Category: Europe 2009

Europe 2009: Mile 0

8th April 2009

Well today is most definitely the day! Yes we are all off for our “Grand Tour” of Europe. Personally I feel sorry for the citizens of the countries we will be passing through (and especially their teddy bears if Mr Teddy ever gets loose!).
The plan is to leave from home about 10-10:30 this morning and pootle along the M4/M25/M20 to the Eurotunnel terminal and get the train under the channel. I stress that that is only a plan because we still have so much to do it is almost unreal. Now that we have come to crunch time I really think that maybe we should have planned better – Oh well – the leader of the expedition (i.e. Isabel) tells me that is all part of the fun!
At present I am trying to recover from working some late nights so don’t have any photos to show you but we will take some of the “off” (if we ever get there) and post them. We will also try and do some regular updates on the trip so you can see all the things we do wrong. Nervous? No petrified is more like it. Wish us luck!

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2009 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 0 Photos

As promised some images to accompany the previous post – I haven’t put much text to them because a) they are to accompany the previous post and b) I’m enjoying myself too much in Verdun at the moment and can’t be asked 🙂

Isabels bike ready to go

Isabels bike ready to go


Adrians bike ready to go

Adrians bike ready to go


The intrepid explorers almost ready to go

The intrepid explorers almost ready to go


Mr Teddy definitely ready to go

Mr Teddy definitely ready to go

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2009 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 149

8th April 2009

They said the weather today was rain. They were wrong! A bit cloudy at times yes but otherwise clear and blue. Woke after another late night of work. Tired, miserable and scared. Scared of the unknown that lay ahead. It felt like Isabel had done all the preparations and I had done none. Oh well too late to dwell on that now. Rode down into Pangbourne to fill the bikes with petrol before we loaded them up. Before we even set off we had problems with the communications that we needed to sort out. We also had problems deciding where to put Mr teddy – he wanted to ride in style and we just wanted to get on the road. Anyway eventually we did set off, albeit a bit late which added to the stress/worry/nausea levels. However as soon as we set off all worries were quickly forgotten. Down the M4 (the traffic was not too bad) onto the M25 (who ever thought that road was a good idea? – the traffic was horrendous) then the M26 (what a nice little road according to Isabel – me I just nod for the sakes of marital bliss) and finally on to the M20 counting down the miles to the Channel Tunnel – 50, 46, 37, 32, 10 and then into the maze that is the Eurotunnel terminal for the first time. I have to be honest but it didn’t make sense to me at all. Oh well we go onto the train on time in the end and 35 minutes later we were in Calais. Amazing!
Then we were out of the station and onto the A16 heading North remembering to drive on the right (i.e. wrong) side of the road. Navigated through some delightful small towns on the way to the Camping Pommiers Des Trois Payes in Licques. A very nice small campsite with very friendly hosts. The journey there also included the first set of hairpin bends I have ever negotiated. I apologise to all the experienced bikers out there but I went through them extremely slowly with extremely clenched buttocks. The campsite itself is mainly for caravans with some empty pitches for tents with well provisioned facilities and a small restaurant. Using our own totally arbitrary and highly open to bribes grading system (otherwise known as ‘The Sarges’) it gets a well deserved:

4 sarges out of 5

4 sarges out of 5


First camp in Europe

First camp in Europe


After putting the tent up we got back on the bikes and went looking for a local supermarket for some food. Bit of a mistake – quite expensive but everything seemed of good quality. They even had horse sausage we think but since neither of us can speak let alone read French we could be wrong. Got some bread, cheeses and cold meat for breakfast. All for 18 Euro – Ouch!.
I made some tea and coffee when we got back and Isabel sorted the tent out – Much better that way because if I had done it it would have been chaos! Had tea/coffee, bread and some cheese in front of the tent under a beautiful warm sky – heaven, this is what we went touring for. Even Mr Teddy had cheered up when we had offered him some tea.
A contented Mr Teddy

A contented Mr Teddy


After we had sorted everything out we went for a meal in the campsite restaurant. Isabel had a very nice Mushroom Omelette and I had a local meat terrine (for those interested it contained rabbit, chicken and pork and was delicious!) and the biggest plate of French Fries (naturally :)) I have seen in a long time! Excellent especially considering this is a campsite and not a hotel.
After the meal it was back to the tent and bed. A long day but a good one.

Lessons Learnt:

    Fill up with petrol the day before the off

  • Make sure you know where everything is to go before the off

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2009 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 299

9th April 2009

Woke up to a damp grey day with the inevitable thought "Are we back in England?" Had breakfast of coffee, pain au chocolat and ham and bread purchased from the supermarket yesterday. After a quick visit to the ablution blocks we packed away. I’m sure we will evolve a system for this but until then we will use the tried and trusted method of total chaos. Eventually everything was packed away more or less as it should have been and we were off. I must find a more elegant way of getting on the bike rather than the current method of just launching myself at the thing and hoping.

Went back to the supermarket for petrol and then off we went to Dunkirk. Well that was the plan. As usual things did not turn out that way. We ended up going the wrong way and that was with a GPS! Eventually we did get to Dunkirk via Boulogne (don’t ask!). For me it wasn’t even really worth it and we quickly headed out on the A16 north into Belgium which we turned off onto a side road towards Ypres. It was nice gentle riding followed by what we had planned to be a light lunch in a small town along the way. However in Belgium they don’t really understand the concept of small portions – no wonder I love this place! I had soup (my excuse is it was cold) followed by a very nice pate and Isabel had cheese croquets. All very nice.

After this we were off to Varlet Farm following the GPS. Another mistake! But after ending up in the wrong driveway (twice!) and driving the back roads we arrived. What a place – so good it easily rates a sarge5
I don’t think I have been in a nicer bed and breakfast anywhere. The owner, Charlotte, cannot do enough for you. She even made an international call to a campsite in France to move a booking we had made.

After unpacking everything from the bikes we rode into Ypres using Charlottes excellent instructions and parked up at the Grote Markt in the city centre. After a coffee at one of the cafes there we walked to the Menin Gate, a site I had wanted to visit for a long time. I was surprised by how affect I was by it. Once you think you have read all the names on the monument you find more and then more until it feels that they will never end. It is a very moving place. We also stayed for the daily Last Post ceremony. There were hundreds of people there and as the four Belgian buglers marched out a stillness came over the crowd which lasted beyond the last note. I had tears in my eyes. A very, very moving ceremony and a very, very fitting one for our almost forgotten fallen heroes of all sides.

After that we wondered into the town looking for something to eat ending up at t’Ganzeke (another recommendation from Charlotte) for a bite to eat (and for Mr Teddy to try some Belgian beer and then some more and just a little bit more just for the hell of it). Once we tore him away from there it was back to the B&B in the dark. That was when I realised that I hadn’t checked my lights after fitting a Light Guard. Duh! I now had a perfectly illuminated front tyre but, unfortunately, nothing else! Luckily Isabels light was better but she couldn’t remember where the high beam switch on the Transalp was. What a team we make! It was almost a case of the blind leading the blind but at least she could see most of the road.Eventually and extremely slowly we managed to get back to the B&B and parked up in the small museum it has (which is where the bikes are parked – out of site – great!). And then to bed!
Lessons Learnt:

  • Check lights before setting off
  • Know where all your switches are so you don’t have to think about them when you need to use them

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2009 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 456

10th April 2009

After a very good breakfast at Varlet farm (including making a packed lunch from the remains of brekkie on the say so of Charlotte) we set off to Chimay. What a nightmare! Navigation almost impossible. Must find a better way of finding our way with the GPS.

Took a break in a parking area on the N43 and had lunch. Around 4:30 rode into Chimay. Found a campsite in town. Office closed so (on the advice of someone already there) we pitched the tent.

Setting up tent at Chimay Campsite

Setting up tent at Chimay Campsite

Soon afterwards 5 other bikes turned up and then 3 more. Nice. After some coffee and apple tartlets (well one does have to treat oneself now and again) we packed everything away and walked into town.

Had Chimay beer in Chimay – cool! – (Isabel Red – OK Rouge, Adrian Blue – bleu) and nice food (Isabel: Veal Milano, Adrian: Rabbit in mustard sauce – all very nice) and then walked back to the camp site. When we got there an elderly gentleman had a go at us about the tents being in the caravan area. At least I think he did as it was in Flemish! I think he was annoyed because it turns out he had a caravan he wanted to park (this was 9:20pm!). There were at least 3 empty pitches so I don’t know why he was annoyed. I tried to explain that a) everyone told us to pitch there, b) the office was closed and there were no instructions and c) maybe he should have got there earlier (OK I didn’t say the last one but I did think it!) Of course as as we got in the tent it started raining. Hope it clears up tomorrow.
Lessons Learnt:

  • Use much more detailed maps
  • Make sure you put the correct town in the GPS (I mean how was I supposed to know there are 2 Chimays?). I did wonder why it kept taking us in the wrong direction

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

Veal Milano

Veal Milano


Rabbit in Mustard Sauce

Rabbit in Mustard Sauce

© 2009 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 584

11th April 2009

Bad night. The camping site we had chosen (I would blame Isabel but that would be painful for me – she has a very powerful left hook!) was within hearing range of a very loud, all night open air disco. I’m sure there are a couple of hundred new deaf youngsters today in Chimay!

Packed up and left before 11 which admittedly is late but I’m sure we’ll get better. Tried to pay but the office remained closed and the owners were apparently on holiday! But we did want to pay, honest!

All in all our experiences at this campsite mean we can only give it

Two sarges

Two sarges

Filled up with petrol in Chimay and headed towards Neufchateau. A very nice run especially since we were in the Ardennes! Even if it did rain at one stage. Once again forgot to eat anything until late, this we have to correct! Eventually stopped in a town where the Boulangerie was open. Got some bread and cakes and had them with the remainder of the cheese we purchased on the first day sitting on a bench looking at some fine buildings and watching the world go by. The town was called Montmedy and had a magnificant (and big) abbey or other such structure high on a hill overlooking it. We then went to a shop to get some meat and veggies to cook this evening. Not sure what we have purchased – hopefully it will be OK. Very warm weather today – glad we have the Camelbaks with us. After having eaten we pushed on to Verdun and the camp site "Camping Les Brieuls" where we had booked for a couple of nights.

Reached it about 5pm. Booked in, put up the tent (still damp from this morning) and tarp for first time. Found out we don’t have enough guy ropes. Luckily the strap from BMW can double for them! Had some coffee and biscuits using the water we heated up this morning. Then to the bar for a well deserved beer even though Mr Teddy was very tired. He did perk up when the word “beer” was mentioned though and he decided to come along just to keep us out of trouble which, for me is like the pot calling the kettle black but I didn’t like to mention that!

Mr Teddy relaxing after a hard day

Mr Teddy relaxing after a hard day

Just trying to update the Blog for first time. Will see how that goes. Then we shall have supper and an early night I think.

Navigation was easier today.

Lessons Learnt:

  • Get food for lunch as early as possible and wherever possible
  • Learn to stop more
  • Start early
  • The straps we got from BMW (for free) are really, really useful

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2009 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 584 Pt 2

12th April 2009

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that we haven’t moved today. Well with it being Easter Sunday we decided to have an easy day (yes I know we have only just started but it is our holiday so we can do what we want 🙂 ).

Camping Les Breuils

Tent and Tarp at Camping Les Breuils

Firstly my thoughts on the campsite. Very nice! It has Wi-Fi, lake and a bar. What more does one need? So it rates

Five sarges

Five sarges

Had a breakfast of Tea/Coffee, croissant, cheese and salami under the tarp which we have decided is a very useful addition to our camping arrangements. After that we went for a walk around the area. Saw some nice houses (Isabel was particularly taken with those with traditional wooden shutters and was a bit miffed when I said that there was no way that we could have those on our own house). During our stroll we saw four statues at the end of the road which we, of course, went to investigate which lead us to 12 other statues all of French military leaders of various eras. Mr Teddy thinks that he would like to have a big statue made of him and placed in the garden. I said “over my dead body” and he replied “it can be arranged”. Not sure what to make of that!

Statues at Verdun

Statues at Verdun

This in turn led us on to the Verdun Citadel used during the siege of Verdun in World War 1. We also found what can only be described as a Poultry/Pigeon/Rabbit/Bird show in a nearby hall. As the entry was only 3 € we decided that we would go and get our cameras and money (which, due to our usual planning and organisational abilities, we had left back at the tent) and return and take a look. In the show there were some of the strangest and, I have to say, biggest poultry and rabbits I have ever seen! One of the rabbits was over 8 kg – It was a monster. After looking at these amazing creatures (and, on my part at least, wondering how to fricassee them!) we wandered over to the museum housed in the Citadel. Entry was 6 € per person and was well worth it. They have an automated train like system (sans driver – very weird until you get used to it) with automated running commentary (ours was in English) with tableau’s played out along the way. Some of the acting was over the top but effective nonetheless. A very useful insight.

After that we wandered into town and had a bite (OK more than a bite) to eat at a restaurant on the Quaes des Londres (I think that is right). We had a kebab (like ours only much much better) served by a very friendly waitress. Even though our French is non-existent (unfortunately) we managed to get what we wanted which is a result and we didn’t even have to resort to the loud slow speak that a lot of English people seem to resort to when abroad.

The meal complete we wandered back to the campsite (via a boulangerie – well the did have a special on tartlets!). Lubed the chains, did some catching up on the internet and planned (shock, horror!) where we are going tomorrow. Well sort of – we wouldn’t want to let anyone think we knew what we were doing would we?

After that back to the tent for some bread and cheese and, of course, the tartlets overlooking the lake and then a final walk around to take some photos and back to the tent and bed.

Sunset over lake at Camping Les Breuils

Sunset over lake at Camping Les Breuils

Lessons Learnt:

  • When going anywhere off the bikes always take money and cameras with you
  • 3 tartlets for 2 people is too much even if they are a) on special offer and b) very very nice (they were)
  • Adrian & Isabel

    & Mr Teddy

© 2009 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 802

13th April 2009

Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch! 218 miles today. Not much for seasoned travelers maybe but one hell of a stint for my backside! We started slightly earlier (OK it was only 15 minutes early but it is a move in the right direction) and headed out of France and into Germany.
Initially we headed in the direction of Pont-a-Mousson. On the way we stopped at the St. Mihiel American War Cemetery. Once again a moving experience. There are 4000 soldiers buried there. A seemingly small number until you see the graves. Even sadder, to my mind, we saw graves of soldiers from all over the United States who dies on the 11th November 1918. Within a hairs breadth of the end. Tragic and pointless. We set off again in a very thoughtful mood.

On the other side of Pont-a-Mousson we stopped at a picnic place for a light meal of baguette, salami, cheese and coffee. Very nice and much needed (I have, after all, a figure to maintain!) and then off towards Faulquement. Due to my prowess in navigation we got slightly lost in the town but it wasn’t too serious and we were soon on our way in the right direction. From there it was towards Saarbrücken in Germany using some country roads and some autobahn. A most pleasant ride.

At Pirmasens my backside, which had become dead after about 150 miles really started complaining. The last 30 miles to the campsite we had decided upon at lunch was serious torture! Eventually we pulled in to the Camping Cimbria am Neckar campsite near Neckarzimmern. This is an OK campsite with basic quite nice facilities and earns

Three sarges

Three sarges

Before we put up the tent we went for a drink (it was 22° today – very hot). Isabel had a coke, and I, like Mr. Teddy, had a weissbier. Big mistake! I had forgotten how big German beers are! I think after the heat and on an empty stomach (and I am not a big drinker anyway) my legs became wobbly very quickly. After that we headed back to the bikes and it was time to put the tent up. Oh dear! For some strange reason it took twice as long as normal. Oh well, eventually we did manage to set the tent up. That completed we went back to the reception area for something to eat and to do some planning (This is becoming a habit). Hopefully we will not ride so long tomorrow although we would like to get to Poland by the end of the week. Hope that is doable.

Lessons Learnt:

  • 200+ miles is a long long way
  • A large beer on an empty stomach is not a good idea

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2009 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 1003

14th April 2009

Kriega US-10 Tailpack fitted on crash bars

Kriega US-10 Tailpack fitted on crash bars

Another 200 mile day! We started (for us) early at 9:10. Today felt much better than yesterday probably because we stopped more often. The first stop we made was at an Aldi for some food. The Kriega US-10 tailpack that we are using on the side of the bike is a really effective food carrier bag. We would prefer to buy at local shops but we don’t have anything at all.

Went over some beautiful bridges and through a few nice tunnels on the Autobahns as we went along. Once of the tunnels was over 2 km. At one stage we went from the old West Germany to East Germany according to a sign alongside the road. At one stage we came off the Autobahn and up a twisting road on the side of a mountain. It got very cold at the top (2670 ft according to the GPS) and there was still snow on the ground! I had my ventilation on my jacket open because it had been very hot lower down and I was freezing! Eventually, thankfully, the road headed back down into warmer weather.

In Gotha we become stuck at a red light on a left turn that refused to go green. Probably we were too light to trigger the mechanism (Me too light?? – must eat more before I fade away). Eventually we decided to go straight on instead. Eventually the GPS managed to catch up with our change of plans.

While trolling along one of the country roads we saw an “Eiscafe” sign (Eiscafe am straum). Because of our trips to hamburg we know all about Eiscafes. They are ice cream with attitude! The Eiscafe was nestled in the middle of a small village alongside a small stream. We eventually parked the bikes up (after going round twice looking for a place to stop) and went for the “healthy” iced yoghurt and strawberry option. It still comes with a heart stopping quantity of whipped cream though! I am still having problems parking and getting on/off the bike. Hopefully I will find an improved method soon.

From the Eiscafe we headed down some more nice roads until we came to the Stausee near Hohenfelden which is a bike lake. Off we went through some forest roads to the Stausee campsite. We booked in and pitched the tent (we are, hopefully, getting some sort of system together). Unfortunately the area we were pointed to for tents and it felt like we were just put anywhere they had. therefore this site only gets

Two sarges

Two sarges

After a look around we made food (Bockwurst, mushrooms, onions and chicory – what a glorious mixture) and had a shower which was great. Then we did some planning and then to bed.

Lessons Learnt:

  • Stopping regularly makes long distances easier
  • Eiscafes make stopping easier 🙂

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2009 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.

Europe 2009: Mile 1164

15th April 2009

Another early start. All packed up and away by 9:10. We are getting better! First stopped for petrol and then on to Weimar and the Buchenwald memorial. What a somber thoughtful place! A place of death in a place of such beauty. What mind could think up such a juxtaposition? A place of almost infinite sadness. We spent a quiet time walking around under a hot open sky. It is an example of when a really bad idea meets almost limitless power. Not just content with starving and working the inmates to death they also shot, strangled and infected them as well. The techniques of killing employed are still shocking today. I am glad we visited although saddened that the history here has really not really taught us anything.

From there we traveled on to Jena and a traffic jam. It was boiling! Almost too hot for me. Then on to Naumburg. Because of the heat we decided to go the quick route which meant the Autobahn (A9 / A14). We stopped at some services on the Autobahn. Oh dear! They really are the pits. I mean they are spotlessly clean and the food is good – what are they thinking??

After what seemed like a long distance on the Autobahn we came off it onto a B road and then on to Plötzky and the camping site at Kleiner Waldsee. Quite a nice campsite although we needed to do a bit of offroading over the grass to reach our pitch. Managed that OK thankfully. Overall this campsite gets

4 sarges out of 5

4 sarges out of 5

Put the tent up and went for a beer (Hafferoder – is this becoming a habit?). Made food, had a shower and then to bed. Tomorrow plan a much shorter trip to Wittenberg – only about 60 miles but we need a break. All-in-all a day for doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching. These are the days that I need to live.

Lessons Learnt:

  • When visiting somewhere only plan on doing at most about 80 miles afterwards
  • Cities = Traffic Jams 🙁
  • Humanity doesn’t learn from its mistakes in general

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

© 2009 – 2016, fatman-overland. All rights reserved.