Travel Through France on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

France on a Harley (21/3/98 - 1/4/98)
Distance 932 km (93430 km to 94362 km)

This is part of the third section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Guernsey or read our previous visit to France

21-22/3/98 Back to mainland Europe in the morning and a general rest and chores for the two days. We still managed a few promenades, very European, just out strolling, around the old city, destroyed in WW2 and authentically rebuilt, out to a tidal island, over to the upmarket Mercedes resort beaches at Dinard and along our own grand beach, all very windy and cold with the breeze originating somewhere in the Atlantic freezing our pants off.

23/3/98 A short 200 km to Bayeux via Mont-Saint-Michael. The Mont. stands as a pinnacle surrounded by a vast expanse of mud flats at low tide or the ocean at high tide. Started in 700 AD and continually built on since it now towers 89 meters high with earlier churches buried by later editions. Its location leaping up from the surrounding landscape perhaps the most striking memory. The Bayeux Tapestry Museum, my aren't we becoming cultured, nothing much else in Europe as the present culture is the same as ours and we have all nations restaurants in Australia. The language though pisses me off when three year old French children can learn it and even the dogs understand commands in French and I can't grasp many words, makes me feel real dumb. Anyway back to my Europe history. This tapestry, over 79 meters long was stitched around 1077, lasts longer than my jeans, and details the story of the events and the war where William the Conqueror, a French guy, invaded England and won the English throne in 1066. Last guy to have invaded England successfully.The causeway to Mont-Saint-Michael Naturally being in France the story is a bit biassed on the tapestry but the museum straightens it out .

24/3/98 Bayeux was also the first town to be liberated in Europe at the end of WW2 and is the centre point for excursions to the D-Day beaches and museums. While war is horrendous hopefully its memory will help prevent others. The largest military operation in history started on the 6th June 1944 when 135000 troops and 7000 boats stormed ashore on nearby beaches, but what was more impressive was the harbour built by prefabricated concrete and steel sunken pontoons, manufactured in England and towed to France where they were sunk. Over 200 of these, 60 meter long sections, were towed across along with 7 km of floating road to aid in the unloading of troops and supplies at up to 1 lorry every five seconds working 24 hours a day. More depressing although beautifully maintained are the cemeteries in the area showing the human toll of the conflict.Remains of the largest military operation in history, D-Day landing Thank goodness that wars today are fought by economics and no guns. The human toll is still great with sanctions and asset seizing but the deterrent seems to be greater as global economies merge and no country or its leaders can remain economic islands.

25/3/98 200 km to Rouen, good roads through many small towns. Rouen is famous, amongst other things, for its burning at the stake, Jeanne d Arc. Credited with rallying the troops against the English she was charged with heresy by the church and torched, 25 years later the church declared the trial wrong, and in 1920 she was made a Saint. Of course France celebrates her efforts with a public holiday on the date of her death. Probably more interesting than Jeanne was a visit to the medieval burial grounds of plague victims. Isolated from the community they were housed around a courtyard, houses decorated with carved skulls and bones, just waiting to succumb to the black death. This diary is sounding more like a history book rather than aStreet celebration in Rouen motorcycle trip but the roads are good, the food is all supermarket, the people are western and there is little to write about what we are doing other than history.

26/3/98 If we want to go to Paris then its bite the bullet and face the Parisian traffic. Hoping to miss the rush time, leaving at 8 am and changing the engine oil roadside we arrived via the motor way at eleven getting lost and ending up at La Defense, the modern Paris. Its much easier travelling two up when navigating. I yell at Kay who is holding the book with a small map, who usually tells me to turn right now while I am in the left lane or we should have gone left there just as we passed the street and we are now on on expressway or all the streets are one way the wrong way. Ultimately we end up where we are going after a few stops and arguments. It must be more difficult on two motorcycles with one wanting to go one way and the other in the other direction.  Still we ended up at the Arc De Triomph, the largest vehicle roundabout in the world, and in the words of the monuments video,Arc De Triomph "the naval of the world". A ride down the Champs Elysee and we are truly in Paris.

27/3/98 Paris isn't a city to wander aimlessly about, unless you have a couple of years to spare, we think five days is enough to be off the motorcycle and more than enough in a large city, any city, even Paris. Armed with a five day unlimited entry museum pass, bulk metro tickets and a map carefully dotted with highlighter pens of various colours, numbers and codes we enthusiastically start, in light drizzle. Ten hours later and pavement weary we return to climb to the third floor of our dingy but expensive hotel room. The Arc De Triomph, 284 steps to the top, Marine Museum, Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Eglise Du Dome and the Army Museum all palling from memory with the thought of the next four days. But after our first home cooked meal this trip, (immersion heater, disposable aluminium cake tin, diced meat, chopped cabbage and potato simmered and eaten like a soup) eating out in Paris is laughably expensive, relaxed, we will be ready to face another day tomorrow.

28/3/98 After visiting heaps of museums I now feel I have a grip on the art world pre 20 th century. I have seen more clits, dicks and tits in Paris museums over the last two days than in all the porn magazines I have found under my sons beds or in biker magazines and they are on open display to everyone from 0 to 100, not hidden behind plastic wraps in some news agency. Obviously the forerunners of early porn magazines, designed to get around the censorship laws of past centuries under the guise of art. Mind you some are magnificent works, marble, bronzes and oils and when viewed outside in one of the many gardens or parks dress up the surroundings. We also visited the catacombs where a couple of million (no exaggeration) past Parisians have had their bones stackedCatacombs beneath the city in neat rows around the walls of an old underground quarry. Seems that in the 18th century cemeteries got a bit overcrowded to the extent that some were at ground level 2.5 meters higher than the surrounding land through stacking of coffins, and it was starting to cause a health hazard as rats were digging up the area. So it was decided to empty the cemeteries of their bones and stack them in the old quarry which us ghoulish tourists can walk around and rub heads with the dead.

29/3/98 Versailles on the edge of Paris and the playground of the Kings, and of course Marie Antoinette, up to their beheading. A spring Sunday brought out the masses and we joined the other sheep being herded down the 200 meter line to buy a ticket and bleated our way sardined through the rooms allowed for our viewing. There is of course a limit to how far marble can be carved, walls and ceilings frescoed and stone pillars ornated and the Palace at Versailles seems to have reached that limit. Tempers were flaring in the tight confines and it was refreshing to enter the 136 acres of gardens. Paris was no different, the vertically housed were thick on the ground in the many parks, but theThe original Mona Lisa dogs could not shit off the pavement, nor the children feel the grass between their toes, picnic on the grass, nor roll down a grassy slope to later feel its itchiness on the skin. All the green is fenced off for fear of trampling and as Cat Stevens once said "where will the children play".

30/3/98 Tramping the pavements of Paris again. The Pantheon, the place you are buried in France if famous as compared to the catacombs, where your bones are stacked, if your not. People like Pierre and Marie Curie and Voltaire are entombed here. And then a trip to Paris without a trip to the Louvre would be like a motorcycle without the paint and chrome. This incredible collection made more impressive by the ornate historical building in which it is housed takes hours just to glimpse. After five hours with a recorded commentary we had viewed perhaps a quarter. Off course the necessary Mona Lisa, Venus De Milo and the Winged Warrior of Samothrase were not missed. Aren't we cultured Aussies???

31/3/98 The last day of our five day museum pass, and just about museumed out and foot weary we managed to see the Conciergerie where the victims and then perpetrator's of the 1793 French Revolution were interned and tortured prior to their beheading including the famous Marie Antoinette. And lastly the Cathedral Notre Dame, and we didn't even see the hunch back after a 387 step walk to the top and through the bell tower but we did see the Gargoyles on every ledge, gruesome carvings of mythical chimera animals looking down on the patrons.

1/4/98 Sad to leave Paris, one of the best places we have visited and certainly an incredible and beautiful city, spacious and easy to get around but France is over for us and we travelled the 380 km to the small country of Luxembourg.

Move with us to  Luxembourg or go to our next visit to France





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