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Home Travel StoriesFrance 2013

France - Day 2 - Bikes, Trains and Tents

By Sharon Parker

I awake in the middle of the night freezing. I have to scrabble around and dig out the thermals and layer up. However I still feel cold even in my thermals, I am not freezing now but not really snug and cosy. Trouble being is that once you get cold it is hard then to warm up. Note to self - thermal up before going to sleep unless it is going to be a hot, hot night.

I awake again in the morning feeling much warmer. The glorious sun is bathing the tent and I can feel its welcome warmth. I poke my head out of the tent and yes indeed it is a wonderful sunny day. Fantastic!! Nothing like a bit of sunshine to set the spirits soaring.

I trundle off for a shower. The shower has the unfortunate habit of running alternatively hot and cold. Rather annoying but even so it left me feeling clean and refreshed. I even hunted down a plug socket in the corridor of the shower block so I even got to straighten my fringe. Bonus!!
I have annoying kinky hair. It used to be curly in my youth but now it is just unruly. Not really curly just messy. It works fine just tying it into a ponytail while on the bike but the fringe can prove a problem. I never used to have one but I cut it in a few years back and I really like it. The down side being it needs straightening or I resemble Rin Tin Tin, for those not familiar with who Rin Tin Tin is it just sticks up and looks stupid ok.

There is no rush today. We have plenty of time so we have a lazy breakfast and take the tent down at our leisure. I feel great, happy and relaxed. Everything packs away easily into its allotted space. So far so good.

I go to pay the owner for our nights stay and have a little chat. We chat about our proposed trip and how he would love to do a similar trip, but no bike for him, they scare him. He asks whether I am scared of being on the back of the bike. I tell him how the opposite is true and how much I adore it. I even admit to him that I can be so relaxed I often fall asleep and have little nap naps. Noooooo Waaayyy, he shudders.

It is so warm that my fleece is not even required so that gets packed along with everything else and off we set for the Channel Tunnel.

The last time we went to France on the bike we did so by Ferry. I already knew I had the tendency to get a little sea sick on boats, but having never been on a ferry I had hoped for the best. However in no time at all my tummy started flipping, my head buzzed and I had to curl up in a chair and send myself to sleep before a began to vomit all over the place. The same thing was repeated on the return journey. So I am happy to be going through the Channel Tunnel on this trip.

We stop off for petrol and the bf's rather unique baggage system attracts the attention of a Dutch trio. They come over to enquire about this weird and wonderful invention. After the bf explains the various why's and what fors of his genius, if somewhat odd looking contraptions, the trio are all smiles. One of the guys tell us how he think the bf's luggage system is great, that Britain is great, that the British weather is great, that the British people and their bikes are great. Wow, what an enthusiastic guy he is, which is well just ... GREAT!!

the bf posing like he's running at the terminal for the channel tunnel
Have you heard of Observer-expectancy effect of psychology? It is how people change their behavior when aware of being watched. The bf a prime example of camera observation syndrome waiting to board the train.

We arrive in good time and pass through the various passport checks and checking in procedures with no problem at all. After a short wait the board tells us our train is ready to board and off we go. The trains are double-decker, plain and rather ominous looking to me. Nothing glamours here, this hulking monster bears no resemblance to those pristine shiny steam train of yesteryear. They are functional and dirty. Guess there is no need to look pretty when you spend most of your time hidden underground below the sea.

the ramp to the channel tunnel trains. lots of overhead power lines and platforms
The Channel Tunnel Station

A carriage of the channel tunnel showing the entrance and double decker nature
Double-Decker Train

We are waved onto our carriage along with another couple on their bike. Unlike the ferry the bike is not secured in any way. I hope it will be ok because it does seem to rock around a bit once the train starts. A shudder and both bikes lurch, we all make a grab for the respective bikes and decide we will spend the rest of the journey with one hand still on the bikes just incase.

the bf holding up the fazer in the train as we depart through the channel tunnel

me holding up the fzs 600 in the channel tunnel train
The bf and I keeping a hold on the bike during the Channel Tunnel crossing.

We chat with our travelling companions and discover they are planning a trip similar to our own. Only they have a whole 6 weeks for their trip and are doing it on a huge Honda Goldwing, complete with sturdy storage and even a trailer. I envy them the 6 weeks in a way but do I envy the bike? Sure you could get a hell of a lot of stuff on that bike and trailer but it is not for me. Despite it's obvious practicality and comfort for touring the Goldwing has simply never appealed to me. It is just too much. Too bulky. Once all the load is off that bike you won't be able to take it for a cheeky little blast like you can with the Fazer. Nope all in all for me the Fazer still wins.

a honda gold wing with riders and trailer in the channel tunnel train
If you want to take everything with you on your camping trip - including the kitchen sink - then this may be what you may be looking for.

We seem to have barely time to enjoy the good chat we are having when it is announced that we are about to end our journey through the tunnel. Wow that was fast. Abut 25 to 30 minutes. Well I am definitely a fan of the tunnel. It has to be the best option for sea-sick me.

Once out of the Chunnel the bf keeps repeating, ride on the right, ride on the right and tells me to keep reminding him if he forgets. I have never drove abroad myself so I have no idea if this level of anxiety is normal or not. I know riding on the wrong side of the road bothered the bf last time we came here but he soon settled down and I am confident he will do so again.

wide french road with a
Spot the helpful sign reminding the anxious bf TO KEEP TO THE RIGHT

The day is warm with blue skies. The bf has a campsite already in mind. One in Ambleteuse that he stayed on during his last visit to Europe. It is getting late so having a campsite in mind and it's whereabouts seems a good option. I once again get that lovely feeling of space that France always stirs within me. The traffic is light and large open fields roll by. It is good to be back here.

The seaside town of Ambleteuse soon comes into view and we roll up to the campsite L'Eglantier, http://campingleglantier.free.fr/
We are charged €18 euros for one night camping and a shower token. You can have free cold showers if you want but if you want a hot one you have to purchase a token. Hmmm. The campsite looks rather basic. The trees have all had a rather drastic haircut and they resemble something out of a Spaghetti Western. Kind of cactus like, these sad looking trees do not help with first impressions of the site.

We choose a pitch and unload the bike. It is getting more cloudy and cooler as we put up the tent. Once the tent is up I have a quick look around. The toilet block is uninviting. The toilets are unisex and all in a row and are what I can only describe as outside. By outside I mean they are not in an enclosed sealed building like I am use to at home.* The sink units are separate to the toilets but only deliver cold water and have no locks on the doors. A quick glance at the showers and I decide I will not bother to have a shower here. I am glad I had one this morning.

*I am to learn later that this outside setup is quite normal in France but as this was my first encounter I was a little put off by it on first sight.

the green tent, the bf and the fazer at the campsite in front of a toilet block
Our pitch for the night next to the uninviting toilets

I cook some rice on the stove and have it along with canned fish. It is tasty but it is beginning to rain so I best eat up quick.

We have a little stroll into town after tea but it all looks rather deserted. I guess it isn't, it is just the shutters are down and to us that represents a closed or abandoned building. Where here they use shutters as we may use our curtains back at home. There are cars about so some people must live here. But there is little sign of life on the person front. We wander down to the shore and I look out to sea but do not linger too long because it is getting dark. We stroll back to the campsite and get a couple of bonswa's from the few locals we do manage to pass.
On route I phone my girls to assure myself all is well with them. They sound so far away, they are far away, oh damn my worry worm is back.

large french house in the quiet town of ambletuese
The cars say people live here but where are they hiding?

It is almost dark by the time we get back to the campsite. Just enough time to put my phone on charge under the seat of the bike and a quick visit to the toilet. Well it would have been a quick visit but I had to come back to the tent for toilet paper. Yep no only do you have to pay for a hot shower you do not get toilet paper included in the price either. Harumph!

I take to bed the lesson I learned from the previous night and I layer up well in my thermals and even my fleece because it is getting quite chilly now. I awake during the night to the sound of rain upon the tent, oh no hear comes the forecasted rain but I am snug and warm in my layers and comfy on my airbed so I soon fall fast asleep again.

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...
The Load 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 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!
Going West 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.
Home Travel StoriesFrance 2013 Random Link

Reader's Comments

kath brooks said :-
The goldwing looks very comfortable though
UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Kath you're right it looks very comfy. I also envy all the luggage space! I'm not sure I envy the handling or running costs though...
UTC
 

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