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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Brown

Exploring Europe on Two Wheels: A Royal Enfield Adventure Through France, the Alps, and Italy.

Updated: Jan 9

The day unfolded much like the others during my journey, commencing with the ritual of brewing coffee and tapping away on my trusty keyboard in my modest kitchen table office. The notebook before me was filled with jottings, and multiple windows adorned my laptop screen. Amidst the morning haze, three pivotal tasks loomed on my agenda:

Payroll, the imminent website launch, and a crucial rebranding meeting. The seven previous items had been efficiently struck off, leaving these three demanding my attention before the rest of the household stirred and the day surged forward.

With a palpable sense of urgency, I opted to address the intricacies of payroll first, relegating the website go-live and rebranding meeting to the following day's schedule. Despite the website's potential to bolster cash flow, the constraints of time dictated my priorities.

The decision to embark on a journey to Italy for pizza was solidified over a spirited dinner conversation, rife with debates about the very essence of pizza. Though the discussions were spirited, they were laced with good-natured banter, and we were resolute in turning this into an adventure.

Our escapade led us across the city to the east, where the sun-drenched terra cotta roof tiles painted a vibrant mosaic. Negotiating hills and winding paths, we bypassed the turn-off to Eze and descended towards Monaco, reveling in the scenic beauty of the asphalt ribbon tracing the sea. The Himalayan grumbled in response to the rugged terrain, gracefully dancing between 2nd and 3rd gears.

Crossing the Italian border unfolded at a wide spot adorned with a sizable building, signaling the shift in scenery, Ventimiglia, some 10 km down the road, greeted us with a distinctly warmer ambiance. At Pizza Max Burger, an unpretentious establishment, the wood-fired oven produced delectable pizzas while the owner shared tales of his circus days.

It was your quintessential small coffee/bar, adorned with glass cases showcasing an array of tempting treats. A wood-fired oven took center stage, presided over by a skilled artisan tossing dough to craft perfect, round masterpieces that were swiftly fired off to perfection. Our lunch here was nothing short of amazing, leaving us satisfied and ready to continue our journey.

With spirits high, we hopped on our bikes and crossed a small bridge, tracing the riverside upward. The narrow road weaved through transitions, evolving from cityscape to towering rock walls and lush greenery cascading down the rugged faces.

As we ascended, the salty air of the coast was replaced by a darker, mountainous atmosphere that coiled back upon itself. Alongside us, a deep turquoise river flowed, creating white waterfalls that cascaded into deep pools, eventually transforming into a rich, dark blue abysses.

The road clung tenaciously to its winding course, sparing no reprieve from its twists and turns. Rare were the moments of respite, and when we did encounter a straight stretch, it led to a small village that lacked gas, featuring an abandoned train station and a peculiar coffee shop/bar proudly named “Cafe di Gasolina," despite the evident absence of gas. A relic pump stood as a silent witness to bygone days, a testament to a time half a century ago. The lively staff embraced the forwardness induced by the girls' rose-infused introductions. Naturally, we indulged in another round of espresso, while the girls delved into white wine, marking our transition into Italy.

The atmosphere was convivial, with everyone in the establishment seemingly acquainted. An imposing, heavy-set older man, nearly square in shape, engaged us in conversation. Speaking French, he made it clear that he was Italian, choosing the language due to the region's dual influences. He emphasized the distinction between Italian and French, conveying an understanding with an undercurrent of respect. Inquiring about our presence, he queried whether we were there for the renowned road, revealing a shared appreciation for the legendary route. He asked in broken English if we there to do the route?

Perhaps we unfolded our map (via our phones) and traced the path we intended to traverse. His eyes lit up with recognition, affirming that we were embarking upon the renowned route. "Ah, Sospel! A truly remarkable stretch," he exclaimed, in broken English. Illustrating the undulating contours with a deft sweep of his hand. Curiosity piqued, we inquired about the next fuel stop, and he provided clear directions. Fueled not only by petrol but also by newfound excitement, we accelerated down the winding road.

As the village dwindled in our side mirrors, a warmth lingered in our hearts. Interactions like these, spontaneous and genuine, added a layer of fulfillment to our journey, a testament to the enduring spirit of humanity.

Approaching the final curve, a tent and a truck marked the presence of two policemen at their duties. They gestured for us to stop, and a friendly exchange of hellos ensued in French from our side and English from theirs. The atmosphere remained amicable until the younger officer, with a courteous touch, placed his finger on my wife's bare hand, indicating in France that gloves were required. He mentioned it casually, but the situation took an unexpected turn due to the lingering effects of the rose and the mix of Canadian French spoken by our friends.

The scene transformed into a chaotic spectacle reminiscent of a prison yard scene from "Les Misérables" as my wife, unprovoked, attempted to argue the perceived offense. Eventually, the officer raised his hand in a shrugging gesture, stating, "I do not mind; I am just saying you should get some. We are fine, but another officer may not be, that's all." The interplay of wine and the nuances between French in France and Canadian French turned the situation into a nerve-wracking dilemma, with my wife caught in the middle, her now embarrassed hands adding to the complexity.

The officer highlighted the imaginary line on the wide spot of the road, emphasizing that on one side was France, and just a foot away was Italy. Playfully, I suggested that if I backed up, we'd be fine. Laughter broke the tension, leading to a motion to proceed. It was indeed a comical situation, and in the end, we made light-hearted jokes about how no one had ever tried so hard to get arrested. The reality was that we were in no harm, and the incident became a humorous anecdote on our journey.

Following the gentlemen's guidance, we stumbled upon the unmanned fuel station, eerily quiet on account of the holiday. Undeterred, we took charge, paying and pumping fuel ourselves. Brimming with full tanks and the promise of adventure, we eagerly embarked on the grand traverse.

The very self professed gentleman’s at the Cafe de Gasolina famous road was known as the:

The Col de Turini

It is a high mountain pass in the Alps in the department of Alpes-Maritimes in France, situated entirely in the Arrondissement of Nice. The road connects Lantosque in the commune La Bollène-Vésubie, with Sospel in the commune Moulinet. It is the major road link between the river valley of the Vésubie and the Bévéra valley. It is notorious for its many hairpins and scenic landscapes

This particular stretch of road has garnered fame for various reasons, earning its spot in the limelight on Top Gear. It has become a staple on the bucket list for both motorcyclists and enthusiasts of high-performance cars. As we embarked on this renowned route, the landscape unfolded to reveal a plethora of adventure bikes, ranging from BMWs and KTMs to Porsches, some in stock condition while others appeared straight off the racetrack.

Clusters of performance cars and motorcycle groups dotted the road, underscoring its allure for adrenaline seekers. Amidst the roar of engines and the thrilling spectacle of these powerful machines, the most remarkable moments were those instances when it was just us. Despite the road's considerable length and popularity, there were intervals of solitude that allowed us to truly immerse ourselves in the experience.

Attempting to capture the essence of this remarkable journey with my somewhat heavy-handed words, I'll endeavor to transport you to those moments. Additionally, I'll supplement my narrative with a visual feast through the inclusion of pictures, because, let's face it, who wouldn't appreciate a few extra thousand words in such a gracefully straightforward delivery?

The beginning of the path ascends relentlessly from an already elevated mountain valley. As the hill's incline gives way, the road descends to the left, winding upon itself like a dormant giant serpent coiled in a tree. Hairpin after hairpin, swaths of vibrant green grass line the mountainside, creating a captivating contrast in color and beauty. Scaling the mountain, the road weaves and chases the terrain upward, merging with the sky.

Upon reaching the summit, a small wide spot accommodates our hot, panting bikes. From this vantage point, you can gaze over the endless mountain peaks, witnessing a sharp descent to another valley below. The downhill stretch proves even more exhilarating than the ascent, with the bikes seemingly reveling in the experience. Gliding around corners, waltzing with small rock walls at the edge, and the deceptive safety of the white line in the middle, the road becomes a blur of motion as motorcycles, Mercedes, and Porsches zoom by. Tachometers rap out their rhythm, engines scream, and the undifferentiated blur and color make it impossible to discern the type of vehicle.

Our arrival in Sospel materializes like a fairytale, set against the backdrop of a riverbed and sharply tree-lined mountains. On one side, the medieval Sospel unfolds with a great stone bridge, gate, and a formidable protective tower. Imagining a time before the modern road, this city stood fortified by the river below and stone towers, a small mountain oasis with its own stories of France, wars, love, and growing seasons. It's a perfect and magical place that transcends imagination.

On the roadside, a more modern facet of town emerges, shaped by roads and buildings that relinquished the allure of the midlevel. This side, born in the early century, exudes its own charm with shops, bakeries, and cafes lining the main street. Every open space hosts a gathering of adventure bikes, and small outdoor cafes accommodate suited-up groups resting for the night or gearing up for the next climb.

We ease onto the curbs, silencing our engines and dismounting. At a bustling little café nestled in a small Y in the road, we find respite. From this spot, you can peer to your left and witness the older Sospel, envisioning its medieval charm from a bygone era, perhaps traversed by horseback. On the right, the more modern Sospel unfolds with its smooth stucco, street lamps, squares, and three to four-story buildings.

As I sip yet another espresso, lost in the currents of conversation, my gaze shifts to locals strolling by. The two sides of town seamlessly merge, threaded together by the main guard tower bridge and the more modern one a mere feet away from our café patio. It's a moment that etches itself in memory, witnessing the two facets complement each other harmoniously.

Returning my focus to our table, with my espresso nearly depleted, another bottle of French Rosé graces our presence. At this juncture, the girls find themselves in a stage of unbridled laughter, uncertain about the source of their amusement but thoroughly enjoying the moment. In their wine-infused happiness, they too develop an affection for the village. This shared happiness underscores the significance of our stop at Café di Gasolina in a quaint Italian village, alongside a man deeply Italian yet adept in the art of speaking French. In this moment, we find profound appreciation for life's small yet extraordinary pleasures.

To be continued.

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