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Home Travel StoriesFrance 2013

France On Reflection

By Sharon Parker

I do not need to repeat those things already covered about France by Ren such as the miles we covered and the money we spent. These are already done perfectly by him.

As for anything practical left to say I can only think of the clothing. I tried my very best to keep it minimal. Apart form the obvious bike clothing such as helmet, gloves, boots, jacket, pants etc this was - 

4 sets of top base layers and 3 sets of bottom base layers. That way I always had the hope of a least one set being washed and dried and ready for wearing. Also a couple of pairs of jeans, couple of skirts, a bikini (one always lives in hope and I did get  to wear it for all of a few hours) a couple of jumpers, and t-shirts. One pair of trainers and one pair of flat shoes. Underwear and socks. No ball gowns no matter what Ren would have you all believe but I did have one nice outfit in case we went out for the evening which we never did.
That is all you need as a base really, you can add extras if room and weight allows. I did manage to squeeze a couple of extra items in just for fun but what they might have been is up to your imagination. 

Try to take the lightest fabrics you can. Cotton is heavy in weight and slow to dry. So purpose made base layers are great because they are both light and fast drying. Be careful that your base layers are also durable though. Not all brands are made for the demands of the motorcyclist. The Helly Hansen brand is definitely not for the biker as was apparent when it disintegrated on contact with the Velcro off my bike jacket. So far I have found two brands to be the best both for fast drying, comfort and durability (they do not snag easy or bobble). These are Karrimor and Surfanic.

So what did I learn about biking and myself on this trip?

I learned as Ren did that high mileage was not for me. Shorter trips with plenty of breaks keeps me alert and happier. Too many miles just takes the fun right out of it and it becomes a battle not a joy.

a patch of mud with a motorcycle boot in shot
Nothing like a bit of mud to toughen a girl and her boots up.

I discovered I was tougher than I realised. That rain does not stop play. I found out I could laugh through the rain and a smile on my face was not dependent on the sun being in the sky. This was a huge lesson for me. I always grumbled and moaned if it was not sunny and usually saw no point in going out if it was dull and raining. Thanks to the deluge that was France I now know that this is no longer true for me. I have lost my fear of the rain and this has been liberating. Especially living in the UK it is a gift to know that no matter what the weather I can smile and enjoy the day.

I can shower in the cold and ok, I nearly cried but I did laugh about it soon enough. I can handle less than perfect clean bathrooms. I can keep a positive frame of mind for longer than I thought and most important of all ..... I can survive for a day without a straight fringe. A day ok, we are not saying anything about two days and lets not even go there with a week.

I confirmed what I had always suspected and that is I love with a passion travelling. To wake in the morning to a new vista, to travel through the day to a new home for the night, is the ultimate joy for me. To look and learn, to discover one place and then move on to find another. To be free of the weight of bricks and mortar and building repairs and bills and all those other worries that drag you down while living the normal life back at home. Yes there were worries, would we find a campsite, food to eat, would the bike keep going, would we keep smiling? But these worries can be answered one at a time each day, they do not grow into monsters like problems at home can. I felt so free, so unburdened.

sharon stands and points to the magnificent mountains with a big smile
Nature can bring us the biggest smiles and joy.

Well ok not completely unburdened. I did worry about my girls back at home. But maybe if I get to travel in the future they will be even older and maybe more independent themselves so this should hopefully be a lighter burden at least. Other cares can be less predictable and even in the most stunning of surroundings a skeleton can be found hiding in the bushes to take you by surprise and dampen your spirits. But low spirits can fortunately not stay low for too long when natures beauty is all around you and the tranquil peace of the mountains flows gently into a troubled mind.

Ahh yes the mountains, the magnificent, stunning, majestic mountains. The other places we visited interested and delighted me, even the towns held some attraction but the Alps they enchanted me. Home, that is how I felt in the Alps. Like I belonged there, the sense of space, surrounded by nature at its finest yes it was home.

Ren sits in the tent sipping tea with the alpine mountains in the background
Home is where the heart is.

However one thing troubles me about travelling. I know I would not like to do it alone. I could I am sure do it if I had to but it would not be my choice. I would feel lonely and probably afraid. Those little mishaps that can be dealt with with a wry smile and a sympathetic nod of the head would become a trial and upsetting to me if I had to deal with it alone. I also love to share a moment. I like to see my awe reflected in the eyes of another traveller and to talk of the sights we had seen together at some future date. Even more special is to share those moment with someone so very close to your heart. I enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories. But I am not one for huge crowds and when all is said and done I prefer the company of those I know well and love and trust than that of a complete stranger. I like strangers, after all they are potential new friends you have not met yet, but only from behind the safety of a known companion, haa.

ren stands by his motorcycle drinking water in the sun
A thirst for life and adventure that is why I love to travel with this man.

The trip has just reinforced my desire and hope for future travel. It has left me that bit more dissatisfied with a life of work and routine. I am constantly reminded that life is precious and short when I hear of yet another untimely death or illness of someone I know. I feel a gnawing in my heart to just pack up and go. Risk it and live it. But my mind says not yet my friend not yet, to which my heart replies but if not now then when???

poppies in long grass in a field in France
Lest we forget that life and time is precious and the present moment is all we have.

I feel great gratitude that I experienced a sense of home and peace while in the Alps. I feel grateful for the knowledge the trip gave me, that simplicity of life is the way to find a greater freedom. But I also have to accept that this taste of how I would like to live has left me frustrated with how I live now. I miss it so much the travelling, the feeling of being close to Ren, sharing an experience I loved so much with the man I love was something so precious. A moment in time I will forever hold within my heart with a sense of wonder and joy. It however also brings a touch of sadness for I worry I may never experience such a trip again. Lack of finances and other issues mean this may have been my one and only adventure where I was so very happy and free I felt I could have floated on that crisp mountain air. But who knows the future? Maybe this trip was a beginning , a first of many great travels and not an end. Time will write its own story. 

A road twists and turns through snow capped alpine mountains
My favorite roads in the alps were twisty. I have preferred my life to be a long and straight road so I can see into the future nice and clear. But its the bends that though scary and may hide hidden disasters can also bring the most unexpected delights. So maybe there is a story in this picture I need to think more about? 

Through extensive reading over the years I have collected numerous quotes, many of which would probably be more apt to a travel blog but writing this right now this is the quote that speaks loudest to me and therefore the one I shall end this adventure with because I loved freely and with joy on this journey. I loved the man I was with and I loved the land I traversed, I loved the adventure and I loved life and I experienced the joy of being totally present in the present moment.

Omnis vincit Amor : et nos cedamus Amori
(Love conquers all things : let us too give in to love)
Virgil 70 - 19 BC : Eclogues

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

shirley said :-
Enjoyed your blog immensly, well written and interesting.
UTC
Monk said :-
Perfect! Thanks!

As ever,

Monk...


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john said :-
Really enjoyed reading the ups and downs of your trip, great.John.

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Sharon said :-
Thanks everyone for your comments. It is always uplifting to know someone somewhere liked what I wrote.
UTC
 

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