A Travellerspoint blog

Destination Orange - Day 3

Superb start to the day. Yesterday's rain continued during the night and into the morning.

After breakfast with accompaniment from Take That on cd we squeezed out of the parking garage. It was easier than I thought but the flooring of damp slippery cobbles would have defeated two wheels! Even four wheels slipped and slid.

Once on the A31 the rain began in earnest, with spray on some sections demonstrating that maybe the French need to change their road surface to something like we have in the north that allows water run off!

Our first stop was just north of Lyon for a pee and coffee.

And still it rained.

It was as we approached the Valence turn off it began to dry up and the sun made it's appearance.

Just off the A7 we stopped for petroleum. With about 340 miles since the last fill-up I had to put in 38.86 litres at 39.72mpg. The best yet.

Our first main stop was at la Garde-Adhémar, one on the Plus Beaux Villages. It was very scenic perched high on a hill top. The medicinal garden was worth the look.

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Although it was still before 2pm, and half the patrons of the Absynthe Cafe had yet to get their main course, the waitress wouldn't serve us lunch. We should have gone, but wanted a coffee.

We had a turn around the village and then headed off.

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As we were peckish we stopped at a nearby Aldi and bought some ham and salad dishes.

Then the search was on to find a picnic spot. Eventually we found one on the side of the N7 at Mornas.

A small town backing onto high cliffs complete with medieval ruined fortress.

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From Mornas we headed a few miles down the road to Orange and after a few false turns we arrived at the hotel and booked in.

Once we had unpacked we headed for the pool and the Jacuzzi before getting ready to dinner. The restaurant was called The Forum and it's near the Roman Theatre. A little pricey but the food was very good.

From now on we need to cut down.

Tomorrow?

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

Destination Orange - Day 2

We were away about 0920 after breakfast in the hotel. This time we took the A26 toll motorway.

By 11am we needed a loo break near Chalons en Champagne. Plus it was coffee time! This time only coffee!

Next was off at Troyes to get petrol. The exit from the motorway was some ten miles to the north of the city and as is quite common, the N77 was full of slow moving trucks using the N roads to avoid paying the toll charges.

We pulled in the Géant hypermarket and filled the tank. The price was about 15 cents a litre less than the service area prices. The first fill up was after a tad over 300 miles and the car had averaged 37.34 to the gallon.

We bought lunch in the store, a bread item with chèvre cheese and melted cheese to keep it on and a couple of strawberry tarts.

Once we had meandered around to get back on the A26 we found it had finished and the A5 had taken over.

Dijon was still around 170kms away so e stopped in the next "aire" and found a picnic bench to have lunch.

The weather all day had been misty and soon it began to rain as we headed along the A5 and then the A31, now heading south. The spray at times was pretty heavy and visibility was greatly reduced.

TomTom brought us right to the door of the hotel. Or at least the entrance from the street, through a narrow arch into a courtyard with tables and chairs on the left. The hotel garage is barely wide enough to squeeze the CC through. I'm not sure how I'll get out tomorrow. I'm sure there must be some way to fold the door mirrors!

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The Hostellerie le Sauvage has the rooms around the courtyard and there are vines and figs growing across the courtyard itself.

Once we had had a short rest (!) we set off into the city centre to look at the sights.

One site we didn't see was the large building with the gaudily tiled roof. There is a perfectly good reason. It's in Beaune not Dijon. Doh!! Jolly good that I didn't ask for it in the tourist office!!!!!

We did get to have a coffee and a crêpe with Nutella.

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And very nice it was.

We went back to the hotel for a while. My stomach was a bit funny and I needed a pill or two; codeine phosphate. Fix anything!!

Whilst I was downloading pictures from the camera onto the netbook it started to rain. Damn. Come to France and it rains!

Luckily we have two umbrellas in the car so we could brave the rain. However, by the time we came to leave it had stopped and we just went up the road to a nice little restaurant called Marco Polo. Pizza for me, okay but should have stuck to a margarita, and tagliatelle for Claire.

After all the fresh air we were ready for bed by 10pm!

Posted by InvictaMoto 15:11 Archived in France Comments (0)

Destination Orange - Day 1

Day 1 - Home to St Quentin

Unusually for us we were packed and the car was loaded well before the "off".

The night before I had spent some time checking the route for today and loading all the itinerary files on to the TomTom.

As my maps are fully up to date we will use the Rider again. With the optional car kit it works very well.

The DFDS ferry is the 1200 from Dover and to avoid hold ups our expected departure time from home was 1000, we arrived Dover and were checked in by 1010!

After a Costa Coffee in the quayside building we were loaded and by 1145 ensconced in the forward lounge,with its conservatory windows, so we can watch the sea whizz past on the two hour crossing to Dunkerque.

Kindles fully charged to see off the journey!!

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The crossing went okay and we were off at 1520 local time into France. Judging by the wet in the fields they have had the same rain as us!

I planned a slight detour on the way to avoid the toll A26 motorway. This took us down the A25 to Lille and the to Douai and Cambrai.

The evidence of the wars is plain. So many war graves and monuments to allied troops. We stopped at an American monument to the troops that fought along the Hindenburg Line in 1918, just months before the war came to an end.

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he final stop of the day was the Hotel Florence in St Quentin.

The Satnav took us to the door. Once booked in we had a short drive to get into the private car park.

The room is in what is most likely one of the courtyard blocks. Well appointed and recommended. Loads of other British here too.

Dinner in the l'Univers in the main square. Also very nice and not slimming world approved.

Some views of St Quentin.

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Posted by InvictaMoto 16:01 Archived in France Comments (0)

Wissant or Bust!

Due to a combination of sickness and atrocious weather our original trip last month for Claire's birthday never happened and I had to re-book the ferry for another date. With so many things to do at weekends it meant that it had to be the 17th March.

A Sunday. Not ideal for day trips to France, as unlike us in the 51st State most of the shops are shut. Some local bakeries stay open as the French like to eat fresh bread with their meals and poo-poo (pah?) the idea of that white spongy stuff in a plastic bag we like to call bread.

Heavy snow fall last week that extended into the early half of the week meant that our horizon was set a lot closer than usual. In fact Wissant. But first a stop at a monument.

I have passed old Hubert so many times as I have headed along the D940 to and from Calais so I thought that it was high time I stopped and maybe even find out who he was.

Latham Monument

Latham Monument

I was surprised to see that he is in fact one of the daredevils of the early 20th century; an aviation pioneer with the possibly accidental claim to fame as being the first person to land an aircraft on water.

So I googled him. Rather than copy and paste, I'll let you read the Wiki entry in links to this blog.

Wissant is a small coastal town just south of Calais. In fact, using the autoroute took us a mere 20 minutes to get there from the ferry.

Lunch was at La Chaloupe in Wissant. A new build on the edge of town just off the D940 coast road. Inside though it has been tastefully decorated and has wood panelling and floor boards. Most of the reviews on Tripadvisor were very positive with the exception of the last one before we went.

We were very boring and ordered the same things, soupe de poisson for entries and then steak for mains. All served and cooked to perfection.

Once we had eaten we drove down into the town and remembered we had been there before a few years ago on a day trip with friends, that time on the bikes. The plan was to have a walk to maybe offset the calorie intake but within minutes the rain started again.

Not before we had a look around the village.

Here's some views:

Wissant

Wissant

Wissant

Wissant

Wissant - Hotel de la Plage

Wissant - Hotel de la Plage

Wissant

Wissant

Wissant

Wissant

Wissant

Wissant

Wissant

Wissant

Once we had rushed back to the car to get out of the rain we had a drive along the coast, southwards stopping at a newly renovated car-park at the amusingly named Dunes de la Slack.

The local authority have cleared a lot of the scrub and are trying to get the dunes back as they should be. The area is littered with concrete courtesy of the German Army as it was a major part of the Atlantic Wall. They have started to clear it but the "beach" is still littered with concrete and other crap.

From the car-park, the new(ish) wooden steps go right down to the sea. Once cleared it will look really good.

Slack Dunes

Slack Dunes

Slack Dunes

Slack Dunes

Slack Dunes

Slack Dunes

Slack Dunes

Slack Dunes

On the way back up towards Calais on the D940 we came across some snow banks where the ploughs had turned it all off the road. We don't generally have this much snow here. We live in a pretty temperate climate. Not too hot in the summer and not too cold in winter.

Snow Bank

Snow Bank

One of the places we have visited before and one that usually merits a stop is the Todt Battery, housed in a huge bunker built by the Germans. Of the exhibits the biggest is the railway gun. A huge cannon capable of lobbing a large explosive shell across to the English coast some 30 miles away.

Disappointingly, they have fitted a green plastic screen along the wire fence that obliterates the free view. So instead, we took a few pix of the donkeys in an adjoining field!

Donkeys

Donkeys

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From here it was but a short drive back to the Port of Calais and the "Spirit of France" back home.

Posted by InvictaMoto 12:35 Archived in France Tagged battery wissant todt Comments (0)

France Trip 2012

Disney and Beyond!

Day 1

We were up and ready to leave in good time. Once on the way I discovered my phone was at home and turned around. Not to worry plenty of time to fill up CC with petrol and still arrive well in time for our train. ;)

More time than expected. At check-in we were told there was at least a 90 minute delay due to essential maintenance. Essential? Holiday weekend?

The entire site was rammed with cars trying to get to a pinch point to go the passports and customs.

Once we were called there was the usual cram to get all the cars for different trains through passport control.

So there we were in Lane 7 in another long queue waiting to get on a train. Luckily that was only for 25 minutes... Then once on the go we were loaded into the last carriage and the train finally wheezed out 75 minutes late.

As the expected delay was 90 minutes maybe Eurotunnel can convince us that we are in fact 15 minutes early?

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The best part is actually not having any information on how long it might be. Plenty of speakers but each one dead as a doornail.

An hour and a quarter plus the hour time difference means that we will arrive about 1235 CET in France.

My plan of a dash to Péronne to have lunch and visit the WW1 museum is now ruined. Small town France is notorious for early closures and "desolé" if arriving nearer 2pm than 1pm for Sunday lunch.

An apology for ruining a lot of plans might have been nice. Or in 30C heat and an hour of queuing, some free water!

Once clear of the terminal I set the satnav for Péronne.

We knew it would be too late for lunch and so we stopped at the Aire de Rely for lunch.

We had been driving with the lid down and the temp gauge hovering about 31 degrees. It was to get hotter. After a quick lunch of steack haché we were off again.

By Péronne it was 35 degrees. The museum is housed in the old feudal castle. It isn't air conditioned and was like an oven inside.

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We had to have a tea afterwards to cool our blood.

It got hotter as we headed south to rejoin the A1 and peaked at 39 degrees in the area near the hotel. I took a picture of the on-dash temperature display to prove it.

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It was so hot we had a few cold showers before heading into town to scope a restaurant. We booked a table at the Bistrot du Boucher. A quick and refreshing beer across the road helped cool us for two minutes!!

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Now back at the hotel in the sweltering heat. we were never this affected by the heat in Florida!!!

Day 2

Day two starts early. After 39C in the evening the temps dropped to about 27 overnight. The room was like an oven and so we couldn't sleep.

In the end I had the idea of soaking the towels in cold water and using them as a cooling aid. Seemed to work. The flaw? Damp towels for the morning shower.

Up late as a result. Weather forecast not as good for today. Shame. Never though I'd want for cool weather on holiday.

Once packed and loaded we are off to Disneyland.

As we had skipped breakfast at the hotel we thought we'd find somewhere en-route rather than wait for the park itself. In the end we turned into a huge US style shopping mall/village. Nothing was signposted that well and the choice was McDonalds next to a Sea Life centre (!) or Starbuck's; the lesser of two evils!

The store was sandwiched next to an Armani Direct, Burberry and Ralph Lauren set of shops. Most of the customers were split into two groups. Smokers - French, and Non-Smokers - everyone not French. The distinctions between income streams was less easy to detect. A lot of them were simply idiotic "saving" a couple of pence on tat.

One latté and a plate of pancakes later we were off to Disney.

They've got the misinformation to a tee, having a walkway with "Bienvenue" on it that makes you feel you've not got far to go despite being in parking row F33! The entrance is about a mile away, but some of the travelators (moving footpaths like flat escalators!) make it less arduous even in 31C temps.

An annoying thing is they stiff you for €15 to park. Before you shell out for a park entry ticket. The Disney Way = Pay Pay Pay.

Getting the tickets from the Sky vouchers was relatively easy, although the guy in front that had a receipt for $555 wasn't happy at the delay in getting his!

Today's entry price is €74 for both Disney Studios and Disneyland. I'd have preferred a Euro version of Epcot.

As expected queues were running at about 90 minutes for all the rides in both parks. We did some of the studio theatres and Disney Railroad.

We did the loop of the park sharing our compartment with an Arab family and a mature German couple.

About 2pm we decided we'd had enough of the queuing. Had I paid for the tickets I would have got as much of my money's worth as possible.

We set off for the long way back to the car and after running the air-con we were off.

The drive round the south of Paris on the A4 and A86 was free of tolls and so was the N12. The traffic wasn't too bad although the standard of
Disney driving was lower than at home. No wonder we smug British have the lowest casualty rates per million kms driven than most of the rest Europe.

We stopped for a late lunch sandwich and a coffee about 4pm.

Checking the map showed a pretty straightforward run to Alençon then south to the hotel at Beaumont sur Sarthe.

Despite that, the satnav told us we had "arrived at out destination" some ten miles short and in the middle of nowhere.

I checked the POI and there are two TomTom entries! I clicked the other and it took us to the door. Who does this? Surely someone checks.

Once checked in we explored locally and then found a refreshing beer.

Dinner was in the hotel. For the vegetarians amongst you I will not say much about the gésiers. Nice but too much on one plate!

And now to bed.

It's only been in the low 30C all day and much cooler this evening. Maybe don't need the wet towels!

Tomorrow the plan is to hit the town here to see the old town and then head across to a Beaux Village de France site.

Day 3

Beaumont sur Sarthe. Although we had a back room, the need to keep the windows open and just the shutters closed means that traffic noise is quite loud.

The D338 is the new designation for what used to be the N138. All across France this is happening. National roads be becoming Departmental roads instead.

The plan is to explore the old town after breakfast before we head off to Sainte-Suzanne in the Mayenne department.

Once we had finished breakfast at the Logis we packed the car where it had been parked overnight and set off down the street to the old town.

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At the entrance they have a wooden mock castle built over the road. I'll add some photos later as they are on the camera not phone.

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We had a look at the market and then went downwards hoping to find the old bridge over the river.

IMG_4358.JPGIMG_4359.JPGThe old bridge

The old bridge

A new bridge carries current traffic across the Sarthe and it is hard to imagine how they managed before it was built.

Once we had bought something for a picnic lunch we set off for the first Plus Beaux Village de France of this trip; Sainte Suzanne.

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Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Once again TomTom did a good job and we arrived untroubled about 11am. It was a short walk from the parking into the village and plus beaux it is too.

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The trip wasn't as long today and I programmed the overnight stop into the TomTom. Altogether it was around 75 miles with TT set to no tolls. Lunch was in a picnic site alongside the road. In France many of these sites are created when they change the road and leave the old tarmac section to be used for parking.

It was still hot, hovering around 30C, and by the time we arrived at Fleuré to the south of Argentan I had the beginnings of a headache.

I pulled over by a hedge and a couple of tricolours and found that this was the Leclerc Monument about 9kms south of Argentan itself.

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This is the spot where Patton and Leclerc's armoured divisions engaged the German panzer divisions in August 1944. How fitting that we are here 68 years almost to the day later.

From Fleuré we decided to go to the hotel at the Domaine de la Tour just to the north of Falaise.

TomTom decided that it would take us in what can be described as the back way. The road was a path with a chain across. In the end after retracing our steps several times we decided to go a little further up the D6 and were rewarded with the right way in!

The Domaine is a B&B in what looks like may have been the stables etc of the nearby chateau. They are separate entities now and the owners have restored the buildings.

Domaine de la Tour

Domaine de la Tour

We have a large room with armchairs and huge bathroom. It's a little noisy ad they floors ate wood and the people upstairs appear to be wearing army boots!

Tomorrow, we have two places to visit before we arrive in Rouen for our last night of the trip.

The first is the museum and monument at Montormel. This is where the Polish and other allied armies finally closed the Falaise pocket and destroyed the German panzer army.

Day 4

After a better nights sleep in the Domaine, breakfast was a quiet affair with home made jams and plenty of French bread.

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The sun is out and we are now packing for the day.

At €70 a night this is the most expensive stay of the trip but included breakfast.

On the way towards Montormel, we came across a set of French and Canadian flags that turned out to be the observatory outside St Lambert sur Dives, where Major Currie won the VC.

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The satnav was re-programmed to take us to Montormel and the Monument to the Polish Armoured Division that took and held the hill then known as 262 North to stop the German 7th Army escaping the Falaise pocket.

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On the way we stopped at a look out point on the Couloir de Mort. The corridor of death. The corridor that shrank from 30kms to 3kms that the Germans needed to escape.

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The satnav POI is wrong. It tells you to go to the right as you enter Montormel hamlet, but the Memorial is about a half mile further up the hill and to the left. It is signposted for normal navigators!!

Entry is €5 and as well as some very informative displays and artefacts from known allied and German soldiers, there is a superb sound and light show that using small screens and a large model explains how the battle progressed to its conclusion.

This is followed by a short (15m) film interviewing survivors from both sides.

We left there with a greater sense of the achievement, but in the back of your mind you can't but be moved by the senseless slaughter of young men.

It was now time for lunch and so we headed for Camembert. My brother and I had been there in May. This time we went with the roof down and in 25C.

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Unlike last time the centre now does sandwiches with a choice of local cheeses or a selection of cheeses and bread. We opted for the latter along with local apple juice. The local wasps know this and come by for a visit. Cue lots of waving as tourists try to flap them away.

We bought a small Camembert as we were there!

The next stop was Le Bec Hellouin. Another Plus Beaux Village. The only stop was at a supermarket to get something to supplement our chesse lunch. Tarte de Citron. Mmmmmmm.

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

As we tended to arrive later at the hotels we made sure we arrived in Rouen in evening rush hour! But TomTom took us to the front door despite the mapping having no concept that some of the roads are (and have been for years!!) one way!!!

We have a curious room overlooking the back of the hotel and the car park. Under the window is a small tub with goldfish.

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Once the car was secured in the car park behind the hotel we had a few minutes rest before going out to look around the city centre tourist bits and have dinner.

From the hotel it was a short two block walk to the Tourist Office and the Cathedral.

Rouen Cathedral

Rouen Cathedral

Rouen Cathedral Spires

Rouen Cathedral Spires

Old Market Square

Old Market Square

Statue on bridge over the Seine

Statue on bridge over the Seine

As we got out the cameras, Claire's Sony AS started making strange noises when turned on and again when off. From deduction it looks as though the sensors that work out when to switch the viewfinder on is causing a problem. It seems to fix itself only to start again later.

We took some pix of the Cathedral and then walked around to the Gros Horloge and then into old Market Square for a beer and then to decide on dinner. I fancied pizza until I saw the pizza place and then in a fish restaurant I saw moules!!!

Claire chose Soupe des Poissons and a fish casserole from the "menu" and I had a green salad and moules in white wine and Roquefort cheese from the carte. Lovely!

Soup des poissons

Soup des poissons

Moules

Moules

By the time we set off back to the hotel it had turned chilly and we were happy to get in and go to bed.

After the luxury of the Domaine near Falaise, the Arts & Seine is quirkier and the bed was not very good. We clung to the edges to avoid sliding down into the middle. Breakfast was good and it is so ideally placed for the city centre.

The weather was good still and the high of 25C was perfect for touring and sightseeing.

Day 5

The last day.

Up late after having a lie in to make up for the valley of a bed in Room 2 at the Arts & Seine hotel. Breakfast and out on the road.

I set the TomTom to take us home with the toll road option turned off. We would need petrol before home and decided to divert off the toll free A28 towards Forges les Eaux but at Buchy a few miles down the detour we saw the signs for a Carrefour and immediately changed our minds.

In the end we bought lunch; baguette, ham and several cheeses, plus lemon tea (and a beer for home!)

Then Claire thought we should buy a bottle of Vodka for our neighbours looking after the cat. We checked a few and opted for Polish - not the cheapest but a good looking label!

After fuel we decided as we had about 6 hours to get to the Shuttle we would head north to the coast and work our way along, find a picnic site and have lunch.

I added a "via" to the route home. On the A28 we seemed to be getting nearer Abbeville and still no "left turn clyde" to the sea.

In the next aire I checked and reset the via and it was sorted. Although Le Tréport is probably very nice TomTom decided to avoid it and make sea fall further east.

In the end we ignored the voice telling us to turn one way or another and headed for Cayeux sur Mer. When we were last there the parking along the coast was deserted. In 22c hot sun it was packed and we found a single parking space!

Cayeux Chichi Bar

Cayeux Chichi Bar

A turn along the boardwalk to a small bar, Chichi Bar, for a coffee, was enough. Too many people roasting themselves in the sun, but the beach huts that line the boardwalk are really nice. I took a few photos on my iPhone.

We hopped back in the car to look for a better picnic spot. Drove through historic St Valery sur Somme, which was William the Conquerer's last port before crossing the Channel in 1066. Then onto Le Crotoy across the Somme estuary to a nice stretch of almost empty beach with benches on the seafront; one of which was our lunch spot.

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From Le Crotoy we followed the D940 and D901 back to the Tunnel to get the train home. At the check in we got a train 90 minutes earlier than booked. I usually don't like to do this, but it was free and it saved sitting about waiting to leave. One of the reasons I hate flying!

We arrived home about 5pm local time, unpacked the car, saw to the cat and then Claire sat in the garden and we both had a nice cup of tea.
All in all, the break was what we needed. I could take or leave Disney. Hardly anyone of the adults you looked at seemed to be enjoying their €74 day and we were ambivalent.

The days we toured between Beaux Villages and the D-Day sites were far better, relaxed and as for traffic? There was hardly a traffic jam all week.

Posted by InvictaMoto 09:50 Archived in France Comments (0)

MotoGP Le Mans 2012

Day 1

The day started well. Sunny. Met Woody (my brother Neill) at the Stop 24 services and fuelled up and the had 3 mile ride to the Shuttle.

The train was packed with bikes all heading one way or another the 250 miles to Le Mans or thereabouts.

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Our first stop was Rouen for lunch and a look around the old city. The cathedral was being renovated and we were unable to see the statue of Joan of Arc.

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We did see the old clock down a side street and went to have a look.

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Near the clock was this rather racy door frame of what is now a chemist.

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The final hundred or so miles off toll roads took us in a strange loop when we expected the N138. We arrived at the hotel about 5pm. A quick change and we were out again to the supermarket to buy provisions for Saturday's practice day.

Day 2/3

After breakfast Saturday we took the non-toll route to Le Mans. Woody leading as my TomTom was misbehaving. See
(http://invictamoto.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/tomtom.html)

At the track they affix a sticker to the headlamp and give you the other half. On leaving both have to match. 7243700792_ffeec08635.jpg
They also want to see the biker's log book. French ones are small, our are four pages of A4 and paper. As it is peezing down there is no way I am getting mine out of the topbox!

We arrived in time for the Moto2 free session and all three classes qualifying. All the commentary was in French. A summary in English at the end is spoken by a guy that learned English in a vacuum.

It drizzled all day. Rained hard at times. Almost trench foot.

That evening it was the Champion's League Final and the nearby Campanile Hotel had a TV lounge. The night before I booked us in there for dinner, and by extension two seats to watch the foorball. Worked a treat.

Sunday. Up earlier, same route, same rigmarole to park, same logbook stays in topbox. Found a space near where we were yesterday.

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There are plenty of grandstands and about half of them are free. They were chock full.

We saw the warm-up and then all three races. Of course we were supporting the British riders with backups of Valentino Rossi in GP.

In Moto2 our riders Scott Redding and Bradley Smith were pressing for the podium and after a scare Bradders dropped way back and fought back to 8th. Scott did better and as the last British rider to win a GP, got another podium. Sadly in MotoGP we had a disappointment when Cal Crutchlow came a cropper when contesting for third with Rossi and Dovisioso. The ride for James Ellison was more successful as he was first across the line to be the CRT class winner.

There are few photos as it was raining I left the Canon DSLR packed away in the pannier and took the Sony compact.

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The weather looked up and it was drying as we left for "home", but it didn't last. Raining again for the last twenty miles or so.

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We have been wearing waterproof over clothes for almost three days. Luckily trenchfoot hasn't set in

A brief dry spell in the evening meant we could go and get dinner but the rain soon came back.

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Day 4
After breakfast it was time to load up the bikes and set off for home. As usual it was raining. The TomTom that had played up all over the weekend had decided to work again. Don't ask why. It just did.

The plan was to head northwards and call in at Montormel. We had only seen it on a leaflet in the hotel and it looked worth a visit.

And this is where things went a little awry. The gps location printed on the leaflet had E and W the wrong way around. After a fruitless ride around some small villages, we gave up. Re-entering the co-ords, but right this time, and we could see where it was.

We aborted and set off for Camembert, stop 2 in the plan, instead to buy a few cheeses and see what there is. Not much to be honest. By some fluke, we passed the Montormel sign as we rode on.

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With the time we had lost not finding the Memorial, we made for the motorway and rode back towards Rouen. With fuel starting to get a little low on the free section of the A28 we caught up with a long column of Harleys and we turned into the services and the fuel stop. We bought some sandwiches and then headed up the road a little and stopped to eat them.

We finally arrived back at the Shuttle in time to get a slightly earlier crossing home.

Posted by InvictaMoto 14:11 Archived in France Comments (0)

Normandy Trip

I checked the bike out the night before we were to leave. The tyres were perfect and I had to give her 250ml of 20w/50 to take it back to the full line in the sight glass. Then I checked and double checked the maps and routes were in the Garmin SatNav.

On Friday morning all I had to do was load the Touratech bags into the Touratech panniers - German panniers for a German bike!

Ready for the off...

Ready for the off...

Ready for the off...

We left home a little late for the Shuttle, but only 3 minutes! We checked in and were given the next train after our booking. A little bit annoyed but that’s the way the Shuttle does it. In front were loads of Harley’s on a trip across for the day. They went off onto the 0820 and we had to make do with the 0843. It left late. Superb. The 50 minute wait at Folkestone makes it as long as the ferry to make the crossing, except of course we have to sit on the floor and no coffee, unlike to ferry!

Once on French soil it was evident that the hurricane that had been crossing the Atlantic had arrived. Although it was supposed to have died long before landfall in Europe. The winds very high. And this could be seen as all the wind socks were horizontal!

The route that I had planned (or rather let Mapsource for the Garmin choose) had us taking the A16 towards Abbeville, then A28 towards Rouen and A29 towards Le Havre and the Pont de Normandie and then to Caen. We set off on the A16 towards Boulogne. I kept the speed down as the wind was coming hard at us from the front right quarter. As we approached the toll plaza above Boulogne we had to cross a long (1.3km) viaduct. This one is lined with glass as a windbreak, except for a narrow slit at the bottom. On the down hill I lost all steering and it felt as though the front tyre had gone. It hadn’t but such was the wind it felt like it.

We stopped at our usual place at the Aire de la Baie de la Somme near Abbeville. It was lunch time and I needed some respite from the high winds.

Aire de la Baie de la Somme

Aire de la Baie de la Somme

Aire de la Baie de la Somme

Aire de la Baie de la Somme

Once we had eaten I had a walk around to look at the tower they have built at the back with views over the “marais” towards St Valery and the Somme estuary and also back towards Abbeville. I got half way up and found they had closed it due to the wind!!

From here we headed south-west. The wind still strong, we stopped for petrol and my normal 50mpg (imperial gallon) was down to 45. I put this down to the wind as my speeds even considering I was two-up with luggage was some 20mph less than my usual commuting speeds!! I do 150 miles a day round-trip to work and home.

If the viaduct near Boulogne was scary, the Pont de Normandie was even worse. The preview is a small viaduct over the canal before you reach the main span. It looks like two huge chicken wishbones set into the ground with the single “bone” projecting high into the sky. The roadway is suspended from these. As we approached I steeled myself for a terrible experience. Slipping through the motorcycle lane (it’s free for us) and we started the ascent. Once again steering became harder and harder. On the downhill section we hit a cross current and we wobbled all over the place. Even at 30mph it was a nightmare. I stopped at the bottom to take a photo.

Pont de Normandie, Claire had to hop off to take it as I held the bike up on gravel. We were still alive.

Pont de Normandie, Claire had to hop off to take it as I held the bike up on gravel. We were still alive.

From the bottom of the bridge it was plain sailing to Caen and the SatNav took us straight to the hotel. Hotel de la Fontaine is in the street of the same name and is already in Mapsource, so no messing was needed to get a waypoint.

The owners, Helene and Philippe, said we could park in their private garage and we took them up on the offer. We were unlikely to want to use the bike again on Day 1.

The rest of the day was spent exploring Caen visiting the Castle of William, Duke of Normandy and later King of England, the art gallery inside and a long walk around ostensibly looking for a bar to have a drink; a bar that might have seats free and not be filled with “young people”. We eventually achieved this goal.

Caen Castle

Caen Castle

Caen Castle

Caen Castle

That evening we ate at a restaurant overlooking the marina following a walk round checking the menu boards outside and a first beer of the trip at a small bar. With the Pound to Euro exchange rate at poor as it is, a simple three course dinner with a beer came out at around £50 ($75) and so it went on the pre-paid MasterCard I keep for holidays. The restaurant was called Le Costa. The food excellent and fish soup to die for!

Estate Agents in Caen

Estate Agents in Caen

Whilst we were out we saw this rather aptly named estate agents. Usually you'd expect the first name to be Robbin' or Lying...

After a longish day in the saddle we were ready for bed.

Day 2 – The D-Day Beaches

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and after breakfast we made sure the SatNav had the route in and we were off out of Caen.

Me, the GS in Caen

Me, the GS in Caen

I have to admit that as the basis of the route I used a waypoints file that was posted on the BMW Club forum enhanced from the Major and Mrs Holt’s Pocket Handbook to the D-Day Landing Beaches. If anyone is interested I’ll post the file on the forum once I can get it off the unit, this is the one that I downloaded plus some places they didn’t get to!

From Caen centre we headed out past the Castle and towards Ouistreham, better known to the British as a cross channel ferry port. Brittany Ferries run a service from Portsmouth.

The first stop was just to the south of Colleville-Montgomery and a bunker, dedicated a national monument to the Suffolk Regiment that took this one codenamed “Hillman” and another just down the road codenamed “Morris”.

Hillman Bunker

Hillman Bunker

Hillman Bunker

Hillman Bunker

GS @ Hillman Bunker

GS @ Hillman Bunker

Hillman Bunker

Hillman Bunker

Hillman was attacked on 6th June 1944 by the 1st Suffolk Regiment, supported by C Squadron 13/18 Hussars, A Squadron Staffs Yeomanry, two batteries from 33rd and 76th Field Regiments Royal Artillery, 246th Field Company RE and a machine-gun platoon from 2nd Middlesex Regiment.

Hillman was outflanked to the north, where high grass allowed an approach to the minefield area surrounding the bunkers and barbed wire. This was cleared by the RE, and a path made through the wire by Bangalore Torpedoes. A Company of 1st Suffolk’s then charged through the gap, and entered the bunker area, but came under such heavy fire that they lost the company commander and had to pull out. Sherman’s from 13/18 Hussars then came up, and a second assault carried the position. However, in the process two tanks from 13/18 Hussars were knocked out and the Suffolk’s lost two officers killed, along with five men and 24 men wounded.

From here we had intended to go to Pegasus Bridge but I changed the route and we could do the bridge area on Sunday. Instead we went straight into Ouistreham and the Grand Bunker Museum.

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

The bunker is on four floors and was the command post for the batteries on both sides of the Orne and in the event of invasion was supposed to protect the river and the docks that extended as far as Caen. In the grounds are some vehicles as exhibits plus a landing craft.

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

La Grande Bunker Musee Ouisterham

We had a look round and a few photos and then set off along the coast further along Sword beach towards Lion sur Mer.

The plan was to cut inland to take in the radar site near Douvres la Déliverande. At Lion there is a monument to the Royal Marines known as the "Sun Dial", and alongside it there is a Churchill Tank.

Churchill Tank - Lion sur Mer

Churchill Tank - Lion sur Mer

Churchill Tank - Lion sur Mer

Churchill Tank - Lion sur Mer

Sadly the radar site was closed and there was no one there to let us in. We also didn't get a chance to photograph it, but it looks pretty complete.
From the radar site we returned to the coast with a first stop at Intermarche for petrol. A mistake as it turned out but one I wasn’t to know until later in the day.

The petrol/gas station was on automatic and I filled up the tank with €17.26 worth of 95 unleaded. Later when I checked my pre-paid credit card, I had been scalped for €70. I have a receipt for €17.26. Attempts to get the money back are being chased internationally with the company. As an aside, MasterCard were completely useless and offered no support or advice.

After the fuel stop we had to virtually ride across the road to the first stop of the afternoon session.

This part of Juno beach was assaulted by the Canadian forces and the bunker on the seafront is now a memorial to their exploits. Plaques on the side commemorate the regiments that took part.

Canadian Bunker - Bernieres sur Mer

Canadian Bunker - Bernieres sur Mer

Canadian Bunker - Bernieres sur Mer

Canadian Bunker - Bernieres sur Mer

he bunker is on a dog-leg in the seafront and the gun slot is angled to provide a field of fire in one direction only and is protected on the beach side. It does provide fire across the entire beach from the sea to the small dunes on the land side.

From Bernieres we moved a short distance up the coast to Courselles-sur-Mer. This was a strategic point as the town straddles the River Seulles. Both sides of the river mouth were heavily defended with pillboxes and bunkers.

On the east bank is a memorial to General De Gaulle who arrived here with the French soldiers under the British control. There is also a Sherman Tank.

In 1969, fishermen in the harbour of Courselles-sur-Mer in France discovered one of the Regiment's D-Day tanks. With the assistance of a local marine salvage company and the Royal Canadian Dragoons from Lahr, Germany, the tank was recovered from the sea where it had rested for more than twenty-five years. Thanks to an ambitious financial campaign by the Association and the Regiment, this "A" Squadron DD tank "ANEMIC was restored and dedicated, under the erroneous name of "Bold", at Juno Beach on June 6, 1971 as a Canadian memorial initially to the 1st Hussars and later to all those units that landed on D-Day. Photographs to follow as sadly the Samsung’s battery ran out!! Luckily Claire’s Sony Alpha DSLR us more reliable.

Also at Courselles-sur-Mer, across the river, is the main Juno Beach Museum. For more reading please go here.

We parked up and we had a walk to one of the almost buried bunkers on the edge of the dunes. From the beach these would have been invisible. Once again, they featured the Tobruk Pit style of machine gun nest. I managed a picture of the museum on my BlackBerry.

Juno Beach

Juno Beach

Juno Beach bunker

Juno Beach bunker

Juno Beach Memorial

Juno Beach Memorial

Juno Beach Memorial

Juno Beach Memorial

On the way out from Juno Beach Museum

On the way out from Juno Beach Museum

German Bunker @ Juno Beach

German Bunker @ Juno Beach

From here we continued to head westwards along Juno Beach towards Omaha Beach.

In the dunes as you leave the Juno Beach Museum is a massive Cross of Lorraine dedicated to the French troops that took part in Overlord. Just around the corner is another tank.

Once back on the D514 we headed towards Arromanches-les-Bains. At Asnelles we turned off the main road and down to find the beach to see if we could see the remnants of the Mulberry Harbour.

We were disappointed as the ring of concrete caissons is easy to see about half a mile off the land. Claire took some pix with her functioning camera and then he headed off up to Arromanches.

The next stop was at the viewpoint around the headland from the town itself. You’ll find a huge car-park and a viewpoint and the 360 Cinema. The queue was massive as we had arrived just after a couple of coaches and so we decided to take in the view and some pix of Mulberry.

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I did manage to get one with my BlackBerry, but the quality despite supposedly 3.2 megapixels is poor. Remember when digital cameras aspired to be that good?

As well as the cinema there are memorials and a large statue of the Madonna.

From there we head back along the D514 into the town itself. As you enter the D-Day Museum is in front of you and there are limited parking opportunities to park a motorcycle. Some riders had mounted the high kerb to park by the museum. We had a tour around and eventually parked next to a large flower bed at the far end of the car-park. Once again we had timed our arrival with that of coaches; this time a mere six! I have been in the Museum before and we decided once again that the crowds weren’t for us.

After a coffee and then a crepe we had a walk to the top of the headland to where there is another preserved Sherman Tank – you know the drill – pix to follow!!

The spot actually marks the position of a battery that took part in an action during the Napoleonic War when they fired in defence of a convoy of gun boats being menaced by British warships. According to local history they won the battle, however, more than likely the British ships knew of the battery’s position and wouldn’t engage the smaller gun boats in its range. History is for the winners’ to write!!

By now it was well after 4pm and we wanted to get away to get to Omaha before it closed. But the next stop was at Longues sur Mer.

A most impressive set of bunkers housing the Longues Battery. In all there are four big concrete bunkers housing the large guns intended to fire to see at any invader.

The first bunker from the car-park is badly battered and the gun has been destroyed, although suspicious looking pipes still out of the ground in front of the firing area. The other three are in much better condition.

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Time was getting on and by the time we arrived in the area of the Omaha Monument it was 5.55pm. A huge arrow points to the Monument from a roundabout and next to it... a sign... 4 kms and closes at 6pm!

In the end we head a little further to St Laurent sur Mer and the already closed for the night Omaha Beach Museum.

Sherman Tank @ Omaha Beach Museum

Sherman Tank @ Omaha Beach Museum

All in all I had planned a day that really needed two days. The weather was warm, 25 °C, and despite the numbers of coaches with their large numbers of fellow tourists traffic on the roads was very light.

Day 3

The plan had been to include Pegasus Bridge into the main beaches day but as it turned out it's a good job we didn't as Day 2 was pretty full.

We had a late breakfast and we set off for the Bridge a little later that anticipated. The new bridge was open and we had to wait in a long column of traffic waiting for it to close. I have to admit to being a little underwhelmed by the place.

We parked alongside the Gondree cafe with a few other bikes The cafe was full of British tourists having lunch and we had a drink across the road before we decided to move on to Ouisterham.

Pegasus Bridge

Pegasus Bridge

Pegasus Bridge

Pegasus Bridge

Pegasus Bridge

Pegasus Bridge

Pegasus Bridge

Pegasus Bridge

The weather was a bit chilly and we had a walk through the village near the casino and had lunch! We always have lunch.

We had a gentle ride back down to Caen and parked the bike up round the corner from the hotel and went in to change into civvies.

Once dressed in our non-biker clothes we had a walk around the city again in search of Old Caen. Most of the city was bombed during the war and there was a little bit near the castle that was from the middle ages or so.

GS parked in Caen

GS parked in Caen

Tram in Caen

Tram in Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

Old Caen

3920257423_8e88ffd9d1.jpgCaen - Abbaye des Dames

Caen - Abbaye des Dames

In the end we opted for a cheaper meal! Across from the Cathedral was a simple, but very popular, kebab house. For the price of a starter in a restaurant we ate like, well not exactly kings, although it was very tasty. It might look a little pink but it was fully cooked and for €6.50 it came with frites et un boisson.

Sunday Dinner in Caen

Sunday Dinner in Caen

Once this was knocked off we went in search of an ice-cream for pudding. Then time for bed. Tomorrow was the last day of the trip and we had to be off home.

Day 4 - August Bank Holiday Monday

Today was the relatively simple ride along the coast from Caen. We had the 210 mile ride back from Caen to Eurotunnel. We opted to take in the delights of Honfleur.

Due to a problem with the Garmin not charging on the bike it decided to die before we had really got to where we wanted which included a crossing of the Greenwich Meridian. As we approached Houlgate I saw that 64000 miles was about to pop up on the odometer, and so I
stopped for Claire to take a pic of me!

Houlgate and 64000 Miles

Houlgate and 64000 Miles

From here it was on into Honfleur. Parking up in the centre of the town where I saw a couple of other bikes. It was okay until we had to get away and I had to ride along the pavement and squeeze through the barrier at the end.

We had a walk around the harbour and took a break in one of the cafes, sitting in the burning heat of the day.

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

The harbour area is a mass of cafes, restaurants and gift shops. With the Garmin not working and the deadline of the Shuttle ahead of us we reluctantly set off.

Finding the Pont de Normandy was easy enough as it is signposted, and with there being no wind it was a joy to ride across.

From here it was a motorway run all the way back to Coquelles and onto the Shuttle. Just one stop for petrol and as it was BH Monday the roads were busier mainly with British holiday makers on their way home. We bought some baguettes and made another stop at an Aire to eat them.

All in all the trip was very good and the ride along the Invasion beaches is one I can recommend to anyone.

Posted by InvictaMoto 07:45 Archived in France Comments (0)

Jardins de Valloires

It was initially Nigel’s idea to go to France over the BH Weekend, and originally Monday. Claire and I were the only ones in the Kent Centre that were up for it and we couldn’t do Monday, but could do Sunday.

After a change of plans we arrived together on the 0820 Shuttle to France in company with another trio of bikes and their riders. A nice MV with extra loud pipes and a couple of Guzzis. One being a 1000 Quota, a rarity in every sense!

The plan was to head off down the D940 along the coast and stop for a coffee under Cap Blanc Nez at the Escalles campsite café. Sadly, when we got there after a short ride with perfect views over the Channel to Kent, it was closed until noon. Strange for a weekend in August.

We set off south again and at Wissant I hove right into the village. Ahead the road was closed and we parked up for a walk around a splendid village that we had never been to before. There was a boat festival on and the square was full of tables and chairs gearing up for lunch that appeared to be grilled or fried fish sandwiches! We had our coffee and then had a walk before returning to the bikes with ideas of lunch.

At Wimereux we stopped in the parking we have used before and went to the restaurant opposite the friterie. The friterie is either the best or the only one in town as the queue was always long! Sadly, not a good choice in my opinion. The moules were okay but the juice they were in was a bit insipid. Claire’s steak was supposed to be rare but was well done at least. At least my chips were okay. Nigel says that his moules were insipid as well as the sauce and his chips were soggy!

After a quick walk to the bank ATM to get a bit more cash we set off for the Jardins. I led and my newly fixed Quest led us across country to the N1 and then right to the door, well almost. The Abbaye and the Jardins are on the same site but have two entrances about 400 yards apart!

We spent an hour or so wandering around the gardens following the guide we were given. How did the girl behind the counter know we were English? I took out my camera and found it was all there except for a memory card, so we had to rely on Nigel’s photographic skills…

After another de-rigueur coffee we had to set off pronto to get back for the 1850 Shuttle leaving Nigel and Jane to a more leisurely trip back for a later crossing.

Another good day away. It shows you don’t have to go far to see something different.

Claire and Me

Claire and Me

Posted by InvictaMoto 07:37 Archived in France Comments (0)

Giverny for May Day Weekend

The weekend was in fact just a night away and with Claire’s hairdressing appointment earlier than previously thought it meant we could have lunch before the booked Shuttle train on Saturday.

I had planned routes to the Campanile at Evreux and also from there to Giverny. Claire is less trusting of “Doris” than I am and insisted we take a paper map as well. Not having been to Normandy for years and years meant I didn’t have one, so we left a little early and a stopped in the terminal building to buy one. On the approach there were signs to say that there were delays of up to 30 minutes following an “earlier incident”.

On the auto check-in I chose to go on an earlier train and off we went. In the terminal building they started to call our train s we walked in and I saw the display change from wait to boarding on the monitors. We hurried round and joined the queue of cars, strangely, not sent to a lane of our own, as is the “norm” on the Shuttle, but in the line of cars. Knowing we’d get singled out later and sit alongside the train as they loaded the cars past us. Despite being early we found we had missed the train or it had been cancelled as we were then re-assigned to the one we were booked on anyway!

The weather was dull and overcast and windy. After two or three weeks of sunny biking weather it was back to winter weather. On the French side it was no better and we set off along the A16 towards Abbeville intending to stop at the services at the Baie de Somme services. The weather didn’t improve and got very windy as we approached the toll section after Boulogne.

After a coffee and a look at the ducks and the amazingly tame and large carp in the river, we set off again. Time was getting on and Doris didn’t miss a beat. As petrol can be a problem off motorways on Sundays, we stopped just before Rouen and tanked up. In the station was a battered Fiat 500 on the back of a trailer. He was there when we left. Later on we caught up with him on the road between Rouen and Evreux Doris’s quicker route planning not quite up to local knowledge! Some of the time loss may have been as we had to sit in a queue of traffic for a while as police and fire crews sorted out a big smash involving a car and a 4WD. I’ve never been a rubbernecker but had a quick glance, but the cars around us seemed to think it was a show for them to goggle at.

The rest of the run to the hotel was uneventful and we arrived at about 1845 local time. Booked in and secured the bike outside the room. Claire was so cold she had a bath and I watched PSG vs. Lyon on the TV. We played with the heating and couldn’t get it to work despite having it “on” and “heat” and the temp to 30°!

My GS

My GS

and again

and again

and again!

and again!

.

And then across to dinner. The Campanile in Evreux is like most of them by industrial park or out of town shopping parks. This one by the Carrefour. We chose the buffet dinner rather than the usual cooked menu. It was very nice but slightly more expensive than I remember. After dinner we watched a bit of TV, CSI New York in French. The dubbed voices not what I would call a match for the characters!

Sunday morning we were up quite early and across to breakfast and due to our (strict) adherence to the teachings of Swami Weight-Watcher we again couldn’t pig out, as we would once have done. Damn!

It was sunny and we wanted to make the most of it. Checking out and off following Doris’s instructions we arrived at Giverny in good time. Parking by the information office where we bought the guidebook. It’s in English and French and it quite good value for the €5.

On the first Sunday of the month the Museum of American Art is free to visitors. We had a long walk through their gardens. Of course, the Monet Foundation also owns this and the gardens are in the same style. Quite formal and arranged by colour of plants. We stopped for a coffee and then set off for the Monet House and Garden. There were so many people about and perhaps 50% were English and the rest a rich mixture of other Europeans and Americans. The pic shows the poppy meadow alongside the Museum.

The queue to get into the house and gardens was about 50 metres long and I got in it whilst Claire had a wander. It moved quite quickly and we were in. The entrance fee is €5.50 for adults.

The gardens are accessed through the shop (good move!) and then they open out in front of you to the rear of the house. We were lucky that the sun was out and quite hot, even if we did have to lug our jackets about. We were also lucky that all the garden plots were filled with colour. The irises were exceptional and the ground cover was perfectly matched by colour.

The famous lily pond is actually on some adjoining land that Monet bought and had the small river diverted to create it. Access is now by a tunnel rather than having to dodge the traffic on the road that separates the two parts of the garden. Unfortunately, although all the other planting was out and glorious it was too early for the lilies. The pond is also a lot larger than I had imagined and more of a small lake!

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DSCN9367

DSCN9355

DSCN9355

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DSCN9327

DSCN9325

DSCN9325

White Wisteria

White Wisteria

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DSCN9311

DSCN9309

DSCN9309

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DSCN9300

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DSCN9398

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DSCN9396

By now I was suffering from photo fatigue although the counter on the camera said only 105! We had a turn around the shop and then went into the outside world for a sandwich and a drink. After another turn around the Art Museum shop where Claire bought some cards, we went back to the bike and packed up.

I programmed Doris for a return trip and off we went. Another tour around the area to get across the nearest bridge over the Seine we headed north and then towards Beauvais.

At Gisors she took us north towards Dieppe and as we approached the A28 we peeled off onto it and head up towards the coast. I needed petrol so we stopped and hoped to get a coffee. It was quite cold and we both needed the warm java in our bellies, but the services on the A28 just before Abbeville aren’t that wonderful. We ended up having a coffee and a snack back at Baie de Somme before the 60 mile run back to the Shuttle. We arrived an hour before our booked crossing and the computer's magnanimous gesture let us travel earlier at no extra cost.

We were home just before 7pm after a trip of about 385 miles door to door. Although the weather could have been better, it was sunny when it mattered.

Posted by InvictaMoto 07:55 Archived in France Comments (0)

Lille Christmas Market

This trip was by car. Scraping the ice off the windscreen in the morning was enough to convince me that I really am a Fair Weather Biker nowadays. As you can see from the murky pictures, it was foggy in Nord!

I know I should have gone by bike and froze to death to be a "real biker", but in the end we were warm and were able to visit the hypermarket at Grande Synthe and carry back 4 cases of beer and a large selection of wines!

Lille itself was difficult to navigate and I ignore "Doris" (my GPS) as she seemed to be off on one of her "funnies" but in the end she took us right to the Grand Place. Unfortunately, the car-park was full and we had to look for another, eventually finding one above the Tanneurs shopping centre.

On the way we drove towards the Flandres Station along a road lined with elephants. Not real ones, but large models of elephants as part of the decoration for a cultural event about Hindus and Bombay.

We walked back the same way as we didn't have a map and didn't want to get get lost in the middle of nowhere in the back streets.

Once back at the Grand Place (car park still "complet") we saw that they had a small Santa village around the bottom of the big wheel.

It was lunchtime and so we decided to find somewhere to eat and then enter the "Marché de Noel" in neighbouring Place Rihour.

Hindu Elephants in Lille

Hindu Elephants in Lille

And we did. The €10.60 lunch menu in the Brasserie Floré, also in Place Rihour was all we needed. If anyone can tell me what "hampe" is I'd be most obliged. It looked like steak and tasted pretty much like steak.... but....

Lille Christmas Market

Lille Christmas Market

Big Wheel

Big Wheel

After a leisurely meal we were left checking the watches as we had to be back at the ferry terminal for the 1945 (local time) ferry home. So with Lille some 70 miles away, an hour, we needed to leave the area no later than 1800... and it was already after 1500, and, (too many ands!) we still had the traditional English booze-cruise element to get over and done with.

We decided that as it was getting dark and the fog was thickening we would leave asap and drive back the Auchun at Grand Synthe on the coast. And so we did. The traffic was heavy in both directions on the A25 and I have to admit my eyes were straining to see the other cars, many of whom have never thought of using lights in fog.

We had a reasonably quick tour of the hypermarket getting four cases of beer (only one for me!) plus of course some wine. Red wine. This is for Claire and visitors. Recently I seem to have developed a problem with red wine! Or rather my stomach has! I love to drink it and then am ill for a few days afterwards. So I stick to white. I've not regressed to childhood and started drinking sweet white, but am stuck on a nice dry white.

My granddad was in the wine trade all his life. Starting work in the cellars for Chaplins (we still have wooden coat hangers with their name and what we would now call a logo) in the arches near Fenchurch Street around the First World War when he left school, until he died in 1968 soon after retiring as a senior manager in Wines and Spirits for NAAFI.

Of course we bought some other staples... cheese, smelly feet sausage and some tins of cassoulet for a quick lunch snack. Always good to have in the cupboard and one of two other bits and pieces.

The last part of the drive along the A16 was better, cold but fog free.

In all we had a great day out. Capping a good long weekend.

Posted by InvictaMoto 12:48 Archived in France Comments (0)

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