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Between Lake Geneva and Grenoble
Between Lake Geneva and Grenoble
Runway 08: wind from the southwest
If you get Mont Blanc in front of your sights on Lake Geneva and feel like doing some decent passes, you will find plenty of launch pads for wonderful high-altitude flights between the four-thousand-meter peaks in the Savoy Alps.
Motorcycles, I love them! ” Nanette scolds and looks from the terrace of her house near Gex in the direction of Col de la Faucille. One “Arley-Davidson roars past, followed by two “Onda ”and a half dozen “Ducatie ”. Climbing up quickly from Gex, the pass road twists up to an altitude of 1320 meters. There the bikers follow the winding N 5 to the Col de la Givrine and the serpentine-strewn road down to Nyon, shoot back to Gex and take – “mon Dieu! ” – the Col de la Faucille under the wheels again. Hundreds of them roar on sunny weekends “motos ”” past Nanette’s house. In an inclined position, with spark-spraying side stands, drumming full or shrill screeching, from one “Kurv ”to the next. Hm. Different perspectives on the curve square that I enjoyed shortly before with the still crackling Triumph Daytona with just as screeching engine on arrival.
Between coffee and map reading, your gaze wanders across Lake Geneva to the Mont Blanc towering behind it and finally gets lost in the distant sea of peaks of the Savoy Alps. The curves in between can be imagined in your mind. Five days of vacation! I empty the cafe au lait in one go and tell Nanette that I will be back in four days.
Piano, piano I roll down the driveway, start the first left-right combination in what feels like slow motion. But as soon as Nanette’s house has disappeared in the rearview mirror, I accelerate, shoot via Gex to Divonne-les-Bains and across the French-Swiss border towards Nyon. When Lake Geneva comes into view, I hold on to the iron, open my visor and roll west onto the embankment. The first villas appear, vineyards and, in Rolle, the first Ferrari. Then it comes together: marinas, sailing boats, casinos. The upper class lives here.
The suburbs of Lausanne begin immediately after Morges. The capital of the canton of Vaud stretches five hills. A complex network of streets winds in countless loops over bridges, past stairs and terraces towards the center. Uphill and downhill, mostly one way, in the lively flow of traffic that meanders past picturesque cathedrals and chic parks as well as through dark canyons and bright business and banking districts. Then finally the city is crossed.
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Between Lake Geneva and Grenoble
Runway 08: wind from the southwest
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Sunshine in the mountain village high above the Vallee de l’Eau d’olle.
Flowers over flowers on the way to Vevey. Draped in buckets next to the road or hanging from street lamps. Ever since local residents raved about Jean-Jaques Rousseau von Vevey, this corner of Lake Geneva has been a meeting place for the rich, beautiful and famous. The excursion boat is anchored on the beach promenade “Nestle Frisco Dessert Liner ”, recognizable from afar by the painted ice cream cone in poster format. On “Babette’s ”beach kiosk has Nescafe in plastic cups and Nestle Frisco ice cream, a scoop for three Swiss francs. At the latest when you look at the “Avenue Nestle ”, it dawns on me: Vevey is the seat of the Swiss multinational.
Speed is out of the question on the lakeshore, two corners further on you can already see Montreux. Pine trees here, cypress trees there. Birds sing in banana trees, swans swing on the waves, children whiz along the promenade on inline skates. Fountain fountains rustle on the right hand, and it appears on the left “Grand Hotel Suisse ”, on whose panoramic terrace liveried waiters serve champagne. Wherever you look: flourishes and stucco. The former stars of the Montreux Jazz Festival pass me cast in bronze: B. B. King, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles. Then the Montreux Palace, the undisputed highlight among the city’s magnificent buildings, through whose polished windows you can see huge chandeliers, sparkling crystal glasses and chic high society women. When looking into the shop window, I put on my sunglasses as a precaution, as diamond-strewn watches are so dazzling: Rolex, Cartier, Dior. Brad Pitt smiles adorned with posters.
In front of the casino, bouncers point out the chances of winning to the ladies as they walk past. Super jackpot: 100,000 Swiss francs and a BMW Z4. Minimum bet: two Swiss francs. I start to calculate. If I win, I could buy a lighter set with sparkling stones for 579 francs and a diamond ring (4650 francs) at the Versace jewelry shop, swap the Z4 for a motorcycle, and the rest of the money from Rilsa-Agence Immobilière for a deposit of a 30- Use square meter apartments in the center of Montreux for a mere 1.25 million francs.
In the direction of the Swiss-French border, behind Villeneuve you can finally see a dung heap on the roadside again. Wheelbarrows, children’s bicycles and footballs are lying around in front of the farmhouses, and a dog is dozing in the middle of the street. Posters with the inscription “La chasse est arrivee! ” fluttering on the plane trees – finally hunting season! And the snow-capped mountains of the Savoy Alps are finally drawing closer.
I follow the N 5 to Evian. When it starts again with expensive yachts, palm trees and ornate Art Nouveau palaces, I’ve had enough. Let’s get out of here! I quickly draw another liter of water from the Evian spring “La Source Cachat ”, and then into the mountains. Following the D 903 and the D 12 via Thonon-les-Bains, the Col de Cou is quickly reached, from there the road meanders to the Col de Terramont and on to St. Jeoire. So far the track has been nice, but not exceptional. It only gets spectacular at the Col de la Ramaz, which measures 1557 meters. Sometimes carved into the rocky slopes, sometimes with a panoramic view, the road winds over the mountains. In front of the pass, faded graffiti on the asphalt encourage the former conquerors: Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich. Comfortably cruising through the landscape at 3,500 revolutions, I imagine hundreds of fans cheering on the panting Tour de France cyclists here, while only a few cows eyed me curiously.
Via Taninges I curve down into the wide valley basin of Cluses, there follow the busy N 205 parallel to “Autoroute Blanche ”in a huge lane between mountain ranges in the direction of Mont Blanc. But only a few kilometers further near Salanches, annoyed, I turn away from the hectic main route onto a small wine road up to Cordon – “the balcony of Mont Blanc ”. And indeed: the 4,807-meter-high boulder up there presents itself like on a cinema screen.
In order to enjoy Europe’s highest mountain from another perspective, I have to take the N 205 again. Sawing up snakes, I blow towards the east. Before the road with all its trucks descends in the 11.6 kilometer long Mont Blanc tunnel – the seventh longest road tunnel in the world – towards Italy, I keep to the east and pass the Bossons glacier, which leaks almost to the road.
Finally, wonderful relaxation in Chamonix: the Office de Tourisme on the Place de l‘Eglise has laid out a sense of leisure and loungers in the sun from which you can loll around and contemplate the mountain of mountains. Just the thing after hours in the saddle of an athlete. Later I discover the “Place de Garmisch-Partenkirchen ”- the more upscale places of the first hour of alpine tourism do their homework – faded postcards on which ladies of the better society stroll with frilled parasols in front of the white powdered mountain backdrop.
When I look at the map, I notice that theoretically one could do a great French-Swiss-Italian circuit via Great St. Bernhard around Mont Blanc from here. But unfortunately mainly on busy main routes marked in bold red on the map. There has to be better.
Spooky evening sky on Lake Geneva.
I find it south of St. Gervais and Megève near Praz-sur-Arly. The route curves wildly and boldly through the gorge that the Isère tributary Arly has dug into the landscape here. The shield “Following Col de l’Arpettaz ”, there is a tiny pass road that grazes the rock face of the Montagne Charvin, which measures 2407 meters. The road is narrow, winding, not very busy – great! Here a few alpine pastures, there a handful of mountain bikers who disappear like paper cuttings between wispy clouds. Downhill the asphalt is pockmarked and pockmarked, and I rumble over stones, mud and holes in seemingly endless turns. Only after the sign: “Attention: Chaussee deformee! ” (Caution: road damage) It’s getting better.
At Ugine you take the expressway to Marlens and on to Col de l’Epine. As narrow as the previous pass, but with a brand new, Daytona-compatible surface. Wooden chalets adorned with flowers fly past in the corner of your eye, and you have already reached the next ascent: the Col des Aravis, already high-alpine in character. Where the sun has already dipped behind the peaks, an icy breeze is blowing. At the top of the pass, I shivering and warming myself on the cow, sheep and goat skins that a souvenir shop has hung out. Even zebra skins against the cold are part of the program, as well as plush Bernhardiner and rabbit fur foot warmers. If you are still cold, you will find various brandies and liqueurs inside – “Degustation gratuite ”(to be tasted for free). I renounce to stroke the back of the plush St. Bernard, take one last look at the jagged rocks all around. Then the descent begins through a wild and romantic gorge to Notre Dame de Bellecombe.
The next day begins overcast. At the top of the Col de Saisies, the thermometer shows a damp ten degrees. Apart from sheep, cows and a basset hound dozing in front of his hut, there are no living things around. Only those who have fur seem to dare to go outside this morning. Shivering, I pull the balaclava over my head and wish for the hare fur muff from the Col des Aravis. Shot down to Beaufort. All around, mountains overgrown with jungle green, the settlements in the valleys covered by clouds – a dramatically beautiful scenery. It gets a little warmer with every turn. In Beaufort it is late summer again.
Another croissant in the bou-langerie “Le Petit Randonneur ”, to take the serpentines up to the Lac de Rosseland under your wheels. The lake shines like a Caribbean blue, the mountains behind it are shrouded in mystical dark clouds, somewhere a waterfall cascades down from slate walls. A final ascent through barren rocks to the vegetation line at 2000 meters, then with big ears down to Bourg-St. Maurice. The snow-covered three-thousand-meter peaks in the east give you goose bumps at the sight, so continue towards Moutiers and on a narrow connection to Brides-les-Bains. A bath with thermal springs! Just the thing after a frozen motorcycle day.
Over the evening beer, I start to ponder over the map how far I actually want to allow myself to be drifted south. The temptations are inexhaustible, one pass after another, almost all of them look very exciting. With the last sip “Blonde du Mont Blanc ”I have the solution: drive as far as the imposing almost five-thousand-meter peak can just be seen. Solomonic. The result is the following round: Col de la Madeleine, Col du Glandon and Col de la Croix de Fer, all around 2000 meters high and – almost inevitably – the skiing Mecca of l‘Alpe d’Huez at 1860 meters.
But as soon as I’ve left France’s highest ski village and legendary stage destination of the Tour de France, all discipline is gone again. How magically I am drawn south to the Col d’Ornon. And the Col Accarias has to believe in it too. Without a will it goes via Monestier-de-Clermont to Grenoble and there in a south-westerly direction to the Vercors gorges. Only in Villard-de-Lans do I finally pull myself on the belt and the machine strictly on north course. Col de Vence, de Porte, du Cucheron, de Plainpalais and de Leschaux burn up under the wheels. At some point you can see Mont Blanc again. I no longer allow myself to be seduced by a detour, sticking consistently like Odysseus to the singing of the sirens.
Only when Annecy and Geneva are behind me and I approach the legendary corner square at Col de la Faucille do I get weak. Behind Gex I look up at Nanette’s house – nobody on the terrace – bingo! And step on the gas.
The beautiful time of the off-season begins in the Alps, and depending on the altitude and the weather, it can extend well into October. Anyone who sees a stable high pressure situation in the weather report should not hesitate and take the chance.
Breathtaking view: panoramic view of the Col de la Croix de Fer.
The quickest way to the Lake Geneva region is through Switzerland. Take the motorway (annual vignette for 25 euros required) via Basel to Bern, from there either via the A 12 to Vevey and Montreux or via the tunnel-rich A1 to Lausanne. If you have a little more time, you can include the Swiss-French border region of the Jura Mountains on your journey from Basel instead of burning over the motorway. Orientate roughly to the course of the Doubs and join the route near Geneva.
In Montreux you can stay very luxurious in the Hotel Bristol, Avenue de Chillon 63, CH 1820 Montreux-Territet. B & B / DR from 65 euros per person, reservation only via www.minotel.com or the central Minotel hotline 0041/21 / 3100881. The terrace of the hotel has a great view of the lake, in the spa area you can use the hammam and sauna , Swimming pool or jacuzzi after the tour. The Chalet Lou Stalet de Jovet, Chemin de Jovet, F-74700 Cordon, phone 0033/4/50901208, email: email@example.com, www.lou-stalet.fr, is very personally managed. The guest rooms with breakfast cost from 39 euros per person in a double room. A distant view of Mont-Blanc is included for free. The Hotel Le Printemps de Juliette, Avenue des jeux in F-38750 Alpe d’Huez offers a special charm. Telephone 0033/4/76114438, fax 0033/4/76114437, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.leprintempsdejuliette.com. O / DR from 45 euros per person. Breakfast costs 12 euros, half board 45 euros in addition. Owner Juliette carries spring not only in the name of her hotel, but also in her heart … The Hotel Les Bruyères, Rue Victor Hugo 31, F-38250 Villard-de-Lans, phone 0033, is very cozy, built in an alpine style with lots of wood / 4/76951183, fax 0033/4/76955876, email: email@example.com, www.hotel-vercors.com. O / DR costs 37.50 euros per person (without breakfast), HB 63 euros per person with double occupancy. The hotel speaks German and also offers tour tips for motorcyclists.
Map: Mairdumont / Maucher
Duration of the trip: four days; Distance covered: 1200 kilometers.
A wonderful season in the Alps begins in September. Autumn arrives with bright colors and often stable weather conditions, vacationers have disappeared and the streets are empty, before winter approaches on many high passes at the end of October. It is important to have warm, weatherproof clothing in your luggage and an attentive ear for the weather forecast in order to be prepared for any sudden weather or early onset of winter. They actually usually come with an announcement!
The 256-page travel guide is recommended for the stage around Lake Geneva “Lake Geneva Region ”from Michael Muller Verlag for 15.90 euros. Some passages about the French regions of Savoy (French: Savoie) with Lake Geneva and Mont-Blanc area as well as Rhône-Alpes with Grenoble and Vercors can be found in the Baedeker travel guide “France”. The volume including an overview map of France costs 25.95 euros. The Michelin sheets No. 328 are recommended as maps “Haute-Savoie” and no. 333 “French Alps North” on a scale of 1: 150000.
Information is available from the French Tourist Office (Maison de la France), PO Box 100128, 60001 Frankfurt / Main, info phone 0900/1570025, fax 1599061, www.franceguide.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about Switzerland can be obtained from the Swiss Tourism Association by calling 00800/10020030 (toll-free) or www.myswitzerland.com. Further interesting Internet information can be found at www.rhonealpes-tourisme.com and www.vercors-tourisme.fr.
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