Travel StoriesFrance 2013
France Day 7 - Scooter Mayhem
By Sharon Parker
Pitched near to our tent is another tent with a huge 4x4 parked outside. This morning we converse with the owners who are a delightful, friendly couple from Belgium. Although we can understand little of each others common language, by an array of sign language, guess work and nods we manage to spend some quality time together. The lady is most enthusiastic about campers saying how she believes we are all one huge family. I even learn a new French phrase, avec plaisir. This is the Belgium gentleman's final words to us to tell us it was a pleasure to meet us. As it is our pleasure to meet them. Feeling such warmth from someone who was a stranger and unknown to you the day before is one of the special gems of travel. Not everyone you meet is friendly but when you meet people who are, like some we have met already on this trip, they bring a warm glow to your heart and set upon your face broad smiles.
I go for a wash and forget about the step and fall out of the wash room. A quick glance around confirms no one is around to see me sprawled on the floor so I limp off gracefully.
It is cold this morning so we wrap up and decamp as quick as possible. The plan today is to go to Nice. Nice a name I have heard many times but a place I have never visited. I am aware it will be a town and I am not over keen on towns. But for whatever reason the name Nice has always conjured up a rather romantic image in my mind so I am eager to see what Nice will bring.
Although cool it is a lovely day for biking and France shows us her best once again. We are treated to more twisty roads, tunnels and dramatic scenery. Spring has sprung on the lower mountain slopes and the trees are lush in their new spring clothing in hues of green and purple. However the odd break in the road barriers under repair are a reminder for those doing the riding not to stare too long at this beauty while riding. Even under slow speeds these roads demand respect and care. Being a pillion though I am allowed the pleasure of just being able to turn my head at will and savour it all. Once again my belly does little happy flips. I am LOVING this.
Twists and tunnels
Zoom with a view
All this beauty is rather suddenly snatched away when we enter Nice. It is far, far bigger than I expected. Nice is a huge sprawling mass. Mass or mess depending on your view point. I am probably being unfair. I have been spoilt by the mountains and nature at her finest and I am not a town person. So if you are town person please do not let my opinion put you off. It is all only my opinion and it is coming from someone who wholeheartedly prefers a majestic pine to a highly engineered piece of high rise architecture. For me this over built and over populated place is a scary nightmare. The open roads have given away to a confusing array of strange road markings. I can tell the bf is stressed and I do not blame him. I think if I had been riding I would have been tempted to just get off and cry. Add to this mix traffic coming at you from all directions I think you can appreciate how we feel we have come from heaven into hell.
So plans of a camp site in Nice and strolling hand in hand through a romantic city are ditched quick smart. The plan is to get the hell out of this hell as quick as possible. So with the bf keeping a clear head and using all his years of experience to the max we manage to emerge from the other side of Nice in one piece.
Once we're climbing up into the hills again and gazing down onto Nice it looks, well quite nice really. This is one place I will always prefer to view from afar. So with those plans abandoned and the day not too far advanced it seems logical to carry on to what is going to be our next days stop off point MONACO. I put this is capitals because this is a place the bf really wants to visit. I know he has high hopes for this place and I really hope it wows him and he is not disappointed. But after Nice I am unsure that Monaco will be what he hopes for.
Welcome to Monaco
Before I know it the bf taps me on the knee, we are apparently in Monaco. Oh really. Never mind the bf's expectations I am surprised myself. I try to gaze about me in awe of this playground for the rich and famous. Sure there are some interesting buildings. And oh, oh hang on there it is the famous harbour with its multi-million dollar yachts glittering on shining blue waters. But it is a glimpse that is all through the tall, closely packed buildings.
A glimpse of Monaco's floating money.
I see the money here. The homes with their swimming pools and high security gates. The young boys driving cars that would cost more than a house at home. Fat business men with their arrogant attitudes and fuddy fingers filled with expensive cigars. I am sadly unimpressed and this place leaves me feeling cold and slightly depressed. Quite frankly you can stick the money. You could offer me a house on this hill with its swimming pools and fleets of top end cars and I would swap it all for a simple wooden shack on a mountain side, with a river to play in and a bike to ride. Space, freedom to breath, feeling close to the earth, the trees and nature. That is where my soul lives, it does not belong in wealthy concrete artificial jungles.
The only way is up it seems in Monaco
I keep my opinion for now to myself. If the bf is loving this then I want him to enjoy it. If he wants to spend the day here or even tomorrow then that is fine with me. This is not just my trip but ours and he must get the most out it. But once again the traffic is hell and dangerous. Scooters are everywhere and the riders are all on death wishes. They zip in and out of traffic with little or no regard for their own safety or that of anyone else. This is CHAOS!. The bf tries at one point to park but there is not one available spare space to be had. After fighting hard with the traffic he says he wants out and negotiates a difficult and scooter treacherous trail out of Monaco.
No parking available
Scary Scooters everywhere
Th bf is tired so we stop as the first little cafe we come across. I can feel his disappointment and I feel so bad for him. I knew he hoped for so much more from Monaco. Maybe even the chance to walk its streets and hear the roar of the Formula 1 cars from the track. I doubt he planned that the only exciting car action he would get was playing dodgems with scooters.
After a drink our spirits rise somewhat and we both conclude that although it was not what we hoped we are both glad we came and saw. It is good to see and experience for yourself the reality. Nice for me was a nightmare, Monaco was madness but we saw it through our own eyes and that makes it an adventure whether you like the place or not. I am glad I saw it and I am equally glad to be out of it.
We need to find a camp site soon and rather than try to weave our way back through the sadistic scooters we break the no motorway rule and hit them to avoid going back into the city. At one of the tolls a tired bf is losing his patience as there is no way to pay with a note. Only coins and we have no coins. We are waved through by a grumpy attendant but I can sense the bf is getting rattled. We need to stop soon. A stop for a stretch in the much acclaimed Cote D'Azur confirms my fears. The bf is imagining all kinds of casting into chains for not paying the toll. I tell him not to worry but that is like telling an iceberg not to melt in the desert sun.
The coastal route is very touristy as one would expect so we move a little inland in the hope of finding a nice camp site. And luck shines upon the brave, well at least for us tonight it does. We find ourselves a delightful camp site in the order of Les Pinedes at €17.40 a day. www.lespinedes.com.
The site is located within a pretty wooded forest. We are greeted by the owner who then tells her rather large but very placid German Shepherd to depart from the golf buggy and us to climb abroad. It soon becomes clear why she chooses to drive guests around because she would tire herself out otherwise. The downside of this camp is becoming clear, it is steep. The pitches themselves are cleverly designed onto flat terraces so it is not like we shall have to sleep roped into our tent for fear of tumbling down the slope. But I do not envy the bf getting the bike up here fully loaded. Just as well he his such a good and experienced rider. Our designated pitch is under the shade of some trees and therefore has no grass. But the ground is soft enough to put up the tent with relative ease. To the back of us are some most attractive little wooden lodges which are available for hire.
Pretty but very steep. Not for the novice biker this pitch.
A quick look around the site and I find a room filled with plastic patio chairs. I decide to be a rebel and borrow two so we can have the sheer luxury of a seat for tonight. God I spoil us I do. Further investigations of the site find two toilet and shower blocks. The first is perfectly acceptable but the even newer block is heated, enclosed and resplendent with plants and flowers inside, very nice indeed.
I cook up a tea of spiced sausage with pasta in a tomato sauce while the bf works on replacing the brake pads. I like a man getting down and dirty working on his bike and the bf is looking extremely gorgeous sat on the floor with oil streaks on his face. Phew it is going hot, not sure if it is the heat from the cooking stove or the bf that is getting me all hot and bothered. It has been a day of contrasts. The first half filled with the thrill of twists and awesome mountains, the second half hectic, even hairy and scary at times. But stood here now in the simple act of cooking and watching the bf I am filled with a peace and calm and sheer gratitude for this experience.
Can he fix it? Yes he can
Brake pads done, tea eaten we now have just enough time as darkness descends for a small stroll around the site. We discover a lovely swimming pool and I really would love to have a dip in it but it is closed for the night. So we decide that after today we should kick back and relax awhile so we shall take tomorrow off and stay another night here and I will have a swim in the morning.
With thoughts of the bf being all manly fixing his bike still in my mind and the night being rather warm by present standards I think up some plans for tonight's entertainment. With no thermals required I think we might enjoy a little togetherness tonight.
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.
Will White said :-
I thort Monaco would be like super cool especially with the Formula One in town. Kinda blown that out that idea for me. Good read :)
Sharon said :-
Thanks for your comment. We were informed later by other travelers that the best way to see Monaco is to park outside of Monaco and get the bus in. That way you can actually leave the terrifying driving to someone who is use to it and you can get off the bus to go walk and explore.
So I hope if you do ever go this bit of advice is of use to you.
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Travel StoriesFrance 2013