Category: Tour

Africa 2010: Mauritania

The route:  Nouadhibou -> Nouakchott -> Rosso -> Diama (Senegal)

Mauritania is a strange country. Apparently the main town (Nouakchott) was just a fishing village until the country was formed. Then it was made into the capital and swelled from 50000 people to over 1 million. And it shows!

Our first introduction to Mauritania was the border officials. Just after Adrian hurt his ankle in no-mans land. They were all quite friendly. One even made a joke about our surname saying since Isabel is North, Adrian should have been South. How refreshing to find an official with a sense of humour.

Shortly after leaving the border post we encountered sand on the road, part of a dune. Koen took Adrian’s bike through and helped Isabel through. At the next dune on the road confidence has been restored and we made it through OK and unaided. But that was not the last encounter with sand.

In Nouadhibou we found a campsite with a very nice manager. We stayed there a couple of days to allow Adrian’s ankle to rest a bit. On the second day we decided to go to a restaurant for dinner. We were told that the seafood in Nouadhibou is very good. Two restaurants were mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide so we went to the closest of the two. We were walking and Adrian still could not go very far. Outside it looked like a large shack. Inside it looked really nice. Lots of tables that can seat 6-8 people, comfy seats, cool. We were given the menu. The only one they have. Not a lot on there: starter (not sure what), langousstines, crevettes, calamari, chicken, meat and dessert. Adrian wanted chicken, but that was out. So was the meat. Isabel ended up with langoustines (very nice) and the boys with calamari (also not bad). Koen and Isabel had high hopes of chocolate mousse for dessert, but there was no dessert. And then the waiter needed to go out to find change when we paid. What an odd experience.

The road between Nouadhibou and Nouakchott is, to say the least, hot, windy and boring. We left Nouadhibou very early but still the wind was really bad. We were blown all over the place and you could see the sand moving across the tarmac. The riding was very hard. And there wasn’t even anything to look at. We stopped halfway at a service station (the only one on the road) to escape the worst of the days heat. When we left it was still 43 degrees Celcius, but we had to make a move. It was still a long way to Nouakchott. We reached that in the semi-darkness of dusk. That was frightening. They might have traffic lights, roundabouts and driving schools, but that does not make for good driving. We though Rabat was bad, but this was much worse. Traffic signals were ignored and people were driving on the pavements (such as there was) to escape the congestion. And to complete the nightmare sand on the roads! And we were trying to keep 3 bikes together. Not an easy task. We managed to get to the auberge we were aiming for (Auberge Menata), with the help of a friendly cyclist. And what a wonderful place. It’s like an oasis of calm in a sea of madness.

We were going to stay 3 nights, to get our Mali visas, but ended up staying 4 because of a problem with the ignition switch on Isabel’s bike. Koen had left after 2 days with a couple of French guys, so we were on our own again.

We had done some research about the border crossing between Mauritania and Senegal and by all accounts the crossing and Rosso was to be avoided at all cost. You could be 150 USD down per bike in bribes. Everyone said to use the Diama crossing, but the downside of that is the road between Rosso and Diama. We were in two minds about that, but when we reached the outskirts of Rosso, where the turn-off is, our minds were made up. If we get hassled that much this far from the border, it would be much worse at the border. So we took the dyke road to Diama. But that was far from easy. Sandy at the start (which we managed OK apart from a fall by Isabel in front of a school). Again no harm done. Then the road got a bit better, but it was very hot. Then it got much worse: wash-board. Going slow you felt like you were being shaken apart. The screen extension on Adrian’s bike came off, it was that bad. Going fast, you didn’t feel the effect of the corrugations, but stopping was a problem. And we had to slow down frequently for animals, e.g. warthogs and donkeys. It took us nearly 4 hours to do the 60 mile road, but it was worth it.

At the border, according to our research, we should not need to pay anything. We just need to get our carnets stamped by customs and our passports by the police. But we were told that both will ask for money, but if you just play dumb they give up and let you go. So that’s what we did. The customs guy tried all sorts of angles to get us to pay, but we just said we didn’t pay for these formalities when coming in to the country and it very confusing that he’s asking for money now. By the time he asked he had already done all the work without mentioning any money so it turned into a game to see who would back down first. We just played it cool as though we had all the time in the world and were eventually told to take our documentaion and go to the police. Same story here, but we ended up paying nothing. Both officials were very friendly though. It’s a shame that they need to do that. Either they are greedy (which I doubt) or they don’t get paid enough (far more likely). Then someone else wanted money for some community fund. He won’t open the barrier (which he only closed when he saw us) unless we paid him. So we went round the barrier. The policeman came out of he hut smiling and indicated that he would have opened the barrier for us. Oh well, we managed to get through witout paying, which is good.

What awaits us at the Senegal border?

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2011 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Africa 2010: Morocco

The route:  Sebta -> Tetouan -> Near Meknes -> Rabat -> Beni Mellal -> Bin El Ouidane -> Ouarzezate -> Talouin -> Agadir – > Biougra -> El Outia -> Boujdour -> Dakhla -> Mauritanian Border

Morocco is a country of diversity. The landscape ranges from lush mediteranean to bare sand dunes. And the people who call themselves Moroccans have an interesting mix of ethnic faces. Although it’s an Islamic country, but it does not have the strictness towards woman that many other Islamic countries have. It is wonderful to see in a few minutes woman dressed in jeans and shirts as well as woman dressed in the traditional garments. And although not many woman are driving and even fewer are riding motorcycles (or the more common mopeds), this is also changing.

There is still a strong emphasis on family in Morocco, but with all the changes in the country and children moving further away to find work, they are in danger of losing this, which would be a real shame. We spent some time with a traditional Moroccan family where 4 out of the 7 sons are still living at home. Three of these are married and 2 of them have children of their own. It’s a wonderful mix of generations.

Coming into Morocco was a bit of a shock. We got lumbered with a guide to take us to Tetouan and show us around. Our only excuse is that it’s our first trip to Morocco, but it won’t be the last. At least we managed to get out of buying a carpet (genuine and very cheap of course :)). He did a good job though and we saw parts of the Medina which we would not otherwise have seen, including the bit where they prepare sheep skins into leather. Yuck, it stinks!

If you ever need to stay over in Rabat, make sure that it’s not when an international music festival is on. When we got there (to get our Mauritanian visas), the hotels were full (if you could find them). Those that weren’t full were either in the Medina (where you can’t take the bikes) or were being renovated before the main tourist season. And to make things worse, the campsite we were aiming for does not exist anymore. It is now part of the redevelopment of the marina. Pity, it was such a nice location, and the only campsite in Rabat. But as luck would have it, we ended up staying with the couple wo used to run the campsite. They now own a riad in Sale (across the river from Rabat), which is like a posh B&B (www.therepose.com). A lot more expensive than the campsite though 🙁 But they were very friendly and helpful.

After that we knew we had to scale things down a bit. We found the most wonderful campsite looking down on a river. They even had a tented restaurant on site that was frequented by locals. We were the only people camping there, though. There was this partially fallen down structure that we decided to make into our camp for a couple of days. We had our privacy with wonderful views over the valley. We did a day trip to the Ouzoud falls (a bit of a tourist trap but still worth visiting). Between the camp and the falls was a massive man-made lake Ben el Ouid(??). Absolutely beautiful.

In Ouarzezate we stayed with a couple who does motorcycle tours in Morocco (www.bikershome.com). They suggested we take the gravel road to Tazenacht. It’s about 65km long and is new, apart from the last 10-15km, which is still the old road. Up to the old road, it’s was brilliant riding. We passed quite a few oases and even got wet riding through a ford :). But where the road works started between the new and old parts, things got a bit bad. Isabel fell off in sand (which Adrian managed to negotiate safely). No harm done. A couple of workmen picked the bike up for her and on we went. Things got very difficult, partly due to sand (at an oasis) and partly due to a diversion which sort of just petered out into nothing. But we managed it, and looking back on it it was mainly fun 🙂

We stayed at a campsite outside Agadir to sort out our stuff and send some back as we just had way too much stuff with us. This turned into another epic. The local vilage post office (about 2km from the camp site) could not send anything abroad so we had to go into Agadir to the big post office. Here they did not have a box big enough, so we were sent to yet another post office. Luckily here they had a very friendly guard who could speak a bit of English and helped us get a ticket to get in line. But when Adrian took the tripod out of the bag everyone took a step back and the guard had to examine it very carefully. They thought it was some kind of weapon, until Adrian explained that it was for putting a camera on to take pictures. But after this the guard examined everything we wanted to send back. We think he was just enjoying the change 🙂 When everything was packed he started taping the box up. He must have used 2 rolls of tape! But we did manage to send back about 10kg of stuff. Let’s just hope it all gets safely back home.

Then it was time to meet up with a Moroccan guy called Omar that we made contact with on CouchSurfing. It was only about 60km from the campsite near Agadir. He was waiting for us and of course we stick out like a sore thumb on our big bikes, so he couldn’t miss us as we rode into town. We spent 2 brilliant days with him and his family. Adrian was taught how to make mint tea the proper way and Isabel learnt how to make the bread they make every day. No exact measurements to be seen anywhere. We took lots of photos of everyone and even got the little printer out, which was a great hit. It was very difficult to say good bye to them, especially Omar, his wife and his cousin. We will definitely go back to visit them.

From here on it was south all the way to the border with Mauritania. A very long and hot road. The only respite being from the sea breeze which can be so strong that you struggle to keep the bike upright. Isabel did manage to lose it about 10 miles outside Tan-Tan (on the way to El Outia), but not because of the wind. What looked like shiny new tarmac was actually a whole lane full of diesel! Luckily we were going slow round the bends, experience having taught us that a truck could be coming down in our lane. Her bike is a little bent, but still OK to ride. Will get it checked out when possible.

In El Outia we met Koen, a Dutch guy on a 3 month motorcycle trip in West Africa. He was looking for petrol. We had a chat and he went off to the petrol station. When we reached Boujdour later that day the wind was so strong it nearly blew Adrian’s bike over so we decided to take a room at the campsite rather than pitch the tent. Waking up the next day Isabel had a nasty headache so we booked in for another day. And what a good thing that was. The day was very foggy and actually quite pleasant. Early in the afternoon another bike turned up with Tom and Nina. They had been travelling by motorcycle from the Middle East, via South Africa, for the last 14 months. They’re on their way back to Europe. How nice it was to talk to them. And later on Koen turned up there as well. So we hooked up with Koen for the ride to and through the border. His French is so much better than ours that it made quite a diffirence when finding places to stay and finding out the rates etc. And to top it all he’s a really nice guy and easy to get along with.

We’ve heard horror stories about the border crossing between Morocco and Mauritania: it’s a horrible road and you need a guide. Tom said it’s not that bad, just wait for a car you can trust (foreigner) and follow them. At the border Koen started talking to one of the guards who eventually said that it’s not as bad as people say, you don’t need a guide, just follow the track. It’s pretty clear and if in doubt, take the left route. He was spot on. The first bit had some sand and Adrian came off. Isabel struggled, but Koen helped to keep the bike upright so she managed to get through. Then it’s mainly very rocky but standing up helps a lot. About 500m from the Mauritanian border there is some sand again and Adrian came off, this time hurting his ankle quite a bit. Luckily it seems to be just a sprain or bad bruise.

Then we had to deal with Mauritanian officials, roads and traffic. But that’s for another edition.

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2011 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Our Apologies

As some of you may be aware our whole website has been down for some time. This was due to an oversight on one of our parts (Adrian – who is standing in the corner with a hat with a big “D” on) – This has now been rectified but it does mean that we have lost some of our Africa 2010 blog entries. We are working hard to recreate these.  So far we have managed to resurrect the Morocco and Mauritania ones which we will be putting up for your entertainment shortly.

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2011, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 3359

3rd May 2009

Awoke to the sound of rain on the tent. Since we had nowhere we needed to reach (especially not home) we went back to sleep. When we awoke again it was still raining :(. We waited for a bit until the rain stopped even though it remained very cold. Had a breakfast of bread and salami then washed and started to pack. When that was done we rode off in front of an audience which is never an easy experience.

Once again we had a slight navigational (and GPS) blooper but corrected ourself and headed towards Calais. Went through a few small towns then over a small river and on towards Le Touquet where the beach race is held. Then on through a seafront town full of seafood restaurants and shops selling fish straight off the boats. we stopped off in Boulogne sur Mer for petrol and lunch (at at steakhouse place of very high quality). I had bef on a spear like thing and Isabel had the same with veal. Behind us was a mother with two small children who ate adult food in adult portions. The unhealthiest eater was the mother! It was good to see.

After lunch it was back on the bikes for the short ride to Calais and the Eurotunnel terminal as we had thought that it would be quick (we were correct) and not too expensive (we were wrong – 103 Euro per bike -ouch!). Boarded the train fairly quickly and we were on our way. There were two other bikes in our carriage – a Vespa scooter and a Kawasaki ZZR. Soon enough (35 minutes) we were back in the UK and proceeded slowly back the way we had come at the beginning of the adventure. All too soon we were home and unpacking the bikes. A somewhat sad moment for us both to be honest. But, to paraphrase Winston Churchill badly:

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning of the adventure!”

We have now proved to ourselves that we can do this. We will be back and soon!

Lessons Learnt:

  • We can undertake a long tour successfully
  • We can enjoy it
  • We could have continued

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2010 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 3176

2nd May2009

Awoke to a cold grey day, fortunately without rain. Had a heart breakfast at the hotel (unfortunately an extra 9.50 Euro each but well worth it) before packing the panniers and paying. Before we rode away we visited the local Butcher/Charcuterie for some meat for lunch and tonight. we got some “flat sausages” and Beef vinagrette. We also visited an “Epicurie” for vegetables and some tins. After that we rode to the next town and turned towards Guise along some nice roads. There we turned towards St. Quentin which, disappointingly did not have a prison but did have a petrol station where we filled up. We then headed towards the start of the longest straight road (on the map anyway) that I have seen heading towards Amiens. The road has very few bends and must, to my mind, at least be Roman in origin.

Lunch, Amiens, France

Lunch, Amiens, France

We passed through a number of small, pretty towns including the impressively named Villers Brettenaux. Just before Amiens we stopped in a parking area alongside a busy small airfield for lunch. One more memory to savour. We ate bread and the Beef vinagrette which was very nice indeed – tasting like a very good corned beef – all that was missing was some very nice tangy dill pickles.

After that it was back on the bikes. We skirted Amiens heading north to St Pol sur Ternoise again passing through some pretty towns. Our plan was to ride there then stop for a coffee but on arrival we fained to find a parking place or cafe :(. We did stop about a mile out of town where I realised we were not far from Agincourt (OK when I say “realised” I mean I typed “Agincourt” into the GPS and saw that it was only about 8 miles away 🙂 ). Soon we were on our way. Agincourt (Or Azincourt as it is correctly spelled) is well off the main road and the battlefield is now, as it was in 1415, a farmers field that you cross (by road) as you enter the village. You can see why the French struggled though. There is a small museum in the village dedicated to the battle. It is 7.50 Euros to get in which is, to my mind, too much to pay. They have some nice exhibits (especially the one showing the lack of visibility in a knights helmet) and some animated displays but not 7.50 Euros worth especially with no cafe. It was, however, a nice diversion.

After that we decided to head towards a campsite on the coast about 30 miles away. The sun sort of shone on the journey although it remained cold. We arrived at the campsite which is huge and put the tent up. This and the slightly impersonal nature of the camp means we award it

Three sarges

After that we changed out of our motorcycle clothes (after much cogitation as to which were the mens and which the ladies toilets – it turns out that they were unisex) and went to the campsite restaurant to warm up and have a meal as we were too cold/tired to cook. Then back to the tent to sleep. No need to plan – we know where we are going tomorrow – Home! 🙁

Lessons Learnt:

  • Longer breaks from touring are needed regularly otherwise it is easy to become physically and emotionally exhausted

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2010 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 3003

1st May 2009

Roads made for touring, France

Roads made for touring, France

Happy birthday to me! Yes today is my birthday. Always, for me, a depressing day, full of memories of achievements not achieved, of memories of people no longer with us. Strange maybe but this is always a day I do not look forward to. After breakfast at the hotel we packed the luggage, got the bill for the room (85 Euro/night + 10 Euro for parking – ouch! – definitely not worth that!) and left. We decided to head to Sedan via Vouziers andwewerevery glad we did. A very nice road with stunning scenery. Open, more agricultural but brilliant. The road was mainly “straight” with a few sweeping bends – nice easy riding. Since we are on our way home we took it slow (50-55 mph). On the way we went through the town of Pontfraverger-Moronvilliers which appealed to my puerile sense of humour. We filled up at Vouziers which was as it was a public holiday in France and the pump oly had a card reader with which to pay. Unfortunately all the instructions were in French. Anyway Isabel managed to work it all out (well we hope she did – otherwise we have managed to purchase the whole petrol station – we will see when we get the credit card bill).

Lac du Baison, France

Parked up at Lac du Baison, France

Off we went again and at about noon we stopped at a shop for some bread for lunch. We also purchased some nice strawberries because, well you have to don’t you? We then saw a sign to “Lac du Baison” so we decided to go and see what it was (yes I know it was a lake but we wanted to see how big etc.). This was a good move because the lake itself was very pretty. We stopped at a parking/picnic place by the lake for lunch.  We feasted on bread, tinned herring, coke and, of course, the strawberries. Simple, maybe, but in such a setting with a blue sky and the sun on our backs pretty damn perfect! 🙂 There were a lot of grebes on the lake, all seemingly unbothered by our presence.

After lunch we continued on towards Sedan. There were camping sites and more picnic places (including one with barbecue facilities) along the lake. The scenery had become more wooded but was just as pretty. Eventually we entered Sedan where we had thought to get a hotel for the night. One look at the town told us (probably unfairly) that Sedan wasn’t worth it so after a quick conference at the roadside we decided to head for La Chapelle. As we rode through Charleville-Mézières we decided to turn off at Renwez to see what hotels were nearby. Looking at the GPS showed that there was a hotel called “Abbeye de Sept Fontaines” about 8 miles away. It sounded nice so we decided to go and see. Indeed it was very nice but completely out of our price class. After a very dodgy u-turn in front of the parked Porsches and Bentleys and headed for another hotel shown in the GPS.

After ignoring the GPS trying to take us off across a grass field we got to the hotel. Unfortunately the parking area, roads and, in fact, the whole town were chock-a-block full of people there for a fete or some such thing. We decided to continue and see what we could find at La Chapelle. When we got there it was OK as a town so we once again plumbed in the GPS which indicated the presence of a hotel south of where we were. Of course, being us, we were pointing North so we turned the bikes around and off we went. The only problem was that we couldn’t find the hotel – bummer! So ignoring the GPS we headed for the next town – nothing – then, through sheer bloody-mindedness on my part, the next town where we struck gold (and platinum and diamonds if you ask me). Riding through the town we passed a “hotel” sign. As there didn’t seem to be anything else we decided to turn round (we are getting a lot of practice at that today!) and see if they had a room.

Luckily they did and what a place this turned out to be! “Le Clos du Montvinage” seems to be an old fashioned country house I think with old fashioned rooms and a quiet attached restaurant, a slightly eccentric host together with a Harley-Davidson trike riding cook (the hosts husband). Brilliant! For both of us it was love at first sight so we have awarded this hotel

Five sarges

We took the panniers to the room up a nicely creaking wooden spiral staircase that was so old it had a camber. We then showered and laid down for a rest because Mr Teddy was very tired. About 7 we arose, changed and went for a quick walk in the village (Etreaupont) before heading back to the restaurant for a birthday meal. Three course and cheese for 25 Euro together with a very nice bottle of St emilion (2005). I had Foie Gras in Aspic followed by young rabbit in mustard and cider sauce, cheeses (including Bleu de Brest which is very nice) and creme brulee. Isabel had Warm Duck Pate, Veal in creamy mushroom sauce, cheeses followed by a hot chocolate “thing” (her description not mine!) followed by coffees. All very very nice. After that we staggered the few yards (mercifully) back to the room (where the camber on the stairs was very useful), closed the window shutter (brilliant invention by the way) and were dead to the world. All in all not a bad birthday!

Lessons Learnt:

  • Not everything that is on the GPS is actually there
  • Sometimes a brilliant hotel is worth searching for

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2010 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 2845 Day 2

30th April 2009

View from a gallery, Reims, France

View from a gallery, Reims, France

A day for exploring. No riding today but lots of walking the few square kilometers around the cathedral. After a, I must admit, good simple breakfast at the hotel (extra of course) we backed our backpack with way too much stuff (mostly my camera stuff – heavy) and headed off. The weather was nice for walking (not too hot and not too cold, blue sky with white fluffy clouds like cotton-wool. Within ten minutes we were at the main “strip” and started exploring the back streets and galleries of Reims. Absolutely fascinating! We quickly found a really nice toy shop but it was closed but, since it would be open later, we decided it was worth coming back.

Looking in a shop window, Reims, France

Looking in a shop window, Reims, France

There were lots of fascinating shops of types which have disappeared (or are quickly disappearing) from UK high streets – why? I think (personal and highly biased opinion here) it is because we have all become too wrapped up in our “packaged” age where everything must be served up already completed and looking ‘nice’. we have become disconnected from the creation process and are too rushed or busy or impatient to be able to create things from scratch. Anyway end of rant (for now 🙂 ) but we wandered past flower shops, bakeries, tea shops, patisseries – all brilliant. It would also seem that the good people of Reims like their shoes judging by the  number of shoe shops they have.

We then returned to the toy shop to look around. Whilst there Isabel managed to fall down some stairs. Very painful and meant she had a limp for the rest of the day. We did purchase some toys for my grandson Scott (an abacus and a nice noisy harmonica which should annoy his mother – I am such a child sometimes 🙂 ). About lunchtime we went to a patisserie/cafe for some coffee and cake – I had a raspberry tart which was superb and Isabel had a tart au citron which had a soft browned meringue in the middle. I was allowed but the smallest morsel to taste so it must have been very good indeed!

Cathedral front, Reims, France

Cathedral front, Reims, France

After that we decided to explore the cathedral. On the way there we stopped for a baguette (I know that that is the wrong way round – dessert before mains but hey this is our holiday – you can choose how you want to do it on your own). As we wandered to the magnificent building I wondered if the inside could in any way mirror the majesty of the exterior. Oh yes it can – with bells on! What a place. The imposing round windows of the exterior become magically transformed into exquisite examples of the craft/art of stained glass on the inside.

Window above entrance, Reims cathedral, France

Window above entrance, Reims cathedral, France

Mainly blue they offer a myriad of other colours that almost leave one breathless. They are a bugger to photograph though! We wandered through the the rest of the cathedral finding it almost impossible to take it all in. What impact must it have had on the medieval mind? I am always amazed about the impact of the great European cathedrals on me- what a statement they make! Gods majesty made stone.

Window by Marc Chagall, Reims Cathedral, France

Window by Marc Chagall, Reims Cathedral, France

At the far end of the cathedral is a set of stained glass windows by the artist Marc Chagall. Very interesting. Next to that is a little chapel that also has stained glass. The effect of the light through all of the the glass in the cathedral is amazing and moving. Lit a candle as we wandered back to the front. Just as we were leaving a group of visitors (I presume a choir or similar) began singing an impromptu hymn in the aisle. I don’t know if it was the acoustics of the place but it was a wonderful sound, the slight echo adding so much to the voices. A marvelous moment.

Once outside we looked in all of the champagne shops on the cathedral square (Reims is one of the main towns in the Champagne region) looking for a bottle for my sons forthcoming wedding. We found a nice rosé which we purchased and then tried to work out how to get it home (normal people, of course, would do that the other way round but then again who wants to be normal?). Apparently the French Postal Service does a special box for posting Champagne bottles – don’t you just love this country?

Women and two children, Reims, France

Women and two children, Reims, France

After sending the bottle on its way we wandered around looking in some more shops and then back to the cathedral square for some good old fashioned people watching (and photographing).

After that it was a walk (or in Isabel’s case limp) back to the hotel to drop everything before heading out again to find dinner. Isabel was looking for some Moule et frites which is one of her favourites. There were a couple of restaurants offering that. Unfortunately we choose the wrong one :(. A decidedly average meal (I had calfs liver and mash – OK but nothing special), good house wine (Muscadet) and very poor service (earning a zero on the highly rated and totally prejudiced Fatman scale and the finger from Mr Teddy) but that was more than made up for by the sight of the the cathedral lit up in the dark on the walk/limp back to the hotel. A very good day.

Water fountain, City Centre, Reims, France

Water fountain, City Centre, Reims, France

Lessons Learnt:

  • Watch where you are going when going down stairs
  • Living in France could make me Even-FatterMan!

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2010 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 2845

29th April 2009

Woke once again to the sound of rain on the tent. Sky grey and weather cold.Not the best start to a days riding! Once again had breakfast in the tent then had a shower in the main block. Took our time – anything to avoid packing up in the rain. Eventually the rain eased a bit and gave us a gap in which to get everything packed. It was cold work – the temperature was 5°C apparently! Rode the bikes off the grass empty since we hoped that would be easier, loaded up and paid (apparently the public transport tickets yesterday were free – amazing!). Initially we headed towards Freiburg after getting petrol in Neustadt. We were traveling on the same roads that we saw yesterday from the train. We had wondered then why the lorries, trucks and cars were going so slowly – today we found out. The road itself was twisty, steep and wet. Not a good time to be going fast. At one point the road cut through a cliff with across on the top of it – an ominous sign if you ask me. We also went through a couple of tunnels. The first of these was quite short and the second started in the side of a mountain and ended in Freiburg. A weird experience.

From Freiburg we headed towards Colmar in France. On the way we crossed over the Rhine which, even this close to its source, is a big river capable of carrying some serious river traffic. In Colmar we decided to take a break to warm up so we pulled into an E Leclerc hypermarket and went to an American themed burger bar, complete with a waitress on roller skates! They were playing a DVD of American Graffiti which is a movie I must see at some stage. Isabel had a single cheese burger and I had a double “rodeo” burger. I have to say as an affectionado of burgers that I don’t think I have had a better cooked burger anywhere. It was rare in the middle, juicy and very nice.

After lunch we headed towards Nancy and were joined on the road by rain :(. To make up for this the roads went through some stunning scenery. Eventually the rain eased although it remained cold. We also broke our tunnel traversing record by going through a 6950m long tunnel. What an engineering achievement! All for the princely sum of 5.50 Euro. Luckily Isabel had forgotten to put her sunglasses on after lunch so she managed OK in the tunnel.  Around Nancy we took a break for coffee and cake (and loo) at a motorway services. There was a primary school party of kids doing the things that kids should be doing. Playing “It” etc. Very refreshing to see.

Cathedral, Reims, France

Cathedral, Reims, France

From there we headed towards Reims stopping only for petrol along the way. It was a long trek from Nancy (about 173 miles) but it was mostly on good roads thankfully. Just as we were flagging we reached Reims and decided to look for a hotel. Unfortunately the GPS had frozen (i.e. crashed) about 40 miles from the city so we had to find somewhere to stop to reset it (the procedure for that is a) take battery out; b) swear a bit; c) mutter nasty things about modern technology; d) put batteries back and e) switch the unit back on). Unfortunately we did this having ridden the wrong way up a one way street and whilst parked outside a Gendarmarie station (they are the armed ones you know) but luckily nothing happened. Getting there we had had our first view of the cathedral – All I can say is “wow”! It is an amazing sight.

Anyway back to the search for a hotel with parking for the bikes. Initially it seemed that we could find a hotel and we could find parking but not together :(. Luckily the guy in the Holiday Inn in the city centre pointed us in the direction of the Holiday Inn Express about 10 minutes walk away. Whilst it is not in the nicest part of town (but, having said that it isn’t too bad either) it has off road parking (behind a big locked gate – costs extra of course). We got a room, parked the bikes up, took the panniers sans petrol (see this French talk is easy) up to the room. Although this was basic it was quite expensive for what it was and everything is extra so this hotel is awarded

Two sarges

Early Evening, Reims, Framce

Early Evening, Reims, Framce

After changing out of out motorcycling clothes we went in search of something to eat. There are a lot of restaurants to choose from but we eventually decided on the Café Brasserie Martin for the simple reason that it looked nice and we have a good friend called Martin and I am a great believer in irony in food 🙂 We both had steak and chips with 0.5l of the house red (a merlot which was chilled strangely) all very very nice. After a coffee we headed back to the hotel through an early evening in Reims. From there straight to bed as were were shattered.

Reims Cathedral at Night

Reims Cathedral at Night

Lessons Learnt:

  • Riding when it is cold and wet can be a miserable experience

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2010 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009:Mile 2591 Day 2

28th April 2009

Bus Stop, Titisee, Germany

Oops, we missed the bus!

Although we didn’t ride today we did cover some miles. It had rained during the night and this continued this morning. We were worried about the sidestands on the bikes sinking in to the ground and them falling over.I checked them (and got very wet doing so) at about 3 am and they were, thankfully, OK. Once again we had breakfast in the tent. When the rain let up for a bit we went to the main block of the campsite to wash and check the weather forecast on the internet- it was for more rain!. Whilst there we also got some wooden blocks to put under the sidestands to spread the load.

Train at Titisee Bahnhof

Train at Titisee Bahnhof

Since we didn’t feel like riding in the rain we wondered what we should do. We decided to try the German public transport system and visit Freiburg. Due to our exceptional and finely-honed planning skills we missed the bus into Titisee. Since it wasn’t far we decided to walk into town despite the drizzle. When we got there we headed for the train station (“Bahnhof”) to wait for the train. Much to Isabel’s delight it was a double decker and we found an empty seat on the top deck (She is such a child sometimes – unlike me, of course- I am a child all of the time!).

Freiburg Old Town

Freiburg Old Town

Anyway the train arrived and left on time. Luckily we survived the shock of that and we were soon wending our way through beautiful mountains and valleys. I wish I were a good enough photographer to convey the beauty of this place. After 38 minutes we arrived at Freiburg station as per the timetable (when will these people learn that this not the proper way to run a railway? 🙂 ). We then headed for the old part of the city which is beautiful.

Market, Cathedral Square, Freiburg, Germany

Market, Cathedral Square, Freiburg, Germany

We wandered around looking for the cafe (for Black forest Gateau) we had found on the internet the other day. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to exist any more. Bummer! In the cathedral square there was a market on. The quality of the produce was unbelievable. We decided to leave purchasing of fruit and vegetables from the market until later. We did, however, buy a sausage in a roll. Very nice and just what we needed as it had just started raining again. Of course, due to our aforementioned, superior planning skills we didn’t have any waterproofs with us. Typical!

Old Building, Freiburg, Germany

Old Building, Freiburg, Germany

From there we wandered through the back streets looking at shops and the historic buildings. Eventually we came across the Cafe Schmidt and decided to see what their Schwarzwald Kirschkuchen was like – All I can say is that I am so glad we did! What a revelation that was!! (If it wasn’t over the top I would add another “!” there 🙂 ). It was light with a crisp thin base. Seven layers (yes I did count them). You could taste the Kirschwasser but not so much as to be overpowering. The cream was fresh, the cherries dark and tart. It was a typical German (read “big”) helping but it didn’t feel it – wonderful – even Isabel, who doesn’t like cherries in any form said she could eat it. She had already opted for a cheesecake though.

Buildings, Cathedral Square, Freiburg, Germany

Buildings, Cathedral Square, Freiburg, Germany

From there we did some more wandering and then back to the market to purchase food for this evenings meal. Whoops! The market had closed! There was one vegetable stall still open where we bought some tomatoes and two pears which they wrapped in a cone shaped bag. We saw a greengrocers in the corner of the square so we went there for some potatoes. Once again the quality and choice of the goods available was amazing. They even had some small artichokes which I was almost tempted into buying but was not sure how we would cook them back at the campsite. On leaving I counted (because I am actually a very sad person 🙂 ) the number of different type of tomatoes they had – nine (including green ones – great for making chutney) and this was just a small shop! We also visited the North Face shop to look at tents and lightweight waterproofs. They had the most interesting small (Mr Teddy sized) tents which I can only assume are for demo purposes. They also had rainwear in 3XL (i.e. my size). Amazing – try finding that in the UK!

Freiburg Cathedral interior, Freiburg, Germany

Freiburg Cathedral interior, Freiburg, Germany

After making our purchases we headed to the cathedral to take a look around.It is currently being renovated in part and you can see the stonemasons at work. Inside it is an amazing place. Lit a candle for my parents and for others we miss. After that we did some more wandering around before ending up in an eiscafe (no shock or surprise on that one really 🙂 ) for a well deserved coffee and ice cream.

Man, Bike and Dog, Freiburg, Germany

Man, Bike and Dog, Freiburg, Germany

From there we walked back to the train station via a Tabak shop for some Montechristo cigars – my one weakness (well my one weakness I will admit in public) and a gentleman’s outfitter for some braces as I have been having errr “gravitational” problems with one set of trousers I have with me. We then got on the train which, depressingly, once again left on time for the journey back. When we arrived back at Titisee the bus pulled up outside the station and we boarded. After a journey of about 10 minutes we got off at the campsite stop for the short walk to the site. we then had a coffee and Kirschwasser before going back to the tent for dinner and bed.

Lessons Learnt:

  • German public transport is very efficient
  • Buy food whenever you can – do not wait until later
  • A very good Black Forest Gateau is a wonder

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2010 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 2591

27th April 2009

Mr Teddy playing cards

Mr Teddy winning at cards - again!

Woke to grey clouds and light rain so we decided to go back to sleep – we are on holiday after all :). The rain put a slight dent in our plans to ride around but nothing serious. We had breakfast of rye rolls, cheese and some very nice smoked Black Forest ham in the tent. We then played cards to while away the time (together with some real coffee from the camp shop which was most welcome). There is, for me, something very soothing about the sound of rain on a tent (well about rain on the outside of a tent anyway!).

Eventually the rain eased up although the sky remained grey and cold. We decided to use the internet terminal at the campsite reception (2 Euros/hour) to update this blog and search for the best Black Forest gateau around here – apparently there is a cafe in Freiburg that does a good one. Since it is on our way to France we decided to visit on Wednesday. After that we took our stuff back to the tent and went for a walk in the woods. Initially we went down to the lakeside via some very boggy ground but then we headed up the side of a nice mountain on a path that wandered its way up and to the side of the campsite.

At first we walked through pines but then we entered an area of deciduous trees which gave a completely different feel to the path. Not better but definitely different. It was all very beautiful but, of course,neither of us had taken our cameras with us :(. Oh well, it will have to remain a private memory for us both. We wandered as far as the path kept rising and then turned back towards the camp now far below us and seemingly hard up against the Titisee. As we made our way slowly back we looked at the mosses and ferns and fallen trees around us,all of which made a magnificent accompaniment to the tall tall trees of the Schwarzwald.

Black Forest Road

Black Forest Road

On arriving back at camp we decided to take the bikes and go and look for something to eat this evening. On leaving the site we turned left and headed for the town of Feldburg. We rode through some nice roads and then started climbing. We negotiated a hairpin at the entrance to the town of Bärenthal and turned onto more of a main road climbing all the time through more pine trees. It started getting noticably colder and there were patches of snow alongside the road. These increased in density until we reached the ski town of Feldburg at an elevation of 4093 ft (a record again for us).

Waterfall, descent from Feldburg

Waterfall, descent from Feldburg

Since we didn’t see any shops we decided to keep going. We were then confronted by about 5 miles of steep (10% gradient) descents along sweeping roads. We both did this very slowly because neither of us felt completely confident and because the scenery was too stunning to miss.

Church in Todtnau

Church in Todtnau

Eventually we came to the town of Todtnau where we turned off and parked the bikes up in front of a very pretty church. We went to the local bakery to get some bread and then had a wander around town before stopping for coffee and ice cream at the local Eiscafe (I may have said this before but I think they are such a civilised idea 🙂 ).

Ice cream, eiscafe, Todtnau

You are never going to finish that are you?

After that we headed the local Penny Markt (directed by a very nice waitress at the eiscafe) to get something to eat for this evening. We purchased some pork with onions ready to stir fry and some fresh white asparagus (which, while not as good as fresh English asparagus is quite superb in its own right). We then headed back to the campsite (OK we actually headed in exactly the opposite direction – sometimes the GPS is correct!) up into the mountains again. Going up a 10% gradient is much easier than going down. Upon our return we parked up on the grass again and I had a shower – mainly because animals downwind of me were beginning to die in unacceptable numbers. After that we put our tarp up, moved the kitchen under it and went and did some much needed washing of clothes. Whilst waiting we had a coffee then tumble dried what needed to be tumble dried, made food and went to bed.

Isabel and ice cream, Todtnau

Oh yes I am!

Lessons Learnt:

  • If the weather is against you stay in bed – it is your holiday after all
  • Be adaptable
  • Staying for a couple of days in one place actually increases your freedom
  • Kriega US-10 bags make very good shopping bags

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2010 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.