A Travellerspoint blog

Charles Devall Centenary

Two and a dog.....

Not really jour un but après-midi un. Claire got off work a little early and we set off for the Tunnel. There was hardly anyone checking in and the parking was almost empty. But the train before our scheduled departure was full. I bet!

It gave us time to get a coffee and take Reggie to the dog exercise area. We had about 25 minutes there and he had a ball to chase.

blogger-image-486810290.jpg

The plastic grass makes accidents (poops) easier to clean up. Reggie abstained.

Once underway he settled down and seemed unaware that he was on a train at all!

Some 50 minutes later Tomtom delivered us to the Hotel Campanile. Not bad. Fenced and locked car-park in a residential area. Reggie stayed in the room and we went and had dinner and a beer.

blogger-image--4923393.jpg

There are quite a few British cars here plus a couple of Harley's plus other European visitors.

The hour difference between GMT and CET means we have lost an hour, but we wil get it back on Sunday!!

Tomorrow we have about seventy miles to go, but we'll go the long way round to Armentières.

Day 2

We were up reasonably early to make sure that Reggie was watered both ends and had his breakfast. The special food he has from the vet to try and cure his bad belly is not to this liking. He eventually ate it at about 4pm.

The "plan", such as it was, was to head along the coast towards Veurne in Belgium before turning down to Armentières.

I set TomTom to avoid motorways and we set off along the back roads before joining the old N1, now designated D940, near Fort Mardyke. Not all that scenic so far. Ignoring the instructions we headed into Dunkerque and parked near the old harbour. The three of us walked to a café for coffee, dogs allowed inside.

On the way we passed a succession of historic ships in the harbour.

blogger-image-736310183.jpgblogger-image-1237826772.jpgDuchesse Anne

Duchesse Anne

The "Duchesse Anne" is a German 3-masted sail-training ship and given to France after WW2 as reparations for war damage, and rescued and restored by the city of Dunkerque in 1980.

Princess Elizabeth

Princess Elizabeth

The paddle steamer "Princess Elizabeth" took part in the Dunkerque evacuation in 1940.

The cafe was decked out with American flags as from time to time they have classic car events.

blogger-image-1703895969.jpgblogger-image-1494633853.jpgblogger-image-1980881866.jpg

Once finished we walked back to the car after deciding to look for the beach where the 338000 troops had been taken off from. It is actually in the neighbouring coastal town of Malo les Bains.

Firstly we stopped at a bakery for lunch. Or rather picked up a baguette, pastry and drink to take with us.

blogger-image-104377222.jpg

After a few missed turns we made it to the beach and the memorial to the French troops and their allies, that would be the British Expeditionary Force, that were evacuated.

blogger-image-1581011663.jpgblogger-image-1486871741.jpgblogger-image--971211819.jpgblogger-image--1454222504.jpgblogger-image-2014016046.jpg

The beach itself is obviously a holiday beach and since June 2014 dogs are banned.

There are special fences erected to stop it blowing away.

blogger-image--526579864.jpg

After lunch was eaten on a bench we had a walk along the promenade to the seaside town but. Very sad as September is obviously out of season!

The next part of the plan was to head for Armentières and the hotel there. The off-motorway route took us into Belgium and past Poperinge, so we took a turn into the town, down past Talbot House (http://www.talbothouse.be/en/museum/home) and into the square.

With Reggie out of the car we headed across to the Hotel Amfora for coffee. Why? They had the best looking awning as it looked like rain was imminent.

It was. We had a second coffee.

Here we decided to change hotels. With rubbish weather we didn't want to be wandering about looking for a restaurant so cancelled Hotel Joly and booked another Campanile. This one near Dunkerque with attached restaurant.

The hotel is near a couple of lakes. Once we had checked in and had a rest, the weather brightened up and we went for a walk around them, hoping Reggie might go to the loo. He didn't.

The walk was a little over two miles. By the time we got back we hoped he'd eat his dinner. He didn't.

We went to get our dinner whilst he stayed in the room watching a programme about Ferrari's on the TV. Anything to stop him barking and growling at anyone passing by the window.

Of course. Once we got back to the room he decided to eat then. Plans for a loo walk curtailed.

Tomorrow, we will drive down to Armentières and visit Charles and pay our respects.

Day 3

As it is Sunday a bit of a lie in and then when Claire was getting ready I took the boy out for his morning ablutions.

Today there was a very autumnal chill in the air and a heavy dew. My trainers are definitely not waterproof, seeming to have the water resistance of cardboard.

Still after breakfast and checkout it was dry for the 35 miles or so to Desplanque Farm and the cemetery.

The track off the main road is worse than ever. Bumpy and not suitable for most cars. The Corsa coped okay. At least it was dry.

blogger-image-960298391.jpg

Charles is one of four graves in Row D alongside the standard cross. Already there was a cross from a school and a laminated sheet of remembrance left last year by my brother, Neill.

blogger-image--1809556825.jpg

It's a little muddied and tatty but still readable. I put our cross on the front of the headstone.

blogger-image-654292093.jpgblogger-image-750405996.jpg

Next to him is one T O'Reilly, also of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. I wonder if his family have ever made the trip across. He was killed on the same day.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_of_Sacrifice)

From here we decided to try and find the Guards Cemetery near Cuinchy to see the war grave of her Granny's brother Timothy O'Leary.

TomTom decided it was going to be magical mystery tour time and we had no idea where we were going. In the end I stopped and reset it. It immediately had us do a 180 and head miles past where had already been! I turned on route recording on the TomTom a bit earlier to see where the heck we were.

In the end we gave up on Cuinchy and dialled in Cassel. One high spot was that the route TomTom chose was through Fromelles.

Later on checking the TomTom I could see that we had been going in completely the opposite direction and then looped back to where Cuinchy actually is! We gave up when only about 10 miles away!!!

TomTom did take us through a village called Fromelles.

This is the site of Pheasant Wood, where only in 2008 they discovered mass graves containing over 250 Australian and British dead.

The battle here was fought over two terrible days on 19/20 July 1916. Australian casualties were over 5500 killed along with a further 1500 plus British dead.

A massive DNA search in Australia has resulted, according to the display boards, in only one left unnamed. The headstones haven't yet caught up as there are many just with "An Australian soldier of the Great War" on them still.

blogger-image-1133048974.jpgblogger-image-340695684.jpgblogger-image--1057703078.jpgblogger-image--113190393.jpg

The wooden building is the museum. We didn't have time visit but will plan to do so another time.

Read more at:

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/french-flanders-artois/cemetery-fromelles-pheasant-wood.htm

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Fromelles

We arrived to find Cassel, high on its "mont" packed with cars taking up most spaces. In the end we parked in Place Van Damme. Not named after the actor but a Napoleonic General - http://www.napoleonguide.com/soldiers_vandamm.htm

Cassel was Marshal Foch's HQ during the early part of WW1. There is a statue of him on horseback looking towards the east where the German lines were.

We ascended and then descended the Mont from car park to town centre and decided to have lunch at the Sainte Cecile Café as they had a snack menu and outside seating.

No sooner had we ordered coffee and a Croque Monsieur each than the rain started. We went inside. This cafe is also a betting shop, bingo and lottery establishment! But it allows dogs inside and is out of the rain. It was okay but nothing of note!

The walk back up and over the Mont? Not so dry! In fact we got soaked.

Once in the car I set TomTom for home and the fastest route and by 4pm we were queuing to get through the pet passport check with Reggie. The drive-through section was closed! Luckily the rain had stopped so no one got too wet in the queue.

All our paperwork, thanks to Anthony at Barrow Hill vets, was in order and we joined the next queue to get through UK Border controls. As we were an hour early and also due to delays with intruders once again in the tunnel, things looked a bit packed.

In the end Eurotunnel put on extra trains and we were hustled through 40 minutes ahead of the booked train. Result.

And that's it. All over for this trip.

Posted by InvictaMoto 05:45 Archived in France Comments (0)

Somme Weekend

With the Meldrews

Day 1

An early start on Saturday. I had old friend Ken Fulton staying over. My plan was to be up about 5.30am, leave at 6am to arrive Dover at 6.30am. Except Ken was up earlier and we left and arrived at Dover way before 6am.

I messaged Cal to say we were going through immigration and check-in.

We were first in the line. It took so long at Costa to get a coffee that the others had arrived and we were almost ready to load. Bugger.

The crossing was pretty straightforward and after breakfast we were disgorged into dull weather Calais.

The plan was to head down the A26 to Arras and then cut across to the first stop at the Accrington Pals Memorial.

First delay was that the autoroute ticket machine played up and some of us got tickets and others had to wait to get one.

At the pay station near Arras, the lucky ones from the ticket collection found their tickets were not recognised!!! More holdups. Then we got split up twice! The eight bikes became four and then two.

Luckily, of the eight bikes five had satnav!

Ken and I waited for a while by the massive Poste sorting office for Department 62, and when no one showed up we set off to the first stop. The route was the same as last year!

We aborted the Pals as the track off the road was terrible. Certainly not for the R3 or Ken's SV1000.

We went into the next stop at "Ocean Villas". (http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/museum-ocean-villas-auchonvillers.htm)

In the traditional Tommy anglicisation of French place names, Auchonvillers became Ocean Villas.

It was so warm we had both had two iced teas before the rest arrived, having also aborted the Pals visit. My texts had also arrived.

Most of the group decided to have lunch before we headed off to the main visit of the day to the Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel. (http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/memorial-newfoundland-park.htm)

blogger-image-1585201430.jpgblogger-image--882739181.jpg

From here we headed to the Ulster Memorial Tower, and then the Tank Corps Memorial at Pozières.

blogger-image-1950202557.jpgblogger-image--1763775095.jpgblogger-image-1269977302.jpgblogger-image--1818581073.jpg

(http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/memorial-tank-corps.htm)

Across the road is the "Windmill". The site of the most costly Australian action in WW1, surpassing Gallipoli. (http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/memorial-pozieres-mill.htm)

It was finally captured on August 4th 1916. Just 60 yards up the road is a sign showing how far the allies had got by September 1st 1916.

blogger-image--441403888.jpg

27 days to advance 60 bloody yards.

From here we headed to the hotel in Amiens via a petrol stop in Albert. The hotel was the Central Anzac.

After check-in we went to our rooms. After a shower I was feeling a bit tired and had a sleep. By the time I woke up my friends had gone to the Irish pub. I got Cal's SMS on Sunday morning.

blogger-image--962262322.jpg

We had a walk around before finding the river and a restaurant that would seat all eight of us.

blogger-image-1612123995.jpg

To get a full group photo David called over a young attractive blonde passer-by. And a good job she did.

blogger-image-1576469769.jpg

After dinner we headed back to the Irish pub.

The lightweights (me included) went to bed and others went to the pub.

Day One ends.

Day 2.

After the long day the day before I was feeling a little tired and after the early night,aided by two pints of Monaco at the restaurant, I slept most of the night. I set my alarm on my phone for 0800. By the time I had showered and got changed I got to breakfast to find all my travel mates already there.

We had a good chat over breakfast and by the time we were ready to leave it was easily 0945.

The first stop was to be the site where the Red Baron was shot down. Somehow we had missed it last year. It would be easy to miss as it is simply a small notice board at the side of the road.

IMG_3850.JPG

The next stop was only a few miles along the road. Grove Town Cemetery where David wanted to look up one of his relatives buried there. Although from Google Maps the cemetery looks to be in the middle of farmland, what it didn't show was the rough track to get there. Unlike the Pals, we couldn't miss this one. At least Neil got to take his new Honda Cross Tourer "off road"!!

IMG_3852.JPGIMG_3851.JPGIMG_3853.JPG

From Grove Town, we retraced our steps back along the bumpy track, across the little "bridge" between the two huge puddles back to the main road.

We turned left and in just four miles we arrived at the Froissy Dompierre Light Railway, one of the last sections of trench railway left.

Although we found it easily enough, in fact right to the door, we were about 3 hours early. When I looked on the website I hadn't noticed that it opens only at 1330! So I took a couple of pictures to show we had been and we set off for Peronne and the Historial.

IMG_3854.JPGIMG_3855.JPG

The ride to Peronne was past a lot of war grave cemeteries, some small but far too many large with the white stones of the British and the white crosses of the French bright in the sun.

Once again, TomTom took us right to the door and we stopped in the parking directly opposite to the old castle that houses the museum and historical.

I have been before, but the displays evolve and so it was worth going in again. But first. A drink before we went on/. Cal booked us a table for 8 for lunch for our return.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

More reading: http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/museum-historial-peronne.htm

Some of the displays give an idea of the casualties and the effects of the Battle of the Somme and also the statistics of each of the belligerents and the Russian Army on the Eastern Front. It came as a surprise to me that Germany, France and Russia had standing armies numbering 4 to 5 million men at arms. The UK had 380000 full timers at the outbreak of war in 1914.

Once finished we headed back for lunch. The railway being closed had saved us about an hour and so we had a more leisurely lunch. I had a salad!

Time to saddle up and head for the last stop and to say goodbye to Lainy and Ken Sole, who were heading east to Luxembourg or somewhere!

The Souvenir Francais at Rancourt is a large French cemetery and attached chapel. The chapel has a small museum inside.

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

We were still about an hour ahead of schedule and once we had made our goodbyes to Lainy and Ken, we set off for the A1 and A26 back to Calais. Here as with the way out it went a bit tits up.

Now with six bikes in the group we arrived at the toll plaza to take a ticket. It seemed we were all through and I led onto the A1 north. Ken Fulton and David needed petrol before their smaller tanked Suzukis would make it to Calais and so I planned to stop at one of the service areas to the north of Arras; the second after we joined the A26.

We sailed past Arras and Vimy Ridge and the large Canadian monument to the right when Ian came alongside making some strange gestures that I took to mean we had lost two bikes. I decided to make the fuel stop and wait there.

He shot off ahead and I led Ken and David to the fuel stop. All three of us filled up. With the exchange rate, a litre of French 95 unleaded worked out at just over £1.05, some 10% cheaper than at home. So why not fill up too? ;)

There was no sign of Ian and we waited and waited and heard rather than saw bikes go past on the autoroute, By the time we exited the petrol/gas station and got on the A26 we had lost sight (and sound!) of the bikes. We plugged along at 70-75mph until the toll near St Omer. As I approached the manned toll booth to pay, I saw Cal and Neil the other side putting their gloves on. I tooted the piss poor Rocket horn and they pulled away. By the time Ken and David were through we had to follow on behind. Eventually catching them up on the spur motorway to the Port of Calais.

We were early still and were loaded onto a boat an hour earlier than we had booked. Only to find Ian's BMW already tied down and no sign of him!

We eventually met up again in the self-service where David, Ken and I decided to stay as we had a seat and places to put the pile of jackets and helmets. The others went off to find other seating.

In the end it was another good trip. I think everyone enjoyed it and we are already looking at going again next year for the 100th Anniversary commemorations.

Posted by InvictaMoto 06:56 Archived in France Comments (0)

Dora's Last Trip

Destination Boulogne.

Döra and I set off in good time. After the strike and rioting by migrants in Calais, both ferry and shuttle services had been suspended.

In the end it was plain sailing into the terminal and checking in was a couple of minutes. Then we found the service had a twenty minute delay!

I took a few photos once underway!

The train has lots of bikes all, except me, going to Assen for the TT.

On the last trip

On the last trip

The plan was simply to head down the coast road, have coffee, have lunch and then return.

The first stop was Escalles for coffee only to find the usual cafe by the campsite is closed on a Wednesday.

Next Wissant. Market day and access to the square blocked!

So I headed towards the Todt Battery and found a new(ish) hotel and brasserie. Perfect for that first coffee of the day.

Todt Battery

Todt Battery

Todt Battery and lunch

Todt Battery and lunch

From the restaurant I turned south to take a look at the 39-45 Museum. I've not been in this one as yet. Maybe on another trip.

On the last trip

On the last trip

From the Museum I headed north again as I had just over an hour left before check-in. I made a few stops at other places I have ridden past to take a few photos.

On the last trip

On the last trip

On the last trip

On the last trip

On the last trip

On the last trip

On the last trip

On the last trip

On the last trip

On the last trip

At the Shuttle I had to wait as usual whilst they loaded all the cars!

On the last trip

On the last trip

Posted by InvictaMoto 11:24 Archived in France Comments (0)

French Weekend

Jour Un

Way back in the spring we went to a free travel show at the Dover Ferry Terminal and as usual entered loads of competitions to win cruises and holiday. In the end we did get a lucky a free night at the Youth Hostel in Boulogne sur Mer. Over the last thirty or more years I have stayed at loads of hostels in mainland UK and across in Europe. Most have been really good and some average but none have been a let-down. In some places, they are really cheaper alternatives to hotels but you have to choose well.

Also at the show was a small stand from Douai (pron. Doo-eye) in the Nord region of France. Although we had forgotten the leaflets and what they had to offer we decided to go and have a look. The run down from the Shuttle was pretty good and the Insignia cruised along without a hiccup. Douai though has little to offer!

The tourist office furnished us with a map and we saw there were two trails and so we chose the shorted one, estimated at an hour, plus had a quick detour into the market that was clearing up as we arrived. The belfry on the huge town hall was very tall and the river okay bur sadly there wasn't enough to keep us beyond the free two hours parking that a lot of French towns give visitors between 1200 and 1400.

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

Views from Douai

We head for Arras.

The Grand Place is still cobbled and the TomTom had a bit of wobble and the voice started to warble. Luckily, they have built an underground car-park as well. Three floors down and pay at a machine using a debit/credit card rather than the pay and display on the surface. Although we had Euros with us, it was all in notes and not coins for the machines.

We had lunch at the Brussels Café, where we have eaten before. It is not all that expensive and the food is good. We both had their homemade burger and chips. As about as far from a McDonald's "patty" as possible to get.

There were quite a few wedding parties going past. They do the civil bit at the Town Hall and then walk across the Place des Heroes to the church of St John the Baptist for the religious blessing. We followed one on out little walk.

blogger-image--1110321937.jpgblogger-image--906615634.jpg

Next stop after Arras was with a silent TomTom in 2D! Something had gone AWOL in the unit and turning off and on hadn't cured it. We headed towards Le Touquet and Boulogne via the gardens at Sericourt, arriving too late to go in but at last we know where it is for another trip…. And then onto Boulogne. TomTom by now had time to recover and took us right to the door. If only we could have seen the door though. The only indication was the Hostelling International badge high up, about three floors up, on the outside if the building. Checking in and we were given the duvet cover and sheet for each bed. The room, 102 was quite small with two single beds and a massive bathroom. A smaller bathroom might have given space to walk around the beds!

It had started to rain about 30 miles out and so we decided rather than walk and get wet, we'd drive to the Haute Ville and have dinner. The restaurant was okay, the €15 menu was okay, if only the service was a little quicker! We don't usually take two hours to munch through three courses.

blogger-image--1225992636.jpg

And then it was back to the hostel and bed. It is supposed to be quiet after 2200, the exception is when they have a 80's Disco for a birthday party and then it's Boney M etc. until nearly midnight…..

Jour Deux is another day!

Deuxième Jour

After breakfast on Sunday we decided to head south to the Baie de la Somme, and to Le Crotoy in particular. A couple of years ago we had a short visit there on the way back from Normandy. Although the obvious non-motorway route was to go down the D940 coast road to Le Touquet and Berck sur Mer, TomTom had other ideas and we ventured away from the coast into nowhere, or the hinterland between the N1 and the coast. In the end a road closure actually forced us back to the coast road in any case!

The first stop had actually been on the outskirts of St Leonard, the town that adjoins Boulogne. It was to fill the tank with refreshing French diesel. At €1.242 - litre I was saddened to only get €60 to fill up the pipe. There is a flap to stop overfilling. That price equates to about 98p a litre! At home at the local supermarket it is about 34p a litre more!!!!

After eating out twice the day before we decided to have a picnic instead. The weather was good with temps around 22C and so we stopped at the Carrefour at Rue and bought some food and drinks. As with Douai the day before, parking is free between 1200 and 1400 and we arrived at 1141. To cover out arses we popped 30c in the machine and that took us to 1159! It would be a hard traffic warden to issue a ticket for 1 minute?

Beach Pano

Beach Pano

Leaving the stuff in the car we had a walk from the beach area to the town for a coffee and a look in the shops, just in time for them all to be closing for the day or for lunch. And then back along the seafront to the car and to eat the pizza like food we had bought. It was still warm and the beach was pretty much "tide out", with the bay looking almost shallow enough to walk all the way across to St Valery about three miles away.

Le Crotoy Beach Huts

Le Crotoy Beach Huts

With food eaten, we had another walk along the sands to try and exercise the calories away, instead stopping for an ice-cream!

Le Crotoy

Le Crotoy

Once back at the car it was about 1430 when we set off home, via Audreselles and afternoon coffee. There were delays on the Shuttle due to an earlier breakdown and we managed to squeeze on the back of the train that was retimed to leave at 1827 instead of 1820. The rest of the train was filled with the previous train's cars! Two cars further back in the queue and we would have been on the next one at 1850!

Unlike Southeastern Trains, there is no compensation for delayed travel! You simply have to grin and bear it!

Posted by InvictaMoto 05:56 Archived in France Comments (0)

France for the Day

Not on the bike but in the car.

It was Claire's friend, Elizabeth's birthday recently and a trip across to France seemed like a good idea. She's not been for a while and we don't need any excuse to get the bike or car packed for a day away. We chose the Tunnel, it's not cheap but split three ways it's not bad for something different.

It also gives me a chance to fill the car up with cheap French diesel fuel. Currently it's about £1.349 a litre and in France €1.275 a litre. With the € currently about 1.24 to the £ is it clear to see that the saving to be made in quite enormous, something like 30p a litre. So the 40 litres I put in saved me £13! Had the tank been lower at the start of the trip I could have saved even more!

We were booked on the 0920 shuttle out and there didn't look to be too many vehicles ahead, but nevertheless we weren't offered an alternative crossing. Often when you arrive in good time, they offer you a chance to go earlier. Not today,

After a coffee in the terminal we made our way to the first queue, passports, surprisingly the UK Border Agency waved us through and the French took little interest either. The crossing is pretty quick and we were driving off on French soil just before 11am. I got in the wrong lane and we had a tour of Calais to get on the coast road, the D940. Once there we had the dunes to the right. One of them is where Louis Bleriot landed called Blériot-Plage.

There were probably fewer people about when he took off from France on July 25th 1909 and landed near Dover Castle.

blogger-image-1334117129.jpg

Our first stop was at Cap Blanc Nez. Since we were last there they have wiped out the car parks at the top and built a new one of the approach road to create walking paths and some lookouts across the sea that incorporate some on the German "Atlantic Wall" concrete edifices. At one point away from the Foch Memorial, the path is actually the top of a bunker. Information boards give an insight into the occasion when Goering and Hitler stood up there to look across at England, plus information on the Atlantic Wall itself.

The reason for crowds and delays was that there was a cross country running race taking place. The route of which seemed to zigzag back and forth across the D940. A further detour to avoid an inexplicably closed Wimereux meant we lost a bit of time. So we arrived in Boulogne only a little before the planned reservation. Parking is mercifully free on Sunday, and this added no doubt to the number of people in the restaurants and cafes.

We opted for a starter of fish soup and then the moules and Elizabeth had the roast duck. Not that expensive at Chez Jules in Place Dalton.

blogger-image-1183295319.jpg

Once we had paid the bill there was time to walk up the steep hill to the Haute Ville. Here we found further evidence of change. The parking by the Mairie has been removed and replaced by two gardens, both based on Spanish Moorish architecture with a perfumed garden and one based on the Generalife Gardens in Granada. It is all very new and needs to bed in properly. We had a coffee there before beginning the walk down.

blogger-image--1863255903.jpgblogger-image--189338876.jpgblogger-image--2051884376.jpgblogger-image-720822826.jpgClaire as Queen Elizabeth II

Claire as Queen Elizabeth II

I took the time to have a snooze on the way back under the sea and missed any dramas that may have occurred. In the end we had a really good day out and I think that Elizabeth enjoyed her day

Posted by InvictaMoto 13:47 Archived in France Comments (0)

Metz Christmas Market

The original plan was to go to Cologne for the Christmas market, but as we didn't have winter tyres fitted we decided to go to France instead.

We were up about 0530 on Saturday and checked in at the Shuttle less than an hour later. It was alternating between drizzle and proper cold rain. The temp gauge in the CC showed about 8 °C!

We were lucky for once and were loaded onto the back of the earlier train and at 0721 set off for France.

The route options provided by TomTom were a dogleg south and east in France via Reims or a more straight line route through Belgium and Luxembourg. I chose the second as it meant avoiding France's toll motorways. "Plucky" Belgium has free motorways. TomTom said both were a similar time and distance.

By the time we had arrived at the A25 to Lille it had dried up and we didn't see any rain again that day.

Luxembourg has the cheapest petrol in western Europe at €1.28 a litre, and that is rip-off motorway prices. Hence the long queues at all the pumps. In both France and Belgium it was more like €1.55 and up for 95 unleaded. No sign of the creeping poison that is E10 ethanol added fuel.

Luxembourg Fuel Stop

Luxembourg Fuel Stop

Tabac!

Tabac!

We arrived in Metz and TomTom took us straight to the door and into the car-park under the Place de Gaulle in front of the main station.

We checked in and set off for our first excursion the mile or so to the first market location in Place St Louis. First order of the day was to buy something for late lunch; two bratwurst and rolls. We checked out the stalls and bought some chocolate in a slab before Claire had a second hot wine and I had a Grimbergen Bière de Nöel.

Bratwurst

Bratwurst

Grimbergen

Grimbergen

Then it was back to the hotel for a siesta until 1930 when we set off again to visit all four market locations. More purchases included artisan sausages!

Dinner was Pôellée de Noel, spicy pork in half a large roll with a token gesture salad at the bottom of a fragment of lettuce and a bit of tomato.

We found location 3, the Place St Jacques and the Christmas Shop. Baby Jesus for the nativity for €2 or with attached manger for €4?

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

We then found location 4 with the large coloured wheel and had dessert of a crèpe for me and a gauffre for Claire. Yes. We do seem to be eating a lot on this trip!

Day 2

We were up a little late for breakfast arriving when everyone else was there. Although the hotel was pretty quiet overnight there were lots others in the small restaurant.

Our walk took us ended by the Wheel a different way via ancient arch, the Porte Serpenoise. Destroyed in the 16th century and then rebuilt three hundred years later.

During the day and evening we took loads of photos.

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Metz Christmas Market

Station in the morning

Station in the morning

Metz nativity

Metz nativity

Gare Christmas tree

Gare Christmas tree

Gare small tree

Gare small tree

Market stalls

Market stalls

Claire and St Nick

Claire and St Nick

11566984973_8825cb9e5a.jpg11566987263_ab0ea8bbf8.jpg11566992333_2d6e1aaf95.jpg11566882044_ff52dd1fd4.jpg

Time for lunch.

Back to Place 1 to get a bratwurst and a beer!

After some shopping we ended up back at the hotel for a siesta.

Looking out of the window I saw a group of about ten scooters with their riders dressed as Santa. Before we could get down their they started to ride off and so I had to get a few shots from the hotel window!!

Scooter Santas

Scooter Santas

More Santas

More Santas

Even more Santas

Even more Santas

And then out to dinner! More bratwurst!

Then we went back to the hotel in the drizzle to read and get ready to head home tomorrow.

Day 3

My birthday.

Up early again to open my cards that Claire has brought with her, then breakfast

By 0920 we were on the road heading north along the same route as on the way down.

Again we dropped into a Luxembourg fuel station and I squeezed €12 in the tank. Topping right up the pipe to enjoy as much of the cheap fuel as possible.

The plan was to stop off in Bastogne. On the 21st December 1944 the town was encircled by German troops and the US 101st Airborne under General McAuliffe held the town until relieved some seven days later by elements of Patten's 3rd Army and 10th and 11th Armored Division.

McAuliffe

McAuliffe

Bastogne Tank

Bastogne Tank

Bastogne

Bastogne

The Airborne museum was closed today, I expect it was open on Saturday as it was the anniversary!

http://www.101airbornemuseumbastogne.com

We dropped in the tourist office and picked up a leaflet on the new museum opening in March to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge and the Siege of Bastogne.

I can feel a trip coming on!

From Bastogne the Tomtom route was via N4 towards Namur before we rejoined the A4. Tomtom also chose to return via Brussels rather than the way we got down there.

No real problems with traffic thus far.

As it was my birthday and the Shuttle wasn't booked until 8pm we tried to get into Gent and then Brugge before aborting due to excessive traffic and lack of parking.

In the end we stopped at a frituur on the way out of Brugge. So birthday lunch ended up as sausage and chips.

From then it was plain sailing back to the Shuttle and a £3 surcharge to travel two hours earlier........

With dire warnings of poor weather in the channel we were glad we were on the train. At the tunnel we found the wind had got up but it didn't affect the train.

The high winds and driving rain had caused flooding and damage from Canada all across the Atlantic and Southern England was being battered.

It was a really good weekend and I am glad I booked it. Metz is a nice city and we enjoyed the whole thing.

Posted by InvictaMoto 15:25 Archived in France Comments (0)

Destination Orange - Day 7

The Final Day

It was spitting with rain as we sat down to breakfast. Although the hotel was the cheapest on the trip @ €40 a night, it was very good.

It is currently under a massive plan of updating. Our room was brand new, the bed, everything. Some of the other rooms where we could see in had been decorated and were "under construction" still. We were the only guests that night.

We were away a little after 9.20 and this time we headed straight for Reims on the N roads before a detour around looking for the city centre.

On the way we drove along the D951. Every kilometre or so there are markers showing it to be the "Voie de la Liberte", a huge monument stretching across France to commemorate the Liberation.

I pulled up to take a pic of one in Mont Chenot village. This village on the road to Reims from Epernay would have been liberated on or about 30th August 1944.

Voie de la Liberte - Mont Chenot

Voie de la Liberte - Mont Chenot

We didn't intend to stop, just have a fly-by in case we want to come back. We passed Pommery on the way in.

Once on the A4 and then the A26 we saw signs for the "Chemin des Dames" and decided to detour off to have a look. We were curious about the name and the wiki entry explains that!

Chemin de Dames

Chemin de Dames

The first stop on the way to Laon was at a monument that had a couple of tanks and armoured cars. This is a national tank monument and is on the spot where the French launched their first tank attack on the German lines in April of 1917.

Monument to the Armoured Corps

Monument to the Armoured Corps

French self propelled gun

French self propelled gun

French armoured vehicle

French armoured vehicle

9724669875_18969366ff.jpg9724668415_a6974acb13.jpg

Once back on the A26, Claire took over driving and we navigated without much help from TomTom via Lille and to Bergues for lunch. For some reason TomTom has an affinity with pay roads unless you say no and then it avoids them altogether. If you accept, it seems to stick to them rigidly when there may be a free alternative that might be better.

We arrived in Bergues and parked in the square and went to the friterie for lunch. So many chips we couldn't eat them all....

From there it was a short skip and a jump to the ferry.

Another pleasurable holiday over.

Posted by InvictaMoto 12:55 Archived in France Comments (0)

Destination Orange - Day 6

he last full day in France.

The plan was to use the A31 and A26 to get up to Épernay as soon as possible. So we left the hotel just after 9am and by noon we were in Chalons en Champagne to get some lunch from the supermarket.

The local foire had started and roads were closed off and Aldi had guards on their carpark and roads were lined with parked cars.

SANY0002.JPG

We bought some stuff for lunch and set off for Épernay looking for a picnic site. In the end we made our own on the edge of a village. The rug on the grass.

We arrived far to early to check in to Hotel Colbert and so we parked in the huge car park in the town centre and went to look at the champagne houses.

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

Epernay

(Excuse photos in one lump!)

In the end after a long walk along the Avenue de Champagne, lined by champagne houses like Möet and Perrier-Jouet, to name just two, we arrived at Castellane with its large tower.

The tour is €10 per person and there were only four of us on the English speaking tour. It takes you through the processes of making champagne and the way they do it, starting with grape juice bought from suppliers across the region and blending the juices to meet their taste requirements.

The label isn't very common on our side of the Channel as most production goes to hotels in France (80%) and Belgium (15%) and the rest to hotels across the UK and the US.

They also label for clients who want their name on the labels and there is a large room containing little pigeon holes for these, numbering about 2000!!

The tour is interesting and the glass of Brut very nice. So much so we bought a bottle of the demi-sec for a special occasion. Maybe Claire's birthday?

We then walked back to the car and in the heat of the afternoon drove out to the hotel.

It's a strange one. It looks far better than the picture. Is freshly decorated throughout. The rooms are clean with a newly installed bathroom and double glazed window, but there is no hanging space. No wardrobe, no rail.

Showered and changed ready for the evening.

When we went downstairs the bar was locked and so was the front door!

We had a run to Épernay. In the main car-park you get an hour free and also only pay between 7am and 7pm. We arrived at 6.15pm, so free.

We looked for a bar. It seems there are few and the one we stopped in was strange. They pushed everyone not eating onto tables close together. But two beers and some secondary smoking later and we were ready to look for somewhere to eat.

In the end the paucity of places meant we drove out to the Campanile hotel. They always have a restaurant and we had the buffet.

Then back to the hotel to get the wifi key and bed. Books to read and sleep.

Posted by InvictaMoto 14:40 Archived in France Comments (0)

Destination Orange - Day 5

Another early start after breakfast. Firstly across to the market in Orange and then off northwards on the A7.

We had bought some mushroom pizza and apricot flan at the market so we could stop whenever.

A coffee stop after about 100 miles in a new services and then towards Lyon and into solid traffic. I re-programmed TomTom and we were then taken on a massive loop via Bourg en Bresse and then through the centre of Chalons sur Saone! Thanks TomTom. The extra 60 miles is one thing but the latter was terrible.

On the way we passed a restaurant that might do a lot of chicken!

SANY0018cropped.jpgSANY0019cropped.jpg

We eventually arrived in Beaune just before 4pm. Our lunch stop was somewhere east of Lyon.

We had time to book in and then walk into town. The Hotel Bellevue is nice but the wifi doesn't work and isn't as near the centre as I had anticipated. The staff however were excellent. And the "small world" feel continued when the manager said he used to work in Oldham, where I lived and where my brother was born.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-MguuWFUIycg/UiM_sQRPpNI/AAAAAAAAH5o/3Zj9C3VTIOs/s1600/IMG_0388cropped.jpg

We found the Hotel Dieu, but with greater skill than at Pont du Gard they have managed to make it invisible to anyone that doesn't want to spend a small fortune to get in. Oh well we tried.

Beaune

Beaune

Beaune

Beaune

Beaune

Beaune

Beaune

Beaune

Beaune

Beaune

Beaune

Beaune

We had booked the hotel restaurant for 8pm and walked back slowly after a beer and a cake!

Tomorrow is the last full day in France. We are going to Epernay. We want to arrive in time to get to visit one of the champagne houses. It looks from the Rough Guide that Castellane is open longer, but Möet and Chandon and also Mercier are nearby.

Posted by InvictaMoto 14:34 Archived in France Comments (0)

Destination Orange - Day 4

The plan today was to do the Roman theatre and the other roman sites in Orange.

So after breakfast we were out just after 9.30am for the short walk round to the theatre.

The main wall facade can only be seen in photographs as France 2 TV station has lined the entire wall with portababins to house the crew and entertainers at the many concerts, both opera and musical that take place during the summer.

The €9 entry fee gets the free audioguide and entry into the theatre and also to the museum across the road.

We spent a good few hours going from one audioguide spot to the next as it took us up rows and rows of steps to the top.

The main wall is the original as is the upper where it is built into the hillside, but much of the seating was replaced by the Victorians as it had been looted over the 1500 years since the Roman empire had failed.

The job has been done very well as it looked to fit right in. In fast, only the first three rows are Roman originals.

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

Roman Theatre in Orange

In the "caves" off the "vomitariums" are some audio visual displays to highlight the ways that the theatre has been used since it was built 2000 years ago.

By the time we had finished we need a coffee and we had a short walk into the centre of the city for a cafe creme. Next stop was the museum. For me the most interesting bits were the mosaics that have been find across Orange over the years. One in particular only in 1988. Most aren't complete as building and work in less enlightened times has seems the small marble stones lost forever.

Once museumed out we walked back to the hotel to get the car and got to the second town of the day; Avignon, some 35kms away.

On the way back to La Cigaliere we stopped at a bakery for lunch. After the Michelin guide mentioned Forum yesterday we needed to save a few quid! In the end we had a potato quiche, a tomato and Gruyere quiche and flan (a sort of custard tart).

The car had been giving a message to say it was low on oil and so I dipped it. It was between the high and low marks. It had been higher before we left when I checked it and also topped up the washer bottle. So the next stop would be a car shop to get some.

Somehow TomTom seemed to have forgotten about the N7 and took us on a series of back roads through villages to Avignon. We stopped at a Norauto and I invested in some GTX. Putting a litre or so in the engine.

Avignon was full of traffic, we had a tour around a few car-parks with no spaces and then decided to pay. If you do it everyday you will want to park free, but as a tourist, a few quid isn't that much of a problem.

We walked out of the walled city to take the view of the walls and the famous Pont d'Avignon. But baulked at €9 each to walk on it. We then took in the Pope's Palace. An extravagent building and by this time we were a bit touristed out.

Avignon Cathedral

Avignon Cathedral

In Avignon

In Avignon

In Avignon

In Avignon

In Avignon

In Avignon

In Avignon

In Avignon

In Avignon

In Avignon

In Avignon

In Avignon

The final stop was to be the Pont de Garde. TomTom took us to the left bank and the car-park. As soon as I saw that to take the ticket would cost me €19 to park, I reversed. Not the only ones either. All we wanted was a quick look at the double decker bridge. If we had had the whole day maybe, but by now it was late afternoon. WOW!!!!

From there we shot off back to the hotel and a swim.

blogger-image-76626470.jpg

Posted by InvictaMoto 14:27 Archived in France Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 20 of 35) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 »