Day 13 – Grand St Bernard to Annecy – 217 km

We did some lovely miles today, and saw some lovely mountains too. Breakfast at the Inn was simple, made and served by the monks who still inhabit the Monastery at the site. It was quite cold, only a few degrees above 0C, but the sky cleared a bit and the blue added to the great views. We packed up in our (by now) well practised manner, and headed back down from the col towards the tunnel to Italy.

The hairpin bends awaited us, but we are getting more practised, and actually downhill is easier, so we practically sailed through them this time. 6km down the valley was the entry to the tunnel itself, and we turned back up the mountain to cross yet another border.

Over and in to Italy we went, without much fuss or ceremony. Then down the long roads towards Aosta we flew, looking up and down the valleys. At Aosta we turned westward, and headed up towards the Mont Blanc Tunnel. By far the highest and most snow-covered mountain of our trip, Mont Blanc rises 4810 metres above sea level – just about double the height of last nights Alp. It is magnificent to behold, and dominates the area.

The way through Mont Blanc follows a series of 6 or 8 “pre-tunnels”, each 2-3 km in length. This then leads into the Mont Blanc tunnel itself, 11,600 metres in length. The tunnel cuts through the mountain at around 1400m above sea level, and is 2,480m below the midi peak at one point, meaning that there is a lot of rock sitting on top of your head when you are riding through it.

Out the other side and you are in France, heading down some pretty steep roads, with some lovely sweeping bends and grand views.

Bike and view of Mont Blanc, from down on the French side

Travelling in an arc, in roughly 80km we reached Lake Annecy. This is Europes cleanest lake, officially, and has been subject to close management and legislation to ensure it maintains its pristine nature. We are staying close to the town of Annecy, and have just got to our room to sort our stuff out.

I booked this hotel using points from BA that I have gathered over the years. It is an ageing spa hotel, seemingly past its best but offering what seems to be some nice facilities and views over the lake. The hotel have cocked up our room with a lake view, so we are getting a free massage each tomorrow morning in the spa – can’t complain about that. For now, we will have to enjoy our view of the car park! At least I can see the bike, so I know it is safe.

We are now off to enjoy the spa facilities. See you laters, mes pitites fleurs.