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Coffee stop at Café Paris in Vielha Spain

Rachel and Simon capture the Bonaigua Pass view 

Pre dinner drinks in Millau

Meal in Millau

Barge on the Rhone.
Will it sink?

Coffee again in Mende

View from Col de Rousset

Alfa on full throttle

Relaxing in Menton

Graeme Gallaoway's Anglia
Montagnes de France  - 24 September to 7 October 2015
Deuxième Étape - Pyrenees, Spain, Andorra, Menton
Story Jim Paterson.
Photos Jim Paterson, Mags Campbell, Dave Spence, Louise Wall

2500 miles through France, Spain, Andorra and Italy crossing countless 'cols' and driving great roads. This was Montagnes de France 2015.

We were now crossing the border at the the Col du Pourtalet at 1794m point (over 5800 ft), for lunch, one of the highest passes on our tour.

What goes up must come down, as they say as we passed spectacular scenery including the Lac del Escarra on our way to Broto, our overnight stop. The Sprite began showing signs of brake fade so more checks tomorrow.

Broto (Spain) to Soldeu (Andorra)

Tuesday 29th and time to check and replenish fluids in the Sprite ready for our 200 mile jaunt along the Pyrenees to Soldeu in Andorra. We took the 5230 metre (over 3 miles) Tunel de Vielha through the mountain, and crossing the Puerta de la Bonaigua pass at 2072 metres (6800 ft) ,the higest pass on our tour. The view back down on the 'lacets' reminded me of the Stelvio.
Lunch was at the unsually named Café Paris in the Spanish town of Vielha.

Andorra, though not in the EU it does use the Euro as the de facto currency. Landlocked between France and Spain Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe, only 181sq mls. Navigating through the capital Andorra la Velha was a nightmare, not made easier by the locals complete lack of any lane discipline. We eventually reached our destination Soldeu, some 11 miles beyond the capital.  The Sprite was now losing power as we arrived which we would look at in the morning as rain had caught us up.

Soldeu (Andorra) to Millau (France)

Dawn on Wednesday 30th brought a dry start and a check of the Sprite revealed near empty SU dash pots. A quick top up and all seemed well. Today was a longer 220 mile run back to France and Millau, starting with a climb up the Port d'Envalira at 2047 metres (6700 ft). Simon heard a 'ping' from the engine bay on the way up and at the top the Sprite would not idle below 1500rpm!

Inspection showed the front carb throttle return spring had jumped off and the front carb throttle linkage had slipped messing up the carb synchronisation. Duncan Massie is an old hand with SU carb setups, and together with Richard Bartniczek who knows plenty about A series engines they managed to 'bodge' a decent repair, with only  a change of play on the throttle pedal to manage. Of course no spare springs in the parts bag.  At this point we said farewell to Duncan and Jenny, Ron and Jan as they headed off toward on an extended tour of France and Spain.

The remaining six crews passed by the Col de Puymoren  on through the Envilira Tunnel at just over a mile long, one of the highest road tunnels in Europe.  Emerging at the eastern end we were soon back in France.  But our route would take us briefly back into Spain at Puigcerda before turning north to Carcassonne. The weather deteriorated and it was soon time to raise the soft tops.

From Carcassonne our route took us back into the Massif Central arriving finally at Millau, famous for the viaduct, a cable stayed bridge of the design being used for the new Forth Road Crossing. Very impressive with the 12th highest bridge deck in the world at 890 ft up. Some crews called in at the visitor centre and took the opportunity to drive across the bridge.

Millau to Tournon sur Rhone

The 190 mile drive to Tournon sur Rhone on  Thursday 1st October took us through the Gorge du Tarn which is a steep sided gorge or canyon, reminding me at times of Cheddar Gorge, but bigger and longer at some 33 miles long,  Pressing on we reached Mende for a quick coffee stop then into the Ardèche region, used regularly on the Monte carlo Rallye. We passed by Mézilhac and its col, only 1100 metres this time.Our route took us to Le Cheynard, Lanastre and through the Le Doux Valley to reach Tournon-sur-Rhone. No one hotel could take us all so we split for the night to regather in the morning.    

Tournon sur Rhone to Menton

Another marathon on Friday 2nd October with some 250 miles to Menton, crossing many of the 'Monte' rally roads, some we have used in previous Trans Alpina tours.

Passing through the Vercours Regional Park which is peppered with caves, many used by the French Resistance during WW2, we climbed the Col de Rousset at 1254m (4100 ft). Taking in the view we were treated to a Dixon Spéciale going the other way. Was this a tribute to Freddie Dixon of Riley racing fame?

Next stop the descent to the town of Die where we stopped off for a coffee, before crossing the Col de Cabre at 1180m (3900ft) on our way to Serres and Digne le Bain to join the route taken by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1815 on his march from Elba to Grenoble, toward the Cote D'Azur. Napoleon started in Grasse, but we kept heading west to Nice and finally on to the Peagé to our overnight in Menton. The Sprite took a rest in the underground car park at the Ibis, something we would be thankful of the next day.

Updated 23 October 2015