Sunday, September 11, 2016

La Confitería, Barcelona

We stumbled upon this little gem of a cocktail bar by accident. Set in an classical building over hundred years old and filled to the ceiling with cocktail supplies. 

Having all kinds of weird and wonderful cocktails on the menu we just had to try some. All came with funky accessories and something burning ;) If you ever end up in the area you have to stop for a drink!

Signature drink gets served on a tiny shipping pallet ;)
Yes that is a bell pepper :D

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Over the highest mountain pass in Europe (13.08.2016 - 15.08.2016)

We drove over the french alps back home to Switzerland! 

But first we had another night in an old castle surrounded by vineyards in the Piedmont region. The following morning we took the most direct route to France. Not exactly the fastest but it made us cross the lovely Colle delle Finestre. At least the uphill part was... The downhill part was a dirt road the first eight kilometers. Not so funny on our tiny wheels.

Anyway, we made it and then crossed the mountain pass between France and Italy. Next was the Col de L'iseran, with 2770 metres above sea the highest in Europe! Okay it was only ten metres more than the Stelvio pass which we did in the beginning of the trip ;)
Snapped some pictures and then we descended to the village of Val d'Isere. Exhausted we decided to enjoy the lovely weather a bit more and stayed for the night.
In the morning we drove on to Chamonix to see the mighty Mont Blanc. And then we were only two passes away from Switzerland! Over some tiny passes we then progressed to Gstaad/Saanen for the final night. 
The night was short and the morning after brutal but we still managed to drive all the way home. 
In total we did 3'504 km in three weeks... At least I did, Winstons odometer displayed 90 km more?! Don't know which one is right :D

Top of Europe!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Along the Côte d'Azur (10.08.2016 - 13.08.2016)

After leaving Andorra (and crossing one gigantic traffic jam uphill) we drove to Carcasonne for the night. The little city is well preserved and looks really nice towering on the hill.
The following day we drove all the way east to the coast but didn't quite make it. The crazy Mistral made riding our micro machines way to dangerous. We were almost blown off and had to lean into the wind at certain times. It was blowing up to 60km/h from the side o_O. So we spent the night in Salon de Provence and continued the following day with a big headache ;). A lovely stretch between the hills later and we reached St. Tropez! 
Here we stayed on one of the luxurious yachts anchoring in the gulf. Okay it was an old rundown boat, but still! Having a swim and enjoying the view was awesome. Also at night we got picked up were all the fancy people waited to get to their boat :D The illusion was a bit spoiled when our broken little dingy arrived, but still! ;)
St. Tropez otherwise isn't really worth mentioning... A lot of ladies dressed as girls and a lot of girls dressed as ladies. Weird world between the yachts and Ferraris.
The next day I would never have traded our motorbike against one of these luxury cars. Almost all the way to Cannes was one never ending traffic jam. We must have overtaken millions of cars... 
A brief stop and off we where for lunch to Nice. Enjoying a last time the fresh spoils of the sea.
On to Monaco, country number eight of eight! Almost three thousand kilometers behind us and still not home :D
We toasted to our success and drove on.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

In Barcelona and through Andorra (06.08.2016 - 09.08.2016)

After 24 hours on board we finally had land under our wheels again! Country number five!
In Barcelona we stayed in the (touristic) heart of the city, Las Ramblas. At the hostel we were met by Melanie, which had flown in for the weekend! :D
The next three days we spent drinking wine and eating tapas. I don't remember how many pinxtos we ate, but too many! Of course we visited the obvious places and walked around the gothic quarter.
To relax from the hard life the three of us drove south to the Platja de Gavà. A lovely beach with a little shack and bar. Here we got joined by some more friends on the way to Portugal, right off the ferry from Genoa with their hippie buses ;). A nice little reunion!

Then it was Monday and time to say goodbye. Melanie flew home and we drove on to Andorra. Some unpleasant motorway later we were on a winding street up to Andorra, country number six!
We got warned that it isn't worth a visit. What an underestimation... Gas stations, car and motorbike stores and way to many hotels literally filled the entire valley! We slept in an expensive hotel, filled our tanks with cheap gasoline and drove on. The mountain pass over to France was nice. But even on top of it at 2400 metres above sea where three! gas stations, wtf?!?

Friday, August 5, 2016

All roads lead to Rome (01.08.2016 - 05.08.2016)

Rome, Check!
Vatican, Check!
Ferry, Check!

We did finally reach Rome after a night of camping half way from San Marino. There we got the first rain on this trip, about an hour in our tent. Lucky so far!
Our two days in Rome where spent between sightseeing (just the bare minimum, the tourist masses and the heat made it impossible), some Vespa maintenance (leaky oil valve fixed, a new rear tire and oil change), drinking (did I mention the heat?) and eating (soo good!).

The time was up and we drove as close to the colosseum and the Vatican as the police would allow before chasing us away. Snapped some pics and we where off to the coast!
We boarded the ferry as one of the first and checked out our cabin. Many people opted for the cheaper option and slept everywhere on the floor. One couple even raised a tent on deck. Bad idea, once the ship started moving they got almost blown over board. The next day we arrived late in Barcelona due to a late start and rough weather.

During the ride we were afraid the rolling would make our Vespas topple over... Nothing happened, phuu!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

South Tyrol, Rimini and San Marino

We made it to country number three! After finally crossing into the South Tyrol and a rather short night in Bolzano we cruised along the beautiful Lago di Garda. A dip in the lake and detour to Sirmione for a pleasant meal we powered on to the east. The next morning we made a quick stop in Chioggia for breakfast as this is a city built in the lagoon like Venice (minus the tourist masses).
From there it was all the way south along the Adriatic coast to Rimini. The part were we stayed wasn't as crowded as expected and we had some beach time to battle our T-Shirt tans ;)
In the night we wandered around town and had to recognize that everybody was either half our age or got kids O_o
Luckily we found a street party full of locals and thanks to this ended up with little sleep and a miserable morning after ;). Some pizza for breakfast to sober up and we tackled the short stretch to the Republic of San Marino! Driving all the way up front to the historic part of the city we parked our mighty machines and headed into the tourist throng. There was some kind of medieval festival going on: people dressed up, stalls, falconry and canon shooting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Start your engines! (25.07.2016 - 28.07.2016)

Resting on our third day on the road I have time to inform you about the current adventure :D

A while ago our little Vespa gang made plans for the summer and this is what we came up with:
Switzerland - Italy - San Marino - Vatican City - Spain - Andorra - France - Monte Carlo
If your wondering how we get from Italy to Spain, we take the ferry from Rome to Barcelona ;)
Sadly not everybody made it to the start line... Rainer didn't get his Vespa approved nor has he the permit to drive its 150cc engine O_o
And Alex managed to "crash" his Vespa which resulted in a broken foot! This left only Patrick aka Winston and me to tackle this.
Of course we started with some mountain passes in Switzerland. So far we did the Oberalp, Splügen, Maloja and Bernina. There are four more before we turn south but on the last leg back in Switzerland we have seven more mapped out. Hopefully Alex can join us there and show us what his new scooter is made of ;)
So all is well, we managed to "outrun" the rain a couple of time and hope the weather forecast which announces snow down to 1200 meters above sea level. Our the next pass is 2700 m.a.s.l. O_o


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Big in Japan (04.03.2016 - 28.03.2016)

So of course we spent some time on the main island of Honshu before and after visiting Hokkaido.

Especially in Tokyo, strollin through the Shinjuku and Shibu district. Visiting the metropolitan building for a look from above, wandering through the busiest cross road in the world, play in some video game arcades but skipping the even louder slot machine and Pachinko halls.
Nobou gave us a grand tour starting in the fish market district in the morning and ending the day in the country side for an amazing dinner.

Afterwards we travelled south to Hiroshima by bullet train. This takes only 4.5h for the whole 675 km distance (about Zürich to Berlin). Here we visited the museum of the bomb site, quite a gloomy and horrific exposition. The devastation has been ultimate… Also we visited the Itsukushima island with its free roaming deer and famous great torii. But here already the tourist masses where getting bigger.
Although not as big as in Kyoto, our next destination after a brief stop in Kobe to eat some Kobe beef ^^. Kyoto got mostly spared by the WW2 bombings and has a lot of old buildings, temples and shrines to show. This together with the starting cherry blossom season made it packed with tourists. After Hokkaido where we were more or less by our own this was a bit of a shock. Later we headed back up to Tokyo for some last days before flying home :(

Having a stroll through the bamboo forest
But let me summarize the highlights of this country:

The food: For most of the world Japanese food equals to sushi. How wrong! In hindsight it felt we spent most of our time travelling from restaurant to restaurant! We had awesome ramen, delicious Teriyaki, expensive Kobe, crazy Yakiniku, famous Okonomiyaki, Mongolian grill, Japanese curry, a classic and traditional meal in a little hut placed in a wonderful garden (BIG thanks to Nobou again!) and of course crazy kaiten sushi (sushi on conveyer belt, with an extra express belt for side orders and a third for clean up. The place also had a beer pouring automaton ^^).

The transportation system: Coming from Switzerland not much in terms of public transport amazes us, except Japan! Tokyo looks like its just metro and subway tunnels and the rest of the country is criss crossed with Shinkansen lines! For example there is a bullet train between Osaka and Tokyo every 15 minutes! The tramways in Zürich barely have that frequency… O_o
And of course the Kei cars! OMFG we so need those in Switzerland. Tiny cars for a dense area is like a super logical conclusion. But back home everyone wants an SUV :(

The people: Incredible how friendly, polite and helpful the Japanese are, even tough most don’t speak any other language. The formality and politeness trumps everything we’ve encountered so far. You didn’t have to be on the lookout all the time for your stuff or any thugs trying to cheat you. I truly felt more secure than back home in Switzerland! It was so refreshing and different to previous trips! 

Truly looking forward to the next visit!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Snowboarding in Hokkaido (08.03.2016 - 20.03.2016)

With our trip long over it was time of to start the tale. A while ago the idea to go snowboarding in Japan got much more popular with the flight prices plummeting. So it came that Melanie, Patric and Patrick (aka Winston) ended up in Hokkaido for almost two weeks of snow and fun. 

Our days up north were split between Furano and Niseko. The two more famous ski areas I could find online ;) 

Furano had a lot of hotels with german names like Naturwald or Edel Wärme o_O. Quite weird hearing them pronounce it, hehe. There weren’t many other foreign tourists (or any tourists at all). It was snowing on the night we arrived and then again almost every day.
We mostly spent our days riding the fluffy powder between the birch trees! Sooooooo an amazing experience. This is THE (emphasised enough?) reason to go again! 
Patric and Patrick in the chair behind us ;)
Unlike back home it isn’t generally prohibited to enter the forests. Usually there were designated gates to cross over or they asked you to take off your skis/board not to leave tracks which any beginners then would follow :D
Speaking of beginners, the riding level is definitely lower than in Europe. And snowboarding is still “cool” :D Not many skiers, all Japanese cool kids are snowboarding ;)

Niseko on the other hand is way more popular with western tourists. Mostly Australians, Expats and others from Singapore or Hong Kong. This makes the main town of Hirafu a bit sad, when entering a bar and not a single local is inside… 
To avoid the crowds and especially the high lodging prices we stayed in the nearby town/hamlet of Moiwa. There is a little independent ski resort here which allows you to reach the bigger Niseko United resort and ski back in the evening. The Moiwa Lodge was great and we had some enjoyable days. Sadly it only started snowing again when we left. There was enough snow left (about 3 meters), don’t get me wrong. Just not the fluffy powder we had come to love in Furano ;) 
Here they have even more back country possibilities accessed by so called gates. Seeing the runs we have missed we definitely have to visit again!
Brown = Groomed slopes, G1 - G11 access to the back country.
We stayed were I'm pointing ;)

Of course we spent some days on the Honshu main island, more to that in a future post!