Tuesday 8th July
Very excited this morning about the forthcoming trip to France. So much so I woke at 4am and couldn't get back to sleep, a less than desirable state of affairs. Finally got up at 5:30, had breakfast, woke Mary up and finished the packing. Made it to Joan's early (for a change) and we hit the road.
The weather was fine and a little windy but really not a bad run down the motorway. 10:30 had us entering Dover, in good time for the 11am ferry
Then disaster struck. A moronic German, who obviously hadn't bothered to learn the UK road rules, swerved right on the roundabout in front of us when he should have gone straight on and knocked Joanie off. It's amazing what goes though the mind when something like this happens but I dumped my bike and got over to where she was lying prone in the road.
Another wander through Senlis and breakfast on a pain aux raisin and expresso. A quick check of the email revealed something of a cock up with not just my return booking deferred (I had asked for it to be put back a few days) but also Mary's. A couple of phone calls to NZ and to Mary followed, the situation remains unresolved.
Apparently Joan is pretty sore, not a great surprise to me, she fell pretty hard, and will not be joining Mary and Lynn on their trip to France the morning.
Doreen, the faithful GPS, once again took me on the Paris Peripherique, a road that needs to be avoided as the traffic and driving is terrible. I got off it and headed for the centre, (could it be worse) and was rewarded with a look at Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. Surprisingly parking the moto in Paris is easy, you seem to just leave it on the footpath. Add a comment
Doreen gives trouble
Took a walk into town then drove part of the Michelin guide route towards Vichy, which the book describes as very scenic, but it's very hard to find the way. The GPS struggles to stay on track and programming it is near impossible as it keeps 'recalculating'. The route numbers don't always marry up and while it's quite clear on the large scale map the thing is the size of a bed sheet. Quite impossible to manage.
Eventually I had to give up and take a cross country to Le-Puy-En-Velay, our agreed rendezvous. It was a hot as Hell, not a cloud in the sky and with hindsight I would have to say I was somewhat dehydrated. The town however is really very impressive with a huge statue on a rock promience and a chapel or something on another. Fabulous as you come down the hill into the city. Add a comment
Ambushed by fog
Met Lynn running down from the statue as I walked up. The world is a very small place sometimes. Sadly the statue access has to be paid for and is not available until 9am. Next time then. A coffee on the way down will suffice for breakfast and off (for me) to Mt Mezenc. To say the riding is good understates the situation. The roads are empty and not too challenging. Great.
A few more stops required than yesterday as the map was even more challenging and the amount of water I had taken on board had to be gotten rid of
Today was cooler, partly due to an overcast but mostly because I was climbing in height. Eventually I was very glad for the heavier jacket (yesterday I could have chucked it into the bin). The bad news was it became foggy. Very foggy. 20 meters max visibility foggy. Wet visor/specs foggy. Bloody dangerous foggy. Add a comment
In which I find a hill
Rotten night as the hotel is very stuffy and the bedroom window opens onto the main road with periodic very high speed traffic. This apparently did not affect Lynn, only Mary and I.
The 'town' is a little disappointing being some way out of Thiers and entirely flat but a short walk before a meeting to discuss the days plans and tonights rendezvous. We agree on Roanne and I try to make sure that I am not separated by any large mountain ranges at the end of the day.
My first major stop is Col de Beal, a high pass with fantastic views and no fog. Dressed completely unsuitably in motorcycle boots I walked to the top (an hour there and back) and was very pleased with myself. So much so I was going to have lunch in the lonely and very isolated cafe there. Despite there only being one other table occupied I gave up waiting to have my order taken, and wandered off. Clearly they were rushed off their feet. Add a comment
Bal de Pompiers
None too early a start, everyone a bit tired from last night, particularly the driving party. We ate breakfast in the hotel watching the light rain fall outside.
I set off on the quickest route to Clermont Ferrand, which was of course the Peage. Much cooler than the day before and there was some very heavy rain. I had to stop to put n some trousers and thermals on under my m/c gear.
First stop way Royat for lunch, a modest restaurant/bar for a salad. I think they had underestimated the demand as the service was pretty slow. Then on to Les Puy du Dome. Add a comment
Four Go Climbing
A very pleasant stay in La Bourboule which, in the morning without the rain, is a very pleasant town. We had a good wander through it then off together to Mont Dore and the Puy de Sancy anove the town.
The cable car take you up a good part of the way then a vigourous walk to 1900 metres to follow. Fantastic weather and fantastic views although the wind was very, very cold. I borrowed Charlotte's hoodie as I was well under catered for.
Returning some while (and a good lunch) later I took the southern scenic circuit of Puy de Sancy suggested by Michelin before heading for our pre booked accommodation at Clermont Ferrand. Doreen once again took me directly there by a quite inexplicable route but directly there. I suppose it's not her fault that it a pedestrian only street.
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Last day for the ladies on the trip and we started as is customary with a walk about the town for coffee and a pain aux raisin. We had a good look at the cathedral and yes, it is very old and really very beautiful. It seems to be Clermont Ferrand's main (only?) redeeming feature.
And last night it seems that nobody did want to steal my F650, or worse mess it up. It sat alone and untouched. Phew.
After a bit of a chat with Doreen and the Lonely Planet is seems that the Millau Viaduct is not the same as Millaux and is in fact much nearer to Clermont Ferrand so onto the main route south and after a very intimidating 'continue for 210 kilometres', the bridge eventually came into view. It's very disappointing that Joan could not be here to see this as I know she would find it as wonderful as I do. The Lonely Planet describes it as 'breathtaking' and yes that's pretty apt. Certainly a wonder of the modern world in my opinion. Add a comment