Friday 28th Sept - Rest Day            Climbing just in the Van Distance a couple of miles on foot!

This was a good idea given I had already done 800 mile and 36500ft of climbing. Also we were just up the road from Montreux and Lake Geneva. A quick scan of the internet and David had discovered a local railway museum, we popped in though it wasn’t actually open a couple of the enthusiasts were there and got talking in German with David and discovered there mutual love for all things train like. The sheds were soon opened up and we had a private tour of the extensive collection of memorabilia. After a few hours of trains and trams we descended to the side of Lake Geneva to visit the mediaeval Château de Chillon where Lord Byron visited for inspiration the poem The Prisoner of Chillon which of course we are all very familiar with, he must have been the original vandal as he scratched his name in the dungeon. The castle was the gate way across the Alps via the Grand St Bernards Pass, and the lords got rich by collecting fees to pass, tomorrows challenge.

Day 9 Saturday 29 - Sept  Destination - Grand St Bernard Pass  Climbing 7740ft Distance  79 miles

Setting off down the valley from the camp site at Chattel Saint Dennis I quickly descended towards Montreux, though a wrong turning left me off course from the GPS perspective, however once on the lakeside the chance of getting lost were pretty small. Passing the Montreux Palace Hotel with its distinctive yellow shutters and expensive looking entrance graced with a few Bently’s and Porches, maybe next time we visit. Soon passing the lake and moving up the valley the wind seemed to be blowing in that direction so a good pace made. A quick stop for a coffee and cake, plus a look at an attractive waterfall; then I pushed on for the climb. Once you start the climb it’s a continual upwards grind not too steep for the first 20Km 5% to 7%. If you go up the main road there are some bits where you cannot avoid some semi tunnel sections. I found this pretty disconcerting as the traffic either way is very loud and I also had to negotiate some roadworks sections where the traffic light timings didn’t reflect the time a cyclist might take. For the last 5Km you take the road to the col and it takes you outside of the tunnel and up the side of the mountain.  This section has multiple switch backs and is reminiscent of some parts of   the Fred Whitton (only not quite so steep though).  Two thirds the way from the top was a sign for a hospital, not sure that whether this was for worn out cyclists or mountaineers, seems a strange place for a hospital though. The climb was pretty unrelenting and long, I am not sure it would go down as a favourite. I met David at the top; he presented me with a Union Jack to cross the border into Italy with to the bemusement of some onlooker, bloody Brits soon be able to keep them out once they’ve done Brexit! Also Aunt Margaret had given us some money for a drink to celebrate, though it seemed like home from home at the bar, 3 tables full of Brits, last chance I guess before international driving licence’s visas and any other penalties negotiated in the great Brexit deal or no deal!

Though sunny it was pretty cool in the wind so we headed off to the camp site at E’troubles 5Km from the top.   To celebrate we had a night off cooking and went to a local Pizzeria, had a large meat Anti-Pasti platter, beer wine and a Pizza, bloody marvellous.

Day 10 Sunday 30 - Sep  Destination - Asti            Climbing 4698 ft Distance 111 Miles

Descending was fun though quite intense as you don’t want to get carried away and mess up at a bend. I had planned to take the back roads to begin with as the main road was busy, and avoiding too much traffic seemed a good idea, though it meant a bit more up and down. Once again the GPS was thwarted by events as I passed through Aosta. Following the route diligently I ended up on the course of a local marathon; banners over the road, people handing out drinks, crowds of onlookers, the works, fortunately the runners were either well ahead of me or well-spaced out! Further on the Museo delle Fortificazioni protruded from a rock jutting out in the valley, I stopped for coffee and cake and exchanged pleasantries with a local cyclist. Now there was a nasty headwind blowing up the valley from the plains below taking away the downhill advantage. The wind died down once I left the mountains and started crossing the flat plains of northern Italy making my way towards the next camp site. David rang to give me the good news that the camp site we were heading for was having a big closing party and that we would not be able to stay there the night. The nearest open alternative was 20 miles south. Given it was already quite a long day and I didn’t know where the new site was we opted to meet at the original site and to get a lift from there to the new venue.

Day 11 Monday 1st October         Destination Rapallo         Climbing 5322    Distance 85.63

I re-planned the route starting near San Bernadino south of Asti, the day was slightly shorter than original but still a challenge. The start  was undulating with some small hills and valleys with a vineyards dotted around building to a bit of a hill just before Genova peaking at about 1800ft, followed by a sharp decent. The long windy steep descent into Genova was fast with some sweeping bends, a joy to ride; and then all of a sudden you are in the city. The route through the city was directly down the seafront. Genova is quite industrial, peppered with container docks, cruise liner berths and an airport; it’s a bustling port with a lot of local traffic. Scooter seemed the best mode of transport to avoid the traffic queues.Seems most teenagers, girls and boys own one and zip through the traffic like they are playing some Nintendo game, following on my bike seemed the best approach as they were moving much faster than anyone else. South of the port the seafront has a nice promenade, I nipped into a café grabbed a Latte and a pastry then started heading for Rappollo. The Italian Riviera coast is beautiful, with winding inlets, river worn gorges, steep climbs and villas perched high with fabulous views of the Mediterranean, all making an interesting but tough cycle, an area I would quite like to go back to explore in the future. The weather had been a bit variable throughout the day with some strong winds and threatening clouds making for some dramatic vistas down the coast as I neared Rappollo. A bit of a climb and I was soon descending into the pretty harbour town of Rappallo. After meeting up with David we made a quick visit to Portofino in the campervan, a very pretty and very expensive place to live, no parking though, should have gone by bike, another place to come back to.