Travel StoriesFrance 2013
France Day 12 - It's Gloomy Inside And Out
By Sharon Parker
It was really, REALLY COLD, during the night. The temperature at 10am this morning is a pathetic 6°C so I think it must have gone down to at least 2°C during the night. Glorious for the south of France at the end of May.
Our camping neighbors Bridget and John confirm that they themselves had also endured a very cold night. Their tent is smaller than ours, their sleeping bags even thinner, burgh. It is a very hard balancing act this weight versus comfort on a bike. A smaller tent is lighter and more portable. It may serve you adequately in the sunshine. However when it is pissing down with rain it just stops being practical. With no porch area like ours there is no room to cook inside and no where to store soaked clothing. Lighter, thinner sleeping bags curtail the need for the big yellow front bags like we have but they are sod all use once the temperature drops. You can if you have a small fortune to spend get the best of both worlds. Super warm sleeping bags which are both light and will pack up small. But you are looking at serious money for the likes of these so for the average biker with average resources the compromise must always be made between bulk and weight versus lighter but less comfort.
The rain eases off and we decamp quick smart to take full advantage of this unexpected lull in the weather. After goodbyes we set off. The plan today is to reach the Villeneuve region.
We pass through farmland and gentle rolling hills. Many of the villages we pass through appear abandoned. The houses locked up and empty. I wonder if it is the time of year? If many of the houses are holiday lets and the season is yet to begin in earnest? But I also wonder if it is due to the recession and hard times hitting. I begin to notice a lot of farms and business premises having for sale signs or liquidation notices on them.
These lost and abandoned images do not inspire an inner warmth and as I shiver I gaze up at the sky for some hope. No hope to be found there at all. The sky is very dramatic with every shade of grey on display. It would, I ponder, make a wonderful photograph but just as I consider the possibility of digging out my camera the heavens open with another substantial downpour.
The day continues with rain, rain and even more rain. Very occasionally just to tease you the rain will suddenly stop. A tiny small patch of blue will appear on the horizon. I fixate on this tiny glimmer of hope. Willing with all my might that this tiny blue pin prick will expand and grow large enough to give birth to a glorious orange round baby called the sun. Just when my hopes rise that the rain may have indeed stopped ... whoosh the blue is replaced by steel black clouds rushing back in and once again another downpour begins.
Sometimes while sitting on the back of the bike I can have some truly inspirational thoughts. Trouble being that such thoughts are fleeting and by the time I get off the bike I am lucky if I can remember one or two of them. I wonder occasionally if I should have a little recorder with me and if I think of anything worth remembering I could record it. It is not often the mind has the opportunity to roam at will like it has the chance to do so while I am sat on the back of the bike. The mind is usually busily engaged with the mundane. It seems a shame that all these little deep thoughts and ideas emerge in my brain just to blow away on the breeze as soon as I remove my helmet.
However on the flip side sometimes being on the back of bike does not always bring little glittering gems of inspiration. Sometimes it leaves the mind time to brood and dig deep into black thoughts. So if you have something bugging you and troubling your mind like I have today and you mix that with really miserable weather it is all to easy to let the bleakness and greyness of your surrounding seep into your very being. When we are troubled nature can often be our salvation, the salve to our wounds. But sometimes nature can match our mood perfectly and skies and thoughts can becomes ever blacker together. I am self aware enough to realise I am brooding today but sometimes I have as much control over my ability to turn off my mind as I do to make the sun appear out of the clouds.
I am not brooding over my current situation, even if the weather is ridiculously bad. I am brooding over the past, worrying about the future and filling my head with if's but's, why's and maybe's. I know the futility of all of this, I am aware this does me no good but today I have no stop switch. I cannot halt the rain and I cannot halt the torrent of my mind.
As we approach the River Lot region I am disappointed. I came here 6 years ago and found it beautiful. Today it looks ordinary. Maybe I have been spoilt by the beauty of the Alps and Millau. Maybe my brooding mind and bleak weather is tainting the picture.
Ren pulls into a small campsite which, surprise surprise, is beside a river. This being the Lot region it is indeed the River Lot, fancy that. The river is fast flowing, grey and almost at bursting point.
The River Lot - Full to the brim.
The campsite is a 2 star. It looks basic and about as appealing to me as a paddle in the river right now. But the €8 a night fee brings a smile to the bf's rain sodden face and I can see how tired he looks. It has been a long, hard, wet ride and I guess he really does need to stop. There is also a break in the rain right now. So as this little unappealing campsite, Les Berges du Lot in St Syvestre-Sur-Lot, is the only one we have spotted for a while this looks like the place we will be staying tonight.
Campsite, not of choice but of necessity
We wander around the campsite looking for a suitable pitch. It is a tiny campsite which is already practically full with camper vans. Ours will be the only tent. Of the couple of pitches available we choose the one a little further away from the waters edge. Like I said it looks fit to burst. The ground it already rather water logged and the sparse covering of weeds does little to cover the mud underneath. No wonder we are the only tent. Oh well tally ho and pitch up chaps.
Motor homes prefer this site we soon realise why.
On the up side the site is incredibly friendly, with warm smiles from the owner and fellow guests alike. We chat to a rather eccentric English chap. It transpires that he spends his life living half the time back in England and the other half in France. In fact he lives just across the river from the campsite. But rather oddly he is camping in his tiny camper van on site. Why? When he lives 5 minutes away? He says he likes the company of the fellow campers. They are old friends to him now, returning each year they all catch up with one another. I can see his point but still it does seems a little odd. But he is a nice chap and if he is happy then who cares how odd it may appear to others.
I decide to try and clean up and warm up a little with a nice shower. Just as well the smiles were so warm because the bloody shower sure isn't. In fact it is bloody freezing. The showers are the outside kind. Basically an enclosed cubicle with a roof but with the door opening straight to the outside. So here I am stood naked with the cold wind whipping up beneath the door, while standing under a streaming torrent of freezing cold water. I want to cry I am so cold. Add to this I can see steam coming from the next door cubicle the bf is in. He confirms his is not hot but it is at least warm, not freezing cold like mine. So I bite my quivering lip and like any true Brit I do not cry. Nope I just laugh hysterically instead.
The rain begins in earnest again and we dash to the shops for supplies for tea. After finally warming up a little with warm food in my belly and cocooned within my sleeping bag in the tent I can feel a smile returning back to my face. The rain lashes the tent and I can feel a small pool of water beginning to form under the tent. The porch area resembles a scene from a festival site and as such everything is covered in mud. It has been a totally miserable day.
Mud, mud glorious mud. Nothing quite like it for sticking over everything.
It has been black today both weather wise and in my mind. I have showered in freezing water in the cold wind. But here I am snuggled in my sleeping bag with a smile on my face feeling ... happy to be honest. I am either a hell of a lot tougher than I ever thought I was or I am finally going rain insane.
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.
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Travel StoriesFrance 2013