Travel StoriesFrance 2013
France...I wanna go but can I...??
By Sharon Parker
I like to travel, I like to travel on a bike especially, so when the bf proposed a trip around Europe on the bike I was well up for it. But he wanted to travel further this time and to do that you need one important factor...TIME. 3 weeks was the proposal.
So could I go? I was not sure I could get that much time off work in one go or how my girls would manage on their own? Well first problem was rather easy to sort, a quick query in work and I found to my delight I could take 3 weeks off. Now for the girls? They are 19 and almost 17 so in theory they are old enough to look after themselves and avoid reducing our home to a pile of rubble. IN THEORY. In reality they do not get along too well. In reality I have come home from time away to a home that looks like it was a nightclub the night before. All because the eldest hosted a Party!! That was a while ago now and she seems to have calmed down a little but she is still not what you would call tidy. I have not left the youngest alone with her sister for more than a couple of days before so my major concern is about leaving her. One of those weeks I am away she will spend with her dad and he is phone call away if needed ... but I still worry.
So I cannot go away without carrying these concerns with me.
It is hard to balance doing things you want for yourself and being a mother. If you do nothing just for yourself you can run the risk of building up resentments and becoming rather flat and depressed. But if you do things that are purely for your own being then you feel selfish and guilty. Hmmmm so you get the point it is not just an easy yes or no decision.....I want to go for ME very, very much but I feel guilty. I try to appease my guilt by reminding myself that I took the girls on a big holiday to Turkey last year. I have spent a number of years being there when needed and trying to be the best mum I can be. So I finally talk myself around my guilt and give myself permission to go.
I have left then only one other concern....how well me and bf might get on. In our 8 year relationship we have never spent 3 weeks together before day in day out. We have spent countless weekends together and some weeks away but never anything approaching this length before. We also have had our ups and downs and had a major split up the previous year and combine that with the unsuccessful trial camping run to the Thundersprint at Anglesey (see The Thundersprint story here) then I guess it is perfectly normal to feel a little trepidation. But I do the usual and have a little talk to myself and remind myself that overall I am a optimistic person. It is no good worrying about the worse because I do believe that in doing so this brings the worse about. If we are on the look out for failure or things going awry then this is what we see. We are so focused on those bad things that all the good rushes past unobserved. So with the mindset of positive thought I resolve to go and bloody well enjoy it.
Now all I have to do is pack small and light for 3 weeks. Damn this trip might not be so easy after all. To avoid any major melt down over the load the bf and I agree that a week before we leave I take all the stuff I intend to take to his house and we see how well it may or not fit.
Armed with the new knowledge that weight as well as size is an issue on the bike I endeavoured to reduce my load as much as possible. I therefore purchased some sets of base layers. They have many advantages over cotton. They are lighter, warmer and dry quicker. Therefore I should be able to take less for both warmth and washing purposes and the overall weight of these items will be less than the equivalent cotton counterparts.
I decide to take 3 sets of base layers, each set consisting of a long sleeved top, a t-shirt and a pair of leggings. To this I added 2 thermal vests, a light fleece jacket, and a few day wear items such as 1 pair of shorts, a skirt, bikini and some pants, couple of tops etc, my Converse for comfy walking and ankle boots if we go out for the evening. I tried out a variety of options (different skirts, tops etc) weighing each in turn to find the lightest and most packable. My biggest problem is toiletries. The bf sees no need for anything other than a bar of soap, toothbrush and toothpaste. I however am I lady, well female at least so my list is somewhat more extensive. Deodorant, perfume, makeup, mini straighteners. You know ladies all those LITTLE things that somehow when put together form into a huge heavy pile. Damn it to hell. More thinking and reducing required!!
After careful consideration and head scratching the chosen selection is duly delivered to the bf a week before the planned departure and loaded with all other camping gear onto our noble stead. The trusty Fazer that I love so much. I love this bike maybe because the bf does not. I love it because it is nothing special but it does everything you ask of it. Not with any whistle and bells, just quietly and efficiently. It is not edgy, fast or challenging. But it is reliable, trustworthy and it can carry a heavy bloody load. Hmmm I think I love this bloody bike so much because it reminds me of myself.
You may be an ugly duckling to others but I love you my Swan.
It is a big load, a huge load but the bf seems fairly happy with it and my attempts to stay small and light may be appreciated. He does not say so of course, I just have to assume that for myself. So, so far so good, things are looking hopeful. Another week and the adventure will begin. We have no set plans, no set destinations. It is very freeing. Scary too I admit as I have always planned any trip before in detail, researching best places to stay and visit. But this is just suck and see and I like it, I like it a lot.
It is also an experiment in how low we can go. As in budget wise. We are curious to find how cheap we can do all this for? What is the minimum you can spend and still have a good experience? So no plans for evenings spent in posh restaurants clinking crystal glasses over lobster and caviar. Nope this is no tale of fine wines and silk sheets, this will be a tale of two hopefully hardy campers who have little money but who still have hopes to travel the world, well Europe at least with a tiny budget. Can you spend little but enjoy a lot??? Only one way to find out and that is to do it. Yeee haaa.
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.
Melissa said :-
This is a great piece of writing, Sharon. So much here, and written both to inform and entertain! I love it. Saving the next installment for tomorrow:) Keep writing!
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Travel StoriesFrance 2013