France

All posts tagged France

Well Eurothrash was upon us once again and this time it was decided that we – me, Yox and Purge again – would head once more to the Pyrenees. Yox as usual was charged with sorting out routes and he did us proud again:

Eurothrash 2017: the Route

So after work on the Friday, I headed down to Portsmouth to meet up with the two of them for a pint of two at a nearby pub before boarding the overnight ferry to Caen. The weather forecast was a bit dodgy but it didn’t really rain until it was time for boarding.

Once on board, the drinking theme continued, despite our knowing that the forecast was not particularly good:

“Let me explain…”

Les Miserables

After a couple of hours’ kip in our compact and bijou 4-berth cabin, we got up, had coffee and a croissant and ventured out into the light rain; I didn’t bother to put on my waterproof oversuit as I thought I’d leave it to the “waterproof” Triumph Taloc leathers, Alpinestars Gore-Tex boots and Rukka Gore-Tex gloves to sort things out, which they did. At one point during the day it got a little nippy, so at one fuel stop, I grabbed my Keis heated vest and plugged it in as well as turning on the heated grips and was toasty-warm!

After 500 miles or so, we got separated near to our first stop at Lurbe-Saint-Christau and I followed the Garmin to our hotel, the Au Bon Coin which, from the outside and being in the middle of nowhere, didn’t look like much. Inside, however, it was comfortable and our dinner – after a couple of beers – was really tasty.

Time for beer!

After breakfast on Day Two, we set off for Spain and the Hotel Cotori in El Pont de Suert where we’d stayed in 2013.  This really is a fabulous hotel and one I’d stay in again and again.

En route, we stopped off for some coffee as Yox had brought his coffee-making kit with him, so we did some off-roading (!) to ride down to a river – well, excluding Purge who refused to take the ZZR1400 down the gravel embankment – only to find that there was a disaster! Yox’s cafetière had smashed! So we ended up sieving the coffee through a tea towel to allow us to have the elixir of life before finishing our ride.

And here’s some video of Yox and I getting up the slope:

150-ish miles later and we arrived in the main square outside the Hotel Cotori where they were setting up for “La Nit del Foc” or the “Night of Fire” with wooden torches in all shapes and sizes everywhere. We weren’t sure whether it was actually a Wicker Man-style event for us, especially after the 19 beers that were consumed…

Day Three and we were heading to the Hotel Andria in Seo de Urgel, some 180 miles on our planned twisty routes. We stopped off at one point for some photos near Montferrer i Castellbò in Catalonia and saw some eagles – you won’t be able to make them out, I doubt, from my photos.

By the time we reached the hotel after a very warm day in the saddle – 32°C – we were pleased that they let us park the bikes up in their courtyard. A quick shower and a few beers on the verandah and we headed off into town for food, including Yox’s mini-penises…

Day Four was planned to be a biggie: 230-ish miles of bends and twisties from Spain into France and then up into Andorra before our overnight stop at the Hotel President.

And the roads indeed proved epic with lots of hairpins, ascents and descents all day long. And our first brush with the law: after a ‘spirited’ ride up some hairpins, we got pulled over by the police near Naut Aran in Catalonia:

After our stop, we decided to pull over so our Extreme Barista could do his stuff, this time using just the filter from the broken cafetière to filter the coffee.

Once we’d had coffee, we set off again and later found that we could experience a number of different weather conditions within a very short space of time once we were back into the Haute-Garonne of France:

After negotiating the perilous car park ramps at the Hotel President, it was time for beers and their buffet deal in the restaurant. Yox and Purge had adjoining rooms which featured their own shared ante-room with sofas and TV!

Day Five was planned as another 160-ish miles back into Spain, along the N260 and then back into France for our next stop at Thuir, the Domaine de La Fauvelle.

A slightly cooler 31°C but lots of effort on the roads led to us needing beers when we arrived before we’d even changed. They told us the restaurant was usually shut that day but as another older lady was staying, they’d got the chef coming in especially and would we like to dine there? On the basis that we were on the outskirts of Thuir and couldn’t be arsed to walk into town we said yes and were lucky to do so as the food was simply superb. Purge had already claimed he was all cheesed out but still managed some, giving up the chance to try what he mis-translated as “fish sorbet”…

The mileage had begun to take its toll on us, so for Day Six, our planned route of 200 miles back into the twisties before heading to the idiosyncratic Hôtel Renaissance at Castres was only followed by Yox and me, with Purge taking the more direct route to Castres.

The roads were great fun, but as even Yox was taking it easy which was not what I wanted to do, needing a bit more speed to take the weight off my wrists, so I rode past and made my own way on the planned route, with Yox catching me when I stopped for a well-earned break in Couiza.

By the time we got to Castres and had settled into our rooms, Purge had already arrived much earlier and was sitting drinking in one of the bars in the square, where we then met up before finding a restaurant to eat: burgers with goats cheese (and then more cheese). After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a couple of beers/digestifs and then bed: we had a long day ahead of us planned…

Did I mention the roads were great?

Day Seven and we were starting our return journey, heading for the Domaine de Roiffé, some 320 miles from Castres. Purge had already decided he would take the direct motorway route and blast there whilst Yox and I would take a nicer route, even though we’d ride at our own pace – I’d stopped for petrol the night before, etc.

The weather was a little changeable and on one country road in the rain, I got flashed by a hidden speed camera on a double-bend; we’ll see if the ticket reaches me. Purge reached the hotel 15 minutes or so before me and Yox a little while after as he’d stopped for photos on the way. A quick shower and then off for beers and a lovely meal in our own vaulted roofed booth.

Day Eight and we planned an earlier departure as we were all booked on mid-afternoon Eurotunnel crossings. As I was on a FlexiPlus fare I was more relaxed and we’d all planned our own strategies for the final 340-odd miles: I was planning a two-stop, Yox a one-stop and Purge a “pin it to win it” blast/stop/repeat run.

It was warm and dry, but the rain clouds were ever-present and you dodged the clouds as much as possible, with the odd heavy downpour and then bright, warm sunshine.

As it transpired, we all arrived at the terminal within minutes of each other. After enduring the long wait at UK Border Agency, we boarded separate trains and then I headed home.

2,327 Miles

Once home, it was a cuppa, a shower, a Chinese takeaway and then back out to collect my partner from her flight back from Fuerteventura (landing at 1.10am!) into Gatwick. No rest for the wicked!

A couple of weeks later and my numb index finger (throttle side) is only gradually easing. Maybe that could be avoided in future by my fitting bar risers? One to try…

So with another girls’ weekend in Newquay ahead of Alison and none of my riding mates able to come with me if I went anywhere, I decided I’d head to a part of France I’d never visited before, so I thought I’d head to Le Mont-Saint-Michel.

I looked at the “Ride” magazine guide to France and some of their suggested routes around there and the Atlantic coast and booked a couple of other overnight stops at the end of a couple of routes, sight unseen.

I booked a Eurotunnel crossing with their Flexiplus fare so that I could be as pressure-free as possible on my way back with the longest leg of the tour. After a 4.30am start, I turned up in plenty of time and was waved straight through and onto a train waiting to leave. They even gave me my own personal carriage 🙂

The Sprint GT and an empty carriage

The Sprint GT and an empty carriage

After around 560km I arrived at my hotel, having had to talk my way around one of the barriers stopping entry to the town without a code – which I had, thinking it was the code to the hotel’s own carpark (which they don’t have). Thanks to Accor’s loyalty plan, I’d been able to check in early so I spent the afternoon wandering around the actual Mont-Saint-Michel with its narrow streets and steps. Perfect for pushchairs, apparently…

I decided to walk back to the hotel as the queue for the bus was very long and after dinner came back out to take some more photos as night fell. Here are some photos:

My next stop was at Quimper. I’d found what was supposed to be a four star place to stay without really realising it was a campsite and that there weren’t really hotel-type rooms in the accepted sense in the Chateau itself. Worse than that was the 5.00pm check-in. I messaged them to see if I could check in earlier but hadn’t heard back before I set off so I enjoyed the lovely roads and stopped at Guingamp for coffee and lunch:

I checked my emails to find I could check in earlier after all, so off I went. I arrived around 4.00pm and checked-in at Reception, rode around to the chateau and couldn’t find any way to get in. After 45 minutes, i was lucky enough to find someone who could point me in the right direction, by which point I was a sodden, sweaty lump thanks to the hot day and a full set of leathers.

Still it was nice and ‘authentic’ and I did enjoy my time there:

Parked-up for the night

Parked-up for the night

L'Orangerie de Lanniron

L’Orangerie de Lanniron

L'Orangerie de Lanniron

L’Orangerie de Lanniron

Check-out time was 10.00am so after breakfast I set out for St Nazaire on some more lovely roads, going via Quiberon, which meant filtering along through the traffic queues onto the peninsula. A nice stop for moules and a wave to America and I was back on the road.

Hello America!

Hello America!

Moules Mariniere

Moules Mariniere

I arrived at the Hotel Majestic La Baule and wandered off to take some photos and get a coffee and Coke … and a Cuba Libre.

2048-RHMP-Eurothrash-1153

The next morning after a lovely breakfast I waved goodbye and set off for home: a small matter of 770km.

The sun's up and it's time to leave

The sun’s up and it’s time to leave

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

I made it to Calais in plenty of time and despite the “helpful” UK Border Agency making me remove my helmet – even though he could clearly see my face – which slowed things up, I got on to an earlier train back (see my earlier comment about Flexiplus).

Home and a shower and a coffee and I was almost human after 2002km. I do like the Triumph Sprint GT 1050 and I also like my new leathers: Triumph “Taloc” leather jacket and jeans which are heat-reflective with zipped ventilation to help you keep cool and they’re also weather-resistant/waterproof supposedly. I only had a couple of light showers so no chance to really test that out, but there are inner liners to let the rain run out if it makes it through the leather.

2002km

2002 kilometres

1244 miles

1244 miles