Over the years I’ve organised a number of motorcycle tours for groups of friends, but never one for SERV, so I jumped at the chance to get out and socialise with my bloodrunning colleagues rather than bumping into them at 2am in the rain at the Tooting bloodbank.
There’s little of Northern France… or Western Europe for that matter that I’ve not explored by motorcycle, but I knew that some of those coming might be “touring virgins”, as such, I picked a destination that would accommodate either a more direct route for the less adventurous, or a longer route for those wanting to stretch their wheels. Fairly soon I’d found a suitable place to stay and planned a couple of alternative routes to get there… job done… or so I thought… That was until I got a phone call from Jamie.
“Are we going anywhere near Paris on the French trip?”
“Ermmmm nope… wasn’t planning on it… why?”
“Well, I want to propose to Sarah and I would love to do it in Paris…”
So straight in the bin went my planned routes and accommodation booking!
Fast forward to the morning of departure, and it’s a miserable day. Wet, windy and a little cold. But spirits were high as we all met at the Eurotunnel terminal, with the exception of our erstwhile recruitment officer, Graham who’s decided that he needs a head start on his Suzuki Burgman (aka “Luxury urban commuter”) so got on an earlier train… doh!
Arriving in France, we were under way having met Graham at the petrol station on the terminal exit. Two lessons to learn for next time – #1 insist on full tanks on arrival at Folkestone, and #2 don’t let Graham near technology unsupervised, ever… Unfortunately, the weather was rubbish, and not ideal for enjoying the fabulous D940 (Sangatte to Boulogne road), French tarmac is not known for its wet grip, especially the painted bits, that combined with high winds made it hard going, especially for those who were “two up”.
Ordinarily, I verify routes turn by turn after planning on “Tyre” – www.tyre.tk however, I’d not had a chance to this time, so Tom Tom took us a little “off piste” between Lemoine & Cavron Saint-Martin – a treat for the GS riders I’m sure, but not so much fun with those on more road biased machines than the Ewan MacGregor/Charley Boorman’s among us! I am glad no one else could hear me singing Bonnie Tylers “Lost in France” to myself… (for those of you not quite old enough – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFt52agWXRM ).
The rain and wind persisted relentlessly until we reached Chantilly, and took the opportunity to have a leg stretch and get out our box brownies for a photo or two of the bikes and the Chateau.
The final run into Paris we were “treated” to the spectacle of a rather “enthusiastic” wedding procession on the inner peripherique – flags being waved, horns sounded, irratic swerving and people hanging out of windows. Perhaps they’d all started on the Champagne a little early (although, from their appearance, Lambrini would be a more likely beverage of choice)… A safe distance was maintained that’s for sure!
Our arrival at the hotel was a little later than planned – the weather was a significant factor in this, but there was time enough to have a freshen up and rv at 9 for a bit of food and perhaps a cheeky biere.
Nom nom nom….
The plan for Sunday was that we’d meet up at 10am, ready to roll and Jamie would spend the morning in Paris with Sarah – she was blissfully unaware about it as she remained in bed while we set off- Jamie having successfully duped her about the real time. Good work Jamie.
Aside from a brief albeit heavy shower, the return weather was fantastic. A schoolboy error on my part took us on a Peagé; something I try to avoid whenever possible. But hey, it happened. A quick fiddle with the Tom Tom got us back on track, mostly dry roads, with some a little damp/drying. Being a Sunday there were even less people about than on Saturday, happy days. The winds were still high, and some were really suffering with crosswinds – having been there with that I know just how much it can screw up your ride/day. We were using the 2nd rider drop off system there were was no pressure to keep up meaning that those who wanted to “make good progress” could (within speed limits of course).
The Albert fuel stop gave a chance for those who wanted to clean their bikes give them a blast off with a coin-op pressure washer; mine looked like I could both grow & bake potatoes on the engine casings!
Lunch in Albert was limited to a choice of one establishment, since everything else seemed to be fermé, and what a feast it was! Good job the only veggie on the trip wasn’t there as she was otherwise (getting) engaged; a veritable Moroccan meat fest!
On the final leg, we got word that Sarah had said “Oui” so arrangements were made to meet up with the happy couple at Folkestone as they were on track for an earlier train.
We met with Jamie & Sarah in Folkestone and congratulated them before starbursting in our own directions home.
I can’t wait to do it again!