The SLCenic Route – Episode 10

Graham Laing decided to retire 10 years earlier than planned to enjoy an epic driving tour with his SLC. The plan, inspired by conversations with his Father, was to drive the SLC from the southern most tip of mainland Europe in Spain to the northernmost tip of mainland Europe in Norway.

When he told his children, they said ‘you should write a blog about it’… So that’s exactly what Graham is doing. Graham approached the SLSHOP and asked whether we would be interested in hosting his work, and we were only too happy to share his story. The SLCenic Route was born!

In this episode Graham has his first (but not last) bad day and bad travel experience, and gives some touring advice for French mountain roads.

The SLCenic Route

Episode 10 – Things not to do…

Well it had to happen eventually…

  • Things not to do.
  • Don’t book airbnbs when you are tired.
  • Don’t miss a location and book the next one on the itinerary by mistake.
  • Don’t forget to tick avoid toll roads. When Google maps shows 7 hours drive on toll roads but over 10 hours through countryside, means you are in for a shock in the morning.
  • Don’t try and find proper food to eat in town on Andorra/French border. I think it only sells, fuel for car, nicotine for your lungs, alcohol for your blood, sugar/junk food for your stomach, smelly chemicals for your skin.
  • Don’t stress out for 10 minutes because the car is making a strange muffled noise, just remember to pop your ears when coming down mountains.
  • Don’t book airbnbs that don’t have a door on the bathroom.
  • Don’t assume all Airbnb hosts will be as good as those in Andorra
  • Don’t go on French toll roads thinking it will save time on a busy Sunday. 60 miles of stop start traffic in middle of day and no air-con
  • Don’t put British coins in with your Euros and then put them in French toll booth machines.
  • Don’t stop at packed, hot, unfriendly French motorway service stations.
  • Don’t miss 200 miles of lovely French countryside by being slowly cooked in the sun and ripped off on Toll roads.
  • Don’t forget toll booths machines are on the passenger side of the car.
  • Don’t say “gracias” when in France because you’ve forgotten where you are. They know you are British and look at you as if you are insane. By this time on a bad day, you think you might just be.

However all I need to do is remember the start of the day. A glorious bright crisp morning, what could go wrong! Last night, yesterday’s perfect Airbnb hosts told me of a small valley I must visit on the way out of Andorra, Valle de Incles. It may be a smallish dead end valley, but is fantastic and amazingly, almost flat.

All the pictures today are of Andorra; I could have put up 100 more. It took me over an hour to do the 11 miles to get to the French border. Not because of traffic, I kept stopping to admire the views. To give you some idea of how steep Andorra is, the crossing from Spain is at 2800ft and the highest point 15 miles later on way to France was Port d’Envalira at 7900ft. That’s a climb of 5100ft in just 15 miles in a straight line or 22 miles by road.

On a much more serious note. The mountain road down into France was gorgeous. I can really see what attracts the bikers. Fabulous twists and turns up miles and miles of smooth good condition tarmac, no cats eyes and scenery to behold. However, I can also see the sheer drops on one side and unforgiving cliff faces on the other, the many unclaimed crashed cars littering tight bends, the dented steel crash barriers, the wooden crash barriers with sections missing, the riders using the middle of the road as their area, and nearly wiping out riders coming the other way with the same idea. I also think of one of the things that scares bikers, a diesel spill and I think of all those lorries and cars filling their tanks as full as possible in the tax haven just a couple of miles up the mountain.

I saw 2 near misses; one the biker nearly hit a lorry going round a bend, the other was 2 bikers in the middle of the road going in opposite directions round a bend. If you do drive it on a sunny Sunday morning, even though you are in a queue of cars going slowly keep a watch out for bikers and drive as defensively as possible.

Click here to read Episode 11