Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

Home Travel StoriesNormandy, France 2011 - By Ren Withnell

Normandy, France 2011 - Prologue

The gf and myself have covered most of the UK by bike.  Not every square inch you understand, but we've been North, South, East and West.  We'd been talking about going abroad on the bike, she's much further travelled than I am but not by bike and I've only been abroad once on two wheels, that's nearly six years ago now.  If I'm ever to do something different then I'll have to venture further afield.  There is a problem with venturing further afield though...cost and time.

Six years ago now I went right through Spain to the Algarve in Portugal.  I'm tempted to return to Spain and try to look at it in a more positive and relaxed light.  This idea is soon quashed when I price up a return ferry from Plymouth to Santander, over £600 for the bike, the gf and myself.  We could of course ride down through France, but this would require a 3 week break unless we are to put in super-high mileages every day.  This is supposed to be a holiday, not a test of endurance.  To cut a long story short pretty much anywhere in Europe would either prove too costly or require too much time.

We finally settled on Northern France.  I've been to France a couple of times as a kid in my parent's car and then once as a young adult, not on a bike.  The gf went there a couple of years ago with her family and has been on a city visit to Paris once, but to be frank we don't know much about the place.  In my head I thought it'd be cool to camp.  The gf however has quite different plans.  She's researched the weather in Northern France and decided that there's too much risk of a washout.  She's also got her heart set on a place called Honfleur.  She's an artist and a romantic and Honfleur seems to be somehow linked to both.  Of course being artistic and romantic it's also bloody pricey, so in her dogged determination she trawls every website that even mentions accommodation in Honfleur until she finds somewhere suitable.

What we end up with is a Gite.  That's French for a house that you can let for your holiday.  The term house is being stretched here, the owner calls it a studio.  It's actually a small room on the side of the owner's house partitioned off to create a bathroom, kitchen and living/dining/sleeping room.  The gf calls it "Indoor Camping" and it means if it rains we've got somewhere dry to go.  It's considerably cheaper than most Gites in the area and it does have cooking facilities which means we can save money by eating in.  The only worry is that it's a mile and a half out of town, so it could be a fair walk into town to get food.

The other problem to solve is how to get across that wet bit between England and France.  There's the Channel Tunnel, or ferries.  I was as every bit as thorough as the gf and I priced and counter-priced all the companies that operate between the UK and France.  In a rare stroke of luck there's a ferry that runs between Newhaven and Dieppe which is subsidized by the French government.  It's a stroke of luck as it's near to Honfleur, it's not as close as Le Havre or Caen, but it's only 80 miles so that's fine. 

So that's the holiday booked.  Another stroke of luck is that my Dad lives on the south coast, only 25 miles from Newhaven.  This means we can travel down south and stop at my Dad's overnight, catch the ferry early the next day and it'll cost us nothing!  I can also put my annual trip to see my Dad into the rest of the trip.  On the return leg the ferry lands at 2100 which means we can stop at my Dad's before making the long ride back up north.  My Dad's happy for me to abuse his hospitality so that's that sorted. 

Now for everything else.  It took some time but again through extensive online research I managed to secure European breakdown cover for 5 days for £21.  Not bad considering the major players like the AA and RAC wanted well over £60.  My passport has 4 years left on it so that's fine, but my driving licence was due to expire JUST after the holiday.  I took that time to get that renewed incase some Gendarme took exception to it's short lifespan.  I made sure my insurance covered me in Europe then made sure I had a copy of the paperwork that proved this. 

When I went to Spain I was probably the only British biker who had all the correct "stuff" with him.  "Stuff" means...

1.  Foldaway reflective warning triangle
2.  Fluorescent Jacket
3.  A "GB" sticker on the back of the bike
4.  A set of spare bulbs for the lights
5.  My licence, both parts
6.  My insurance documents
7.  My Log Book (V5)
GB Sticker and warning triangle for my trip to france
The bag containing the warning triangle and 2 flourescent jackets, and the GB sticker on the back-box

When I'd looked online I'd read that you need these things with you.  Many forums and discussion boards said you did not, there was no real, solid, definitive answer.  So rather than risk it I took it all.  Riding in France seems to be the same, no-one seems to actually know for sure what you need or don't need.  So this time I packed all of the above.  Another rule my gf had read about was that helmets must have reflective stickers on them, so we both duly applied these too. 

Now all I had to do was worry about riding on the wrong side of the road again.

Normandy, France 2011 - Prologue
Normandy, France 2011 - The Ride South
Normandy, France 2011 - The Ferry, French Roads and Honfleur
Normandy, France 2011 - A Good Walk Around Honfleur Ren and Sharon spend the day in and around Honfleur. It's a pretty and characterful town. The day has it's downs, and ups.
Normandy, France 2011 - A Bit of D-Day and Normandy Coast The Normandy beaches and the busy roads of France are on the menu today. There's a little time to relax too.
Normandy, France 2011 - Another Good Walk Around Honfleur
Normandy, France 2011 - The Beauty Of Beuvron-En-Auge
Normandy, France 2011 - Back To The Ferry and England
Normandy, France 2011 - The Trip North and More Images

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Home Travel StoriesNormandy, France 2011 - By Ren Withnell

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