Travel StoriesFrance 2013
Back Into The Flatlands
By Ren Withnell
My goodness gracious me. It's not rained in the night, it's not raining now and I reckon we've both slept like 2 logs under a sheet. In fact I'm up quite early so I leave the gf in her pit and go to do some chores. In this 5 star campsite there doesn't appear to be any sinks for washing clothes, maybe we're all expected to have our own washing machines in our luxurious caravans? No matter, I wash some pants in the sink with hand soap and walk back to the tent with them dripping. I wander around the site until I get bored and have to wake the gf.
We breakfast on more chocolate granola, bread and tea. The gf calculates these "healthy" breakfasts probably give us 1,000 calories each! According to the packet there are ten 40 gram servings, we're finding just under half a packet each is about right. Last year while travelling alone I'd lost weight so this year I've deliberately bulked up a little before we set off. I reckon this year with the gf looking after me and choosing the food I'll gain a fair few pounds. Going to need a bigger bike for my fat ass.
It's not 5 star inside the tent, but this has been home for 2 weeks now.
We take the morning slowly, probably a bit too slowly for me and it's 1045 before we're loaded up and ready for the road. We wave goodbye to the brew-bringing caravanners and continue homeward bound, North.
After the splendid roads around Millau and of course the magnificent Alps we are both finding the flat, dull and endless farmland we're travelling through somewhat boring. I get lost in Bellac. We stop and eat some supermarket butties in Le Dorat. We pass through Montmorillion then into Le Blanc. There is a campsite here but it's not enticing to us and after being spoilt last night and still fresh we decide to carry on a little more.
It's not all tree lined roads or quaint villages as the brochures might suggest...
I spot another sleepy tabac in another sleepy village and I pull in. Using my best French and applying an accent straight from "'Allo 'Allo" I enquire with about "Le Camping?" It works a treat. In fact it works so well the attractive lady behind the counter and the motherly woman who is shopping both come back to me with a stream of unintelligible babble. My French must so good now they've assumed I'm a native. Again sounding like an extra from "'Allo 'Allo" I explain I'm English and they need to speak a little slower.
I've mentioned before the French have never been impolite to me but often are cold or short in their replies. These 2 French ladies could not be more helpful, friendly, warm and patient with me. With smiles, expressive gestures and slow French I learn there is a campsite a mere few miles away in the next town then down a side road. With my faith in the kindness of humanity restored I thank them too much and set off in search of this elusive place to rest.
The villages are pretty, but they're all looking the same now.
In fact their instructions are spot on. Down a single track country lane we find "Camping Les Rioms". 2 Stars. Oh dear, after last night's luxuries is this going to be a let down? A smart modern barrier blocks the entrance to a gravel track beyond which we can see trimmed grass pitches, a clean crisp static caravan converted to a reception, an inviting pool and a trendy modern toilet block. It doesn't have "facilities" like a shop or restaurant but it looks as inviting as cake. We hover for a minute trying to work out what we are to do.
2 Star? Well its hardly a scruffy mess is it. Camping Les Rioms looks fine to us.
Inside the reception a lady welcomes us warmly, and speaks a little English. The campsite is in fact quite small, I get the feeling this is a one woman business at present but she's certainly made some investments. There's maybe 15 pitches, each with almost bowling green standard manicured grass and separated by well established hedgerows. We're invited to choose which one we desire and receive a brief explanation of the tiny toilet block. We set up camp relishing in the delight of a pleasant site and the sun...yes the SUN shining on our back.
The sun doesn't last, but it was nice while it did.
Behind the reception there's a large canopy covering a smart decked area next to the pool. I enquire about internet and with admittedly a little difficulty I manage to get online. I sit on the deck chairs under the canopy and spend a while checking the weather, checking emails, checking my website and catching up a little on facebook. It's a strange thing being on facebook, everyone's life is just carrying on like nothing's changed at all. I'm sat here in a strange place feeling happy to be travelling and yet missing some home comforts and friends. They're all moaning about work or getting excited about a night out. I don't feel like I'll ever be that kind normal again. Maybe I will, and that's the tragedy
2 Stars? Not with smart decking like this and the gf checking her emails it's not.
We have to walk a fair way back into the tiny hamlet of Barrou to find a shop. There's only a tiny little food shop and within there's only a tin of cassoulet or a pack of hot dog sausages that we can cook on the stove. We get the sausages. There's also a boulangerie where we get a baguette for the sausages. After hot dogs on baguette for tea we decide to take a walk.
As we set off it starts to rain. It looks heavy much like our hearts feel under the black clouds, we can't stand any more. We trudge back to the site as we get soaked. By the time we get back it's stopped and the sun pops out for a brief moment. We sit around. We set off again and 5 minutes later it pours again. We beat another hasty retreat back to the shelter of the canopy. It stops. We set off. It starts. We retreat. This time we stay put under the canopy.
Of course Murphy's law ensures it remains dry for the rest of the evening. We just sit and talk under the canopy. There's signs the campsite may have plans for expansion into the field behind our tent and another across the road. We talk of our trip. We still agree big mileages and rushing everywhere is not for us, we much prefer to potter along gently. We agree the whole "star" rating for campsites is misleading. There should be stars for services and facilities then other stars for quality and cleanliness. There's scant services here but the quality is excellent. By the time we've put the world to rights the sun is setting and it's bedtime.
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.
Sandy S said :-
Les Rioms is a fab little site. I don't know what you mean about the area being flat and dull, we find it delightful and peaceful. A real get-away.
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Sandy. The problem I had with the area was we'd been spoiled with The Alps! The area is peaceful and pretty, rural and very laid back. As a motorcyclist the roads are a little, well, ordinary.
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Travel StoriesFrance 2013