France 2013

IMG 0627Leaving Paris on a Saturday turned out to be a good choice, the roads are much less mad. We took a route out to the North East to minimise the distance traveled in town and make sure we avoided the Champs Elysees and the crazy-abouts at each end.

On finaly escaping we set north for Initially Chantilly, which looks like a great place to stop (see photo) and then on North mostly on the D901 to St Riquere where we had our first night. Tomorrow back to Blighty after a shopping expedition in Calais

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IMG 0718Started this (our final day in Paris with a trip to the Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera house which is a truly magnificent theatre. I'd have shared some of the grandeur but sadly the camera was lifted from me, I suspect while I was buying lunch. The "Beware of Pickpockets" signs should be believed.

Much retracing of steps to see if the camera had been hung on the fence by some kind person (it wasn't). Luckily it's only this mornings photos that are lost. Why don't cameras lock like phones?

Anyway we chucked in the fruitless search and went for our afternoon booking at City Segway Tours which was just excellent. This is highly recommended and you should do it first.

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IMG 1928The Louvre has all the potential to be a great museum but it terminally spoilt by the crowds wanting to see it.

You can bypass the outside queue with a Museum Pass but inside there is a huge crush to see the "must see items" such as the Mona Lisa. Flashes everywhere, (apparently it's not permitted but no one was enforcing this) pushing and shoving to get to the front. Awful.

We abandoned the Sully wing where the main attractions are and had a pleasant tour through the Richelieu wing which was much less crowded.

I'm going way out on a limb here suggesting that Paris has many many better things to see than this.

On a final note the audio guide, based on a Nintendo with more buttons than the Starship Enterprise, is hopeless. It purports to offer a GPS guidance system but we just could not make sense of it as it does not orient itself to your direction of travel. All it says is you have left the route do you want to recalculate but then offers no guidance on which way to go. If you can stay on track it is worthwhile but no good for getting back onto it.

On to the Centre Pompidou which is far less crowded and has a superb collection of 20th century art.

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IMG 1904The Musee d'Orsay is huge and incredible. Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, you name it. Surely a must see, but you need stammina to get around it without collapsing.

After a sandwich lunch (the sandwiches are stunning everwhere) we walk to the the Musee Rodin which is impressive but not a patch on Musee d'Orsay.

Finally the Metro back to the hotel via a glorious ice cream......

 

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IMG 1843Laundry day today. The Citadines have a laundrette in the basement, not the cheapest I've ever seen but five stars for convenience.

After that we make our way down the river to the Musee d'Orsay. There are two queues, one for those with tickets (empty) and one for the rest (hours long). After a coffee and a think we head for the Information Centre accross the river where it seems you can buy the tickets (a museum pass) for 2, 4 or 6 days which will avoid the queue. The helpful lady there also says don't activate it today as many museums are closed on Tuesday (today) and the Notre Dame does not have the priority queue.

So the remainder of the day is divided between Notre Dame (the roof view is magnificent). There is a rehearsal for tonight's musical going on but it's sadly marred by the crowd who clearly do not understand "no flash" or "silence" regardless of how many languages the signs are written in.

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Read more: Tuesday 14th May 2013

IMG 1791Walking today around the sights (using the metro from time to time). Eiffel Tower (right to the top this time), a wander down the Champs Elysees, up the Arc de Triomphe and then back to the hotel. Terrific.

Top tip. Take the walk down the Eiffel Tower if you can (second level not from the top) it's a great look at the construction and how difficult it must have been

It's still cold but the weather stays dry and we have a great day.

Dinner at La Jacobean is well done but like all the restaurants the tables are well packed in.

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IMG 1775A quiet drive through increasingly built up areas until we hit Paris.

Like all computers Doreen lacks common sense and takes us straight to the busiest least motorcycle friendly roads of Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe and then around the Place de la Concorde. Amazingly we get around these unscathed and find the hotel pretty much at third go.

We take the Citadine hotel parking as anything else seems too fraught, we have to make another circumnavigation to get there. We're delighted with the room which is spacious and very well equipped.

Dinner at one of the local cafes (Chez Fernand)  is excellent albeit very expensive. No surprise there.

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IMG 0613A very cold day today. Not much sleep due to the clock tower banging on every quarter hour and then the market set up in the street outside. Luckily the ear plugs finally worked and I slept in a bit.

The market in Fougeres is extensive and mostly groceries and clothing. Clearly very popular with the locals.

We need to get to Paris on Sunday and so a halfway mark of the imaginatively named Hotel de Normandie in Conches en Ouche is the destination of the day. We get to see a dying medieval town Domfront, a wedding in Sees catherderal and a stange oompah band playing Beatles music in L'Aigle. The temperature never seems to get over 13C but the rain holds off which is great.

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IMG 0585A longish run via the backroads from Pontivy to Rennes and finally to Fougeres. We are agreed that Rennes is worth avoiding as being a run down large city with no obvious redeaming features.

Fougere on the other hand has a fabulous medieval castle which is well worth an explore and we could have used longer here.

Our room at the Belzac Hotel is small and we rather think that a night will be sufficent. There's a market in the morning (right outside the window) so an early start may happen.....

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IMG 1759Part of the plan has been to spend some time in Paris and this takes up quite a bit of internet time this morning. There is a huge range of choice and the prices are high and parking is non existant. Anyway we've made a choice based on Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor so we shall see how that works out on Sunday.

The laundrette in Pontivy is excellent (actually there are two) and we are able to have a good look around the town, get our clothes  clean, have a chat with a couple from Nottingham over lunch, have a look at the chateau (not much to see here). Add to this making bookings for next week and generally wandering about and the day is just gone.

 

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IMG 1728We wake to rain, heavy and wetting so we linger at the Lodge Kerisper for as long as we can. This is a delightful room although small and we are very reluctant to leave but leave we do.

La Trinité-sur-Mer is also packed, a public holiday by the beach and the start of a yacht race today has the place at capacity. Luckily we are on the way out of town
We backtrack to the Maison de Megaliths for some background on the stones and another look at them then on to a couple of Dolmens, the stone pictured is apparently 40 tons and was put there 6000 years ago. It beggars belief really.

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Read more: Wednesday 8th May 2013

IMG 1714A cross country run after a substantial delay trying to find accommodation for tonight. Everything nice seems booked but finally I was able to get a single night at the Lodge Kerisper (a Lonely Planet recommendation) at La Trinité-sur-Mer near Carnac.

The warmest ride of the trip so far today, and we take the direct, shortest route to Carnac. The standing stones when we get there are a wonder and again the why and how are beyond understanding. Did someone just say "I've had an idea...." and everyone said "Yes, what? Things have been quiet lately".

Just love the Lodge Kerisper, Dave, the Dutch owner, is more than helpful and makes us most welcome. Add a comment

Read more: Tuesday 7th May 2013

IMG 1694Breakfast is just as good with helpful and charming staff serving a slap up buffet breakfast.

The remainder of the Lonely Planet "Pays Des Abers" driving tour is just as hood with more menhirs, a dolmen and stunning coastal views.

Lovely trip with much warmer weather and we see the largest menhir in France, down two meters from it's original height due to a lightning strike. You have to wonder why? and how? Amazing that it's 5000 years old.

It's a very nice ride down to Crozen (avoiding Brest) where I have booked at the Hostelerie De La Mer, a Logis de France. It's a very pretty area.

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Read more: Monday 6th May 2013

 

 

 

IMG 1654Today we take the Lonely Planet "Pays Des Abers" driving tour having booked their recommended hotel Baie Des Anges. This hotel has "flash" specials and we have taken on which reduces the cost from the most expensive we have stayed in to the cheapest. Will it be any good though?

The drive though is great as the weather has fined and warmed up some. Glorious scenery and odd things like the menhirs.

As it turned out the hotel Baie Des Anges at L'Aber Warch is excellent with a great sized room, sea views, free aperitif, and included breakfast and friendly service. There is even an iPhone music player in the room. What more could you ask for? Drinks on the terrace watching the sunset? Oh yes, certainly sir.

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Read more: Sunday 5th May 2013

IMG 1620Mostly motorcycling today with lunch on the magnificent (deserted) beach at St Cast followed by the overly long run to Ploumanac'h just north of Perros-Guirec. Luckily we'd pre-booked here as it's very busy.

We finally arrive at Hotel Saint Guirec et de la Plage which is very well located and we are off for a wander. Our room is pretty small and the balcony has two chairs and a tiny table but they are so close together it would be impossible to sit on them. The bed is comfortable enough though. Add a comment

Read more: Saturday 4th May 2013

IMG 1586Not a lot warmer today but the sun is out which brightens things up considerably.

We are very taken with the friendly and helpful staff at the Hotel Arvor, so much so that we will stay a second night although we have to move rooms. The hotel staff are so good as to do our laundry in their machine for a nominal cost. Could not be better.

The day is spent looking around the old town of Dinan, including a brief visit to the top of the clock tower. Mary felt the hand rail was rather too insecure for her taste and beat a hasty retreat.

The walk around the ramparts and the tour of the town are both fun too. Overall a very pleasant day.

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Read more: Friday 3rd May 2013

IMG 1550A cold and drizzly run to Mont St Michel. The temperature did not get over 9C and the low cloud did nothing to improve matters.

As for the Mont there has been a lot of work done. The road to the Mont is now closed to traffic and there is a new car park outside of the village with a very long walk (past mostly empty hotels and restaurants) to a free bus that takes you over the causeway.

The causeway is also in the process of replacement by a bridge, it's a major work and a terrible mess at the moment. We are told that once complete (2014) the Mont will never again be seen as in island separated from the mainland. Hardly seems like a step forward?

The worst part is the the Mont is heaving with people, the tiny narrow streets are full to capacity even on a cold overcast early May day and school parties abound. We take the tour of the Abbey, mostly because we are here but overall we feel this this is like Carcassonne - to be avoided. Simply admire it across the Bay and drive on. Add a comment

Read more: Thursday 2nd May 2013

IMG 0538The Hotel Le Bayeux is very average. Our room is adjacent to the reception and has coffee making facilities and snacks outside and is, as a result very noisy. The room, while large, is decidedly average and the apparently relatively low price is enhanced by charging for a mediocre breakfast and for the parking. The bed is comfortable however but I suspect there are better choices in the price range.

May Day here in France and a public holiday. Bayeux is not closed though although still very windy and cold.

We start with the market which is not particularly large and seems to be a miscellaneous affair, not very interesting.

On the other hand however the Bayeux Tapestry is fascinating and really worth a look. There is an excellent recorded commentary and a comprehensive museum upstairs.

In the afternoon we visit the Museum of the battle of Normandy dedicated to a chronology of the D Day landings. There is a first rate film presentation, in english as well as more material than you can reasonably take in.

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Read more: Wednesday 1st May 2013

IMG 0530Rather a shame to be leaving the charming L'Ecole Buissonniere.

We follow the coast road taking in Deauville and Trouville (very like Brighton and Hove we thought) stopping for an excellent gallet lunch at Houlgate and then a visit to the Grand Bunker at Ouistreham. This bunker is very strange as although it was very well fortified the occupants had only a very small aperture to shoot out of. Three British solders were able to take it.

 

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Read more: Tuesday 30th April 2013

IMG 0512Another cold day and looking like rain. Today is a no bike day with stroll around Honfleur planned, first stop Masons Satie. On arrival I discover that this is the second time for me - no memory of it al all. This is the most surreal collection of rooms with flying pears, magic roundabouts, automatic pianos and all sorts. Not to be missed but (apparently) not hugely memorable.

We walk out to the estuary of the river and through the gardens, stopping for a rather unsatisfactory lunch. Fortunately the day warms up and becomes pleasantly sunny albeit still cool.

Pleasingly there's a laundromat just near the Information centre and allows us to get up to date with the housekeeping necessaries. Lovely.

 

 

 

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IMG 1512A late start, it is a Sunday in France after all, and another chilly but sunny day. We drive via the back roads to the pretty little village of Le Bec Hellouin where they are setting up a market. Most interesting and we had a good chat with the English expats there.

A crepe in the market for lunch and coffee at the local cafe and we felt revived to make the last few km to Honfleur. On arrival the place is packed and Doreen packs a sad and dumps us outside the wooden cathedral, so we leave the bikes by the quay, have an ice cream and walk around until we find the hotel L'ecole Buissonniere the location of which is far, far from obvious. Luckily we have the address and find a map of the town.

The Trip Advisor/Lonely Planet recommendation of L'Ecole Buissonniere is a quirky place and we get a garret room (no 2) up two flights of steep, narrow steps. It's spacious, but unusual with a bath in the main room. Odd but we love it.

 

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Read more: Sunday 28th April 2013

IMG 1479The hotel Jean de Bruges is under new management but is still in good heart although the breakfast is somewhat less than it used to be. We were very comfortable in room 8 this time.

The day is sunny but pretty cold (in fact it does not get over 10C all day).

Rather than Les Andelys (my original intention) I follow the Tripadvisor recommendation and book Le Moulin de Connelles in the village of the same name, also on the Seine. The pictures and recommendations look very good.

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Read more: Saturday 27th April 2013

The early start was a debacle. Despite only having an MOT test two days earlier the Spyder had a dud rear light. Simple you might think. Not so.

Getting into the light took the best part of two hours and required dis-assembly of the passenger back rest and consierable contortion to get at. It's a good job we were not at the side of the road and had access to a proper tool kit. Clearly this bit has not been thought through.

This put us pretty late for the ferry and although we made good time on the British motorways everything stopped entering Dover,. At this point we thought we had missed it but fortune smiled on us - the ferry was 20 minutes late departing just after 3pm. Add a comment

Read more: Friday 26th April 2013