What I’m Seeing

The title covers what this is about……

11 – A Game Of Three Halves

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A Game Of Three Halves

First bit: Three days to get to The French-Spanish border on the Med and then spend a week camping with my lovely assistant who was flying into Perpignan airport.

Middle bit: Wave bye to my sweetness and light and head down to Pondboys place, 100 mile South of Barcelona then back up over the Pyrenees and wander through rural France to Roscoff.

Last bit: Ferry over to England then ferry over to Ireland for the Tipperary event then home in time for tea.

How The First Bit Got Done:

I slog, bob and weave my way to the tunnel on Friday morning. I’d booked the cheapest crossing which was at 11pm; I turned up a tad early though. The nice lady let me on the 11.30am train for no extra cost. Great start.

My temperature rose a bit while slipping under La Manche.

On the other side I dropped straight onto the small roads I’d planned using rather than French autoroutes and main roads. Very pleasant they were too. I stopped on a sunny lane to cancel the hotel I’d booked for the night as I was now ten hours ahead of schedule.

I stopped in a small town and procured a petite pizza from the bakers and ate it while sat watching the French Yummy Mummy’s walk to a nearby school to pick their enfants up.

The winding, little lanes entertained me until teatime at which point I had one of those inspirational ideas that seem like good ideas at the time. The weather was pleasant and if I dropped onto the nearest southbound autoroute I could make Argelès sur Mer, my destination, by the next morning.

So I found a big road and wound up the noisy bit of the bike. At 8pm I had another inspirational idea.

Bugger this for a game of soldiers, I needed a crap and a cold beer. I found a Motel just North of Le Mans and checked in. Still not sure why I was passing through Le Mans to get to the south coast but it seemed like the thing to do at the time.

I duly had my crap and then found that cold beer I needed, in fact I found a few of them.

The prices in menu at the restaurant made me laugh out loud so I retired to my room to boil up a plate of Tinned Tuna & Super Noodle Medley. Isn’t it great to be culinary independent?

And so after a tiring but productive day I retired to bed to listen to Claude and Marie bang away in the room next door.

Up at the sparrows fart I collected my merge belongings up and loaded the bike. I decided against the continental buffet style breakfast on offer for seven yo-yos.

Instead I decided on a whore’s breakfast of coffee and fags so I unpacked my flask and wandered over to see how much it would be to fill. Just before entering the restaurant I realised I didn’t know the French for vacuum flask so I thrust it at a passing Frenchman and asked “Qu’est-ce que c’est?”

He looked at me like I’d just asked him if I could violate his daughter and replied “Une Thermos!” Then shrugged in such a way to suggest I was the stupidest Englishman he’d ever met. Armed with this invaluable info I procured a full Thermos of coffee for free even though at first the waitress told me it would be 2 quid. Perhaps she hadn’t got change for the fifty euro note I offered in payment?

So off I set with the sat nav saying I would be in Argelès sur Mer for 6 pm if I took the fastest route. Bugger that, I wandered off onto the small roads again. At lunch I pulled in at one of the fritte stalls they have at the side of the road for sausage, egg and chips and a big mug of tea.

At the snack shack I managed to make my request understood. I ended up with frittes, mayonnaise, spicy red sausage and a can of coke as this was the best they could offer in regard to my request.

When I got back on the bike again I realised I was twatting about on these little roads a bit too much and my ETA was getting too late to be enjoying early doors at the coast. So autoroutes it was again. The temperature was starting to become a bit tiresome and at one of the rest stops I saw a shower thing that kids were playing in.

Never one to miss a trick I dived in. The photo was taken by the second Frenchman of the day to look at me like I’d escaped from the nuthouse.

When you get to the bottom of France at the Med you turn right for Spain. If you turn left you end up in Italy. The autoroute that follows the coast can get a little bit busy in August on a Saturday when the whole of France gets let out of work to play in the sea for a month.

I hit this traffic with fifty mile to go to my destination. The filtering was awful and I was hot, bothered and a tad tetchy. Down the hard shoulder I watch a group of at least ten French bikes fly by with their hazards on. Well when in Rome as they say.

So Fifty miles on, when eventually I turned off our private bike lane to Argelès, I gave the leaders of the Hard Shoulder Gang a thank you toot and a flash. I find our friends campsite and tent, where we were to stop for the next week and was greeted with a cold beer and a plate of spag boll.

Mission One complete, tomorrow we’d pick up my lovely assistant from the airport.

The next day I stuck the back seat on and took all the other crap off the bike in preparation for my soon to be arriving pillion.

She turned up and we started to do what we would do for the next seven days……..

Chill…….

Play pétanque……

Chill…………

Play dominoes……..

Chill……….

Visit exotic locations…..

Visit places from Lizzies past when her Mum lived there.

The restaurant she owned and ran…..

The bar she owned and ran…..

And the donkey she owned and ran, now preserved for posterity…..

While sat outside a café one day this fine French fellow wandered past. I was in awe, what a great look.

We ate well as my mates a bit of a chef, spatchcock chicken marinated in lemon and garlic then done on the Barbie was my favourite meal

As a special treat for Lizzie I bought her some bling camping kit, a gold glittery head torch. You’ve got to look your best when searching for the toilet block at two in the morning haven’t you?

Then all too soon the week was over and Lizzie was dispatched back to the airport. That was the first bit done. Only two bits left to do now. I couldn’t wait, there was only one way to go and that was South

I was off and rolling down the road bright and early. Over the border and into Spain via the autoroute in freaking stupid temperatures.

I’d ditched the suit for pottering around with Lizzie on the back and gotten used to the feel of shorts and tee shirt riding. Now I hated wearing the kit again.

I pulled off and found a small town for lunch, they’re a little relaxed about their drainage over there.

I was heading for Pondboys property around a 100 mile south of Barcelona and made their place for teatime. He’d kindly left me some signposts….

It was a great to get the suit off and drink ice cold water in his shady workshop.

He got me sorted with a room in the villages pension ran by a nice lady called Rose I think. My bike was parked outside the front door with a nice view of the village church.

I got washed and changed and met him and his wife in the village bar, we dined on excellent steaks, red wine and then went to meet some of his friends, an Irish couple and their daughter.

A great evening in a very special place. If your down that way contact him and be treated to some great hospitality.

Back at the room I noticed the pictures on the walls, now I don’t know what it is but I seem to have a knack for ending up in rooms with slightly off kilter pictures.

Previous rooms included:

The scary babies on the “Sand Up Your Bum” Moroccan tour……

The desert of sheep on the “Looking For My Mojo” Moroccan tour…….

The Italian vista in a Scottish B&B…..

Well now I was faced, after a not too small amount of red wine, with these lovely family snaps…….

And…..

I retired to my bed in a calm mood knowing all was well in the world as long as there were still pictures like this in hotel bedrooms.

The sun rose and I was up and about ready for another fun packed day.

I packed then went for breakfast with Pondboy and Pondgirl.

Before we ate we popped to get bread off the local baker and Pondboy had us pose for a message for Bakerman.

The area around the village could grow little but olives but they’d got this off to a fine art.

I was heading North west for the Pyrenees and I rode down lovely empty roads for hours.

I climbed up and over the Col du Somport instead of going through the tunnel and dropped down into France again.

I ended up at a campsite in a small medieval walled town called Navarrenx, they gave me a pitch large enough for a small fair even though I explain I only had une petite tent.

I hid at one side of it next to the hedge.

It was the last night of the towns annual festival and there were going to be bands and festival type things going on all night so I headed in to have a nosey.

As I rounded a corner an odd site appeared, a big wheel in the square and a London taxi.

There were French line dancers outside one bar so I watched them while having a couple of cold ones.

I dined on fairground crap and got a big sugar buzz going.

So I sat down at another bar to try and calm down a bit with a couple of cold ones.

At another bar I noticed that everyone was drinking up and leaving, I asked the barman why and he said it was firework time. Great news, I like fireworks. I followed all the people down to a bridge and stood and watched a great display.

When it was over I went back and found the roughest bar in the town and had a great night with the regulars. They were probably taking the mick out of me but I didn’t care and we laughed a lot.

The bands in the square finished playing at three in the morning, I know this as
I’d laid in my tent since two listening to them. A fine day :thumb

The next day was a bit on the blurry side first thing. I decided to continue my quest to hunt out the smallest roads in France. I did a fine job of this and my head cleared quickly.

I was heading into Bordeaux wine country, and spent a long while riding through mile after mile of vineyards.

At one point I stopped and pinched a bunch to try them. Not pleasant at all, I prefer the ones from Asda.

At around four I was flagging after last nights excesses so I found a camping municipal for 4 Euro a night.

I pitched camp next to a German family, in front of a corn field and under a tree.

In the town I shopped for essentials, I wasn’t going to go hungry or thirsty tonight.

As the sun set I opened my wine by pushing the cork into the bottle with a spoon and settled down to read my book with my headtorch. Must remember to take a corkscrew to France the next time I go.

Happy days.

I breakfasted on espresso and quiche, a grand start to any ones day.

Yet more wine fields at first.

Then my GPS decided that rather than take me to my destination it would rather take me back in time. Not sure why it wanted me at this exact date though?

The scenery gradually changed as I headed North.

I traded wine fields for spreadable margarine fields.

Still I had the little roads to myself, with only the odd tractor or tatty Renault van.

I was also getting “Pretty French village” overload. I’d got to the stage where I needed to see a weed or a bit of graffiti instead of perfectly manicured gardens and pavement flower boxes.

I hit the coast at Pornic and visited a big supermarket for provisions with the idea of finding a seaside camp site. Parking bikes in French supermarkets is easy, just ride them up to the window.

I also poped in a sports shop for a clean tee shirt, I was starting to attract flys and repel humans. Again parking was no problem.

So I called into about eight camp sites on the coast and got told they were all full, even for une petite tent. It was getting late and I decided to cut my losses and get a hotel. Not a hope, all full. Why did I come to the coast, it was so easy inland?

So I rode inland ten miles and found a crap hotel in the dark. I was not happy to be there and ended up having a party with my recent purchases including a bottle of Jim Beam, a six pack of coke and a big bag of crisps.

Just to prove my theory about hotel room artwork this classic was on the wall.

I fell asleep about two while watching “No Country For Old Men” on my laptop. :blast

I had a lay in, in a bed full of crisps and a nasty coke and Jim Beam spillage stain. The room looked liked some teenagers had had a party in it. Even worse was the bathroom, the shower curtain had obviously got in my way at some point and now lay in the bath and the toilet seat was broke. No, I have no idea either but I also had a bruise on my leg?

So I fled the crap hotel in search of the France I’d been enjoying previously.

I found it soon enough and had coffee and pastries at a fine café.

I ploughed on, stopping for lots of coffees and a picnic lunch.

I didn’t need to be at Roscoff for my ferry until 10pm so I took a long route around the Brittany coast, this was a nice spot called Pointe de St Mathieu.

As it was I still got to Roscoff for 6pm so I wandered around the port. I rode to the end of a pier and watched the fishermen tossing about on their boats.

They let us board at 10pm and I found my cabin, I passed out instantly. I’d finished the middle bit. The last bit started tomorrow. Bring it on.

The last bit started badly. The inconsiderate retards at Brittany ferries decided to play their “wake up happy campers” tune over the speakers in the cabins at 5:15 am, even though we weren’t due to dock until 6:30 am.

They played this cheesy plinky plonky melody every 2 minutes. I got up with a grumpy head on and mumbled onto the deck. Nice sky over Plymouth though.

The restaurant was opening for breakfast, which explained the early alarm, and they got six and a half francs off me for some vulcanized scrambled egg and bacon shaped cardboard.

Another peek at old blighty on the deck then off down to get back on the bike.

I got discharged out of the hold at 7am into a long nasty queue for immigration control. I managed to filter to the front and then had a bit of a frank discussion with a camper van owner about the morals of queue jumping and Englishness.

I had till 2pm to get to Fishguard in South Wales for my ferry to Ireland. This got done easily apart for a bit of “queue jumping” at road works during the last bit. While sat waiting to board another GS rolled up and I recognised the rider. David from Istanbul who I’d met last year on the Turkey Trot.

We swapped European road tales and then boarded with another GS rider and his son called Terry. On the ferry David made a friend of Curious George the monkey. We had a debate about whether he could be classed as a monkey as he hadn’t got a tail.

The 100 miles from Rosslaire to Tipperary flew by and we made the hotel for half eight. Time for beers and bullshit.

This travelling lark is a doddle.

On Saturday the ride outs gathered and then left without me in tow. I went to the campsite to listen to Flash of the Gap snoring in his tent for a while then pottered into Tipperary town.

There’s not a lot to it really, after walking the length of the high street twice and buying another clean tee shirt from a hippy shop ran by a mad English woman I returned to get Flash out of his tent. It was 1pm after all.

A statue of Jesus stood on the hill overlooking the Glen and they’d kindly labelled it so there could be no confusion over who he was.

A sign also let you know its details and cost, you can’t really put a price on salvation though can you?

After dragging him out of his pit, Flash and myself wandered up the road to a closed pub and then back down the road to an open one.

The rideouts returned, we dined, we raffled, we bid on auction items, we drank and I went to bed to watch an episode of “Upstairs Downstairs” on Irish satellite TV.

Adventure Motorcycling at it’s most extreme.

I was first down for breakfast on Sunday and then packed and away with a plan to do the little road thing again. I was heading for Flash’s house in Wicklow for the night.

At a small town I was waiting to turn right at a crossroads and on the other side of the road were a load of old bikes and their owners stood outside a pub. One of the chaps shouted at me to join them for a drink while they watched the tractors.

Not being able to resist this unique invitation I pulled over and joined them.

So I stood there and watched a procession of old tractors trundle by while we talked about bikes and farm machinery.

The tractors were great but the people driving them were even better, a great hour was spent shouting and cheering them as they past us.

This little truck had a chap in it who must have weighed more than the truck itself.

When it was over I took a few photos of the bikes, this one being my favourite.

I swapped addresses with Brendon, the guy with the big beard and offered to put any of them up if they ever came over to the UK. Fine fellows.

I made it to Wicklow at teatime and we went out for a fish and chip supper then onto Tutty’s Bar for after dinner drinks.

I love this bar.

In the morning Flash and his very understanding wife cooked a wonderful full Irish breakfast for us. Indecisive and Shapeshifter had also benefited from their stunning hospitality.

We mounted up and headed for the Dublin ferry, my 6th port and third ferry in three days.

At the port Indecisive had a bit of a worry when they told him he should have been on the ferry the day before and this one was full but after a call to Nutt Travel they eventually let him on. “Why is it always me?” He wondered.

Shapeshifter just smiled and winked at me.

And that was more or less it; a blast down past Betsy-Cowed and then a thrash across the A50 saw me home in time for tea with my lovely assistant. The last bit was over.

Four thousand, four hundred miles of little roads, big roads and happy encounters. I had a ball in three of our nearest European countries and dare I say it a little bit of an adventure.

Hope you enjoyed reading about it. Roll on next year.

Written by whatton

August 19, 2009 at 9:27 pm

One Response

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  1. Another great RR Whatton 🙂

    toaduk

    August 21, 2009 at 2:49 pm


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