and is the only one available these days as they seem to have done away with the shorter duration one I got a few years ago when on a car trip, but as I would only have needed it for an hour land a half or so there was no way I was paying that. I'm way too tight. Typical northerner.

So the day was designed to be motorway-free all the way and pretty much ended up that way right until the last hour or so outside Metz, and even then was a toll-free part of the French motorway system. I did read online before setting off that it is 'impossible to avoid the Swiss motorway tax' if you are riding through the country but it really is dead easy. On this trip I've now crossed south to north from Tirano to Chur, and now right over to the west and had no problem at all sticking to A-roads and avoiding motorways and as the tax is only needed for motorways have also avoided that. If you want to avoid the Vignette tax then it can easily be done.

The day's route went from the Verbier area up to Villeneuve on the end of Lake Geneva, then through Montreaux and Lausanne to a small border crossing (again, no need to stop at all) and into France, with the road hugging the edge of the lake for a good length of the way. Montreaux was a rather cool looking town and Lausanne was the only place where the traffic got heavy enough to snarl up, but I was soon through that. It was also exceedingly hot today, about 33 degrees, so the coat eventually had to be strapped over the box on the back to stop me melting completely. 

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In France I got way too excited by the sight of France's one decent contribution to culinary excellence since the 1970s, a Buffalo Grill. Marvellous. What can be better than ribs smothered in artificial BBQ sauce while country music is playing with plastic cowboys and buffalos dotted around the place outside?  

My other stop was one of the 'etap' places the French sign off the main dual carriageways and motorways - towns or villages which have all the facilities of a services without building a special place. And as a way of getting extra visitors into the town it works - the church here was the afternoon coffee stop. 

I left Verbier at 8.30am and arrived in Metz around 7.00pm - a long day but a fairly easy one with a few coffee stops and the lunch stop.

Metz is a surprisingly nice town with a huge old cathedral in the middle, a couple of rivers and loads of tiny streets around it so a most agreeable place to while away a couple of hours before bed and then the final drag home at last. 

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Day 7 - Chur to Le Chable (Verbier), Switzerland

A day of snow, a car crash, mountain passes and a first for me, dirt track riding.

Today was a rather unexpectedly superb day. Yesterday was a good ride but the last two hours were two hours too far, on an arse that was killing me, and to a place I didn't particularly like (Chur). I had a planned route for today which was via long wibbly roads over about ten hours crossing Switzerland right to left, to Le Chable, a place about 15 minutes from Verbier. After yesterday through I decided to shorten it a bit and stay on the main-ish route between the two, avoiding the motorway and dual-carriageways but using the most direct option apart from adding some mountain hairpins at the end to cut a corner.

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This was probably the best A-road I've ever driven or ridden along!  From Chur it quickly becomes a quiet road winding from small town to small town, sticking to the side of one long river valley as you head towards the town of Andermatt, about an hour and a half from Chur. As you get closer to Andermatt though the road starts to climb higher and higher up the valleys, twisting back on itself as it crosses at first low mountain passes and then higher and higher ones in succession.

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Andermatt itself is stunning and I discovered sits at the head of a valley, the only way out of which is up and over. The image here is taken from the lower end of the pass looking back towards Andermatt and was breathtaking in it's quiet and beauty. Not bad for an A-road route!

Eventually you reach the head of the pass and are above the snow line, so cue the almost compulsory shot of the scooter against a nice snow drift. There is a great cafe there with a decked terrace sitting about 20 feet in the air over the side of a snow-filled precipice - a fantastic place to stop, stretch the legs and get a drink and sarnie.

This road is known locally as 'James Bond Strasse' and was the location for the long shot in Goldfinger of Bond in his Aston Martin following Goldfinger in his Rolls. 

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This is not the only pass on the route and as you can see in the photo above as the road winds down the hill from one pass, off you then go back up the next one.

At the bottom of one of these passes I had parked up to let the hotel know what time I was due to be there (it is a small place so I thought helpful for them to know so they are not waiting around all day just for me to rock up). As I sat on the scooter there was an almighty crunch from about 200 yards behind me and it seemed a small car had misjudged the corner a little, overshot the exit of the corner and slammed sideways into the metal Armco barrier. Oops!

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Thankfully there were no injuries apart from pride and paintwork.

From here there was a view of the distant Matterhorn - a sight guaranteed to make you want a Toblerone immediately! 

Once I was about an hour from Verbier I had a choice, a long way around on the main roads, or up a mountain pass on an endless series of switch-backs and hairpin roads. As it was my last day in the mountains there could only be one choice so the hairpin route it was. I'm not saying that this was not necessarily the biggest road in Switzerland to start off with, or that the lack of traffic coming the other way crossed my mind as something to take notice of, but when the tarmac surface ran out these things did suddenly come back into focus! 

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By this point I was a good half an hour up the mountain and thought sod it, no point in turning back now so just ploughed on along the gravel and then dirt track, over the crest of the ridge and back down the other side when it met civilisation and a hard road surface again. I still don't know if this was a proper route but what the hell, it worked.

The hotel was in a small town called Le Chable, close to Verbier so I popped into Verbier for a nosey around as well. And a thoroughly lovely and agreeable place it is too, although a selection of cold meats, two alcohol-free beers (got to ride back to the hotel yet!) and a cheesecake is about a million Swiss Chuffs so you leave with a satiated appetite but bankrupt.

And a last picture from the day, and probably my favourite photo of the whole trip, this cow peering into the camera as I was taking a photo on one of the mountain passes withe the road running along it. Love this photo! 

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