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Home Travel StoriesFrance 2013

France - Day 1

By Sharon Parker

So the big day arrives. That day being Saturday the 18th May.

I did not sleep too well the night before. Far too excited. I am up early to get dressed and re-check all my gear is packed away into the saddle bags ready for loading when the bf arrives. I fear that my youngest daughter is not to keen on me going away for so long now the day has arrived and her rather forlorn face is pulling at my heart strings and my guilt stirs with a vengeance. But it is all booked, the bf is on his way and I really want to go. So get thee behind me you devilish guilt.

The bf arrives and I get flutterflies in my tummy. It is happening, we are really going on our grand adventure. I have dreamed of a trip like this for like...well forever really. I love seeing new places, experiencing different cultures and gazing upon foreign landscapes. I have travelled abroad a few times on various package holidays and I have enjoyed those times but I have always wanted to travel in a more nomadic way. I usually get restless in a place after 2 days of exploring the immediate area, so I usually have to then branch out by expensive car hire, boat trips or jeep safari days etc to satisfy my desire for exploring. On the bike with no set places to stay pre-booked we will be free to come and go as we please. If we do not like a place we can move on. If we do we can stay for as little or as long as we like. Well within our 3 weeks time frame limit of course.

I have looked at the forecast for France for the next few days and unfortunately it does not look good. A large band of rain is due and it looks like we might get soggy for the first 3 days at least. But I am determined not to let this deter me or dampen my spirits. The weather will be what it will be, this much I know. I have a rather annoying habit it appears of being a rain goddess. I travelled to the South of France a number of years ago in August. It rained almost every single day. Unheard of, never happened before said all the locals ... hmmmm.

After a quick brew the bike is loaded, hugs and kisses are exchanged and we zoom off, or rather wobble off with such a heavily laden bike. Today the weather is pleasant enough. Cloud with sunshine breaking through on occasion. It is not very warm though. However this is no problem for me because I am snug and comfy in my new base layers and other new bike gear that I recently purchased with this trip in mind. I purchased 3 new items. Boots, back protector and jacket. The first 2 being necessary the jacket just being a great bargain I could not resist.

I have had the same boots for over 8 years. They have been great but with only a Velcro fastening I have always wanted the added feeling of security afforded by a zip. Easier said than done. I will not bore you with the details here of my troubles with finding boots to fit (you can read that at a later date when I write it up under bike gear reviews) Eventually one zip pair was found to fit, the Blytz Ladies Touring Boot, but I am not really happy with them. They are okish but not really comfy. I will just have to see how the settle in on this trip.

My back protector was getting old and more importantly was pressing on a sensitive sore point on my shoulder blade. This was causing some quite severe pain to shoot through my shoulder and arm. My new back protector is the Knox Aegis, it is super light, super flexible and super comfy and I am thrilled with it. The jacket, Bering Lady Strada Roadster with a RRP of £198 was on ebay brand new for £20. I highly rate Bering so at that price and in my size it would have been rude not to buy. So not being rude ... err well ok I can be rude but that is another story...I snapped up this bargain. It's looks are somewhat tempered by my also new high viz jacket purchased to comply with French law* but hey ho.

As our crossing is not until Sunday and this being Saturday the bf has plans to stay the night in Cambridge. The journey there is pleasant and I am enjoying myself already. Cambridge is a most pleasing surprise to me. Very civilized it all appears, with a distinctive middle to upper British class feel about it. Students clutching texts books stroll chatting through leafy parks. Dapper young gentlemen ride past on quirky old fashioned bicycles, which all add to the olden world feel Cambridge generates. Families with young children in tow stroll or ride by giving a feeling of serenity and safety. Nothing feels threatening here on this sunny May day.

We find a campsite not too far away. On arrival the barrier is down and a sign asks you to call a telephone number. The bf does so with no success. We stand around looking bemused for a while. The campsite looks pleasant, small and cute and well tended. I would like to stay but if we can not gain access we are stumped. I try on my phone but again receive no answer. We decide to leave and just as I am about to climb on the bike my phone rings. It is the owner of the campsite and he is coming to open the barrier. The owner is warm and welcoming. The price of £12.50 for the night for a medium tent is fine by us so we have found our first nights rest at the appropriately named Travellers Rest Campsite.

Pitching up the tent it rather fun on this still evening. In no time at all our little home is up and looks most inviting.

vango equinox 350 pitched at the travellers rest cambrige 
Our inviting home

The friendly owner points out a bench that he says we can carry over to our pitch. Great, a bench and seating of any kind is most welcome. We sit at the bench eating sandwiches and drinking tea.

Sharon with a cup of tea in the sun at the campsite in cambridge
Just what every rocker biker chick needs when camping. A bench to sit on and a nice cuppa o tea made by the bf.

See what a happy camper I am. Unfortunately a bench was not always available but my brews were always supplied.

A trip to the toilet block reveals nice clean modern facilities. There are 3 separate cubicles within the block. 1 containing a toilet and sink and the other 2 with the same toilet and sink with the addition of a shower.

the smart and well trimmed travellers rest campsite
The Travellers Rest is a well tended campsite.

We retire for the evening and as it is not too cold I manage to find something a little more attractive than my thermal base layers to slip into and to woo the bf. Wooing complete we snuggle down into the sleeping bags for out first night of many under canvas. I am snug, comfy and content. Ahhhh night, night.

*NOTE - it was only after our return to the UK they I learned that as of this year (2013) Manuel Valls, French Interior Minister, has permanently scrapped the proposed compulsory reflective clothing for bikers! The French authorities had announced the full and permanent scrapping of previous plans to force all bikers riding a machine of more than 125cc to wear 150cm2 of reflective clothing anywhere between the waist and the shoulders.

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 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. 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.

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