Travel StoriesFrance 2013
Resting And Deciding
By Ren Withnell
Last night did cool down but it did not get cold. This morning however the sun is struggling. Light clouds blow across the sky and a firm breeze eliminates any hope of a scorcher. By the time we've breakfasted heavy grey clouds mix with blue gaps that tease and torment us with indecision. Today is going to be a rest day. We'll need to ride the bike into the local town of La Colle Sur Loup for food and to get online at the McDonalds, but otherwise there truly is nothing to do. I fear I may get bored.
There may not be much to do today, but I can think of worse places to be.
I need not fear boredom though, there's lots to do. There's washing of clothes, writing up notes and showers to have. By the time I've scrubbed pots and pans, scrubbed my body and put out the paperwork to dry it's already lunchtime.
We promised to go into the pool today. By mid afternoon there is a heavy black cloud above us and it is trying to rain. I don't fancy it myself and the gf doesn't like anything other than hot sun and still air. I can't imagine she'll make us both fulfill our light-hearted promise. How wrong can I be? She's ready with bikini and a towel. Oh lordy, this is going to be a chilly experience. I dare not wimp out, I'm a big roughty toughty biker aren't I? I can replace brake pads at a campsite, ride for miles, camp for weeks and ride all the way through the worst UK winters. I'm not scared of a swimming pool. Am I?
The gf steps in first. It's chilly out of the pool, it must be freezing in there. I venture in and it is breathtaking, I loose my breath with the cold. I inch in slowly. I know I'm just drawing out the agony, the gf just ducks in and starts to swim. It takes another few minutes before I pluck up the courage to fully immerse myself. Once adjusted it's actually no worse than the cold swimming baths back home, it's just odd being outside under black clouds with the odd spot of rain causing ripples. I do a few lengths and the gf a few widths. She's only recently learned to swim, she's not quite confident enough yet to take on the deep end.
We've done what we promised. We'd hoped for glorious weather but we've still done it. Us, alone, in an empty pool, under black skies, swimming. We laugh at our madness and it seems a shame no-one else is there to laugh at us. Meh, who cares. We dry ourselves and head back to the tent to warm up a little. By the time we're dressed the dark skies have cleared and there's a promise of an OK evening. Oh well, swimming probably wouldn't have been as funny if it had been nice anyhow.
We're having a good day. The sun is now out and shining. After taking so many bedraggled images of rain soaked tents, dirty motorcycle bits and the gf clad in more waterproof layers than a deep sea diver with a fear of water this seems like the perfect moment to capture her with shorts on. Using her camera she snaps me with my milk white legs and I snap her posing in the broken sun rays between the trees. She wants to look at the pictures, she always wants to look at the pictures, she also wonders why her blinking camera batteries are flat too when she spends so much time looking at the goddam pictures.
"Oooooh let me see, let me see"
With a bleep bleep our world crashes down. The card in the camera has eaten itself and the camera reports "Memory Card Failure". For me this is frustrating as I KNOW she'll have all the best pictures and good images enhance my bikes and travels website ten-fold. For her it's a disaster. To me images are a tool but to her they're a treasure, a memory, a part of what made her who she is today. She's not lost some holiday snaps, she's lost the first week of our adventure. She's close to tears and I know it will take her some time to get her head around this.
After shopping for more food we hook into the wireless at McDonalds next to the supermarket. It does not look good anywhere, not even here on the coast later on this week. The situation in Germany looks awful with nothing but heavy blue patches indicating rain. France has light blue, better but not good. The biggest concern is the large blob of white over the Alps, right across Switzerland and Austria. It's the end of May, it ought not to be snowing but there it is before my eyes. Later a German biker who tows his bike with a campervan confirms there are floods back home. Another German couple warn us against the Alps.
OH NO! We're out of tea bags too...another disaster. Must be time to go shopping.
The gf's calmed a little now over the loss of the images and starts to prepare a meal. As she cooks then dine we discuss what to do. We need to decide, east or west. It would be a terrible shame to miss out the countries we'd hoped to pass through due to a little rain. From what we hear though it's not a little rain it's a lot of rain. And floods. And snow. We know we're supposed to be having an adventure and challenges are part of that adventure for sure. From what we hear and from the forecasts those challenges may be quite harsh.
We have to accept this is our holiday too. Those first few wet days were hard work and we both successfully met that challenge and both managed to keep a smile on our face and a sense of humour. I'm fairly confident we could meet further rain sodden challenges and still remain upbeat too. But as a matter of preference and pleasure we both would prefer dry weather. We can do more, see more and enjoy more. We are definitely not here to risk life and limb. Riding a motorcycle is inherently dangerous, with snow on the Alps and floods in Germany I fear those risks are increased.
Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Alps will be there for another time. We decide that there's no need to take extra risks than those we regularly face on a bike. I am disappointed, I wanted the title on my website to read "European Tour" not "France". That's the way the cookie crumbles and I'm sure I'll get over it. I'm sure there'll be challenges even in "France" and it's a big old place with much to see. Perhaps, if the weather remains on our side, we might dip into Spain, Andorra and the Pyrenees.
Actually I feel better for at least making a decision. I can start to focus on what to do and where to go rather than dilly-dallying around. There is time to get to the Pyrenees and Spain but it could mean some big mileages. We're both starting to agree we are both much happier doing shorter mileages which gives us time at the start and the end of the day to do things at a leisurely pace. I recall blogs I've read where bikers cover 400 and 500 miles a day. We discuss how they may indeed cover more countries and "see" more things but they must merely pass through in a blur of tarmac and place names. Given another 2 weeks we figure we're going to actually experience a fair chunk of France.
While we talk we walk down to a park across the road from the campsite. There's a broad open field, a good size playground and a quirky rural restaurant come function room. Judging by the preparations it seems a wedding party is due this evening as smart waiters finalise the seating and a DJ sets up his gear. It's dry and mild as the last of the families leave the park. We find a sweet bend in the small river cut into rocks on one side and sandy on the other. There's no flat stones to skim on the smooth water and these pebbles don't bounce at all well.
By the time we get back it's dark. It must be bedtime although it's only 2200. We've relaxed today and this evening we are both completely shattered. You'd think doing nothing we would not be tired but that is quite wrong. More likely that without the adrenaline of doing battle with French cities or relishing Alpine bends our travel weary bodies are begging us to make the most of the peaceful situation and catch up on much needed recuperation. If we do go back up through France we can do it much slower. Bed.
Forming a Plan
Our Germanic neighbours are living the dream. Campervan, trailer and bikes. Not jealous, not at all, honestly.
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 :-
Ive got to say that reading both of your blogs has or is that have? been great.
A genuine insight into your thoughts and experiences of your travels.
Just out of interest, are you planning a trip next year ??
John de ville
Ren - The Ed said :-
There WILL be plans for next year but they're not in motion as yet. I'm still hoping to get into Northern Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Germany but with better weather!. I'm also looking at Ireland for a week. And later this year I'm hoping to return to Scotland!
There's a lot of hope...just not a lot of money!
John said :-
Oh I like the sound of Ireland, never been there or for that matter any where over the water (apart from Holyhead ) do we need a passport ???
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Travel StoriesFrance 2013