Thursday 31 May 2012

France - Day 9

Day 9, and the last night I'll be spending in France.
I'd decided on an easier day as I don't really have very far to go now. After a good breakfast I headed off for the museum in Reims that I'd mentioned yesterday. I found it easily enough and when I arrived it was open. It was very quiet when I was there, only another couple, so I had a good look round and could easily take photos.
First part was a room of models cars, hundreds of them in glass cases (this seems to be a common theme in French museums). I was particularly taken by these pressed steel ones.

The main hall has most of the cars, plus the motorbikes. There's about 160 cars, almost all of which are French, many from manufacturers I'd never heard of. Lots of beauties like these.

Just after WW2, French manufacturers seemed obsessed with aerodynamics, as shown by some of the prototypes displayed.

There were also some fire engines, and really cool advertising vans like this slightly creepy one that advertised sweets.

There were also good collection of sports cars including a Matra Bagheera. Back in the early 80s a friend was offered one of these quite cheaply. He backed off when he found out the price of spares!
Then onto the motorbikes. Once again, mostly French and many bikes I had seen at the Coupes Moto Legénde. I particularly like this Pullman.

There seems to have always been a time when you could drive a very small, slow car without any licence. (Plenty of new 'microcars' on the road). Nowadays they are mostly 400cc diesels, but back in the 50s, 50cc moped engines were popular.
One of the funniest things there was a display of cars built by one designer that had 4 wheels in a 'diamond' layout. In theory, these should have been viable cars as they had 1600cc VW engines, but I can't imagine many were sold despite looking as cool as this.
After the museum, I went into the city centre and had a look at there very impressive cathedral.

I had intended visiting the Museum of Fine Arts, but it was just about to shut for lunch. I wandered around the city centre having a look at they many fine buildings before heading to my next destination, Saint Quentin, which I had been told was worth a visit.
Another attractive town with an impressive cathedral and superb architecture.

The cathedral was undergoing extensive repairs and I saw a pair of stone masons at work. Can't be many people about now who can do that kind of work. On the way here I had noticed an increasing number of large war memorials and military cemeteries. This is the area where a lot of WW1 was fought, and Saint Quentin Cathedral had a lot of what looked like bullet holes in the stonework.
On now to my final destination, Amiens, where I found a room at the Formule 1. Amiens also has an impressive cathedral, painted by Monet and other artists of the period, but I might not boher visiting as I think I've seen enough cathedrals and don't really want to struggle through city centre traffic to see another one. Formule 1 hotels are cheap but fairly basic. The rooms aren't en-suite and there are toilets and showers at the end of the corridor. If I have one complaint, it's that the showers aren't as much fun as the sign suggests. Every time I've taken one I've been on my own!
My sailing tomorrow is at 19:00 and it's only a 3 hour or so ride, so I might ride up to the coast and follow it to Zeebrugge – see how I feel in the morning. Total mileage today was probably about 150 – 200 miles, 200 – 300 km, and 'Song of the Day' is by Bill Bailey.

*** UPDATE: Photos here. ***

Wednesday 30 May 2012

France - Day 8

Short posting as I had a long day and I'm a bit tired.

I'd set out early from Grenoble without any real plan other than to head towards Zeebrugge knowing I had two and a half days. I typed Zeebrugge into my Satellite Navigator and selected the 'no autoroutes' option. It gave the distance as about 950 km/ 590 miles, so I decided to try and cover a lot of distance today.
I rode on lots of back roads passing through towns and villages, sometimes deviating from the advised route to look for shops or petrol stations.
I haven't drawn a map but I passed through: Bourg-en-Bresse, Besançon, and Vesoul before deciding it was time to start thinking about finding somewhere to stay. I'd picked up a brochure in the Formule 1 I'd staying in in Grenoble, and that showed they had a hotel in Chaumont, so I headed there. By the time I got there I was a bit tired, so it was a bit of a disappointment to find that they were full. A quick look at the brochure showed that they had two hotels in Troyes, 90 km further on. Luckily, the first one I tried had a vacancy, and that's where I'm writing this from.
Today's distance was about 400 miles/600 km, so I've done a substantial part of my journey. The day passed very well with plenty to see, and I sort of 'got into the groove' and just kept going. No photos today, but I plan on visiting this museum tomorrow, if it's still there. I had downloaded details from their website before I left, but when I checked tonight, the website has gone! If it's not there, there's plenty of other interesting things to see in Reims.
I didn't think you'd want Kraftwerk to do the 'Song of the Day' two days running, so here's someone else doing one of theres.

France - Day 7

I hope none of you thought that including the song by Gilbert O'Sullivan in the last post was too maudlin. I'd meant it as a joke about being on my own!

Got up good an early this morning as most of the guests staying at the hotel work in the building trade (judging by their vans), so breakfast was served from 06:30 to 07:30. I'd spoken to a couple of British BMW riders who'd been staying at the hotel the previous night on their way home from the Monaco Grand Prix, and they had said that not only had they ridden through heavy rain, but when they tried to go over the Alpe d'Huez, it was closed. They had continued up anyway and had to clear rock slides and ride through snow before they made it over! As I had intended riding some high passes today, this surprised me that passes could be blocked so late in the year.
First stop of the day was at the local 'E. LeClerc' supermarket for petrol and a few other things. One of the things I do when I go away one the bike is take a collection of old t-shirts, socks and underpants, and discard them after wearing. I was starting to run out, so bought the cheapest ones they had in the supermarket.

12 pairs of 'tennis socks' were only 7.90 Euros, 6 pairs of underpants were 4.90, and 3 t-shirts were 8.50, (a bit more than expected - I've bought T-shirts for 1 Euro on previous trips), so wearing them and throwing them away won't break the bank. I don't need 12 pairs of socks, so if I can't fit them into my luggage, the excess will be left behind. While I was there I also bought some toothpaste for 40 cents. I can't understand people who carry everything from home – they have shops in other countries!
I also bought a Michelin map of the local area. Michelin maps are not only very good quality, but they also mark particularly scenic roads in green, so if you've got the choice of a 'plain' road and a 'green' road, then you know which one to take.
My plan was to start by riding over the Col du Galibier, followed by the Col du Télégraphe, both popular climbs in the Tour de France. However, as I grew closer there were signs advising that Galibier was closed. A quick look at the map gave me the alternative of the Col de la Croix de Fer, another TdF favourite, so I headed there instead.
The climb up Croix de Fer is superb, with big open views up to the still snow covered mountains. It was getting colder the higher I got and there was snow piled at the sides of the road. Just before the summit I stopped for rest amongst some of the best scenery I had ever seen, and noticed nearby a family of marmots doing whatever it is marmots do.

I stopped again at the summit where there is a small café. Although it advertised 'souvenirs' and I was looking for a sticker for my garage wall, all they had was a few postcards.
Once past the summit and the scenery completely changes – much more mountainous with tight bends, deep valleys, trees and a couple of tunnels. I had to ride over quite a lot of gravel due to roadworks ahead of this year's Tour.

Once down from the pass my next destination was the Col du Madeleine, another TdF climb, but it was closed as well. I got the map out and looked for interesting (ie winding), or 'green' roads. As I was riding along I would take a road just because the word 'Col' (pass) appeared in the name. As a result I discovered lots of really good roads – this is what I had come for!

Eventually I made my way back to Grenoble, stopping in a nearby town to buy something to eat.
From a riding point of view, this has been the best day of the trip so far, with lots of interesting and mostly deserted roads through spectacular scenery. Tomorrow I'll start the journey home. I've got about two and a half days to get to Zeebrugge.
'Song of the Day' is what was going through my head when riding up the high passes:

*** UPDATE: Photos now uploaded to here. ***

France - Day 6

And then there was one.....

We were up early this morning, packed all of our luggage, settled out bill at the hotel, and we
were on the road by about 08:00.
mr combo and Gareth were heading north on their journey home, whilst I was heading south. I had intended at stopping at a supermarket to fill up with petrol and buy some breakfast, but all the shops and supermarkets were shut. I found out later that this is the Pentecost holiday, but at the time I worried that I would end up hungry with an empty tank!
I tried the filling station an an E. Leclerc supermarket, and found that it was open but only accepting bank cards. Some years ago, I had tried one of these without luck, but this time it accepted my 'ordinary' Royal Bank of Scotland debit card. Tank filled, but finding food was a bit more difficult, and I didn't find anything until about 15:00!
My first stop was the Château de Savigny-les-Beaune, which had promised a number of museums on its website. I'd set my Satellite Navigator to 'avoid motorways', so I had a very pleasant ride through lots of very pretty wine producing villages.

I arrived at the Château to find it shut, despite then advertising that they were open every day and it being half an hour after their opening time. There was a note on the door saying 'back in a few minutes' so I went for a wander about the very nice, but almost completely deserted village. Back at the Château , paid my 10 Euros, and went in.
The website had promised restored Château rooms, a motorcycle museum, an Abarth car collection, an aircraft museum, fire engines, the very high tractors that can be driven between lines of vines, plus model bikes and planes. You get all of this, but in a wonderfully ramshackle way!
At the entrance building there are a few rooms with old wine making equipment, etc.
You are then led by signs to an out building that contains the Abarth collection. Lots of exotic sports and racing cars, with memorabilia, housed in what looks like the attic of a barn!

In one side room there are rows of motorcycles waiting to be restored, and there are bicycles and mopeds hung on walls and stuck in corners.

Outside again and you are led along a path between fields of grape vines where you can see dozens of jet aircraft in the distance.

There are also bits of aircraft awaiting being restored just lying about.
Eventually you come to a large shed full of 'high' tractors, with assorted aircraft parts and horse drawn carriages.

Outside there was this wonderful aircraft part. I couldn't work out what it was, perhaps it hung below an airship at one time? Imagine making a holiday cottage out of one of these!

On the way round to the aircraft, I saw red squirrels, and this one antlered guy was keeping an eye on me!

Eventually I made it round to the aircraft, and they are just sitting in lines, so restored, some undergoing restoration, and some just collections of parts lying in piles. I don't know much about military jets, but most were French, with some British, Soviet and American. Thing that struck me was that they were a lot smaller and more flimsy than I thought they'd be.

I was particularly pleased to see a Sabre, all I knew about them was that they are mentioned in the lyrics of Chuck Berry's 'Run Rudolph Run'

'Said Santa to a girl child "What would you like most to get?"
"I want a little baby doll that can cry, scream and wet"
And away went Rudolph a-whizzing like a Sabre jet '

Next is a tent full of fire engines,

Then past another couple of planes, until you get to the Château itself.

The ground floor is restored back to what it would have been like in the past.

On an upper floor is the bike museum – rows of all sorts of old bikes in varying degrees of restoration. At one end there's a round 'tower room' of Vincents and at the other a room of Nortons.
On the walls, what would have been bookcases are full of assorted engines and other bits and pieces.

The Château is in need of some repair (imagine how much the maintenance of a building like this would cost!), but this just adds to the ramshackle air of the place. There's also a couple of rooms of model aircraft and assorted aircraft themed objects.
Well worth a visit if you're in the area.
Back on the road and I headed to Grenoble avoiding motorways. This means you travel through lots of small villages and country side and see the 'real' France you don't see from the autoroute. Still didn't see any shops open, until fairly late in the day when I spotted a boulangerie. A quick u turn and I had enough for lunch and dinner!
I arrived in Grenoble and after a bit of running about, found an Formule 1 hotel. I've stayed in these many times before, and although fairly basic, they are clean and cheap. This one had the added advantage of a view like this from the window. Unfortunately, the wi-fi was hopeless, so this is why you've had to wait a couple of days for this.

Today's mileage was 181 miles/290km, and this is the approximate route.
Today's pictures will be uploaded to Flickr when I get home as the wi-fi connection, although better than at the last place, can't manage such big files.
One thing I hadn't really planned for was travelling on my own. Terry was supposed to be coming with me for the rest of the trip, but his bike problems put paid to that. I had planned on coming back to France (and Spain) later in the year by myself, so this has just brought my 'solo holiday' forward a bit. I've been living on my own for a year now and often work away from home by myself, so being on my own isn't a problem for me, it's just that this is the first time abroad alone. To be honest, it isn't that different than being at home, and nobody has to put up with me!
Anyway, Gilbert's going to sing 'song of the day' now:

*** UPDATE - Flickr wouldn't let me upload the photos, so they are posted here. ***

Sunday 27 May 2012

France - Day 5

Had a slightly uncomfortable night due to getting sunburn at the Coupes. As it was so hot I'd unzipped my zip-off trousers, so had suffered sunburn on the back of my legs, despite wearing a hat I got burned on the back of the neck, and my nose was so red that it glowed in the dark! Remember, I'm from Scotland, so my skin goes from 'bottle of milk' to 'sun dried tomato' in one short step.
Bearing this in mind, my trousers stayed intact and I wore a neck tube, so things were a bit more comfortable.
Back at the Coupes, it was 'more of the same' – wandering about looking at things and taking photos. If anything, there were more bikes on show, especially on the club stands, so there was plenty to see and photograph.

By 12:00 we were kind of 'maxed out' by the show, so we wandered out for a look at some of the bikes in the parking area, and found a Voxan and a Citroën engined BFG, a previous Friday Bike.

After that we rode back to Dijon and went for another wander around the city centre before heading back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we'll be leaving Dijon, with mr combo and Gareth starting their journey home, and me continuing my holiday in France. Today's pictures are posted on Flickr and mr combo has posted on his blog.

Saturday 26 May 2012

France - Day 4

Today's the day! The start of the Coupes Moto Legende.
We were up early for the short ride to the Dijon-Prenois racetrack. Although the racetrack wasn't listed in any of our Satellite Navigators, the town of Prenois was so that's where we headed. As we approached, we had no doubts as to how to get to the racetrack – just follow the dozens of other bikes.
We were guided to spaces in the huge parking area, locked out jackets and boots in our panniers, and locked our helmets to our bikes, and in we went. Having bought our tickets in advance meant that we didn't have to queue to get in.
Once inside, it isn't apparent just how huge the event is. The riders have a huge pits area, the invited teams have garages at the trackside, there is a clubs section, a 'market', and numerous food and drink outlet. Going by previous years, there would have been about 20,000 people there but it never felt crowded.

As for the bikes – what can you say. Simply thousands of bikes 'classic' bikes from 25 to 100 years old, plus many former racers – Phil Read, Jim Redman, Giacomo Agostini, and Kork Ballngton to name a few.
I took over 200 photos plus some video, I've posted the photos on flickr, and I'll upload the videos later (if they are any good).
What really surprised me was the number of bikes I'd never heard of before. I would like to think I was knowledgeable when it came to bikes, but there were numerous, mostly French, manufacturers that I'd never heard of before.
And we've got it all to do again tomorrow........

Friday 25 May 2012

France - Day 3

We'd decided to have a day off the bikes and spent some time playing at tourists. Dijon is a very historic city with plenty of interesting buildings and very ornate architecture. Our hotel is right in the city centre, which is fairly compact, so there was a lot to see on our doorstep.
The road outside the hotel was having a tram line laid, and occasionally 'test trams' went past.
Beat that, Edinburgh!

Even at 09:00 it was fairly warm and we soon found a large street market where a patisserie stall supplied our breakfast. We spent the day wandering about looking at things and taking photos. We had a lunchtime break for a drink, followed by some superb (and fairly cheap) sandwiches from one of the numerous food shops.
As the day wore on, it got a lot hotter and I spotted this sign outside a pharmacy.

The afternoon was spent with more sightseeing and wandering about, until we had to go back to the hotel for a rest. Around 18:00 I went out for another wander and to buy postcards, and I was aware of lots of bikes starting to appear outside hotels. Many from other areas of France, and I saw some from the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands. No doubt they were in town for this weekend's event!
I've copied today's photos to flickr and mr combo has posted on his blog. Here's a couple of photos to give you a taster.

One bit of sad news however. We got a message from Terry about his breakdown. He EVENTUALLY was relayed home, arriving in the early hours of the morning. After a few hours sleep, he set to work tracing the electrical fault. It turned out to be an intermittently bad earth connection, but by the time he'd found and fixed it, it would mean that he would have to get the ferry on Friday, meaning he wouldn't arrive in Dijon until Saturday evening, thereby missing half of the Coupes Moto Legende. As this was the main reason for the trip, he decided on not travelling.
We can all imagine just how gutted he must feel at missing a trip he'd been looking forward to for so long.

Thursday 24 May 2012

France - Day 2

Had a reasonable sleep in my cabin on the very smooth crossing from Hull to Zeebrugge. The problem was the amount of light from the corridor coming under the door. Every time I rolled over the light woke me, I could have got up and put my jacket across the bottom of the door, but I couldn't be bothered getting up.
I eventually woke after hearing a tannoy anouncement about breakfast being served. Had a quick breakfast, tidied my luggage, and it was soon time to head down to the car deck. We were quickly unloaded, and it was out into a rather misty Belgium. After an hour or so we had crossed into France and as we made out way inland, the mist cleared and the temperature started to get a lot warmer. The road was fairly clear and we made good time, and it wasn't long before at one fuel stop I could take the liner out of my suit (first time I'd ever done that), change to light gloves, and put my sunglasses on.
We stopped every 100 miles/160km or so due to Gareth's bike's small fuel range, and we both filled up as well. Each time I used just over 8 litres, so someone who's more interested than me can work out my fuel consumption.
One of our stops

Despite being almost entirely on Autoroutes, the journey was very pleasant and most of the route is through countryside. As the day went on it got hotter and hotter, and the highest I saw was 29.7 C - I was 'willing' it to reach 30, but it didn't quite get there.

Look how little luggage Gareth brought! (middle)

We eventually got off the Autoroute on the outskirts of Dijon, where Gareth was 'robbed' by the automated toll machine. He put his card in, it told him how much to pay (12.10 euros), he started putting coins in but the screen blanked after he'd put in 8 euros. He pressed the 'help' button and the girl told him he would have to put in the whole 12.10!
Riding the last bit into Dijon was 'interesting' - very busy traffic, very hot, lots of roadworks due to the tram system, suicidal pedestrians, and my 'overheating' light was on almost all of the time! However we eventually found our hotel Kyriad Dijon Gare which is where I'm typing this from using their free Wi-Fi. Room is very nice, if a bit small, and the hotel has the luxury of an underground carpark. I usually costs 12 euros a day, but as we'll be able to get all 4 bikes into one car space, so it doesn't work out too bad. As the alternative is parking on the pavement outside, then 3 euros each a day is worth it from a security angle.
We've tried phoning Terry, but have got no reply. Hopefully this means that he's on his way and we'll see him tomorrow.

France - Day 1

At long last, our trip to France for the Coupes Moto Legende started today. Rather than travel together, we decided to meet at a supermarket in Hull. This would give us a chance to fill up with petrol, buy anything that we'd forgotten, and get something to eat that would cost a LOT less than buying a meal on the ferry. We had arranged to meet at 15:00, and although it was only a five hour ride, I left at 07:30 as I was up and ready and I hate 'hanging about' before going anywhere.
The ride down was uneventful, and I stopped for about an hour in Carlisle as I was making such good time. I headed cross country on the A66 towards Scotch Corner, which is neither a corner nor is it anywhere near Scotland!
On the A66 I stopped at the Warcop Army base to take a photo of one of my favourite roadsigns:
This is where tanks cross the road

I headed on to Hull and was the first of our group to arrive at the supermarket. mr combo arrived soon after, followed by Gareth and Terry. Terry had had a few problems on the way there with the main fuse blowing on his Skorpion. He suspected a short circuit somewhere, so had a good look round the bike for any possible problems and bought a number of spare fuses, 'just in case'.
Suitably fed and fueled, we made our way on the short journey to the docks, but Terry quickly dropped out. I headed back to see if I could help, but he suspected a regulator fault and had phoned the breakdown service. I had to leave him as time was running out and I would miss the ferry. I got to the docks just before they closed the booking in, and waited in the car park with a couple of other riders until we could board. Mr combo and Gareth had already boarded and I found them once I got on board.
 The ferry

 Waiting to board

We phoned Terry, and his plan was to be taken home by the breakdown service, replace the regualtor with one from his other Skorpion, then ride down the following day to get the ferry, and catch up with us in Dijon.
Today's mileage was about 300 miles/500km, mostly in clear weather that got warmer as the day went on. Highest temperature I saw on the cheap thermomer I've stuck to the handlebars was 24 C.