Travel StoriesFrance 2013
Forming a Plan
By Ren Withnell
I have a dream, perhaps something of a romantic dream, that I'm some great traveller. I imagine myself going around the world on a motorcycle of some description, going to far flung places and meeting all kinds of weird and wonderful people. I read blogs and books of such people. I imagine myself to be all worldly wise and weatherbeaten. I believe it would make me some kind of interesting person.
In reality things are of course quite different. First off I'm a home boy in a lot of ways. I like my bed and my computer and my TV. I like my routines of going to the bike club and the local biker hang out. I like knowing what time the shops are open and where the 24/7/365 supply of milk is. I like knowing every street and shortcut in my town. I like the safety and comfort of my safe comfort zone.
Also just because someone's travelled the world it does not make them interesting or amazing. Just like any other group of people I'm sure there's a few plonkers, pillocks and dullards noisily making their way around the globe. It's often said you should not meet your heroes. Never-the-less, I'd still like to at least give myself a chance to see if I'm man enough to travel, and on a motorcycle.
Last year I spent a staggering 10 days abroad, alone, and on the bike. I touched on the tiny portion of Europe around Calais, as in France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany. This year I want to do more. I'd love to go somewhere really different like, oh I dunno, Italy or even Austria. Yeah man I'm so wild! Time is the biggest problem. Perhaps not time, money. Because I have to earn a living I can't stop earning a living long enough to have the time to go to some really adventurous places. Where's that lottery ticket?
This year I'm going to push the boat out. I'm going to take a 3 week trip abroad! Yes you read that right, 3 whole weeks away from TV and the internet, 3 weeks without my squidgy bed, 3 weeks being completely lost and 3 weeks without the safety net of breakdown recovery, English speaking shop assistants and cups of tea at mother's house. 3 Weeks. It sounds rather pathetic when I compare it to the wild multi-year trips I read about but compared to anything I've ever done it's still impressive. It's all relative.
Of course it won't be a full 21 days abroad. I've got to get from my home town in Manchester to the south first. I can do it in a day, I have done it many times before but there's one thing I know all too well, I'm not an Iron Butt rider. I prefer to cover maybe 150 to 200 miles a day at a gentle steady pace rather than crack on for 300, 400 or 500 miles. As such I plan to ride part way to Folkestone and the Channel Tunnel, camp overnight and do the rest the next day. That's one day less on the continent. I'll visit my father on the return leg too. He lives near Brighton so rather than going south twice I'll make my annual visit. I can use the weekend to do that though.
Now...where to go? Of course France is inevitable if I am to use the Channel Tunnel. Germany is easily accessible along with Belgium of course, but I would like to visit a new country too. I've been to Spain on the bike but that was a good while ago. Switzerland? Austria? I keep on harping on about wanting to see the Alps. The date I've chosen is to be the last couple of weeks of May and the first week of June. I notice, being a fan, that the Formula 1 is on at Monaco, a tiny country, on the 26th of May. Hmmmmmmm.
I know for sure that to go and see the Monaco Grand Prix will be very expensive. This race is the darling of the millionaires and celebrities, not one for the common man. Monaco is also a tax haven so it's full of rich people making sure they stay even richer. However, I think it may be nice to visit during the build up and soak in the atmosphere, drinking tea in an outside cafe whilst trying to spot famous people and listening to screaming engines from beyond the compounds.
OK, so the first week I'll travel through France to Monaco. It's around 800 miles I reckon so that's less than 200 miles a day, easy peasy. After a few days rest in and around Monaco I can go through the top corner of Italy, a new country, then Switzerland and Austria, 2 more new countries, then up through Germany and Belguim and back home. I can take 2 weeks to make the return leg. That, to me, sounds like a fantastic plan!
Forming a Plan
The formulation of a cunning a devious plan to take on Europe is formed in the tiny mind of our intrepid explorer...
The GF Question
Do I take the gf with me to France? Can she come? Will she like it? These are all very difficult questions...
France...I wanna go but can I...??
Can Sharon make it to Europe? Will the kids survive? Will the bf behave? Is there any space for makeup? All these questions and more...
Getting everything we NEED and a few items we WANT onto a motorcycle can be a problem. Now I have to work out how to get 3 WEEKS worth of gear onto the poor donkey(aka bike)
Camping In Cambridge
The start of our Epic Adventure...or bike holiday around France. Cambridge is surprisingly nice really.
France - Day 1
Sharon's first day from her point of view. Cushy Cambridge and dry weather...what more could a girl want?
The Chunnel, I'm excited but also stressing because the bike's already broken before we leave the UK. I worry too much...
France - Day 2 - Bikes, Trains and Tents
Sharon leads us through sunshine, hair issues, the Channel Tunnel and into France. But France is eerily quiet...
Here Comes The Rain
Bike fixed...bike broken. Rain, endless dull roads, miserable towns and more rain. Oh the joy of travel! At least Epernay welcomed us with a huge smile :-)
France Day 3 - Crying Through The Rain
The rain plays tricks with Sharon's spirit but a stiff upper lip and giving herself a good talking to see her through.
Rain Into Dijon
Rain, rain and more rain. Just how long can it last? Would we be better off with a Jet Ski? Can we continue to keep our Great British Stiff Upper Lips?
France Day 4 - We Are Mustard We Are
Dijon is the destination and we're surviving the rain...that makes us well mustard!
We're happy in spite of the rain but how long can we keep smiling?
The Joy Of Being Lost
As we head south the rain lightens but will it ever stop?
I get lost which is no surprise, but lost turns out to be the best part of travelling.
Are things finally taking a turn for the better? I do hope so...
France Day 5 - Biker's Paradise
Sharon's day 5 in France starts out rough but improves considerably.
What delights can put such a joyous grin on her face?
The Stunning Alps
We are both facing a very strange situation...that of sunshine, warmth, beauty and pleasure.
France Day 6 - Magnificent Mountains
Sharon shares the delights of the Alps. Sometimes life is good!
Highs And Lows
From the stunning Alps to our ultimate destination...MONACO!
Is it all I expected? Will it be as I imagined?
France Day 7 - Scooter Mayhem
Sharon describes the best and the worst France has to offer.
Ride on the back with her from the beauty of the countryside to the mayhem of Monaco
Resting And Deciding
Today we stop to take a breather and recuperate. It's also time to make a decision about the rest of our journey.
I used to be indecisive, I'm not so sure now.
France Day 8 - Chilling In The Pool
A day off from the journey sees Sharon and Ren doing something very silly, breaking things and achieving very little.
What a splendid way to spend a day!
Day 9 sees us heading west from the coast. It's finally dry, but it's still windy so not too hot. The gf's not well and Ren is relentlessly lost.
Overall not a bad day then!
France Day 9 - Poppies, Vines and a Wet Lettuce
Feeling poorly rather spoils Sharon's day today. Still on she must go on and survive what might have otherwise been a good day.
Biggest Bridge In The World
In glorious sunshine and fine health we make our way from Nimes to Millau complete with it's Viaduct.
Sometimes life is good, occasionally it's great!
France Day 10 - Deflated to Elated
Today is a good day for Sharon. Today the sun shines, the scenery is beautiful and the people are pleasant.
Join her as France puts a smile on her face.
The Wettest Bridge In The World
The Millau Viaduct ought to be impressive. It is, but nowhere near as impressive as the amount of rain falling from the skies.
France Day 11 - Grim
Not every day can be filled with sunshine and smiles, even on holiday. This one certainly was not for Sharon!
False Hope Part One
Ren would like to invite you to a joyous report about the delightful weather in the South of France!
He'd like to. Instead it just rained and rained and rained and rained...
France Day 12 - It's Gloomy Inside And Out
Sharon freezes her butt off during the night then is treated to a cold and wet ride.
The Ren sure knows how to spoil a girl.
False Hope Part Two
Is this the end? Has Armageddon arrived? Is this the Apocalypse? It sure as hell feels like it.
France Day 13 - Quietude For A While
Sharon's report on another day of mixed weather. There's peace and beauty then there's mud and cold.
Adventure...no-one said it would be easy!
Sunshine After Rain
A night of rain soaked delirium. Will the day be any better? Will our travellers ever dry out?
France Day 14 - A Bit of 5 Star Luxury
Sharon has a much better day on the road and a luxurious 5 star campsite. It's amazing what difference a little dry weather can make.
Back Into The Flatlands
A quiet, simple and easy days ride through France for Ren. Pleasant enough but the flatlands are getting a little boring now.
France Day 15 - A Bit Of 2 Star Delight
Sharon has an ordinary day and a frustrating battle with the weather.
Not Far To Chinon
It's a short, easy and peaceful ride this day in France. Ren gets all philosophical too.
France Day 16 - A Historical Walk Around Chinon
Sharon enjoys a hint of sunshine and the history of Chinon, France.
Shopping To Mamers
Ren's airbed's leaking now. No problem, find a shop and buy a new one...easy? I don't think so...
France Day 17 - The Gift Of TIme
Even though the weather is cool Sharon's heart is warmed by the people she meets in France today
Don't Go To Ault
Ren has a grim, long, dull and uninspiring day in France. The accommodation doesn't help.
France Day 18 - Is This Misery Or Joy?
Sharon finds sunshine, ancient caravans and ponders about hapiness.
Looking For Luxury
With time on their side Ren looks for the perfect campsite for the next to night. Not finding it makes him a very grumpy boy.
France Day 19 - Campsite Conundrums
Although the wind blows the sun is shining while Sharon looks for the perfect pitch.
Resting In Ambleteuse
Ren philosophises too much on the final day of his trip around France.
France Day 20
Sharon's in a reflective mood on the last day of our French trip.
Back Into England
Ren recalls the final day of the French Adventure. It's all over far too soon.
What Did We Learn?
Ren sums up his thoughts about France and the French trip.
France On Reflection
Sharon sums up her her experience of the French Trip. Damn those Alps.
john said :-
have a butchers at this Ren.
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Travel StoriesFrance 2013