So today was to be a real test for the BFG as we headed from Italy to France, via some pretty big mountains! Following sat nav – that luckily avoided the Mt Blanc tunnel (and saved us €60!) – we set our sights on the St Bernard Pass. Given what we had already driven over on the trip so far, on paper it looked like we should be fine with no massively steep gradients but I was still a little nervous! We set off down the valley and were soon winding our way up switch-back packed roads offers stunning view after stunning view – so far so good!
After a while we started to get above the tree-line and spotted the odd patch of snow on the ground, a sign that we must be getting close to the top, and sure enough after another couple of minutes we reach the summit at nearly 2200m. Stopping for photos we couldn’t believe how cold it was outside the van and were glad that our down jackets had been recently unpacked! As cyclist after cyclist came over the summit, I was pleased to be in a nice warm van and not facing a super cold descent down.
Having made it to the top now came the hard part for the BFG – the long downhill! It started well with a nice gentle gradient and easy corners, but soon gave way to more steepening gradients and more hairpins. Next came a lesson in not always following sat nav! As we cruised down the mountain pass we missed the directed turning and instead of just carrying on and following the main road, we turned around to obey the navigation god stuck to the windscreen – this may have been a mistake as the road became a lot narrower and even steeper! On reaching a little hamlet we pulled over to let the build-up of cars behind us go past and were very kindly informed by a local french women that she could smell our brakes as she was following us despite us using as much engine breaking as we could – lesson learnt there then, main roads down mountains are there for a reason! And so began another crawl down a mountain…
Eventually we (very slowly) made it to the bottom of the mountain, having been overtaken by a couple of cyclists and stopped in a car park to let the brakes cool and have a late lunch, relieved to not be on fire! With the smell of burning now gone and food eaten, we gently hit the road again for the final stretch to see family in the ski resort of La Tania, near Courchevel. The BFG behaved herself for the rest of the day and we made it safely to our base for the next week high in the French Alps!