Tag Archive: France


It was a fine sunny morning that started innocently enough with us managing to get all packed up and the bikes loaded quite quickly. Things started to go wrong when I decided to finish off a pork chop left over from the BBQ the previous night. As I bit into it there was a load crack! I very soon realised that it wasn’t a bit of pork bone that I had crunched but that I had damaged my tooth. It felt a bit strange but I wasn’t in any real pain, so I kept my fingers crossed and just ignored it.

We said our goodbyes to Rob and Martina, who set off heading north, as they were intending to overnight in Sarlat in the Dordogne.

Sarah had been having problems with her bike to bike communications so before we set off I fitted a new Push To Talk (PTT) button to her bike which cured the problems. Unfortunately, by the time that we were ready to leave my tooth was hurting a fair bit so I had to resort to some pain killers before we got going.

Within half an hour it was so painful that my riding was being affected. I tried to tell Sarah over the Comms system that I needed to stop but got no reply. When I got a chance I rode alongside her and, after some good old fashioned sign language, she pulled over in the beautiful little village of Saint-Hilaire. It turned out that we had stopped outside the abbey where, in 1531, Benedictine monks had created a sparkling white wine called Blanquette de Limoux, long before the Champagne region became world renowned for their sparkling wine.

After a bit of digging I traced the Comms problem to a broken wire in the power lead  on Sarah’s bike, which I was fortunately able to repair.

Unfortunately by now though I was in agony with my tooth and asked at a nearby bar cafe where the local dentist was. They were very helpful and gave us directions, but when we eventually found the surgery it was shut. As we were not too far from the town of Limoux, we decided to look there for another dentist and found Sandrine RIBES surgery on the road into town. Luckily she was able to fit me in as an emergency at 4pm that day.

We went off and found a little hotel nearby called Les Arcades which was situated at one corner of the town square, La Place de la République. They had secure garage parking nearby where we were happy to leave the bikes and gear.

Sarah spoke with our travel insurers who confirmed that I was covered for emergency dental treatment and at the alloted time I presented myself for treatment. The dentist was very pleasant and told me that I had broken my tooth. She treated it and advised me that as there was some bruising beneath the tooth I would need to take some pain killers for three or four days. All for only 20 Euros.

After a walk around the town we went to a bar in La Place de la République and had an Irish Coffee for purely medicinal reasons.

The bar was full of pictures and framed photographs obviously taken in the town square outside the bar of lots of people in white clown make up and outfits. We found out that The Carnival of Limoux is an Audois festival which takes place in the Place de la République every weekend from mid-January to late March, and is characterized by bands in Pierrot costumes that are known as ‘les fécos’.

Fountain in La Place de La Republique

Art or Graffiti?

We went back to the hotel to discover that MIP the SatNav was dead and would not charge up. Ever hopeful, we left her plugged in and went to sleep hoping that she would be okay in the morning.

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Whilst we were at La Cerisaie, Sarah read an information leaflet and discovered that there was a wine fête on in one of the little villages nearby. Over breakfast we spoke to the owner of La Cerisaie and he confirmed that the fête was in fact on that day, so we decided to go.

The village was in the hills. We got a clue that we were close when we saw lots of cars parked along the side of the narrow road, and groups of people walking down one hill and up another towards a number of stalls on a hilltop. Luckily, as we were on bikes, we were able to ride up to the fête itself and find somewhere to park inside the entrance but before the stalls started. We ended up alongside an area obviously set aside for a sheep shearing demonstration or contest.

The fête was a fantastic glimpse of French rural life, with stalls selling fresh produce, wine and food. There was a choice of cassoulet, confit de canard or fresh fish or langoustines to eat. We shared some cassoulet and some confit and they were delicious. After that we bought the last fresh wholemeal baguette from an artisan baker as he had just run out of his delicious walnut bread. We know that it was delicious because he had given us a taste of some samples that he had got left over, just so that we would know what we had missed out on!

We also bought some Muscat wine from a local producer, which was excellent. I discovered that if I zipped up the front air vents on my jacket but left the top part open then I could easily carry a bottle of wine in each vent. Result.

After wandering around and buying some stickers from a stall selling stickers, cd’s and books all relating to the local Occitan region and language, we decided to continue on our journey. For obvious reasons we didn’t want to ride with wine bottles in the front air vents of our jackets, and managed to strap them on top of the camping gear on the back of the bikes. At this point the chap who had sold us the Muscat wine walked by and was horrified that see that his wine was going to be transported in the sunshine. We told him not to worry as it wouldn’t be there for long!

We rode on and started coming across parked 4×4’s and lone Frenchmen with shotguns sat on chairs at the side of the road. I don’t know what they were intending to shoot at, but we just hoped that it wasn’t Les Motards Anglais.

(Maybe I should have stopped and suggested a hornet shoot)

The views were superb and seemed to go on and on and on, with row after row of hills receding into the distance.

 


Our first view of Carcassonne

 

 


The medieval town of Minerve

 

We came to the medieval town of Minerve that was billed as being one of the most beautiful in France.

Draw your own conclusions, but I have to say that our first sight of the ancient city of Carcassonne, with it’s walls and turrets beyond acres of grape vines, was far more magical.

The following morning dawned bright and sunny and above all dry, the forecast had been right 🙂

While we were loading the bikes I fussed a young cat who was hanging around probably hoping to score some ‘Rich in Rabbit’. She then continuously either demanded our attention or insisted on investigating each item as we packed it. She finally settled down on Sarah’s tank bag tucked down behind the screen looking as though she was going to travel with us when we left. However she hadn’t counted on the noise of the bikes and legged it as soon as we started up.

We used the motorway as the easiest way of getting away from the conurbation that is Montpellier and then happily switched to normal roads followed by the far more enjoyable small roads through the hills towards Carcassonne.

In the middle of the countryside on the road to Moureze we came across a small French war memorial to The Maquis Bir Hakeim who were a group of French resistance fighters in the Second World War. The monument was erected in 1984 in memory of 105 martyrs of the underground. The monument was surrounded by immaculately kept war graves. We stopped and spent a few minutes paying our respects to people who had died whilst fighting for their country. It was an amazingly peaceful place particularly when you consider how those people had died.

We continued through Moureze, which was a beautiful old village with interesting rock formations, and stopped for a coffee in another picturesque village further on.

We then rode on into the hills and didn’t see another vehicle for ages. Imagine our surprise when, having stopped to admire and photograph a stunning view, a French Peugeot pulled up behind us and the elderly couple began asking us for directions. They had got lost, but having Mip and a map we were able to show them exactly where they were.

I haven’t asked for it, but I cannot ignore the fact that there is a bit of a theme regarding my interactions with various forms of insect life on this trip and today was not going to be an exception.

We were doing about 50 mph and were miles from any habitation when I decided to have a bit of a stretch to loosen up as we rode along. As I extended my left arm, Thwack, something hit my left hand with some force. My first thought was that a stone had been thrown up by Sarah’s rear tyre but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I turned my head to look at my left hand and was greeted by the sight of a bloody great big two inch long hornet holding tight onto my left thumb.

So that you can fully appreciate how much I enjoyed this sight I think that it’s important for me to explain that I do not like wasps and they do not like me. When we had been at Le Moto Camping Dordogne I had been quietly sitting reading when one had just flown up and stung me on my arm. I react quite badly to their stings and it was over two weeks before it had settled down. So it’s fair to say that I was not best pleased and had no intention of finding out just how much worse I react to hornet stings. The hornet had other ideas though, and far from being stunned or even squashed by it’s 50 mph impact with my hand, it was doing it’s damnedest to sting me through my my thin summer glove. Thankfully it was on the top of my thumb where there is kevlar and plastic armour so it wasn’t having much luck.

I immediately began frantically shaking my left hand about to dislodge it but to no avail, it just seemed to make it angrier. This was obviously having an interesting effect on my riding as Sarah had noticed my erratic riding and was wondering what was wrong. In the end I managed to knock the bugger off my thumb by hitting it against my hand protector. I have to say that hornets are definitely wasps with attitude. Bearing that in mind, I did stop and get Sarah to check my clothing to make sure that it hadn’t grabbed on elsewhere for round two.

We rode on along the D908 into a more populated region and saw a biker bar with a lifesize model of the Blues Brothers car on the balcony. We would have loved to have stopped and partied there but it was too early and there was no-one about so we decided to press on.

We did see a sign for a Municipal Camping site that made us smile.

We eventually stopped at a small Chambre d’hote (Bed and Breakfast) called La Cerisaie in the village of Riols. It was a beautiful old house owned and run by a Dutch couple who were very friendly and opened up their kids games room so that we would have somewhere secure to put the bikes for the night without having to unload everything from them.

Having settled in we wandered off for something to eat. After the days experiences I declined the delights of the premises with the painting of a giant insect on the outside wall and we had a delicious meal at a tiny restaurant on the road through the village.

After returning to Le Cerisaie we chatted with the owner’s brother, who was looking after the place and the children whilst the owner and his wife went out for a meal together, and who had laid on a surprise welcome for them. We left them to it, went to bed, and slept like logs!

Our budget definitely could not stretch to a night in a hotel in Monaco so we decided to head west and find somewhere cheaper to stay. Unfortunately we timed our exit of Monaco to coincide with rush hour. Entertaining to say the least. We had thought that the traffic was bad enough when we had arrived but this raised it to a whole new level. We had to negotiate the underground roundabout again, but second time lucky we took the correct exit, our tunnel climbed up, and we emerged into bright sunlight heading in the right direction.

We kept heading westwards until it was starting to get dusk, which coincided with us being on the outskirts of Cannes. I saw a hotel up on the hillside overlooking the town which looked easy to get to, and we decided to give it a try. The place was your typical business overnight accomodation type establishment, but was cheap and clean and offered everything that we needed. The guy on reception was very helpful and in no time we were booked in. He also said that we could park the bikes next to his Saab convertible in the secure staff area where he could keep an eye on them overnight. Bonus 🙂

The next morning it was very hot and we were soaked with sweat before we had even finished loading the bikes. Nice! We decided that we wanted to get some miles under our wheels and elected to jump onto the motorway rather than fight our way through the urban traffic and bake. It was a good choice, as travelling at motorway speeds made the 38 degree C temperature feel much cooler.

We had food that needed to be eaten as it was not going to keep in our tank bags in the heat, and so we stopped for a very late lunch at a motorway service area that had picnic tables in a wooded area at the far end. Very nice. It’s a shame that we do not have similar facilities at motorway services in the UK, but then I suppose that our weather would preclude their use for most of the year.

The downside of such a warm sunny climate though is the number and size of the insect life. Not usually a problem unless, as I discovered, you decide to picnic with your feet on an ant trail (well more like an ant motorway actually given the number of the things!), and they are about an inch long and take exception to my size 10’s causing a traffic jam. Thankfully my bike boots are motocross style and my bike jeans were tucked into them so, in spite of their best efforts, they couldn’t get inside my trousers to bite me. Sarah had gone off to find a loo, and the locals must have wondered what on earth the strange English biker was doing dancing around amongst the trees slapping his legs. It must have looked like Oompah meets Morris Dancing!

Once I was ant free and we were back at the bikes we started chatting to a Harley rider from Denmark and a Greek guy who was riding a German registered chopped Kawasaki EN500 to Spain for a couple of weeks of Spanish language school. Luckily he spoke good English as our Greek is marginally less fluent than our Italian.

We  had covered a good distance and were quite tired, so started working out where we were going to stop for the night. Sarah found a suitably priced hotel in a booklet that we had picked up when we had stayed at Le Boischaut in Chateauroux. The Greek guy, Pasquali, was also looking for somewhere to stay and so we agreed to join forces and ride together to the hotel.

We easily found the hotel Prime, which was situated amidst a forest of hotels on the outskirts of Montpellier. They had secure parking for the bikes at the rear of the hotel and a lockable store for our camping gear so that we did not have to cart it up to our rooms.

Their restaurant and bar was closed and so we all went a wandering to find somewhere to eat and chat over a drink. There was very limited choice and we settled on ‘The Buffalo Grill’. This was an American style diner which served, yes you’ve guessed it, Buffalo, in various guises. It was very tasty, but the French waiter looked horrified when we ordered more wine instead of coffee at the end of the meal. We had a good time chatting with Pasquali who was getting used to riding his first chop. He loved the laid back comfortable riding position but had found that the forward controls had taken some getting used to, particularly in traffic when he had kept on trying to put his feet onto footrests that were not there!

We had decided to stay for an extra night as the weather forecast for the next day was rain and high winds. It wouldn’t have been too bad, but the storm was scheduled to follow our route westwards for a couple of days so we thought that it was best to let it go on ahead without us.

The next day was spent sorting things out, buying provisions, washing clothes, etcetera. Not very exciting but necessary considering that in order to cut down on luggage we only had three pairs of socks and pants each (S: don’t tell Tony but I have a few more than that!). If we don’t wash them every day or so then we have to resort to the old inside out and back to front trick (S: refer to previous comment ‘cos that’s a man thing!). Not something I’d recommend as a lifestyle choice in a hot climate. The visit to the supermarket was entertaining. The guy ahead of us at the check-out insisted on very neatly and very slowly packing each of his purchased items into his bag, rearranging them until he was totally satisfied. Having generated a substantial queue he then decided that he was going to pay by cheque which he took absolutely ages to write out. Aaargh!

I relieve the boredom of foreign food shopping by looking for products with interesting names, such as ‘Bum’ biscuits and ‘Plopsies’, a Coco-pops style cereal. This visit revealed a cat food that is apparently Rich in Rabbit… Rich in illicit cat drugs more like from the picture on the tin!

That evening we didn’t need to eat out as in order to keep costs down we had already eaten some of the food that we had bought at the supermarket earlier (we resisted purchasing any cat food). As Pasquali had also decided to wait out the storm, we decided to all go out for a drink. We found an interesting bar restaurant and had an enjoyable time talking and learning about each others lives and cultures.

We said our goodbyes to Pasquali as he had decided on a very early start the following morning so that he could make up the kilometres that he hadn’t ridden that day because of the storm.

We retired for the night hoping that the forecast for sunshine the following day would prove to be accurate.

My bike chose this moment to develop a slight problem, the choke stuck in the ‘Off’ position. Of course, rather than be annoyed, I was immediately thankful for small mercies as that is much better than it sticking in the ‘On’ position. I have dismantled the left hand switch and choke lever mechanism and that moves freely once disconnected, as does the choke mechanism underneath the fuel injectors, so it must be the cable. Unfortunately the cable is difficult to get to without taking the tank etcetera off, so as I can operate the mechanism by hand and starting is not a problem, I decided to leave it until a more convenient time.

Since before we left the UK Sarah has said that she wanted to have one expensive coffee in Monaco, so we set off from Asti towards the South of France.

There were loads more lovely twisty roads, which we enjoyed immensely, but after lunch I realised that either I was really off my game or that the handling on my bike had deteriorated. I eventually realised that my rubber mounted handlebars were moving slightly and quickly stopped to sort it out. We had taken the handlebar clamps off when working on the bikes before leaving England and one of the nuts had come loose. Unfortunately it was a size of spanner that I didn’t have with me. I spoke to a guy who was chopping wood outside his house nearby, he disappeared inside and lady luck was definitely with me when he came out a few moments later with the correct sized spanner. After a couple of minutes I had tightened the offending nut, checked the others, returned the borrowed spanner with thanks and we were on our way again.

What an improvement in the handling. It must have been gradually loosening for some time but so slowly that I didn’t notice until it got to a significant level. It just goes to show that having worked on something it is worth not just doing the double check once you have finished, but a triple check after riding for a while.

We had a fantastic ride, with some amazing scenery and mountain roads, and took the tunnel back into France. We didn’t see any border control and continued to the village of St. Dalmas de Tende where we stopped for a break. It was 5pm and we decided that this would be a good place to stay for the night.

We wanted to stretch our legs and so went for a walk through the woods along the banks of a nearby river. It was lovely with the sound of the water running over the rocks, and so picturesque.

A sign warned us to be careful about wild animals and snakes but neglected to mention the crowd of hungry mozzies who were queueing up to have a feast at restaurant Tony!

At least I kept them from biting Sarah.

The view from our bedroom window

We awoke refreshed just in time to see a bunch of paravane parachutists enjoying themselves, swooping and swirling about in the clear mountain air above Chamonix. One tasty continental breakfast later, we were packing the bikes under a blue sky in bright sunshine and getting ready to set off. We have been so lucky with the weather.

In no time at all we were enjoying throwing the V7’s around some more twisty roads with stunning views and before we knew it we were at the Swiss border. We slowed down at the customs post, ready to be checked out, but no one appeared so we just rode on through. We were on our bikes in Switzerland!

We stopped to refuel and had a pleasant surprise as the petrol was much cheaper than in France. The prices were displayed in both Swiss Francs and Euros but my mental arithmatic quickly revealed that it was cheaper in Swiss Francs than Euros. I paid on my card and we decided to keep our eyes open for a cash machine so that we could pick up some Swiss Francs. No problem, after all this is Switzerland, renowned for it’s banks.

Near Martigny

We had a great ride and got to the town of Martigny, which was not too far from the village of Collonges where the Valais Moto Guzzi Club were having their rally. We had been looking out for a cash point on any likely bank looking type building since crossing the borderbut had failed miserably. Sarah pulled up in a layby outside the tourist information office and I went into the bank next door to try and get some Swiss Francs. As I walked in I realised why we hadn’t been able to find any cash machines: they keep them all safely inside. A few moments later I walked out much relieved, with our Swiss Francs in my hand. We were soon on our way again, destination the Moto Guzzi Rally.

Riding down the road from Martigny to Collonges, we had to pull over to admire a cascading waterfall that spewed out from halfway down a mountain. I love waterfalls, actually being around water generally, and this one was pretty spectular. A couple of photos later we were on our way again, only to halt once again by the side of the river we crossed over once we left the main road. We’d noticed when riding through the alps that one of the streams we followed was an amazing bluey-grey colour, and this was a river that was exactly the same! We had no idea whether it was because of being glacier run off or what, and later discovered that it was none other than the Rhone, so at some point we’ll do a little internet research to find out the cause.

I don’t know about the sun shining on the righteous, but we left Camping Moto in fantastic weather, determined to make it as far towards Switzerland as we comfortably could. We planned to use the more interesting roads again, but accepted that it might be necessary to use one or two bits of motorway if we were going to get close to Switzerland.

Stopped to enjoy the view

Well, what a fantastic ride! Some truly amazing roads through stunning scenery. It was a constant fight between concentrating on the road and taking in the breath-taking views. More than once I had to drag my eyes away from a fabulous vista as the road was disappearing around a steep hairpin with a rock face on one side and a steep drop on the other! At one point we saw our two neighbours from Crest coming flying around a bend in the opposite direction. Mr Ducati seemed to be right on the limit and determined to get every last bit of grip out of his worn tyre! His mate on the GS behind was more relaxed, and had time to wave back.

When it started to get late we decided to jump onto the motorway so that we could get to Chamonix, which is just on the French side of the Alps, before we stopped for the night. We rode around a sweeping bend onto an elevated section of motorway that suddenly became a twisting turning bridge hundreds of feet above the valley floor. Stunning and nothing like I have ever ridden on before.

We continued into the dusk and were suddenly presented with a breath-taking view of the last of the sun’s rays striking Mont Blanc. Unbelievably beautiful and one of those moments that makes you realise just how good it is to be alive. We spotted a parking area and were able to stop and take a couple of pictures. The light faded fast and the spectacle quickly disappeared. We had been in just the right place at just the right time 🙂

We got into Chamonix at 9pm and struggled to find anywhere remotely within our budget that had any vacancies. No problem if we had been prepared to spend 150 Euros for one night! The owner of one lovely 2 star hotel turned us away with apologies but came rushing out after us saying that she had made a mistake. She had put two people who were sharing a room down as being in separate rooms, so there was room at the inn. Excellent.

They stored our camping gear on the ground floor for us and we gratefully moved into an en-suite room on the top floor. What an interesting room, with wood panelling and a bath that extended into the eaves – that made sitting up in the bath rather interesting!

We ate and drank our provisions and Sarah had a soak in the bath (being careful not to hit her head), whilst I blogged on the laptop. After a while we fell into the lovely soft bed and drifted off to sleep with the moonlight shining on the alps outside our window and thoughts of Switzerland in our heads.

Where do I start? The Dordogne is a beautiful area full of picturesque villages, hilltop medieval towns, castles, wooded valleys and an amazing mixture of roads. So much to see and do.

One of the wooden chalets

We decided to spend the first couple of days chilling out at Moto Camping Dordogne. They have pre-set up tents, caravans, wooden chalets and a restored old church for visitors to stay in if you do not want to put up your own tent.

What an easy going and friendly place, with excellent food. Don’t order the ribs unless you are seriously hungry! We spent our time alternating between relaxing by the pool and chilling in the bar, whilst chatting with other bikers from around Europe. As the owners are Dutch the campsite obviously attracts mainly Dutch riders (well whilst we were there anyway) but we met a few French and British riders too.

Dutch Tourer!

My French is okay but my Dutch is non-existant and so I am always grateful that most Europeans learn to speak decent English. We had a great time there and made some new friends. The site owner Pieter even got in some French Cidre in for us.

The day that we arrived there was the end of the main French and Dutch holidays, but even after a couple of days or so we found that the more popular tourist destinations were still quite busy. However our SatNav managed to find us lots and lots of twisty virtually deserted roads for us to explore, and proved that she still has a sense of humour by taking us down a series of gravel strewn tracks. According to the SatNav settings this was supposed to be the quickest route to Rocamadour (a beautiful hilltop church and fort). Ha! Not when you are doing 20mph on loose gravel it’s not. Ron is a Dutch BMW Gs1100 rider who is so tall that he has had to RAISE the seat!

No it's not a moped

He said later that he has the same SatNav. Unless he specifies the route in detail, often on his laptop in advance, then if he lets her have freedom to choose his route then she often does the same sort of things to him. He calls her Mip after a name used for dippy Dutch girls. Mmm, I think that we now have a name for our SatNav 🙂

Me hard at work

One of the great things about the campsite is that they have free wifi. They have a laptop for public use in the bar but the wifi also extends through the site. I was therefore able to spend several happy hours sat at a table alongside our tent in the trees with a glass of something and updating this blog. Why do you think the there have been so many posts recently?

Setting off again

Panorama near to Rocamadour

I love the Dordogne region of France. Hills, forests, twisty roads, a river, medieval villages, castles, and gourmet food with excellent wine. I rest my case.

We were not quite sure exactly which part of the Dordogne that we were going to aim for. Over the years I have stayed at various hotels and campsites in the region, but I recently realised that I was somewhat out of date having not visited for about 17 years (gulp!). Claire in Swindon gave us a recommendation by of a biker campsite called Camping Moto Dordogne, which is situated near to Saint Aubin de Nabirat. We had checked their site on the net and discovered that it was run by a Dutch couple, Pieter and Renske, and decided that we would give it a go.

Again we had 300 km (180 miles) to cover and we wanted to get to get to the region in plenty of time to find the site and to set up the tent and get organised. (We are optimists after all.)

The motorway from Chateauroux has enough bends in it to keep it interesting even at legal speeds, and has one section through some hills, where you exit a series of bends onto a bridge over a valley with a fantastic view. (Sorry no photograph!)

We had the coordinates for the campsite but our SatNav decided that taking us straight there was just too boring and decided to take us down some roads that barely warrented the description. It’s finale was to tell us to turn right up a grassed bank to get there! So with the sniggering of the SatNav in our ears we rode round and round trying to find the site.

It was at this point that I discovered the true folly of wearing a matt black crash helmet in 38 degrees of blistering sunshine, whilst riding slowly. Boiled brains anyone? I was beginning to make some bad riding decisions and I realised that I had to pull over and pour some water over my head to cool off. I was initially going to use the water conveniently situated in the waterbottle attached to my pannier, but I quickly found out that it had absorbed so much heat from the sun that I could have used it to make a cup of tea! The receptionist from Le Boischaut unknowingly come to my rescue as her ice cubes had kept the water in my backpack cool. Within seconds of pouring some over my head I felt much better and realised just how much the heat had affected me. I have been warned about heatstroke when riding in hot sun but this was the first time that I have experienced it. Dangerous.

Set up and relaxing

We set off and Sarah quickly spotted a sign for Camping Moto Dordogne, after which we found the campsite quite easily. Despite being loaded up the V7’s inspired confidence and we handled the gravel roadways leading onto the site very easily.

We were met by the owner, Pieter, who gave us two cold drinks on the house. Heaven. We had arrived.

Appropriate wall paintings

Resting that extra day was a brilliant decision as we both got up feeling much better. We didn’t quite make it up in time for breakfast, but we did resolve to did pop to a local Supermarche and buy some bread, cheese, tomatoes, etc to have later for brunch.

I wanted to aim for a small town called Chateauroux. Why Chateauroux I hear you ask? Well, some years ago, (it’s actually over 15 years ago now that I think about it, mmmm doesn’t time fly!) I organised a trip to the Dordogne region of France for a dozen or so members of a bike club that I was involved with at the time. We overnighted there and stayed at a small independant hotel called Le Boischaut, which is a short walk from the town centre. They were friendly, cheap and provided secure garages for us to put the bikes in overnight. I had previously checked the internet and had been pleasantly surprised to find their website. So, following a quick discussion with Sarah, a decision was made. I rang them and booked us a double room and garage for that night!

Excellent. We had set ourselves a goal, which felt really good because it gave us a specific focus, and I was glad to be leaving the sickness and illness behind.

By the time that we were organised, (Tony & Sarah time strikes again!) with the bikes packed and ready to go it was close to 1pm, so we chose to ride bigger roads as we had about 350 km (220 miles) to cover that afternoon. We set off into brilliant sunshine with smiles on our faces, and one Supermarche provisions and petrol stop later we were properly on our way.

Lunch was a fantasic picnic at an Aire (French motorway service area). We picked one that just had a toilet block and wooden tables and benches in the trees. The Brie and Tomatoes on a Baguette brought back so many memories to us both and we really began to feel that we were in France.

The little V7’s were running really well but the fuel consumption had dropped from the 65/70 mpg, that we were getting riding normally and without panniers or luggage, to 52/53 mpg. It just shows how much difference that panniers, luggage and French motorway speeds can make.

The ride to Chateauroux was relaxed and suited how we both felt. The levels of traffic were much lower that I am used to in the Midlands and it was a pleasure.

Le Boischaut had changed hands but was essentially the same friendly place with a red rubber ceiling in the reception and bar. We settled in and walked into town in search of something to eat. The excellent Restaurant La Gare had closed down but some questioning of the locals produced recommendations to go to La Rue Grand. Apparently this was where the majority of bars and restaurants were now situated. We walked off in search of La Rue Grand and as we got closer we could hear live Jazz music being played. A little further on we stumbled upon a four piece band playing in the street. The road had been closed to traffic, the nearby bars and restaurants had filled the street with tables and chairs, and they were doing a roaring trade. We got a table near the front and had a superb evening. Some considerable time later we walked/weaved (delete as appropriate) our way back to Le Boischaut and slept like logs.

The view in the morning from our window

The following morning the sun rose in a cloudless sky and we decided that we would head for the Dordogne region of France. So a couple of hours later, having had our continental breakfast and the nicest croisants that I have eaten in a long time (and our first since reaching France) we were ready for the off.

The receptionist filled our water bottles with cold water from the fridge and let me fill our back pack water carriers at the sink in the bar. I thought that mine was taking rather a long time to fill when, to my horror, I realised that the drinking spout had dropped down and was busying itself by syphoning cold water onto the bar room floor. Ooops! Thankfully the receptionist saw the funny side and, after muttering something that I didn’t quite catch about Les Anglais as she mopped the floor, then turned up with a load of ice cubes to keep the water in our back packs cool.
So, after appologies and thanks to the staff, and having taken out both the thermal and the waterproof linings to our jackets, we were off heading south into the sunshine and feeling good 🙂