Belated blogging / Day 1.

17 April 2012 / Day 1. 180km. Overnight the cold and clear weather in the UK had given way to cold and wet weather in France. It was a trend that would continue for the rest of my 2 week holiday!

We berthed in Le Harvre and made our way off the ferry to meet Jen and John Eggleton at the gates of the port. Jen and John have operated Bike Normandy for around 10 years now and do a superb job, both running tours such as this one and short breaks where they host a smaller group of bikes at their house and lead them out on day-long rides in the area.

After a brief introduction and explanation of the marker system in use (difficult to describe but very simple in practice) we made our way in convoy to Honfleur I had to chuckle to myself at one point - if someone had said 18 months ago that I would be riding a motorcycle, in France, with 2 weeks and 2000 miles of riding ahead of me, I would not have believed them. However, I am extremely glad I made the decision to do my CBT and see what riding a motorcycle was all about.

To reach Honfleur we had to cross the magnificent Pont du Normandie suspension bridge. It is very high and while I am sure the views are normally worth seeing we were all concentrating hard as a strong cross wind seemed determined to knock us all off our bikes. It was good training for another day later that week, although at the time it felt pretty vicious. Luckily with my bike being physically quite small it was less susceptible to wind sheer than something like Rod's Tiger which was really catching the gusts. I think we were all relieved to make it to the other side and into the shelter of the pretty harbour and quayside at Honfleur, where we were to have our breakfast.

Once parked up the final members of our group introduced themselves - Jim riding a BMW F800GS and his wife Dorothy as pillion. Again both serious mile munchers they had traveled over the day before as Jim is not a good seafarer so had wanted some extra time in case of a bad crossing.

Then it was into a pleasant bar for warming cups of coffee, croissants and baguettes.

L to R: Nick, Dorothy, John, Jen.

Day one turned out to be a very busy day - lots of sighs all accompanied by pouring rain, grey skies and bitter cold. I quickly learnt why touring motorcycle have windscreens, heated grips and sockets for heated clothing. Mine misses out on all those things. Damn. Our basic itineary was:

Pegasus Bridge, Arromanches for lunch, the gun batteries at Longues sur Mer, then the American Cemetery and finally the German Cemetery before heading to Bayeux for the overnight stop. The beers that night went down a treat although to be honest, after a rather sleepless night and the appalling weather I didn't pay as much attention as I would have liked at each of these stops and was starting to wonder if everyday would be the same. Luckily it was not to be the case.

Amazing! Sun! Hold that image in your mind - there was not much more for the rest of the trip. This shows the beach at Arromanche with part of a Mulberry harbour in the foreground and more in the background.

Part of the gun battery at Longues du Mer - serious weapons and devastating to the Allied invaders on D-Day.

The very stark and beautifully tended American Cemetery overlooking Omaha beach.

Belated blogging: Day 0 of France/Scotland Holiday

Unfortunately due to a lack of time and internet access while traveling I have not posted as often as I would have liked during my recent trip away. I will attempt to write it up here for the record!

16 April 2012 / Day 0. Left Salisbury to catch the ferry at around 8.30pm. This was of course way too early but I wanted to be there in plenty of time although we didn't then board the boat until around midnight. The trip down to Portsmouth was uneventful and I pulled into my departure lane behind a couple of other bikes that turned out to be Rod and Ian, both on the same trip.

Rod was riding his Triumph Sprint and turned out to be a very experienced rider, having just returned from a ride through India and had been riding for years. He was also extremely fast when he wanted to be - he could hustle the Sprint along at a fair rate of knots! Ian was riding his BMW F800ST which was worryingly clean and shiny. He had also been riding for a long time but at a slower rate of knots. A couple of years ago he had taken part in the same tour with Bike Normandy and enjoyed it so much he was back for more.

In due course and after a coffee to keep the chill out we were joined by Mark (KTM SMT 990), Rod (Triumph Tiger 1050, lucky boy) and Nick (Aprilia F650). Mark was an old hand at bike tours having done several by himself and also with other tour companies, but not Bike Normandy.  Rod and Nick had passed their test only 5 weeks previously and were understandably nervous that their inexperience might be an issue. For me, I was just glad that after riding for nearly a year I was not the "youngest" in the group.

I'll just repost the photo here of the bikes lined up waiting to go:

The wait for the ferry was tedious but in due course and a brief customs inspection we made our way onto the ferry. There a crew member lashed our bikes to the deck as poor weather was expected on the crossing, although not terribly well as Rod's bike sadly fell over before we even departed. This scratched a pannier and damaged one of his pegs - a disappointing incident at the very start of the trip. Inevitably LD Lines were less than interested.

In the event the crossing was uneventful and I managed to grab 40 winks in the cabin I had booked - more than those in the "sleeper seats" managed but the strong coffee before departure did not help.

Back on home turf

After a fantastic week in France with BikeNormandy and then the long and windy ride up to Amsterdam I eventually found the port last night.

I also found a dirty great nail in back tyre meaning my first job this morning was to phone for recovery to the nearest motorcycle garage. A new tyre and £130 later and I'm back on the road.

So I've stopped in Alnwick (home of the excellent rum we stocked for a while) for lunch before I head off towards Edinburgh later. I don't know how ear I will get or where to stop tonight but I'm sure somewhere will present itself.

The photos show my Dutch memories, Alnwick and my light lunch of Hot Beef Stottie. Yum!