Hey gang- I finally got to ride the route I'd planned last year, touching on the Pyrenees and the southern French Alps, the second week in July.
I now understand why you all talk about Barcelonnette, and stay there. I didn't this time (we yanks call that the "3 P's of the Army"- Piss-Poor-Prior-oops-Planning" lol) but I will, next time.
It's worth knowing that the outdoor cafe, on the pedestrian mall next to the Hotel Central serves breakfast starting at 7am, for the few fools? like me who didn't stay up too late drinking that funny coloured stuff, and would like an early start on the pass roads. I had delicious crepes, and an excellent cappuchino, to rev my engines.
A few "road notes"- If you can't find the turn off to the Col d'Allos and the Col de la Cayolle, it's because the province? put up a beautiful road sign, and the city? of Barcelonnette put hanging plants above all the road signs...if you trim the foliage, it's there, about a kilometer east of the petrol station that's just off the highway.
I rode Vars as an "out and back" from the south; I had already done so, from the north. I then headed east over Col della Maddalena/Col de Larche into Italy, and down to the village of Vinadio. Please note that the Michelin National Map (721), as well as previous versions, are wrong
. The route up from the village goes to a small town and what I believe is a hotspring spa, and then basically dead-ends at a dirt car park/parking lot, unless you're prepared to walk back into France.
The correct turn off is a few miles downstream, and is marked, over Col de Lombarde, down through Isola, and then over Col de la Bonette.
I reached the summit right at sunset. It was....spectacular! And I had virtually NO traffic, on any of the passes! The weather was perfect, which is an absolute miracle. I got lucky, and Spain/southern France were darn near flawless; warm to hot in the valleys, and clear and just the right temperatures in the passes.
I paid the piper, northbound through France, going in and out of thunderstorms, all the way. Needless to say, I'm already planning a return journey!