The city of Nice seen from the surrounding hillside bathed in sunshine

Home Travel StoriesFrance 2013

Back Into England

By Ren Withnell

I'm flapping, almost as much as this tent in the wind. We've got hours until our booked time for the Chunnel and it is apparently not advisable to be at the station more than an hour before. But what if there's roadworks? What if there's a problem with the bike? What if we get a puncture? What if what if what I'm flapping. As I've said before, travel is not something that comes easily or naturally to me. I'm already getting cross with the gf for not getting up right away and jumping to it sharp style.

Each time I do something I think "this will be the last time I..." I make it sound so permanent, as though I'll never camp, never ride or never have fun again. It's silly and I tell myself to stop. "This will be the last time I'll have to stuff these bloody sleeping bags into these tiny stuffsacks". I know I'll be doing it again some day, but this is one job, one thing about this trip that I won't miss. It's such an awkward, fiddly, thankless task. That and getting the blinking air out of the gf's lilo. It's not hard, it just takes ages.

Even with the gf messing around with make up, hair straighteners, ablutions and generally being a girl I manage to be ready to roll in good time. Time is on our side so I'm flapping about being too early but I can't stay here and chill, because I'm flapping. As soon as I hit the road and I have something to do, as in riding the bike, I can relax. I feel like I'm working towards something and that makes me feel constructive and useful. I like feeling constructive and useful. It seems an awful long way to the terminus today, am I lost? I'm not lost and I'm not late. Not at all. Not by a long shot. In fact I'm early. What a surprise. Strangely though I'm not so early that we have time to get bored. By the time we've had a chat with and an envious look inside an elderly couple's campervan and been to the toilet, we can climb back onto the Fazer and roll, slowly, towards our train. A queue leads to a line of cars, the line of cars leads to a queue and another biker joins us in another queue as we get ever closer.

Now...remember that "event" at the motorway toll booth as we tried to escape from Monaco? Of how I expect to be arrested for none-payment? Well here I am about to hand my passport over to the French Douane. I expect he'll look at it and scan it. As soon as it scans lights will glare, sirens will go off and I'll be surrounded by armed guards. Nope. I smile and receive a curt dismissive wave. Now British passport control. Maybe the French have alerted the British to a potential incoming criminal? Nope. I grin smugly, they'll never take me alive I tell ya...NEVER!

Another queue takes us onto the now almost familiar Chunnel train. We're joined by another couple on a large Japanese cruiser. He's proudly displaying his MCC patch on his leather cut and asking me about my bike club. It takes a while for him to realise that our club is not "serious" or old school, he seems disappointed even though I wear a cut too. They share tales of great rides and bad weather on their trip, I get the feeling they missed the worst of it though, they've only had a "few bad days". In fact the problem with the Chunnel is the crossing is so quick we don't have time to finish our conversation.

Whoa! Ride on the left Ren...the left! In fact it takes less than a minute to feel comfortable to be riding on the left again. Some people tell me they can switch sides without barely a thought, I think I'd have to spend a year on the continent before I became fully "acclimatised" to riding on the wrong side of the road. I take the motorway today, I used the A roads through Hastings last year and it took an age.

And that's it! Before we know it we're having a brew at Box Hill and then we're at my Dad's place. Job done, holiday over, adventure had and now it's back to reality.

a rag tag worn out map on the floor
The battered, soggy and ripped map of France that proved so useful.

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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