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France

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A motorcycle service day in France

The original plan for Easter was to spend the day in Belgium with the GS Club UK at the GS weekend at Kasterlee. As it was only a week after coming back from the US, I had to cancel those plans.

But the bike needed a 20000km service before a much longer trip to the Czech Republic in May. So I decided to see about a service in France and use the ferry ticket for that instead. I searched on the BMW France site for a dealership in the north of France. Purely to see if it was cheaper than in the UK. It was much cheaper in France.

I chose Europ Touring in Arras as it is only about 75 miles from the channel ports.

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In France both 6000 miles and 12000 miles services are about 40% cheaper than the UK. Even with the cost of a cheap crossing over or under the channel it would be cheaper. And as I was less than happy at the standard of the service done at SPC at 6000 miles, plus the place was in the middle of nowhere and had no loan bike on offer (to me least!) despite buying the GS from them! So, a dealership in a town had to be better.

Patrice, the owner, lent us a Scarver 650 to get about. In the end the weather wasn't very good so we only rode into the city centre, met Mark and Julie from the SOC who were there for a hotel weekend, for coffee and as they had done most of the sights we wanted to see the day before we signed in for the A/T, had a chat, and then had lunch.

After lunch, with the weather still looking a bit naff, we wobbled on the Scarver up to Vimy Ridge. On this trip the monument was open (a later visit wasn't so lucky!) and we had a long walk around taking some pictures, however, we didn't have time to go in the museum.

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Posted by InvictaMoto 12:50 Archived in France Tagged vimy_ridge arras europ_touring Comments (0)

Emovis Tag UK

Since Summer 2016 I have had one of these electronic tags fitted in the car. It fits on the top of the windscreen above the mirror.

What does it do? It's not quite magic!

But it does mean that as you approach one of the toll barriers on a French motorway you no longer have to stop and queue, and then fiddle for change or a credit card.

Simply slow down and approach the barrier and wait for the "beep" or the light to go green and the barrier to go up.

Of course it's not free. There is an annual charge for having it and then there are the tolls you incur as you drive around.

I have used it more often in the car, however I have tried it a few times on the bike. I was sceptical how it would know the difference between a car, charged at one tariff, and a motorcycle, charged at a much lower one.

On asking, they said it would know. Approach the barrier slowly as you would in a car and the barrier goes up. They suggest that you login to your account later and check that it got it right! That doesn't actually fill me with that much confidence. If I have to dispute it I assume they have video surveillance to check on?

I would recommend it to anyone that uses the French toll motorway often as it does save time, especially on busy dates when the "T lane" is often less busy.

There is even a video to show how it works! https://www.emovis-tag.co.uk/

Many countries have similar systems to make it easier to pay road tolls. There is the simple non-intelligent "vignette" system used in Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic.

Emovis also has tags for Spain and Portugal. It's a shame they can't be merged into one tag and save messing about with more than one.

Of course there is the Sun Pass in Florida. I have never bought one as the hire cars seems to have then fitted already for retrospective charging! If someone can explain how to have my own then that would be great for my next visit. Although I tend to avoid the toll lanes around Miami/Fort Lauderdale and Orlando and use I95 for north/south trips.

Posted by InvictaMoto 08:31 Archived in France Tagged emovis_uk Comments (0)

Coupes Moto Légende 2021

Twenty years On....

We last went in 2001. The tale is elsewhere in this blog about my/our trips across the Channel to France.

With the same Suzuki GT750A away for refurbishment and hopefully back before the end of this year, I am looking to make another visit to France for Coupes Moto Légende.

It has been held at another circuit, further to the south than the outskirts of Paris, for a number of years. At Prenois-Dijon. Due to covid-19 it was cancelled in 2020, firstly in May and then again in September.

I am waiting for the date to see if I can get there and back in my holiday time at the end of May. If not, then it will have to be 2022 when I have retired from work!

In the meantime I have checked on how far it is by road on MyRouteApp.com. It is around 409 miles using motorways. Slightly less avoiding toll motorways. I think a mixture of the two would be okay.

The A26 goes all the way from Calais to Troyes. With the Emovis tag in my pocket getting through the toll barriers will be no problem.

From Troyes there is a no-toll route via Chatillon-sur-Seine. Google maps has that section as around 143kms. That cuts off a corner and reduces the overall distance to 380 or so miles.

It does follow the Seine for quite a while and close to the source of the river. So not all about riding a motorcycle and things to do with motorcycles.

We await the organisers with the dates for May 2021!

Posted by InvictaMoto 07:06 Archived in France Tagged suzuki_gt750a coupes_moto_légende gt750a Comments (0)

Tripnbike Website

A useful aid and free membership to Tripnbike for bikers anywhere to see if there are any deals and secure overnight parking in the area they are travelling too.

I am a member and do not gain financially or in anyway benefit other than t get discounts at places registered on the site.

https://en.tripnbike.com/

Posted by InvictaMoto 07:06 Archived in France Comments (0)

Coupes Moto Légende 2001

At Montlhéry

sunny

Back in 2001 I was invited to attend the event held at the Montlhéry circuit to the south of Paris.

So one Friday we set off, Claire and me aboard the Kettle for the relatively short run to Paris, it's about 199 miles. We took the A26/A1 route from the Channel.

I chose a Campanile hotel at Porte de Bagnolet, although those in cities were called Campaville at the time.

I chose one with easy access to the city centre on the metro. Parking was a bit crap as it was a multi-storey building. Once checked in we set off for the city on the metro line. It was also close to the Boulevard Périphérique.

As we arrived early enough we had a train trip into the city centre. We visited a few places but as I can't locate the folder containing the pictures, sadly, there aren't any. With a day ticket we could hop off an don wherever we wanted. We did visit the Eiffel Tower and the Gardens by the Louvre.

After breakfast on Saturday we togged up and checked the maps to Montlhéry. A mere 35kms or so from the hotel. It was an easy run on the Périphérique and then follow the signs. We had the paperwork/tickets and a sticker on the screen to get us in. We eventually found the French GT club and parked up.

Claire & Me and the Kettle

Claire & Me and the Kettle

We met the Wasserbueffel Club (WBC) from Germany and had a chat and a drink before having a walk around the site and watched some of the bikes taking to the banked circuit. My bike was too young to be able to have a parade lap.

They go on the registration date not the manufacture date. Mine was registered April 1977 and so was deemed too recent. Maybe I will try again in 2021 or 2022 when it is old enough!

On the walk there were a good few Kettles. I managed not to take one of my own bike, and the other film I used up on the on-track activities and the WBC stand appear to have all disappeared.

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Once we had had enough of the event, we bade our goodbyes and I ignored the comments from Pol that we would be lucky to get home on my Kettle (!). Claire remembers those comments. As we will see later they may have been right.

We had another night in the Campanile and would ride home on Sunday.

Sunday

After a leisurely breakfast we set off home. Filled the tank and off we went. On the A1 northbound we had one of those moments where even though we had not gone that far and we were in the inside lane, the bike lost power. I indicated and pulled onto the emergency lane/hard shoulder. I turned the fuel tap to reserve and we picked up speed again and so I regained the inside lane and we stopped at the next services. Loads of oil in the tank and about half a tank of fuel. Filled up there but there was always that niggle in the back of my head that there was something wrong!

We got home okay though after that and the bike ran well until I allowed it to fester in the back of the garage.

Hence the Renaissance title to this blog.

Update

Since finishing the blog post I have posted on the Suzuki Triple Club a post to see if I can identify my French friend.

And we have a name - Pol Appolon. The reply was from Jacques Massé who has a site called "La Bouillotte".

Jacques also sent a better photo of the day. Mine has been cropped but this one shows the bike much better.

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Posted by InvictaMoto 12:25 Archived in France Tagged suzuki_gt750a Comments (0)

On the Somme

Today's trip was simply to give Red Pepé a run out. My school holiday/vacation was coming to an end. I wanted to be away and savour the days of freedom that were soon to end with the start of the new school year.

One of my targets was to visit my Great Uncle William. He was killed on the Somme in 1916 during the second phase of the Battle of the Somme.

I chose to use the Eurotunnel service through the Tunnel under the English Channel (La Manche to the French).

With the weather really warm by the time I got onto the train I was sweating like a piglet that had run twenty miles! We were last to board and sitting in the sun takes its toll. As usual once we were loaded onto the train it was standing room only for us on motorcycles, or sit on the deck.

All aboard the Shuttle

All aboard the Shuttle

Once we arrive in France the tethering to the TomTom will stop working. Seems a pain but no doubt @ThreeUK will be able to justify it...

My first stop should be the Aire de Rely on the A26. Have stopped many times for a coffee here.

Before then I have to navigate the A26 toll booth at Setques. Whilst this might seem to be no problem. You pull up and take a ticket. When you exit the autoroute you pay. I have a Emovis tag in the car and read that I could use it on the bike and that it automatically charges you and every month of so they collect from your bank.

What could be simpler? The tag was in my upper jacket pocket and facing forward. Fingers crossed the tag works!

Well. As I approached the toll at Setques I was hoping the tag would work. Once in the chute the green arrow turns to 30kph. And then about ten yards short the barrier went up and off I went.

Phew.

Stopped at Aire de Rely. Much has changed since Vimy in April. The building work is completed now. The self service restaurant has completely gone and instead there is a sandwich bar affair.

Coffee is still good and welcome. And there is free WiFi. Fuel is mindbogglingly expensive.

The decision to wear the FT jacket might come back to haunt me. Queuing for the Shuttle had me sweating and the odor is er... Not very pleasant. Might have to buy some Febreze.. I have opened the front and rear vents to see if the wind can blow away the whiff!!!

From Rely back on the A26 and then onto the A1. An accident on the other side had a queue extending back over 7 miles. Glad I wasn't in that. Or going back that way.

I came off the A1 and TomTom took me through Bapaume. A bit of a roundabout route to Bazentin as I forgot to set no unpaved roads in the routing settings. I had to ignore two roads that looked like dirt tracks.

From Bazentin the KSLI would have crossed Caterpillar Valley on the advance to attack Bazentin Ridge. It's all so benign now. Just rolling fields and not many signs in the fields of the carnage that took place in WW1.

The view from Caterpillar Valley Cemetery

The view from Caterpillar Valley Cemetery

Caterpillar Valley Cemetery

Caterpillar Valley Cemetery

The wood still there or at least regrown since 1916. William had been wounded in Flanders earlier in the year and had rejoined the 7th Battalion Kings Shropshire Light Infantry in time to join the march from the coast to their positions facing the Ridge. He took part in the Battle of Bazentin Ridge that commenced on July 14th 1916. He was wounded and died of those wounds on July 16th.

In this cemetery is the original grave of New Zealand's Unknown Warrior. I took a picture and then googled for more information.

Unknown Warrior headstone

Unknown Warrior headstone

I set off from Caterpillar Valley on a circular trip to Corbie to visit William's last resting place.

The roundabout route from Bazentin took me past another Newfoundland monument complete with stag.

Sadly, it was too dark for my phone and I had to lighten it up on the computer at home.

Gueudecourt Elk

Gueudecourt Elk

The roundabout route from here then took me past some other monuments that I have never been to before. I saw a sign to the Welsh 38th Division monument at Mametz Wood. It was worth the bumpy uneven road to see this. If I was Welsh I would be proud to have been there, even more than I am to pay respects to these brave men.

Mametz Red Dragon

Mametz Red Dragon

In Montauban I came across the Liverpool Pals monument. It's quite small.

Liverpool Pals

Liverpool Pals

Another new place for me is Bell's Redoubt.

Bell's Redoubt

Bell's Redoubt

Still not at Corbie.

TomTom took me to Albert. We scouted round the town and I filled the tank. An eye watering cost and 122.1 miles covered.

Halfway between Albert and Corbie is an Australian monument - The Third Australian Division Memorial.

Australian Third Division Monument at Sailly-le-Sec

Australian Third Division Monument at Sailly-le-Sec

From here it was a few miles down into Corbie, passing the Red Baron Monument as I went.

Finally arrived in Corbie having passed the once elusive Red Baron crash site. This time I didn't stop. Once off the autoroute the new 80kph limit does seem to extend journeys.

I parked across from the cemetery and then went across.

Corbie Municipal Cemetery Extension

Corbie Municipal Cemetery Extension

William Devall

William Devall

After putting my RBL cross by the stone, I took a photo and then retired. I sat in the shade of the big trees to cool down and think about the sacrifice the men forever here had made.

I was hungry and I set off back to Albert and the non-toll route home. Lunch in town at the Hygge cafe. Plat du Jour. Potatoes with Lyon sausage. The sausage is loaded with pistachios.

Lunch

Lunch

Oh yeah. There was lettuce with a nice dressing.

As I was riding I had Diet Coke rather than beer.

Checking the time as I relaxed in the sun I realised I needed to abandon the non-toll route and revert to toll route. Time had got away with me and TomTom was showing an arrival time too late for my booked shuttle. Had I stuck to the non-toll route in sort of due-north direction I would have passed the huge memorial to the missing at Thiepval, but expedience meant autoroute.

On the way back to the bike, parked in the square, I tried out the new toilet. Many years ago on my first visit, it was an old style cast iron pissoir. Now it is brick built. C'est la vie.

When in Albert a photo of the cathedral and the golden dome is de rigeur. Especially in the sun.

Albert Basilica

Albert Basilica

The TomTom "ride home" route took me back towards Amiens and then on the A16 northwards.

The Emovis tag worked on entry to the autoroute just as it had on the A26/A1.

I arrived at the Shuttle just about 5.30pm and the guy managing the queues said "ride to the front" of both French and English border controls. This can be fraught with (d)anger depending on the mood of the car and van drivers. Some will try to have you off for jumping the queue, and others don't give a fig.

Once through I had time to get a drink and have another comfort break. I saw that there are some new motorcycle bays and also lockers for helmets etc.

Parked in the new bike bays

Parked in the new bike bays

The trains were retardé. I had an H hanger and F was being re-timed to H's time. In the end the bikes were loaded on the last space on that train, eventually leaving 12 minutes later than posted! Not too bad for me but the rest of the F people were about an hour late!!

On the Shuttle

On the Shuttle

Once home I was able to get the stats for the day off the TomTom.

The TomTom stats for today

The TomTom stats for today

So another day road trip comes to an end and once again another great trip.

Posted by InvictaMoto 13:56 Archived in France Comments (0)

MotoGP Le Mans 2019

Day 1

This trip would be a slight reprise of the trip we did back in 2012.

As usual the Shuttle was late leaving the UK end. Only 40 minutes so not long.

Quiet if long no toll ride down. Made longer by blanket 80km speed limit outside towns. And innumerable roadworks and long detours or deviations as our French friends call them. Does that make us deviants!?

Neill led us up what looked like a farm track and back again when Wailly Beaucamp had the high street dug up. The detour seemed about 10 miles to cover 1 mile of work. The wonders of France. PS, no bugger working though.

First stop in the Rouen ring at a McD for WiFi and lunch. Second stop for petrol.

With the low speed limits Pepé managed 181.3 miles with loads to spare in the tank. Averaging over 46mpg. Neill's BMW 1600 was even better.

Just short of Alençon we stopped in "biker rest" stop organised by the local FFMC group. Free coffee etc but donations accepted.

And then to the hotel. We were later than anticipated but have room 6. Not very big but will do as we expect to be out in the day at the track.

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Dinner at Buffalo Gril up the road. An American style diner that had run out of steak!!! Plus they only had one beer available and not the one we wanted.

Day 2

Up early and breakfast taken in the hotel. We were away by about 0845 and the non toll road route took us the best part of 50 minutes.

In the Rouge car-park they check the bike and with a log book put a sticker on the headlight and matching receipt for you. As we didnt have log books with us we ended up with wrist bands.

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Then we were off with our chairs and waterproof trousers. It drizzled all-day. At least with somewhere to sit it was less miserable between practice and qualifying.

We'll a bit nearer the Dunlop bridge tomorrow.

On the way back we stopped at a war memorial to Leclerc's armoured division that battled locally after D-Day to capture Alençon.

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Once back and parked up we walked down to the local Lidl to get supplies for the race day. Food and drink at the circuit is very expensive and we didn't want to be stuck with what they would offer.

Then we had dinner at Buffalo Grill again. Tonight was Caesar salad night. Being on the edge of town there were very few (okay one!) option. Another restaurant that showed on Google maps didn't exist. Unless the converted it into a warehouse!

Day 3

Started off badly.

We loaded the bikes and Neill set off and I went to follow.

CLUNK!!

In all the messing about I had set off with the bright yellow disc lock still in the front wheel and we took a tumble in the car park.

Luckily I had my left foot on the ground but Pepé is a heavy bastard and my leg crumbled and I had to lay it down. It looked as though it rested on the left pannier.

One of the French guys ran over to help. Filled will embarrassment I had it on two wheels without much help. Adrenaline I guess!

The only damage was to the lock itself in that the key wouldn't unlock. It turned part way but the lock body itself was a bit skew-wiff in the casing..

Luckily another French guy (GS1200 owner) with an adjustable grip wrench broke the casing to get the key to turn. Otherwise I'd not be going anywhere. Phew.

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After that the ride down was a little odd as I was picking up every noise and weave in any uneven road surface as a problem of the tumble.

I couldn't see any damage to the bike, paint nor levers etc. More phew.

That set us back a little and we arrived at the circuit just before 9am. That included a stop at a village boulangerie for bread.

Nothing in the world can compare to a fresh French baguette.

There are vastly more bikes and we are in Row 21 rather than the 16 of yesterday. Also with the stickers we went straight in to park.

We found a space on the fence level up by the chicane again. A little nearer the screen than yesterday. There also seem fewer VR46 caps and other gear today. Today there were far more "fanboys" around and we seemed to be the only people that didn't have any rider apparel on!

Once again the Moto-E bikes haven't made an appearance apart from one bloke doing a single lap on a road bike.

In the Moto 3 class there is little British interest apart from John McPhee. And he won it. As he did in Brno in 2016. We sang the National Anthem. "God Save the Queen". There were other British about but they chose to keep quiet.

Moto2 was the first of a Marquez brothers benefit day. British interest was minimal with Jake Dixon on the Angel Nieto team Triumph. What a fantastic sound the Triumph triples make.

In the end there was a three Spanish rider podium.

I was down behind the VR46 grandstand at the end of the start/finish, queuing for the chance to pee up a wall in the official pissoir, when Marquez was on the podium. Suddenly loads of them in the grandstand starting booing and stamping their feet. Not very sporting. Rossi Fan Boys!

Back in position and before the MotoGP race there were speeches (in French) and then La Marseillaise. Hardly a whisper from the French. WTF? Tune into a rugby international and especially in Paris the French blow the roof off the stadium with their singing!

Our interest was in Cal Crutchlow who had qualified 15th. And a second choice of Jack Miller from Australia. And of course Valentino.

In the end Miller briefly took the lead in front of us before Mark Marquez cleared off. Jack eventually dropping to 4th behind the two works Ducatis. Valentino 5th. Cal got up to 6th at one point and faded to 9th.

With racing over the crowds thinned dramatically. We followed them and the queues to get out of the track and into the bike parks were enormous. It took an hour to walk about half a mile and get out of the parking with the bikes.

The system of sticker in headlamp and matching receipt is bolstered by having your log book. It works. It works better with a tiny grey bit of card like the French rather than a four page A4 doc like us!

The marshalling of the parking on the exits was terrible with about 30 lines of bikes pushing into 3 lines to get checked. It took another hour and a bit to get out and back to the south of Alençon. Getting in was fantastic but the exit arrangements were madness.

We stopped at McD for a McPee and a drink. The place was full of bikers coming and going all the time. Many with yellow UK plates.

This outfit parked in the space next to us. A CB11? In the sidecar was a child's safety seat.

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As it was too early to eat we returned to the hotel via Total. Another fill up.

Once again the goal of 50mpg wasn't to happen. The heavy traffic meant that I was only able to manage 40!!!!

All that 80kph and still that damned low!!

Well. All except for a blast when some knob on an R1 looked at me and smirked. Condescending berk! I dragged away from the lights and knobhead caught me up about 5 miles away when I was adhering to the limit..

We ate at Buffalo again. Neill "eat no red meat" had the chicken burger and me Tex mix of ribs, chicken wings and chilli con carne. Very nice washed down with a litre of 1664.

On the way back to the hotel I took a pic of the buffalo and the chess piece on the roundabout outside.

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Tomorrow it will be home and hopefully we'll get on an autoroute and give the bikes a bit of a run to clear them out!

Day 4

We decided to have breakfast in the hotel and then leave. It wasn't cheap but you could eat enough to make sure that lunch wasn't needed.

Over breakfast a couple of other guys said that there had been an accident after the racing and they couldn't get on the D338 from the Le Mans ring road.

It must have been behind us as we had no problems getting back to the hotel. We can only hope the riders are all okay.

We left at a few minutes to 10am. TomTom decided to come back a different way to the one we went out.

The N12 and N154 instead of the variants of the 138/338/438 that was formerly simply the N138.

The route includes some sections of dual carriageway and single. The limit goes up and down depending on whether there's a "median" or not.

The blanket 80kph limit outside towns stretched to 90 on some sections where they have a passing lane. Usually these were less than a kilometre! Must be fun on busy days stuck behind a truck!

We made good progress to Rouen and onto the A28.

We made a stop at the Bosc Mesnil services for a pee, bum rest and some of the snacks left over from Sunday. The little sausages needed the paper peeling off but tasted okay.

It looked as though the other northern dwelling bikers had gone on the A28 péage or a 138 variant as we saw very few bikes on our run up to Rouen. TomTom had said it was 25 minutes quicker.... Neill later said that it was free on the toll sections for bikes! Boring but probably much quicker.

The services were pretty packed (not just bikers) and I couldn't be bothered to queue for a coffee. Many of the cars and vans and occupants with their 46 stickers or yellow "The Doctor" shirts!!

Petrol at Nouvion Carrefour to tank up proved to be the most expensive of the trip but also the 50mpg dream was finally reached. Generally you can expect that hypermarket petrol stations are cheaper than any competition. Not here!

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We had a quick dip into the shop itself, Neill for some beers as he always does, and me to get some too, plus the de-rigeur local stuff to take to work, and something for us at home. Plus. Cheese.

A livarot. A particularly smelly cheese in the Camembert mode. I also bought a can of VR46 Monster Energy. Much cheaper than at the track.

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The last 55 miles shot past quite quickly and it was around 4pm as we pulled up to the tolls at Eurotunnel.

There weren't too many people and the only holdup was French customs working to rule. Must be a bugger to do the job you are paid for without complaining....

We were booked on the 1650 and we were loaded quite quickly. And. It left a minute early! Let that seep into your consciousness! A Shuttle train left early.

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I was home at about 4.43pm UK time. Another trip over.

P.S. Even over the short time the cheese was in the pannier it stank it out. Luckily nothing else was affected as they were in cans and jars....

A thoroughly enjoyable weekend that even the race day dropping of Pepé couldn't spoil. The fact that there seems to have been no damage apart from the lock itself is amazing.

I have since bought a yellow cord thing to remind me the bloody thing is attached. After joining the dickhead club, I don't want to try again.

Posted by InvictaMoto 13:42 Archived in France Tagged motorcycling motogp Comments (0)

Three go to France 17

Day 1 Part 1

Up early and the car packed. We were actually earlier than planned.

No queues at check-in, allocated Train V, and we were in the dog play area for Reggie to run about.

But as usual with Eurotunnel the timetable goes out of the window. And once again we sat in the queue for an additional 30 minutes.

The 1050 I booked had morphed into the 1049 on check-in, and then the 1114.

At 1036 they announced the retimed 1041 (not its real time as it is Train U) was full and the overspill on the next train.

Let's see if we get away before 1200?

And so it was. Our train finally chugged out of Folkestone at 1154.

FR17 - Updates

Sadly the lack of wifi for most of the trip meant I was unable to keep posting and so instead here's a summary and a few pictures will be added later.

Day 1 Part 2

In the end they loaded us on a train and then announced that it had a problem and was being fixed? Why you have to ask do they load a train that has problems?

In the end we arrived in France 75 minutes later than planned. That meant that we missed lunch and instead carried on a bit further.

We stopped at Baie de la Somme again and Reggie had a walk about and his usual widdle stops and we had a coffee.

Progress along the Paris avoidance route was successful but it was gone 7pm before we rolled up at the Campanile near Orléans. In time to check in and give Reggie his late dinner before he and us went for ours.

We opted for the buffet and Reggie lay under the table. Amazingly dog friendly.

Day 2

Up and away quite early after breakfast. The plan to fill the tank thwarted by the hypermarket being shut on a Sunday morning. This is the norm for France in small towns but you expect better in large cities. Eventually filled up at Chateauroux at an automatic station. At least my UK MasterCard worked.

Arrived at the camping site at Le Val d'Ussel about 4pm as we had estimated. Reggie settled in. Very quiet site. Had a beer at the bar and take away pizzas.

Days 3/4/5/6

After a week my brain can no longer remember the order of things but we managed to get out everyday after breakfast to:

The gardens at Les Jardins du Manoir D Eyrignac, a splendid guided walk around the grounds to see the topiary and other planting.
To Sarlat and Domme for a walk around the medieval town centres.
The Village Troglodytique de la Madeleine where we had an interesting visit to see where man lived 17000 years ago until recently.
Les Eyzies de Tayac for lunch and to look for river access for us and Reggie. None found. We did have lunch though.

One day we had a TomTom "incident" when going to la Roque Gageac. "Turn Left" Jane (the voice of TomTom) said, so we did. The lane got narrower. The route showed a right turn to the river, except we were about 100 feet above it and there were only stairs down.

Luckily we managed to turn around and creep out and back to the slightly larger road and down into the village. Phew.

From there we went in search of a beach to paddle in the river. The river seems to be a magnet for anyone wanting to open a canoe rental business. How they make any money only their invisible friend will know. There are so many occupying the water's edge and the land alongside with "parkling privé" signs everywhere the river is almost impossible to access.

We found a public beach at last on the Dordogne near Chateau de Montfort. There was, of course, a canoe rental there as well, but we had access to the water. Reggie loved it and Claire paddled. I didn't bother as trainers and socks don't work with water. In fact we went again later in the week. After paddles we went up to the Chateau and its village and had lunch.

Most days we had lunch out and ate in the mobile home in the evening after a rest and a few beers.

The average temps for the region in May is about 22C but this week it was hovering around 32C!

On Thursday the camp filled up as it was Ascension Day and the French make it a four day weekend. Reggie was more agitated as he doesn't like bicycles and from none they were now plentiful.

Day 7

Last full day and Reggie was booked into the vet at MC-Vet in Sarlat for his worming pill and his pet passport checked that he had had it and that it was okay to get back into our rabies and certain nasty worm free country. There are some benefits to having water between us and Europe!

Firstly we went to the beach to cool down, and then lunched alongside the river at The Chalet at Vitrac. It was okay. The croque monsieur was massive but Claire said very dry. The frites portion was massive as well. The hotdog I had was okay.

Then it was to the Vet. All handled very well and Marie that saw to Reggie was very nice. Gave him the pill and a check over and then we were off. A quick call in at the Leclerc hypermarket where they have shaded parking and we bought stuff for dinner and some cheese to bring home.

One of the Eurocamp couriers showed us some other units. The one we had was the cheapest because of Reggie, as dog's are only allowed in some levels of luxury i.e. basic.

We think we might come back another year but avoid Ascension Day and leave Reggie in the Kennels in Kent. He likes it there and we can see more things where he can't go.

Day 8

The site still full and we had a lie in. We were the only Eurocamp customers left and Danny the site manager said we could stay longer if we wanted for no extra charge. Sadly we couldn't as had things booked plus work to go back to at home.

The plan was now to let TomTom choose the way home via fuel at Brive. After a coffee stop on the A20 we added Chateau de Chambord into the route to Orléans. It was a detour to the east and then back.

TomTom took us right to the car park. At times it seems that you have no idea where you are going even with it set to the fastest time routing.

And when you see it. WOW!

We didn't want to go in but take a walk around the grounds. Parking was €6 and we were there for about an hour. Time to be amazed. It was still 30C and after an ice cream for us shared with Reggie we beat a retreat. Another place for the next trip?

We arrived at the same Campanile Hotel as the week before and found the place full with a large group on a cycle and other means trip from Perigord to Paris. After a shower and change we left Reggie asleep on the bed (covered with our own cover) and had dinner.

Day 9 - The last day

Up and out early. No breakfast until way up the A71 with Jane taking us towards Paris and the outer ring to the west of the city and the A16 route to the coast. At a services I discovered the problem with MyDrive and connected to it with the wifi.

After that Jane changed the route to go to the east of Paris and the A1/A26 route to Calais.

Another of those "moments" had us turning left too soon and the correction she made took us to the A6 and onto the Périphique! I hate the Périphique. Things weren't too bad and we eventually made it to the A1 and then had a stop for a coffee and a cake. The wifi allowed MyDrive to update. I added a stop at the Auchun petrol station at Calais and it was plain sailing.

On the autoroute and in the service areas were loads of Harley's and a lot of patch clubs but mostly Hell's Angels. There were other MC clubs as well that I had never heard of. They do look impressive riding in twos in a long column but its not for me!

With the tank filled with cheaper than UK diesel we went to check Reggie in and were one of only two cars at pet passport control. We managed to get through both French and UK passports easily enough and got a crossing some two and a half hours earlier than booked and had to pay an extra £13! Rip off really as the trains were hardly full. We had the bikes behind us. When I have been on the bike we are loaded last and never share a carriage with cars. This time we had two bikes behind us and we were halfway up the train...... One of the bikes was a loud HD with an HA rider. He was in tshirt/cutoff and jeans and had very little luggage! Reggie waved his usual right to bark at the sound of a bike and slept most of the way home.

We were home via Waitrose in time for me to watch the highlights of the Arsenal winning the FA Cup the day before. In the Campanile they were watching rugby!

Posted by InvictaMoto 08:33 Archived in France Comments (0)

Three go to France 16

Day 1

A bit of a fraught start with the car seemingly needing to be bigger than it is. In the end the Tardis effect worked and the boot/trunk was full and half the back seat not occupied by Reggie was packed too.

Once we had filled the tank and checked in to find we had an hour delay we had time to let Reggie have a run about in the dog exercise area.

Our original departure time was 1020. The huge board by where I parked said it was now 1050.

We rushed into the terminal to get a coffee. Huge queues so made do with a crappy machine.

We should have bothered. We sailed through passports, UK and French, and into Lane 12. It was 1014.

Our place for the next 50 minutes was that queue. It rained a few times and that 1050 crossing faded.

Almost an hour was up and we moved up to the next queue, tantalisingly close to a train.

On the down ramp we could see another train loading in parallel.

1120 came and went. At 1141 we finally wheezed out of the station.

Delays of over 30 minutes on UK railways are eligible for compensation but not Eurotunnel. The lack of information is the main source of frustration.

Finally in France and the exit from the train was to turn left and out of the back entrance rather than the usual right turn and out past the petrol station. Who knows why. No one bothered to explain!!!

The run down the A16 to Abbeville tested the new toll tag I got from SANEF the French autoroute operator in the North. You just drive up to the toll, it peeps and off you go. Pay later.

First stop the Baie de la Somme services for a coffee and sandwich. It's always a reliable stop and plenty of parking.

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From the Baie de la Somme services it was a short run to the campsite at La Mollière.

We checked in quite quickly and drove round the one way system to emplacement 136 where our mobil-home is placed.

As Reggie takes ownership of anywhere he stays, he gets protective and defends. This means there is liable to be barking. I asked for a spot with little passing traffic. That's what we have.

After unpacking we had a walk across the road to the dunes. We had imagined the sea to be there. Wrong.

We also climbed this 60 foot sand dune when a walk along to the west would have seen us walk through a gap on a path....

It was good exercise and we were the only ones daft enough to do it.

For dinner we ate in on Carrefour supermarket microwave lasagna. Yum.

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Our Home for the week

Day 2

I mentioned that Reggie can be protective but what I really meant was overprotective. It rained heavily overnight and as well as that there were strange animal noises to keep him busy at intervals all night.

The beds are okay and the sleeping bags are similarly okay. But having a dog having mental barking fits is not so good.

Luckily being off season the four similar units we drive past to 136 are all empty. At least no one for Reggie to annoy.

The people in 137 across the roadway are in their own caravan and they seem to talk loudly all night until gone midnight. Reggie does not like that either.

So Day 2 dawned a little dull and we had a walk to reception to collect our bread order. The French love their fresh baguette every morning.

Once breakfast was over we set off for Cayaux and after a walk and coffee we went to look for the tall chalk cliffs that extend from Ault almost to Le Tréport. We found them.

Le Tréport is a very lively town on a Sunday with free parking everywhere after 30th September.
Something other places might like to note to attract visitors to spend money rather grubbing about for €1 an hour parking.

We had a walk around the harbour and coffee and gauffres before setting off back to the campsite.
A long day ended with Carrefour couscous and a beer to wash it down.

It is easier with the dog to eat out if need be at lunchtime and in for the evening.

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Day 3

After another dog affected night we awoke to bright sunshine. Again Reggie and I went to get the bread. The cats that live near reception kept a low profile.

After breakfast we drove into St Valery and parked up. Pay again.

As we walked along the pedestrian area Ali guide the bay the tide was us starting to turn. We had a coffee at La Terrasse before walking to the end where the river opens into the marshy bay.

The tide was rushing in quickly and in less than half an hour the beaches on the far side of this inlet had gone and it was lapping up against the concrete sides on the town side.

We stopped in La Terrasse again. This time for lunch. A goats cheese salad for Claire and a blue cheese burger for me. Amazingly I could eat all the chips/fries.

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We called in a Lidl for some supplies on the way back and noticed a McDonald's as well.....

After Reggie's dinner we went into Cayaux for another walk as it was still bright and sunny.

Tonight's dinner is fish soup and bread bought in the Carrefour.

Day 4

Another disturbed night due to whatever has Reggie awake and growling plus today the locals are out with their shotguns.

It is a miserable existence for anything that can fly in France as the brave hunters will shoot it. From endangered songbirds to ducks if it takes to the wing some twat in camouflage gear will shoot at it.

I almost feel sorry for the French air force as they flew along the course of the Somme the day before. A target that big?

After breakfast and a short walk we both had an extra lay in to get some rest. Relaxing this holiday isn't! !

It meant we were late going across the bay to Le Crotoy.

With pay to park everywhere I moved the car a few times to more convenient places all on the one ticket.

Reggie wasn't enjoying today's walk and he wasn't allowed on the beach here.

We had a coffee and sit in the sun for a while. Nice to soak up the warmth.

On the way back we stopped in another Carrefour and got some sandwiches for lunch plus some tarte de pommes.

We ate the sandwiches at St Valéry overlooking the river. The tartes waited until we got home.

The late afternoon spent reading and blogging.

Day 5

Today we had a lazy day, or at least start to the day. Late breakfast and a walk for Reggie to do his ablutions.

Today we stayed local again. Going into St Valéry for a walk about and down to the railway station on the harbour to watch the train leave.

The train is a heritage line and runs from Le Crotoy to St Valéry almost all year and in the summer there is an extension to Cayeux.

We were lucky enough to arrive in time see it leave at 1430.

Baie de la Somme Railway

Baie de la Somme Railway

After we watched it fill up and leave there was time to have a barquette of frites between us.

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Once again we ate in for the evening meal.

Day 6

Today is pet passport day. A drive into Abbeville where the TomTom took us straight to the door.

We were very early and so we parked, again free, and went for a walk around a garden before a coffee.

Abbeville can't be confused with an interesting city centre. The town hall looks like it was styled on an ancient design with a tower but in white concrete....

The church is old though. Still ugly.

We had time for a pannini and then it was gone 3pm. The short walk to the vets gave Claire a chance to pop into a boulangerie and buy a meringue for after dinner.

The nice lady vet checked Reggie over and filled in his passport and gave him the worming tablet. He thought it was a treat and gobbled it down. We left ten minutes later and €30.10 lighter in the pocket but with the passport filled in to get him back into the UK.

On the way back to the campsite I saw a sign for a WW1 military cemetery dedicated to Chinese workers. This one at Noyelles has 811 registered burials.

Later I Googled it to find that the allies employed 96000 Chinese workers during the course of the war. Many of these graves show no names but others have names in English and Chinese.

The traditional entrance has been replaced with a Chinese style arch. Still designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The architect of many British memorials.

Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery

Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery

Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery

Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery

Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery

Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery

Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery

Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery

Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery

Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery

The inscription is by the Chinese ambassador in Paris at the time.

http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/68500/NOYELLES-SUR-MER%20CHINESE%20CEMETERY

Another night in after a stop at the supermarket for beer and some dinner.

Tonight Reggie encountered his first hedgehog. A bit of barking and lunging at it ended up with the hog in a prickly ball and Reggie having to be tugged away.

Day 7

Our last full day of the holiday. I had hoped to get to St Valéry and ride the train but a bit of back ache meant I could hardly move for hours. Okay sitting or walking but nothing in between.

In the end a it was also our wedding anniversary we decided to have lunch out. We had exhausted St Valéry and so headed for Le Tréport again.

We have always thought of France as being more dog friendly than UK but we still felt odd asking at L'Aquarius whether Reggie could go inside with us. "But of course" was the response. The food was good and Claire got her mussels.

We had a walk around before heading up to the heights above the town to check out the views. It's also up here where the Funiculaire has its upper terminus.

As we walked along the top of the cliff to overlook the town. Below it looked like a model village. The funicular runs through the cliff and like parking in Le Tréport it is free.

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport Military Cemetery

Le Treport Military Cemetery

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Le Treport

Of course in lieu of missing the train ride we had to go down to the town and back up again. Then it was back to the camp to start packing and another dinner in.

Tonight was Reggie's second encounter with a hedgehog. This time a much bigger one but with the same result.

Day 8

The last day.

We had to be up early as the mobil-home had to be cleaned and the floor washed before we could get one of the staff to come over and check that we hadn't broken or stolen anything....

We had checked the inventory on arrival and they check it when we leave. Many of the FB and TripAdvisor comments seemed to find this strange.

We hadn't used any of their bedding as we had taken sleeping bags and our own pillows, plus throws to stop Reggie leaving hair or mud on the furniture.

We brushed round and then I washed the floor with the sachet of hospital cleaning grade cleaner they had left.

We eventually left about 1015. First stop the recycling bins and then off towards home.

A coffee stop again a Baie de Somme. Reggie had people laughing as he was looking in the water out back when a huge carp swam towards him. He jumped in the air like his legs were springs. After that he wouldn't near the edge, not even to bark or growl at the ducks.

And then we were off again. Cruise control at 70mph and we passed maybe one other car in 60 miles.

Before pet check-in we went to the Auchun to fill the tank with cheap French diesel. The price was €1.119 a litre. Today's exchange rate about 1.159 to the £. So less that a £ a litre. At home the same in £'s at Tesco.

And then to the fiasco that is border controls.

Pet check-in was easy and Reggie and his passport sailed through. ANPR picked us up and we joined the relatively short queue to French controls. Slowly edging forward through empty booths. The French not bothering to check the passports.

The slowness was because UK Border Agency, or whatever pseudo US name they have given themselves now, had only three booths open. Plus one for coaches only. There was one coach...

We edged forward and then it was all done and dusted. Only 45 minutes from checking in and getting 400 metres up the tarmac.

It did mean we could go straight onto the train. A miracle that it left on time. The first time in many years

And 40 minutes* later we arrived at Folkestone for the short journey home.

Holidays for 2016 over.

  • you don't believe all that 35 minutes advertising spiel do you?

Posted by InvictaMoto 08:40 Archived in France Comments (0)

The Somme Centenary

Day 1

Even though we didn't have to be at the Shuttle terminal for our train to France until 1015 or so we still had to have an early start. I had to take Reggie off to his weekend away at Wyncot Kennels.

Once again he was excited as I turned into the drive and he positively ran off with the kennel lady, again without a backward glance to his Dad standing in the reception area.

Back at the house Claire was doing the last minute packing. The new Saddlemen FTB3600 bag was getting filled with our "duds" that we would need for the ceremony.

The waterproof bags that I bought last year would have other stuff for two days and two evenings in Amiens. They fit snugly in the panniers as long as they aren't overfilled. With rain looking highly likely I fitted the Saddlemen with its supplied waterproof cover. It's bright yellow to help other road users see us in the spray and gloom!

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We were away via a petrol stop to top off the tank as Brexit last week meant that the "markets" (a phrase to describe speculator scum) have forced the pound sterling down against the dollar and euro, and so already expensive French benzine is now even more expensive for us.

On arrival at the terminal, the machine wouldn't accept our booking reference not the card I paid for it. Usually one or the other is good enough to get through. The human-manned check-ins were five or six cars deep and the automatics... empty... A human came to our rescue and did exactly the same as us and it of course worked.

From there we were going to meet two other regulars on the French trips, Ken Fulton and David Robinson. Both actually on Suzukis, the heritage of the Meldrews, born from that club that no one mentions its name. This group was known as Shuttle One.

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We were joined in the terminal by Ian Jenkinson and Paul Brewster aka Bear.

The queues for coffee were far too long and so we didn't bother and then we were called through. As usual there was a holdup, but this time only a ten minute delay, or "retimed", on the crossing. There were quite a few bikes to be loaded and unusually, we were first on the train.

In France the idea was to head along the coast to the Todt Battery for Ian and Bear. The rest of us have been before and we would have lunch.

This is the last we saw of them until Amiens the next day.We had lunch and I texted Ian to say we were eating and then we heard bikes leaving and then after we had eaten we went out to get ready and bikes went past, Dutch riders leaving no bikes in the Todt car-park some 200 yards away. So we set off. With the weather turning to rain I aborted the scenic route for the A16 motorway and 100 minutes later we were pulling up at the hotel. Luckily the gate to the car park was open and so we could ride straight in. Check-in was simple.

By the time we were showered and outside the hotel, some of the Ferry Crew had arrived but still no Ian and Bear, Shuttle One adjourned to the Irish pub around the corner as we have done for the last three years.

Beers drunk, some very strong and some very very strong and then we were joined by the Ferry Crew. It was therefore ten of us that went in search of food.

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We were warned that there might be a delay, but it was gone 2330 when we got out after three courses of well cooked and presented food on the €19.50 "menu touristique".

Time for bed....

Day 2

The day of the commemorations started early for three of the Ferry Crew. They had tickets to the Thiepval event and needed to be away about 5am for the park and ride by Albert Airport.

This made the decision to go to the Ulster Tower for the majority of us seem the best option. We could have breakfast in the hotel and then walk over to the station and get the train to Albert, where our shuttle buses would be waiting. No need for the park and ride. It would be less hassle for men but we had Claire and Elaine Constable in our team. Ladies are less likely to be enamored changing in a field.

As it was We got our tickets and the 0837 train to Albert. Strangely there wasn't another train until 1137 and that was cutting it fine to get the shuttles as they finished at 1200.

We had a few hours to kill before the first bus and there was plenty to do with displays etc. Plus the famous gilded tower that acted as a target for the German gunners and as a symbol to the French defenders.

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At the Tower there was a little confusion where to sit, and sitting was never going to happen as despite few buses going ahead of us, there were no seats left. With the grass wet from days of rain, we ended up with the cardboard boxes left from the packed lunches handed out when we arrived.

Ulster Tower

Ulster Tower

Team Ulster Tower

Team Ulster Tower

Not so bad for the men, but some of the old servicemen there were in their 80's and up and they stood whilst kids sat down on chairs. Not good.

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Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall arrived.

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The ceremony was very moving and the tales of the men and boys that had given their lives brought tears to the eyes.

None more amazing than that of Billy McFadzean (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_McFadzean) who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his selflessness that saved the lives of countless comrades when he threw himself on live hand grenades that had spilled from a box and this was before the assault had started.

We can never know what we would have done in his position.

The weather continued to be a pig, rain, then sun, then rain again. We got soaked to the skin.

And then about 40 minutes late the guest of honour HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived. The politicians from Thiepval didn't show their faces apart from Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, Our Prime Minister and the French President had cleared off!

Once it was all over and Charles and Camilla had chatted and left, the buses were brought up. It was very slick and we were on the 1705 train back to Amiens. Now dry with wet patches.

A memorable day.

We were back before the Thiepval Three and way before Ian and Paul who had gone to the Canadian ceremony at Beaumont-Hamel that started after our event, and also attended by Charles and Camilla.

In the evening we split into smaller groups and Shuttle One went our own way. Less beer more soft drinks as we had to ride back to UK the next day.

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Another day over.

Day 3

The day to ride home. Once again it was Shuttle-One returning together.

The rest of the Meldrews were going to scatter. One group going to Oradour sur Glane (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oradour-sur-Glane_massacre) and the U-boat pens at Lorient. Another going solo to Normandy and others to the east.

We had a leisurely breakfast and then said our goodbyes and set off. Firstly for petrol as we all needed some and then to Corbie.

There we had a quick stop to place a Somme 100 poppy cross on the grave of William Devall who was killed on July 16th a hundred years ago.

From there we had a cross country journey towards Arras. The rain came and we had to stop so I could get my waterproofs on and effectively they never came off until I was on the Shuttle.

We were in need of a break and it may not have been my greatest decision to take us into Arras on a Saturday afternoon. We had enough time for a coffee and then away again as time seemed to disappear.

We headed for the A26 and headed north. Always chasing the clock and it seemed even with a petrol stop in Calais for David and Ken that we were in good time.... until we saw the queues at the check-in and beyond at the border controls.

In the end it was every man for himself. Once checked in we headed towards the front of the first queue to join some other bikes. Through French passport and then UK Border Agency.

In the end the train we caught with a group from the Goldwing club was about 30 minutes after scheduled. Ken was about half an hour later and similarly David.

Why? Who knows?

The trip was over when we quickly changed and Pepe went into the garage and we went to pick Reggie up from the kennel.

Posted by InvictaMoto 11:55 Archived in France Comments (0)

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