Finally at nearly 11am and two hours behind schedule we hit the motorway following the signs to Grand St Bernhard and seemingly always heading towards the clear blue patch in between the clouds. This was looking promising!
After a quick ‘play’ with a GT3RS on the motorway (which the 306 cab completely annihilated) it was time for the daily fuel stop. The garage was meant to be a shell, but a BP selling 98 RON was good enough and after an attempt as rocker cover toast we got on our way again.
Once off the motorway we started to climb the Grand St Bernhard Pass. Not steeply but when you looked back you could see we were getting higher. And fuel shouldn’t have been an issue, the next 15 miles must have had over 30 petrol stations before we parted with the main traffic (including the 458 Italia that had joined the convoy) that went for the tunnel. We went straight up, everything showing green open signs and the sun now strong enough to make even the cold alpine air seem appealing.
I’d heard the Swiss side was the less interesting and with that in mind I was confused, considering that this road was pretty breathtaking. We ended up following a bus most of the way to the summit and once there had a break and took some photos and then when it began to snow, with the roofs still down we started on the Italian side.
And the reviews I’d read were right. I donned my sunglasses, put Matt Munro on repeat and grinned all the way down the amazing bit of road that I’d watched that Lamborghini drive so many times. This was like heaven. Nearer to the bottom I spotted a familiar sight and we pulled in for the some photos of the bridge from the Italian Job’s opening scene, while the 306 carried on further down… I’m sure we’d find them later on.
Sure enough, once we were done we found the cab with Steff laid across the bootlid and once they’d sorted themselves out we were going down again and on to our next pass. But before that I had one more diversion in mind. Blatantly ignoring the woman on the sat nav I found another location of another scene from the film that I’d researched and we pulled in for some photos.
From here it was back through the last village and now up the next pass, the Petite St Bernhard. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, as it wasn’t as high as the previous pass but once it started with hairpin after hairpin I was quickly enjoying myself. We even passed through the famous tunnel without encountering any bulldozers… I passed an Aygo, then slowed for the others to catch up at which point it past me again. Once together and moving again I passed it a second time and from this point I decided to carry on. I was simply having too much fun!
At the top we parked up and waited for the others, taking the opportunity to sticker up the pass sign. Once they arrived it was time for sandwiches another break and driver change and watching some classic BMWs coming up from the opposite (French) side.
After the very long descent from the pass and now on our final leg, I decided on something different. Given that we were about to hit the main roads at 5pm and I had no desire to be sat in rush hour traffic, I plugged an extra point in the sat nav and we soon on our way up a third pass, the Cormet de Roselend, adding only 20 minutes to the journey time. And what a good decision it was! A real tight and twisty road making a steep ascent, yet we had it all to ourselves and were all having a lot of fun! That is until we reached the top where we drove into yet another cloud and more general dampness. Bugger!
We carried on until it got too bad and after getting a massive soaking had to pull over, ditch the tonneau cover that we’d fitted earlier in the day and get the roof up as quickly as possible. And soon after we did that, it dried up again. So of course, the roof went back down. Ah, I’m so glad I pulled that speed sensor wire out of the switch now!
We found ourselves back on the normal roads and then following the shoreline around Lake Annecy until we reached our hotel, a very pleasant Ibis Budget just outside the town centre. And once checked in it was meal time again.
Today, Davo was our driver and yet again, the £400 Peugeot provided the entertainment, fully loaded with the roof down of course! He only took the wrong exit twice and proceeded to get us as lost as possible. Eventually we found a car park within walking distance from the very picturesque town centre where we settled on the first restaurant with a menu in English. Steaks and burgers were the main orders of the day and Jez even included a pudding.
With that done, we took in some more sights, spent 10 minutes in a childs play area and then promptly left before the locals threw us out. And eventually we found our hotel, not that Davo’s TomTom was a lot of help. That done, we’re finished for the day and settled down for a big drive tomorrow. The mediterranean awaits...