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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
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A year has passed since my last road trip, so it was time for the usual suspects - Me, Euan, Ben, & Tony - to get together again for more driving adventures.

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Previous trip:
https://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/alfa-romeo-topics-not-covered-elsewhere/600098-gtv18s-european-road-trip-no13-unlucky-some.html

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The Plan:

A lot of things have changed since the last trip, the main one being that I have moved to Italy. I now live in Florence, Tuscany.
This meant that all the planning would have to be done via email & phone. No more planning sessions at the local pub!

Euan had previously been in touch with Ben & Tony about a trip to Spain & the Pyrenees. When he mentioned it to me I thought it was a great idea.

So a plan was formed, - we would all depart on a Saturday, meet up in Carcassonne on a Sunday evening, spend the next 5 days enjoying the Pyrenees, and then take two days to get home again.


Our Basic plan looked something like this:

Day 1 (Ben, Euan, Tony)
UK -> Eurotunnel -> Calais -> Chateauroux.

Day 1 (Nick)
Florence -> Le Tignet.

Day 2 (Ben, Euan, Tony)
Chateauroux -> Carcassonne.

Day 2 (Nick)
Le Tignet -> Carcassonne.

Day 3
Carcassonne -> Font Romeu -> Col de Puymorens -> Port d'Envalira -> Port de la Bonaigua -> Viella.

Day 4
Viella -> Col De Mente -> Col De Portet d' Aspet -> Col De Port -> Port De Lers -> Col d'Agnes -> Col De Portet d' Aspet -> Col De Mente -> Viella.

Day 5
Viella -> Col Du Portillon -> Porte de Balès -> Col De Peyresourde -> Col d'Azet -> Senegue.

Day 6
Senegue -> Col D'Aubisque -> Col Du Soulor -> Col du Tourmalet -> Col Du Soulor -> Col D'Aubisque -> Senegue.

Day 7
Senegue -> Col du Somport -> Col de Marie-Blanque -> Col Bagargiak -> Col d'Ispéguy -> San Sebastian.

Day 8 (Ben, Euan, Tony)
San Sebastian -> Bilbao -> Ferry to Portsmouth UK.

Day 8 (Nick)
San Sebastian -> Vinon-sur-Verdon.

Day 9 (Ben, Euan, Tony)
Ferry to Portsmouth UK.

Day 9 (Nick)
Vinon-sur-Verdon -> Florence.
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Car Prep:

After last year’s trip, the car required a new fuel tank & sender. I purchased them from Classic Alfa.
I fitted the new tank without too much trouble, but the new sender was a whole different experience. The fuel pickup pipe was too long to fit in the tank, so I thought - no problem, i'll just trim it a little bit. After removing approx 10mm from the pipe it seemed to fit ok, so I thought i'll take the car for a test drive. Everything went fine until I got about two miles down the road and the car ground to a halt in a bus lane directly outside Twickenham train station! I had a pretty good idea of what the problem was, but stupidly I had left my tools at home. I had to phone a friend who came & towed me back. Sure enough, the fuel pipe was still a little bit too long and was jammed against the bottom of the tank, stopping fuel being drawn up...

I also decided to tackle the old (dubious) wiring that had caused problems on last year’s trip. I started with the rear half of the loom, as this would be the easiest, replacing all the wires with new (modern) thin insulation automotive wire. The job was fairly straightforward, but took a lot longer than I had anticipated, so I wasn't able to do the front section in time for departure.

Never mind, what could possibly go wrong.?..


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Last years leaky fuel tank dilemma...

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Discussion Starter #2
T14D1

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Saturday 19th May:
Baccaiano -> Parc Naturel Régional des Préalpes d'Azur -> Le Tignet.
https://goo.gl/maps/VbT3iEv5cFC2 535km. 8:00hrs.

For the first time on one of these trips, day one didn't start at 4:30am in order to dash to the Eurotunnel. Instead I was able to wake at a much more reasonable hour & I left the house around 8:30. However, as is normal on these trips, day one did involve a lot of motorway miles.

I had a bit of a fright while driving along the Autostrada towards Genoa, - the oil pressure gauge suddenly dropped to zero!
I actually run two oil pressure gauges, the original one which has the sender mounted high on the rear of the engine, and another one with a sender mounted on the engine block on a tee piece with the oil warning light. Only the original gauge had dropped to zero, but still - I pulled over quickly to check the situation. Fortunately it turned out that the wire to the sender had broken, so a quick repair was made and I was on my way again.

Shortly after crossing into France, I turned off the Autostrada and on to some such smaller roads in the hills above Monaco.
I also filled up with fuel - it is cheaper in France. I travelled some fantastic windy roads on my way through the Parc Naturel Régional des Préalpes d'Azur, towards my over-night destination of Le Tignet. I stayed at a B&B called Villa Cardabella on Chemin du Flaquier. The hosts were very welcoming and even booked a table at a local restaurant for me.

The Rio Je T'aime is an Argentinian restaurant and as it was Saturday night they were having a roast pig on a rotisserie. The owner mistakenly believed that I had travelled all the way from New Zealand to be there, so I was treated like a king! I didn't have the heart to tell him that while I may in fact be from NZ, I have lived in Europe more than 20 years...




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Ready to go...

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Looking down on Menton.

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River Var.

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Parc Naturel Régional des Préalpes d'Azur.

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The King's plate...


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Discussion Starter #3
T14D2

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Sunday 20th May:
Le Tignet -> Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon -> Carcassonne.
https://goo.gl/maps/6Kt5dwoVjBB2 525km. 7:45hrs.

Day 2 started with a relaxing breakfast by the pool at the Villa Cardabella. I was a little hungover, so I took my time & had 3 cups of coffee before heading off into the Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon. I've travelled through this region twice before (on motorbikes) so I knew I was in for a fun day of driving. I was a little bit concerned that I had less than half of a tank of fuel, but I couldn't find a petrol station in Le Tignet so I pressed on anyway. I encountered some absolutely marvellous roads through the Canyon de Verdon and I had a blast.

Luckily there was very little traffic to contend with. I drove more than 100km without seeing a gas station, so I must have been running on fumes by the time I eventually found one. Thank goodness I carry a 5 litre petrol can with me...

The second half of the day was somewhat boring, with a long motorway section to Carcassonne. About 30 km outside Carcassonne I decided to stop for fuel. As I pulled into the motorway service station I noticed that my indicator wasn't working. Also, the car stalled when I pulled up to the petrol pump. Something wasn't right, so after re-fuelling I decided to check the fuses. Everything was fine, but the car wouldn't start. It was as if the battery was flat.?.. I lifted the bonnet and discovered that the main wire from the alternator was broken! Another repair was made and fortunately for me, the exit of the services was on a slight downhill slope so I was able to bump start the car & continue my journey.

When I reached the hotel in Carcassonne, I was surprised to discover that the others were already there. I had sent a text to Euan around lunchtime to check on their progress, but his reply was a bit cryptic, so I didn't really know where they were. It turned out that they had had a rather raucous night in Châteauroux, and they were all terribly hungover the next day. As a result, they had abandoned their planned driving route, and had instead driven directly down the motorway to Carcassonne in order to have time for a siesta at the hotel before I arrived!

That night we had dinner in one of the many restaurants inside the walled city of Carcassonne.

We stayed at the '514 Appart Hotel', on Chemin de Montlegun. https://www.514apparthotel.fr



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Canyon de L'Artuby, Verdon.

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Canyon de L'Artuby, Verdon.

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Le Verdon River.

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The ancient walled city of Carcassonne.

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Dinner time...



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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
T14D3

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Monday 21st May:
Carcassonne -> Font Romeu -> Col de Puymorens -> Port d'Envalira -> Col de Baqueira -> Viella.
https://goo.gl/maps/F6SuHv1BQT42 371km. 7:40hrs.

Everyone was up bright & early for day 3. Unsurprisingly Euan, Ben & Tony didn't feel like drinking too much at dinner the night before. Today was potentially quite a long day, and our first taste of some proper alpine roads. We would be passing through Andorra, which is a 'free port' (tax free shopping) and also has a reputation for heavy traffic. We enjoyed some excellent roads during our morning session, and apart from a closed road / detour from Font Romeu to Egat, made swift progress to Andorra. Fortunately for us, there were no traffic problems, and after filling up with cheap petrol we stopped in Soldeu for lunch at the Hotel Bruxelles.

We left Andorra & entered Spain for the afternoon stint to our overnight destination of Viella. Wow! The road from La Seu d'Urgell all the way to Viella was amazing. The road up the Col de Baqueira (aka Port de la Bonaigua) was a particular highlight. Steep, twisty, but completely deserted, we had a blast!

I had booked a 4 bedroom apartment for us in Viella. It took quite a long time to check-in as the host spoke no English & my Spanish is very rusty, but after we were settled in we went out and found a nice restaurant for dinner. While at dinner, Euan recieved an email from Robin (participant of trips No8 & No10) saying he is in Cologne, Germany. (He spends most of his time in South East Asia these days). A drunken suggestion was made that he should jump in a rental car and join us on our trip! Its only 1000 miles from Cologne to Viella!?

We all laughed at the idea...




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Turn-around at Font Romeu.

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Taking a break at Ur.

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Looking down on Canillo, Andorra.

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Aproaching Ordino.

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Aperitif in the apartment at Viella.


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Discussion Starter #5
T14D4

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Tuesday 22nd May:
Viella -> Col De Mente -> Col De Portet d' Aspet -> Col De Port -> Tarascon-sur-Ariège -> Porte Puymorens -> Puigcerda -> Col de Baqueira -> Viella.
https://goo.gl/maps/EYHVMQnzDKy 389km. 7.05hrs.

Todays planned route was an 'out & back' loop to the Col De Port & Col de Agnes. However, we enjoyed the Col de Baqueira so much yesterday that we decided to modify the route to include it again! It was also supposed to be 'cycling' day for me, but the weather was poor and the road I planned to cycle was closed anyway, so the bicycle remained in the back of my car...

We enjoyed ourselves along the roads over the Col De Mente, Col De Portet d' Aspet, and Col De Port until we reached Tarascon-sur-Ariège. There we encountered a long queue of stationary traffic. It was around lunchtime & fortunately for us we were stopped outside an Aldi supermarket, so we pulled in to buy some food and had lunch in the carpark. Life on a road trip can be extremely glamorous sometimes...

By the time we finished lunch the traffic had cleared, so we set off again, to Puigcerda via Porte Puymorens. This was the 'unplanned' section of today’s route and unfortunately Ben's satnav lead him into the Tunnel du Puymorens, rather than over the Col du Puymorens. As we entered the tunnel the weather was reasonably nice & sunny. The other end of the tunnel was a completely different story. We encountered 'biblical' rain all the way through to La Seu d'Urgell, then wet roads up the Col de Baqueira, followed by more 'biblical' rain until we reached Viella again. It was actually quite good fun on the road up the Col de Baqueira, slipping & sliding around the corners, but it was really quite scary going down the other side in torrential rain with 'rivers' of water running across the road.

Oddly, on our second night in Viella, we ended up going to the same restaurant again. - Why? - because Euan had received a call from Robin while we were out driving, saying that he was on his way! He would be in Viella at 9pm! Euan was so surprised that in haste, he told Robin to meet us at the only restaurant he knew in town...

And sure enough, at 9pm Robin strolled through the restaurant door! The reunion was complete! We were now 5.




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Quick stop on the Col De Mente.

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Fabio Casartelli Memorial, Col De Portet d' Aspet.
Casartelli was an Italian cyclist and an Olympic gold medalist who died in a crash on the descent of
the Col de Portet d'Aspet, during the 15th stage of the 1995 Tour de France.


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On the aniversary of his death, the sunlight shines directly through the hole at the top Left, and illuminates three dates — his birth and death
and 2 August, the day he won his Olympic gold medal.


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Col De Port.

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Col De Port.


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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
T14D5

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Wednesday 23rd May:
Viella -> Col Du Portillon -> Porte de Balès -> Col De Peyresourde -> Col d'Azet -> Senegue.
https://goo.gl/maps/Akh3u4H4dr72 239km. 5:30hrs.

Day 5 started slowly as we were all hungover. Today we were moving from our base in Viella to a new base in Senegue. The days driving started with the eternal search for fuel, and then a car wash, before heading for the hills. The first of those hills was the Col Du Portillon, which is on the border between Spain & France. Euan was leading & went blasting off up the road. We all followed suit. Unfortunately, waiting at the top of the Col was a group of police officers. They obviously heard us coming (most likely the Alfa, it is by far the noisiest car of the bunch) and ordered us all to pull over to the side. It was a nervous time, waiting while they checked our documents, but amazingly, they let us go! Not even a warning!?

From there we took a short side detour up the Porte de Balès, then on to the Col De Peyresourde and Col d'Azet, (French ski resorts). Then we made our way back into Spain, stopping in Escalona at the Hotel Arnal for lunch. At this point Euan split from the group, choosing to head south to Senegue, as he feared that the planned route through the Canyon de Anisclo might be too rough for his car. He was probably right to do so. The road was indeed small & bumpy, and at one point closed! A short amount of 'back-tracking' got us onto another useable road which lead us to the amazing Mirador Cañon Añísclo viewpoint. After another 20km of rough road, we re-joined the 'main' road at Sarvisé. From there it was a short run to the Hotel Casbas in Senegue.

We had a nice dinner with some excellent Spanish wines in the hotel that evening...
Hotel Formigal - Hotel Casbas - Las Margas Golf



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Porte de Balès.

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Col De Peyresourde.

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Approaching the Mirador Cañon Añísclo.

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Robin at the Mirador Cañon Añísclo viewpoint.

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Mirador Cañon Añísclo viewpoint.



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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
T14D6

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Thursday 24th May:
Senegue -> Frontera del Portalet -> Col D'Aubisque -> Arudy -> Col de la Pierre St Martin -> Burgui -> Navascués -> Burgui -> Senegue.
https://goo.gl/maps/3qxWskhDZew 323km. 6:20hrs.

Today's planned route was over the Col D'Aubisque and on to the Col Du Soulor and Col du Tourmalet, then back again. Unfortunately we got an unexpected surprise when we found the Col Du Soulor and Col du Tourmalet roads were closed! We had a good run up the Col D'Aubisque, where we stopped for lunch. There the cafe owner told us that the Col Du Soulor and Col du Tourmalet roads should have been opened yesterday, but the road inspector had failed to show up so the barriers were still locked.!?.. So our plans were changed and we headed to the Col de la Pierre St Martin instead. The view at the top was spectacular, and was followed by a very nice driving section down the Spanish side towards Isaba and then Roncal.

Robin recalled that he had travelled around this region before and he recommended we explore the Na214 at Burgui. It was a good choice. The road is beautifully smooth and wide as it twists & turns like a racetrack all the way from Burgui to Navascués. We had a blast and then we turned around and did it again! When the fun was over we headed back to Senegue via the N240. Sengue proved to be an excellent base as there is a petrol station with a car wash just a few hundred meters down the road.

That night we took a taxi to Biescas, and had a superb meal & drinks at the Taberna Holandesa Gouda.



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Col D'Aubisque.

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Lunch on the Col D'Aubisque.

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Closed barrier. Where was the road inspector.?..

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Col de la Pierre St Martin.

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Drinks at the Taberna Holandesa Gouda.


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T14D7

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Friday 25th May:
Senegue -> Col du Somport -> Col de Marie-Blanque -> Col Bagargiak -> Col d'Ispéguy -> San Sebastian.
https://goo.gl/maps/G8RCnntgRFT2 314km. 6:20hrs

Today was the last day that all 5 of us would be driving in convoy. We headed back into France, crossing the border via the Col du Somport. From there we followed the main highway towards Pau, passing by the amazing Fort du Portalet, before turning off at Escot for a side detour up the Col de Marie-Blanque. After a short photo stop, we went back to Escot where Euan split from the group and headed north to Arette via the main road. The remaining 4 headed south to Arette via the much more interesting (twisty/bumpy) D241 & D341 roads. When we arrived in Arette there was some confusion about where we were to meet Euan and we were unable to contact him, either by phone or radio. We all carry PMR446 radios to communicate with each other while on the road. Using mobile phones is impractical and expensive. (& illegal while driving).

The 4 of us waited in Arette for almost half an hour before we decided to press on. It was a good decision as Euan had passed through Arette and was already heading to St Jean Pied du Port via the main road. The planned route was via the Col Bagargiak, so that was the direction we drove. By the time we finally rendezvoused with Euan in St Jean Pied du Port it was around 2pm, so we hit the road again in search of lunch. Our quest took us to restaurant Alto De Izpegi, on the Col d'Ispéguy. It lies directly on the French/Spanish border, - the restaurant is in Spain while the carpark is in France!

After lunch we passed through the Bertizko Jaurerriko Parke Naturala. Whilst there fog reduced visibility to around 5 meters at one stage, and we encountered the infamous cows, horses & sheep that wander freely across the roads! It was slow (& dangerous) going for a while...

Fortunately, after that we had a good run towards San Sebastian, however my satnav freaked out approaching the city and it took me ages to find our hotel. I had booked us into the Hotel Palacio de Aiete, for no other reason than it has ample car parking. (Finding a car park in San Sebastian can be a nightmare). That evening we took a taxi to the city and enjoyed Tapas & beers in the many small bars among the narrow streets of the old town.

https://www.hotelpalaciodeaiete.com/en/




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The amazing Fort du Portalet.

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Col de Marie-Blanque.

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Unusual statue in Arette.

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Aperitif outside the Hotel Palacio de Aiete.

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Boys on the town in San Sebastian.



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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
T14D8

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Saturday 26th May: (Nick)
San Sebastian -> Col du Tourmalet -> Vinon-sur-Verdon.
https://goo.gl/maps/acZ5ohAvSCs 865km. 9:15hrs.

Today was 'heading home' day. After breakfast I said "goodbye" to my friends, and settled in for a long day at the wheel. Robin was heading back to Germany, and the other 3 were taking the ferry from Bilbao back to the UK. Originally my plan was to hit the motorways and make as much distance as possible, but I had discovered that the Col du Tourmalet was now open, so I decided to include it in my route. Heavy rain was falling as I left San Sebastian and it continued all morning as I headed towards the Col du Tourmalet. The rain stopped as I reached the summit, but it was cold & miserable up there so I didn't stay long. To my surprise there were a few cyclists at the top, but i'm glad I wasn't one of them.

Cycling up the Tourmalet will have to wait for another time...

From there I hit the 'Paeage' for the long boring drive to Vinon-sur-Verdon. I stayed at the hotel Auberge de La Table Ronde, and had a lovely dinner in their restaurant that night.

Hôtel et restaurant - Auberge de la Table Ronde à Vinon sur Verdon




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Foul weather at 7am outside the hotel...

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Heading up the Col du Tourmalet.

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Col du Tourmalet west side.

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Col du Tourmalet summit.

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Col du Tourmalet east side.



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T14D9

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Sunday 27th May: (Nick)
Vinon-sur-Verdon -> Puimoisson -> Moustiers-Sainte-Marie -> Carros -> Genoa -> Florence.
https://goo.gl/maps/jbNcGomKoSo 619km, 8:45hrs.

The final day was also going to be a long one, but I was determined to have some fun along the way. I had plotted a suitably scenic route to make the most of the Provence region and the fantastic roads through Verdon. From Valensole to Puimoisson I passed seemingly endless fields of lavender & other herbs for which Provence is famous. Then it was onto the twisty forest roads through Castellane & on to Carros. After that I hit the motorways from Nice, via Genoa, to Florence.

* Passing through Genoa, I crossed the Morandi Bridge. I thought to myself that it looked very old and decrepit. Eleven weeks later, on August 14, it collapsed, killing 43 people...*
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/world/europe/italy-genoa-bridge-collapse.html



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Fields of poppies growing wild. Lest we forget.

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Endless Lavender fields.

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Lac de Sainte Croix, Verdon.

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Lac de Sainte Croix, Verdon.

T14_D9_05.jpg
The road to Carros.



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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
T14Sumary

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Distance = 4180km in 9 Days (2612miles)
Longest day = 865km (540miles)
Fuel mileage = 10.5km/l (approx 30mpg)
Oil consumed = 5 liters (Valvoline VR1)


Another great European Road trip, travelling in convoy is great fun and it was fantastic to have all 5 of us back together again!

Having said that; 5 guys & 5 cars is probably about the limit for a sensible convoy. It does make for quite slow progress at times, particularly at lunchtime & during photo/fuel/toilet stops...

The Pyrenees were awesome in their beauty and provided excellent driving roads, although the unpredictable weather in that region can be tiresome. The fog/mist that is a common occurrence in the hills, combined with various livestock wandering around freely, can also prove hazardous.

Overall though, this was probably one of the best 'drivers' trips so far. The smaller roads were mostly deserted & we had an absolute blast.

Where to next? My new location in Italy offers lots of opportunities to explore new places. I'm thinking that Eastern Europe is much more accessible to me now, so maybe the Transfagarasan in Romania could be a possibility for next year.?...


:smile2:


Link to Euans Video of the trip:




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Discussion Starter #12
T14Final

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An unusual thing occurred during this trip; - I wore out a set of (almost new) front tires! The outer edges were completely gone!

I had noticed in recent times that the car was feeling a bit inclined to oversteer. The last time I felt a similar thing was about 10 years ago, - at that time it turned out to be worn rubber bushes in the rear trailing arms. I replaced them at that time and the problem was solved. (tire wear was not an issue on that occasion).

Confident that I knew the cause of the problem, I figured that I could replace the bushes again after the trip. What I didn't count on was ruining a pair of tires in just 2600 miles! Upon my return I removed the trailing arms and to my surprise, - the rubber bushes were in perfect condition.?.

I realized the problem must be somewhere else, so I checked the steering rods and I discovered that both outer ball joints were shot!
I replaced them, and having thoroughly tested them on a recent trip to the UK & back, the new tires are holding up fine.

Lesson learned...

T14_sum.jpg
Outer edges were completely gone!




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Thank you so much for sharing this amazing road trip with all the details, photos and video...

What a great time, just a bunch of good buddies blasting around the countryside in fun cars.. Glad to hear your encounter with law enforcement was benign, the video just kind of glossed over it! Next trip - Romania? sounds fabulous, a lesser known corner of Europe. We hope to go there with a friend whose wife is from there, with a house on the Danube, she promises it's beautiful. We took a week driving vacation around the Epirus region of Greece (think western corner) in 2015 - We based ourselves in Ioannina, drive all over the fabulous area. Roads are free of frost-cycle damage: Twisty, smooth and fun. Great food and super nice people.

Cheers,
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hi nick
yes i remember you ,,,thanks for the response ,,i tried to reply but new to this forum so couldnt reply as dont have 10 responses yet ,,so contacting via this thread ??

yes i still have the gtv but to be honest havent driven it much lately as work commitments have been over the top but have just sold the business to our son ray so i only have the 2 farms now to look after ,,,been inspired to get back into the car now i have a bit of spare time on hand ,,ive kept up with a few of the club guys but havent been to club night or events for quite a while now ,,,good to hear from you ,you are in a great part of the country ,,,keep in touch
regards mac
 
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