France 2012

IMG 0126Remarkably there was little (relatively) traffic on the M25 and M20 to Dover. We were expecting a Bank holiday rush as this is the end of summer in the UK but no jams or even congestion. Surprising.

The trip to the ferry was quite uneventful and indeed the Channel like a millpond. The only thing that marred the quiet was the shouting school children that flooded the boat. I felt old.

The Peage down to Abbeville and our first night at the hotel Jean De Bruge in St Riqure was quick with a few spits of rain. I made some kind of mistake with the unattended fuel bowser and got charged 130 euros for the fill. This is twice what it should have been and I can only assume that I did not hang up the pump properly and the next guy used our credit. Lacking a receipt I dont think there is much we can do about it. Learn a lesson I guess.

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Read more: Friday 24th August 2012

IMG 0132Mme, the owner(?) of Jean De Bruges does have a rather off hand manner but once you get to know her a bit it seems to work out ok, she certainly isn't everyones cup of tea. (other guests were less than impressed).

Weather today is supposed to be showers and it certainly looks that way to start with. We've decided to stay local and take a look at Amiens and the Somme battlefields. Tripadvisor recommends a Logis de France, the Hotel de la Basilique at Albert so I've booked it so we can spend a bit of time in the area and not have to start looking for accommodation mid afternoon.

We just missed the tour of the towers at Amiens cathedral (11am) which is a disappointment but the nave is just huge and very light, with enormous windows. Well worth a look. We decided to pass on Jules Verne's house as we felt that we would run out of time if we did.

The "Jungle Resto" in Bray-sur-Somme would not be at the top of the list as lunch stops go. In particular the Jungle Box would probably be worth a miss.

The rest of the day is taken up with the "Somme Remembrance Trail" which takes in an enormous number of graveyards and monuments. The number of dead is staggering as is the huge memorial/vistor centre at Thiepval.

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Read more: Saturday 25th August 2012

IMG 0174Dinner last night at Hotel de la Basilique started well with a splendid crepe but the pork for the main course was dry and overcooked. Breakfast was basic too. It rather let the place down.

School holidays and weekends make for busy hotels. After some research we book the Hotel Restaurant Le Cheval Blanc in the town of Charny south east of Paris. Tripadvisor speak well of it and it's far enough on to suit us.

We stick mostly to back roads, guided randomly by Doreen, and drive through seemingly endless fields interspersed with small villages.

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Read more: Sunday 26th August 2012

IMG 0182M. of the Hotel Restaurant Le Cheval is very interesting and chatty this morning. Overall a mixed bag of an overnight but with great charm.

A gentle ride through beautiful countryside for the most part (Michelin green routes) to Bourges with a splendid crepe for lunch at La Belle Historic at Sancerre.

Much angst at Bourge where we ran out of enthusiasm (it's pretty hot), but we got a bottle of the right oil for the Can Am which has again run short. There are limited options for a place to stay but after much shagging about with the iPhone I managed to get Orange to deliver the internet and made a booking at the Hotel St Jean.

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Read more: Monday 27th August 2012

IMG 0199Apart from my head the night is quiet and restful. Our hosts are very helpful in the morning with plasters and getting the bikes out of their garage. Overall most impressive and a pleasure to meet, would stay again willingly.

Leaving Bourges we are back in the industrial agricultural wasteland that much of France seems to have become but this quickly converts to a more rural aspect with simply fantastic back roads with little or no traffic. Great riding.

A very large Plat du Jour lunch in Tronget, a tiny town on a backroad. Add a comment

Read more: Tuesday 28th August 2012

IMG 0208As you would expect the Hotel de la Gare is opposite the station which isn't a problem as it only seems to be the tourist train that uses it. Our room was small but clean with a tiny bathroom and a very uncomfortable "roll together" bed.

We were at the front of the hotel and found the street noisy overnight (in fairness this may not be normal as the circus was in town). Overall an uncomfortable night.

The clothing situation has finally gotten to us and there is a laundrette in town so we decide to take a delay and get up to date. Both of us have taken far less with us than previously and we've reached the point where garments are starting to fail the sniff test. Yesterday was pretty warm which didn't help any.

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Read more: Wednesday 29th August 2012

IMG 0505An excellent dinner here in the Hotel le Bourbon last night, not the cheapest I suspect but very very good. Breakfast likewise the best of the trip so far too.

Sadly we have had rain overnight and the market started to set up outside at 4am...... fascinating but not quiet. We've been out for a look around the market but this is not a day for motorcycling to the source of the Loire or indeed anywhere else. A second night was an excellent idea.

The rain cleared up in the afternoon and we took a walk up to the viewpoint nearby. Nothing spectacular but Yssingeaux is a nice town. A couple of hours quiet time reading was a nice relief from the concentration on the bikes.

La Casserole is our dinner location for the evening and it proves to be excellent. A very simple menu with little choice but all the better for that.

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Read more: Thursday 30th August 2012

IMG 0243It still very showery and cool but we have decided we'll still have a try at getting to the source of the Loire at Gerbier de Jonc.

Most of the morning is spent threading through the heavy showers (successfully) and we stop for lunch in a very out of the way little restaurant apparently in the middle of nowhere. Not a word of english but we get a modest (but expensive) lunch.

Our host is a chain smoker and clearly is not going to be told he can't smoke in his own hotel. That bit is not so nice.

This is a very interesting viaduct with no parapet over a gorge. It seems to have no real purpose but Mary drives over it just because she can. I'm satisfied with a walk over it but my word it's scary if you need to step to the side.

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Read more: Friday 31th August 2012

IMG 0294It took a long time to get away from the Villa Amiee, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there but time to move on. Liela gave us a map of the Gorge D'Ardeche which is a fantastic canyon. We stopped to take many many photos, including wild goats on the road.

More delay in trying to find petrol and find a working cash machine in Vals les Bains. I later discovered that I was using the wrong pin. Duh!

The area is remote but tourists are plentiful many of whom appear to come to canoe though the gorge. I'd say that would be a stunning experience.

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Read more: Saturday 1st September 2012

IMG 0328A glorious day in St Remy de Provence and we take advantage of this to get up to date with laundry, blogs, email, phone calls and have a late lunch in town and a good look around.

Dinner at Bisto de Marne is very good too. Overall a very nice day in a delightful little town. It's got quite a few tourists but not enough to be unpleasant.

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IMG 0335Overcast and a bit cooler today. After another fruitless call to the OneSmart card people and we've managed to get the Euros held captive over to my card, albeit with some small loss. Frustration.

We take the bikes for a run through part of the Alpilles regional park which has the most curious rock outcrops, quite a moon scape. Then via Arles to the coast at Port St Louis de Rhone. Unexpectedly this turns out to be a port fallen on very hard times despite an active marina, everything else is very tired with many factories derelict. We did not find the beaches but we did cross the river on a Ferry which was fun. Add a comment

Read more: Monday 3rd September 2012

IMG 0347No hassles this morning and we are off on a local circuit guided by the pamphlets from the Information Centre here in St Remy.

First stop the bridge at Avignon made famous by the song "Sur La Pont, D'Avignon". We sang this on the bridge (of which only half is left). There is a very good audio commentary that is included and we thoroughly enjoyed the tour.

Avignon also boasts a huge Palace of the Popes but we gave that a miss as it rather looks like it would take all day. The town is on the itinerary of the Rhone river boats so there is no shortage of tourists and shops to cater for them. Add a comment

Read more: Tuesday 4th September 2012

IMG 0401My day was spent getting to and away from St Tropez. It's a fair distance and the Peage (toll road) is mandatory to get there and back in sensible time.

But St Tropez, what can I say? A traffic jam, tourist tat, nasty little crowded cafes, a car park next to the front, overall as far as I could see no redeeming features.

Essentially the whole place is a monument to money and bad taste. There is really no reason to go there unless you want to show off how big your fizz boat is to your other big fizz boat mates. If you have a small fizz boat don't embarrass yourself. I spoke to a couple of Brits on a BMW from Sevenoaks and they were also stunned.

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Read more: Wednesday 5th September 2012

IMG 0440What busy little tourists we are. First off a walk along the Van Gogh tourist trail, pictures of his located in areas where he might have painted them. Not bad actually.

This takes us to the Roman town (ruins of) Glanum which is surprisingly large, you'd never notice it from the road. Overall 3-4km perhaps and easy going.

The picture shows a part of the temple that they have restored so you can get a feel of how it must have been. There are exellent descriptive plaques around so you know what you are looking at. Another well worth while experience.

Getting back we have lunch at the Expedia (or some such) over the road from our lodgings. Sadly these are people for whom a simple salad is a problem. Where do they find them. Worse yet was the thump thump of what they seem to use as background music.  We won't be having dinner there.

After lunch we reluctantly (it's pretty hot today) don our m/c gear for trip to the castle at nearby Les Baux (apparently bauxite is named after this town) and shoot over there. Again it's well on the tourist track but what a splendid castle on top of a spectacular hill. Add a comment

Read more: Thursday 6th September 2012

IMG 0470The last day in our rented house and the time seems to have gone by in a flash. It;s another clear day and knowing that it will hit 30 degrees this afternoon we have to decide what to do.

The decision is back to the coast, this time to Cassis, just east of Marseilles. This turns out to be packed with holidaymakers, tourists and cruseship-istas.

We managed to drive in but even parking the bikes would be a problem and getting out of town becomes our priority. Luckily we see signs for the La Route des Crêtes (Crest Road) along the coast to the east which turns out to be quite spectacular.

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Read more: Friday 7th September 2012

IMG 0497Quite a lot to do to pack up and tidy the place before we leave. We feel we have only scratched the surface of things to do in Provence and we'll have to make time to come again. So much to see, so little time.

We'd certainly stay in the house here although it would be more economic with two couples rather than just us.

We make for Mont Ventoux (1920m) which is clearly visible from many miles away although there is a lot of haze. Morning tea at Bedonit(?) is a very busy place and we soon find out why.

The Mont turns out to be a Mecca for the cycling fraternity and is clearly a "gut buster" to get up. There's at least 20km of solid uphill and there are hundreds at the top as well as a charity cycle rase, walkers, motorcyclists, sightseers and who knows what.

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Read more: Saturday 8th September 2012

IMG 0540Actually the Hotel Colombet was not too bad for noise. We had been told to turn off the air conditioner by 11:30 and that the room would then stay cool, this was not the case. The windows had to be opened in the middle of the night noise or otherwise.

Sunday morning has a very large Provencale market in Nyons which we very reluctantly decided to miss. There is just too far to go unless we go on the toll roads and we are both keen to avoid these.

We very much liked Nyons and the surroundings and would certainly like to stay longer in the area than we are able to this time.

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Read more: Sunday 9th September 2012

IMG 0588The bed at Chez Rene needs a bit of work (actually replacement) but we had a reasonable nights sleep.

Today has been quiet, driving through the rural back roads of charming countryside, very reminiscent of the UK once apon a time. Mile after mile of it.

Around L'Abresle, just west of Lyon, the bolangeries have branched out into making sandwiches and lunches, very good they are too and you get to watch the baker preparing the loaves too.

Our final stop for the day at Charolles gives a bit of difficulty finding an open hotel as Tripadvisors favorite, Hotel Resturant de la Poste is on the opposite side of the road to Doreens opinion and is in any case closed on Mondays. Apparently.

 

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Read more: Monday 10th September 2012

IMG 0619A short delay starting from the fabulous Clos de l'Argolay where Jean-Luke made us very welcome. This is really a 5 star place and well worth a detour to go there.

The delay was caused by concerns about the weather (rain forecast) and our need to use the launderette down the road (staffed by a charming English woman). Even so we got away at 11 with clean undies, much needed after the last few days heat.

A sharp day cruising through farmland, forests and all manner of ruralness. We  pretty much avoided all significant habitations although we did manage to get a lunch at a village in the Morvan national park. A heavy shower started just as we left after lunch but we outran it and had an hour or so of wet roads to show where it had been.

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Read more: Tuesday 11th September 2012

IMG 0654Our hotel in Auxerre is noisy overnight with much activity out in the street including two sets of street cleaners in the early hours. The air conditioning is turned off for reasons unknown so we have the window open and stick it out.

Another day of rural idyll on the roads, at least for a while as it shortly turns into the industrial farm with paddocks that run as far as the eye can see. At best this is unattractive.

We do make good time again today as the roads are much better than yesterday. It is a lot cooler though with the temperature persistently in the low 'teens. There are quite a few passing showers in the vicinity but we are lucky enough to skirt most of these.

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Read more: Wednesday 12th September 2012

IMG 0678Coming to the end of the trip we are not to far from our last night (pre booked) at the hotel Jean De Bruge in St Riqure. Unfortunately we have to detour again to find petrol which takes an age. Mostly the countryside is HUGE fields, not very nice really.

The highlight of the day was just outside Roye where we found a medieval village under re-construction. We stopped to take photos and were invited in for a guided tour. We think this is partly sponsored but it's a great project and will be a real showplace when finished.

Sandwiches in Roye and then on to Albert. Of course this is back in the Somme with the graves of untold men lost in the fields of France. Such waste. Wars would end quicker if the politicians had to go out to fight.

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Read more: Thursday 13th September 2012

TripOnce again we spent the day uneventfully traveling from St Require via the Calais/Dover ferry to West of London. Brief stops at Cite d'Europe in Calais for chocolate, lunch and wine.

Total travel distance? 2400 miles (most of it appears in the picture). Not so much as last time but quite enough.

Afterword


On the way to NZ we stopped at Kualur Lumpur overnight and were please to note that the Park Royal hotel has quit charging for WiFi _ Hurrah!

This trip we went up the KL Tower where we incomprehensibly got the VIP treatment, front of the queue and the staff were friendly and attentive. Odd but nice.

KLCC is another vast shopping centre below the Petronas Towers where Madam Chans is a great and very busy choice for lunch. Otherwise its just more shops full of stuff you didn’t know you needed yet.

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