Europe 2017


Saturday July 29 and Sunday July 30, 2017
El Granada to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, France

Monday July 31, 2017
Bike up Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier

Morning mimosa at the Amex Centurion Lounge at SFO

My United 777-200 from SFO to IAD

United flight attendents knew it was my birthday!
It had actually been my birthday on Friday, the day before, so I was even more impressed that United knew it was my birthday on a day that wasn't really my birthday...
For my birthday I got free food and beer on my domestic leg from SFO to IAD...
After getting a last minute round trip flight to Europe for 60k miles a few weeks prior and getting free food and feer for my birthday, I was really starting love United!
(yes, I know how awful United is and have usually experience plenty of that awfulness myself)

2017-07-29 21:53

I had a 2 hour layover in IAD before my flight to Geneva..
On my flight to GVA I had the middle 3 seats to myself and managed to get a little sleep.
On my trips to Europe I've generally had a layover in Europe after a very long flight before my connection to my final destination.
A 2 hour layover on the east coast and a flight from there directly to my destination was MUCH better.
I felt pretty good when I arrived in Geneva just after 8am Sunday morning.

My first goal was to ride up Col du Galibier, one of the hardest Tour de France bike climbs. 
The town to the north of Col du Galibier is Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, France, about 3-1/2 hours from Geneva by train.
The only bike shop in Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne isn't open on Sunday, so I prepaid for a bike for Sunday and Monrday via paypal.
They were supposed to deliver the bike to my hotel late Saturday afternoon.
At 10am I got on the train....

2017-07-30 10:57

Lac du Bourget and Mont du Chat, a famous Tour de France climb.
Looking southwest into the storm clouds
The ride up Mont du Chat is in the trees the whole way, no point riding up a mountain if you can't see anything...

2017-07-30 12:44

Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, France from the train station, looking north
Elevation 710m / 2329'

After about 20 hours of travel I arrived at Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, France
The train station is called Saint-Michel-Valloire
Valloire is the name of the ski town to the south past Col du Télégraphe on the way up Col du Galibier
Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is the next major town 10 miles northwest in this valley, it is the starting point for other Tour de France climbs.

I wandered the town looking for signs of life or an open store, but on a Sunday afternoon in a small town in France that's a fool's errand...
I found 3 bars that were open, including one that also served food, and nothing else.

There are only 2 hotels in Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne that show up online.
One of them is downtown, is reasonably well reviewed, but it was full on Sunday night, leaving me with...
The other is the Hotel du Galibier, located about a kilometer west at the very edge of town.  It is not at all well rated, but fortunately it was cheap - 40 euros a night.
I got to the hotel around 1:30pm.
The front door was open, but there was nobody at the front desk and a sign said the front desk would open at 5pm.
I had no intention of waiting here for over 3 hours before I got to lie down on the bed I'd already paid for...
There was an emergency cell number, I dialed it.
Before anyone answered, I noticed a sign in pointing toward the front of the reception area.
Around the corner was the rack of keys for those checking in today, and my key was there.
I walked upstairs, open the door to my room, and was delighted to find my rental bike waiting for me!

2017-07-30 16:18

Hotel du Galibier
The manager / owner lives on the ground floor.
Seems to be quite the part time job since reception is only open a few hours a day, and they haven't spent more than a few moments maintaining the place in the last few decades...
The hotel has no elevator.

2017-07-30 13:16

My room did not have a bathroom, which was not mentioned anywhere online.
The only bathroom shared by about 10 bedrooms on the third floor had a single shower stall (with no soap!) and one toilet.
Pretty freaking pathetic.
Other than the windows, it appears not a thing in the hotel has been updated in several decades.

2017-07-30 13:17

It was great that they put my bike in my room, but that was the only positive thing I can say about this place.
My bike cost a little more than my hotel did!

View from my room in Hotel du Galibier looking east up the valley toward Italy
Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne is in the far left
The trains stopped running at night and weren't very frequent during the day.
l'Arc river is flows down the valley

2017-07-30 21:08
View from my room in Hotel du Galibier looking west towards Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

2017-07-30 16:15

The back of Hotel du Galibier.
The interior was generally as unkept as the back.

2017-07-30 14:42

Having a bike waiting for me was just incredible, I could get out and see stuff easily!
Looking northwest up the valley towards Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne

2017-07-30 15:12

Riding back into Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne

2017-07-30 15:33

Looking west toward Croix des Têtes, 2492 meters / 8176'

2017-07-30 15:33

The road east up the valley toward Turin, Italy

2017-07-30 15:33

The road to the south up Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier

2017-07-30 15:38

The only real intersection in Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne

2017-07-30 15:38

The road to the south up Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier

2017-07-30 15:39

Looking west

2017-07-30 15:39

Fort du Télégraphe, elevation 1585m / 5200', is in the upper left corner
Looking west

2017-07-30 15:39

Just upriver from here on the night of Dec 12, 1917, during WWI an absurdly overloaded train with over 1000 French soldiers and just a single engine and nowhere near enough brakes derailed at 60mph after a careening downhill and ignited into an inferno that burned for over 24 hours, killing about 700 of those soldiers. 
The engineer knew how dangerous the train would be coming downhill from Modane and refused to operate the train until the murderous idiot General Émile Fayolle threatened him at gunpiont.
In typical miltary fashion, the French military treated the disaster as a military secret and covered up everything.
I was not aware of any of this until I researched Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne after returning home to assemble my trip report...

2017-07-30 16:13

Quite the windstorm blew down the valley!
It stormed for a while but never rained hard enough to get the ground wet.
Kent was in Wengen, Switzerland, and this storm hit us both at the same time.
Fortunately the forecast for tomorrow shows almost no change of rain.

2017-07-30 16:31

2017-07-30 18:32

I did not visit the Museum of Aluminum.. I didn't even see it.

2017-07-30 18:34

2017-07-30 18:39

2017-07-30 18:50

I only had 2 choices for dinner, I went with La Scuderia pizza - poor service but decent food
I ate out back

This is the only picture I have of the bakery
The bakery was almost always open,
it was open early,
it was open late,
it stocked cold beer,
it stocked gusto limon gatorade,
it was a lifesaver...

pizza was excellent since we're only 60km or so from Italy

2017-07-30 20:16

I went on a walk, and ibex kicked down rocks at me!
Not sure if it was intentional or accidental..
They were on their way down the mountain for water when they saw me and had to turn around.
They were not happy.

2017-07-30 20:16

Meanwhile Kent woke up in Domodossola Italy, took a train to Interlaken, Switzerland, did laundry, and then got a room in Wengen in preperation to climb the Mönch.

Kent's pic of Wengen

Kent's pic of Wengen

Kent's pic

Kent's pic
He texted "is it wrong to play air guitar while skating and listening to guns and roses?"


Saturday July 29 and Sunday July 30, 2017
El Granada to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, France

Monday July 31, 2017
Bike up Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier