Tag: France

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 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.