The outside of a motorbike engine seen up close near the exhaust

Home Travel StoriesFrance, Germany And Belgium 2012 - By Ren Withnell

France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Epilogue and More Pictures

I thought that being back in the UK I could stop being perpetually lost. I thought that going home from my Father's which is a journey that I've done maybe 20 times before I'd know what I was doing. Nope. As I got onto the M25 I ended up heading East rather than West. I had to pull off and consult my map. Damn, I decided to go all the way around the M25 and catch the M1 rather than the M40.

A few miles after this decision I noticed the signs on the motorway were for the Channel Tunnel and not Dartford. I'd managed to get onto the M20, it seems my bike or my subconcious wants to go back to the continent. Another turn around, more backtracking and more mileage. The Dartford tunnel came into view with much relief. Thankfully I managed to navigate the rest of the trip without incident or getting lost. It increased my journey from 270 miles to 340. Damn.

As I rode the last 50 miles I decided that I'd stop at Sandbach services. As I rolled onto the car park I spotted a few bikes near the entrance, as I got closer much to my amazement I noticed the French biker I'd traveled through the Chunnel with! What rea the chances of that. They "camped" on a services down South last night and they were due to catch the ferrry to the Isle Of Man that afternoon. I spot the car with another bike in the rear, squashed into the back of the MPV. They're mustard these guys, I can tell you.

split image - 3 young men smiling at the camera and a black motorcycle squashed into an MPVw ith camping gear
The French lads. And the bike crammed into the rear of their car.

I got back home fine that evening and unpacked and settled in.  It felt good to be home, good to have my own toilet and my own bed and a TV and radio.  It felt good to be back online and to talk to the gf and some friends and all the other things that make life at home worthwhile.  But O-M-G have I had the blues since!  I know everyone gets the post holiday blues.  You have a week or two without work, without the hassle and dull drudgery of everyday life, you've had a break and now it all comes crashing down around your ears.  It's back to the washing up, back to the morning work routine and back to dull nights watching crap on telly.

This time it was worse.  I had everything as listed above, but everything feels so "small" now.  OK, the house is bigger than that godawful tent, it's the space of the road I miss.  There's another almost intangible "something" too.  The only word I can give it is potential.  Things at home and in everyday life follow a pattern that's only interrupted with tiny changes like what's for tea or the latest episode of the crime program I follow.  The chances of meeting interesting strangers is remote, the chance of seeing something new is almost impossible and so on and so on.  I only skimmed the surface of a bigger world, there's so much out there.

I'm not going to hop on the bike and disappear.  I can't afford to and there are still many things that tie me to home.  I also accept that travel is not all roses and adventure.  There could be trials and tribulations, breakdowns and issues and of course it can be a lonely existence too.  I plan to travel more, as time and money allow and maybe one day I'll take on a proper trip. I have still so much to learn and I am, by nature, a cautious person.  I'm not one to jump in feet first without looking.  In some ways that's what stops me from doing many things.  I have much to learn still

What practical lessons have been learnt?  Tent first.  It seemed such a good idea to take the small tent and it did save on weight, but goodness me it was a bind.  I'll use my larger tent and sometime soon I'll invest in a quality lightweight one that is well designed and large enough for my stuff.  The Dutch cyclist summed it up, the tent can make or break a trip.  If a quality tent costs maybe £60 or £80 it will still pay for itself if I'm happy to camp rather than get a room in a hotel a couple of times.  A quality tent should last a while too.

Security.  The Germans being robbed while they slept rather scared me.  I know the world is not all bad but in future I'll be sure to keep any valuables with me or locked up.  I think it may make sense to build or buy some sort of top box that can be locked with some degree of security.  I refuse to be beaten into not doing things by thugs or thieves, but taking basic measure is not a bad idea.  The Dutch cyclist summed it up, the tent can make or break a trip.

Personally, and this is for me not everyone, I should NOT plan long trips each day.  I'm not an iron butted hardcase that likes to cover huge distances and prove what a man he is.  I prefer a shorter daily ride where I can take my time, take plenty of stops, see what's going on and oddly, meet people and sample the local life.  The most memorable parts of the trip were the cafe's, the tabac's, the small shops and the campsites.  I don't like everyone I meet, but I like meeting everyone. 

The trip was not all fun fun fun, but it was certainly a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. I hope I can do it again soon.

More Pictures

car park with france painted in white on the floor
Why could I not figure out which way to go to France at the Chunnel terminal?

cars in a row along the chunnel train carriage
Inside the chunnel carriage.  Remember, no flash photography...whoops!...sorry...

a car park with cars outside a french supermarket
Not all of France is beautiful wide open farmland.  They have ordinary towns with ordinary supermarkets just like home.

a french street with shops and wide road
Even the small towns are not that different.  Stil can't get used to this driving on the wrong side though.

4 wind turbines in the misty distance on flat french farmland
They do like their wind turbines on the continent.  I saw plenty in France, Germany and Belgium.

my bike outside a large imposing church in france
A large and quite imposing church...somewhere in France....

inside a small blue tent filled with airbed, sleepingbag, bags and motorcycle gear
I really really really really...........................really wish I'd taken my bigger tent.

a wide street with ramshackle buildings in france
OK, not all of France is run down, there are some quite smart places.  But this broad open road with it's broken buildings and well used appearance are quite typical.

2 pleasure cruise boats on a big river at mettlach germany
Boats on the river at Mettlach in Germany.

building rubble and an old tree stump with grass and a campervan in the distance
Lebach campsite.  Not a very smart or manicured campsite.

France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Prologue
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - The Chunnel and Wimeraux, France.
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Wimeraux to Epernay, The Long Way
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Epernay to Lebach
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Lebach To Cochem The scenery is improving as well as the weather. Ren is moving upmarket and into the beautiful town of Cochem.
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Cochem to Bastogne
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Bastogne to Le Nouvion-en-ThiƩrache
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Le Nouvion-en-ThiƩrache to Ambleteuse
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - A Day In Ambleteuse
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Going Home Through The Channel Tunnel
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Epilogue and More Pictures
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Even More Pictures More images or Ren's European trip that will hopefully bring the story to life.
France, Germany And Belgium 2012 - Even More Pictures Again

Reader's Comments

John Almond said :-
Well ive killed an hour and a half reading of your adventure and what a great read it was.
we can talk further about the trip next time we meet.
01/01/2000 12:00:00 UTC

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Home Travel StoriesFrance, Germany And Belgium 2012 - By Ren Withnell

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