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Saturday, 10 June 2017

A trip round the neighbours - Days 12 and 13, France Belgium and Britain

After I'd written my last post, I was getting ready for bed when I heard a noise from outside. I opened the curtain to see rain pouring down! Really heavy rain, bouncing off the pavement below. This was the first rain I had seen since Ireland so I went to bed expecting to have the put the waterproofs on in the morning.
Luckily, when I got up the rain had stopped and the roads were starting to dry. I loaded the bike and noticed that one of the British registered bikes that had been there the night before was missing. Two guys turned up who turned out to be the owners of the other bikes, and it transpired that their friend had packed up and left without telling them or leaving a note. They assumed he'd had a family emergency and left in the night, but were a bit annoyed that he hadn't told anyone or even texted them.
We spoke for a short while and mentioned that I was heading to the old Reims-Gueux race circuit, just outside the city. They were also heading there, but were going for breakfast first. We said out goodbyes and I headed to the circuit.
Without my sat nav, I'd bought a more detailed map and planned my route, however I missed a turning, ended up on the péage, riding 20 km to the next exit, paying 1.60 Euros, finding a route back, getting lost, checking my map at about every junction, and eventually got the circuit; a journey of over an hour and a half which should have taken 15 mins!
The circuit itself was a road track that had been used for car and motorbike riding up until 1972. The building were left to decay until an organisation started restoring them and I believe there are plans for a museum to be built behind the control building.

History of circuit: here

Friends of the Circuit website (in French): here

Whilst at the track, the two guys from the hotel turned up (they were surprised to find me still there - it had only taken them 15 mins following their sat navs!)
I made a video of the circuit buildings:

After that I headed up to Zeebrugge for my ferry home. Once a again I got lost and after an hour ended up back at the circuit! As I left I got caught behind a convoy of eight Ferraris - don't often see that many together. Got lost again, then as I'd lost so much time, headed onto the péage north.
Not much to say about this part of the trip other than it was very boring, traffic was very heavy (3 lane road with right 2 lanes full of trucks), and navigating round the motorways around Lille was a nightmare - you've got to be in exactly the correct lane or you're lost, try doing it without sat nav!

Got past Lille and realised that I didn't have a map of Belgium. I knew that Dunkerque was the last major town in France before the Belgian border, so headed there with the plan of following the coast to Zeebrugge. I was getting really sick of the péage by now, so spotted a road to a town called Bray-Dunes which is right on the border, so too the exit to that. Péage charge was over 16 Euros for the road from Reims!
After Bray-Dunes it was an easy ride through Belgium towards Zeebrugge. I'd made up enough time that I would be over an hour early for the ferry, and as I knew there's basically nothing to see in Zeebrugge, I detoured to the nearby resort of Blankenburge. I went for a wander about and took some photos before the short ride to the ferry terminal.

Strange faceless babies climbing up a building!

Lots of interesting sculpture:

There were quite a few bikes already at the ferry terminal, later lots of big sportsbikes (mostly German and Swiss) arrived. Spoke to the riders and they were heading to the Isle of man for the TT.

Day 13

After a fairly pleasant crossing we arrived in Hull to the usual slow and inefficient UK Border Control. Took about an hour to do what took two minutes arriving in France, but at last I was out of the docks and on the road home. Not really much to add other than I arrived home in the early afternoon without wearing my waterproofs for the whole holiday!

Total distance covered must have been at least 2,600 miles (4200 km), fuel consumption was around 60 - 65 mpg(UK) (4.2 - 4.7 l/100km), bike used no oil and nothing broke, wore out or fell off (other than the sat nav mount breaking and the clock falling off - both aftermarket parts).

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