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  #1  
Old 10 May 2008
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first timer into france

As i cant go to Austria as i originally planned i am hoping to spend a few days in France. I did think maybe down the Normandy coast as i primarily want to see sites and photography rather than covering huge distances
I only have a 250 superdream so speed is not of the essence, but it will be the first time into Europe on a motor bike.Also i am not looking for motorway roads.
Have you any advice of places to see ,do learn,,,,or of routes and traffic things i need to be aware off.
Im not sure if to camp or use some form of hotel /b and b places.
I am a bit nervous, but still want to do it.I will be travelling in the july /august period as its the only time i have free/
Thanks in advance
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  #2  
Old 10 May 2008
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Suggest August be avoided. It is school holiday time in France and often difficult to get accomodation - particularly on camp sites in Normandy.

These people provide probably the best Dover/France return fare and a 50 minute crossing.

Just go, you'll enjoy it. Don't plan too much as you will feel obliged to keep to your plans. Take things as they come.
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  #3  
Old 10 May 2008
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Well, you can't go wrong really.

Hotel accomodation is a lot cheaper than the UK - you'll be very pleasantly surprised, even with your falling currency (change your pounds to Euros now). Otherwise every town, even small ones have municipal camp sites maintained by the local council that are a bargain. Have a search on the HUBB - these things have been discussed before.

Have a look at

driving directions, map UK, route planner, road map, Michelin Guides, book hotel online: Viamichelin

for roads and routes - the ones marked with green are pretty.

The French like motorcycles. They are not associated with criminality, violence and oil stains, but with living an exciting life and being your own person - transgression is valued here, in all its forms.

Roads are good quality, and empty compared to your country. A 250 will be fine.

If I were in your position, I'd come into Le Havre and work my way down the Seine, then along the Eure river to Dreux, then Rambouillet, and then zipping into Paris on a hot summer evening to sip cold white wine and look at the people. But it's your trip, I'm getting carried away, hmmm.

As for driving, well, they do it on the right and have some odd rules that are always negotiable, and oft followed in the breech. Don't worry. Only the very stupid are punished. Just be polite; that's enough. They don't expect very high standards of driving from anyone in my experience.

Simon
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  #4  
Old 10 May 2008
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Thumbs up Shame that plans change, but never mind

Quote:
Originally Posted by oldsomeman View Post
As i cant go to Austria as i originally planned i am hoping to spend a few days in France. I did think maybe down the Normandy coast as i primarily want to see sites and photography rather than covering huge distances
I only have a 250 superdream so speed is not of the essence, but it will be the first time into Europe on a motor bike.Also i am not looking for motorway roads.
Have you any advice of places to see ,do learn,,,,or of routes and traffic things i need to be aware off.
Im not sure if to camp or use some form of hotel /b and b places.
I am a bit nervous, but still want to do it.I will be travelling in the july /august period as its the only time i have free/
Thanks in advance
Hi Oldsomeman,
You have some good info in the other posts already: take a look about in the HUBB for more threads about France for instance - do a search for that word for instance.
The thing is that France is a big country by Europes' standards - you could ride further if you were to head for the south of France than you would cover if you did go to Austria.
Don't worry about that tinge of nervousness: it is all part of the trip - much better than going on a package trip with all of the details signed and sealed off by someone else!

When pulling out to ride on the RHS of the road, look for other traffic literally - do whatever the other traffic is doing - mistakes are made when there is no other traffic around and you forget that you are not in the UK (+ when you are tired, as ever). Roundabouts are "interesting" and there are lots of them in France nowadays.
Yep, the whole of France is on vacation in August, so the roads are busy to say the least. I agree with staying off the motorways, but you will then travel less quickly in covering the ground shown on the map i.e. don't over-estimate how far you can get in a set number of days.
Only very rarely have I pre-booked accommodation in France. Even in August you can find somewhere if you look around a bit, don't expect to get into the first place you try and stop to start looking around, say, mid-afternoon. I guess it depends on how fussy you are about what you want to find for accommodation.

That will do for now: have fun on the S/dream!
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  #5  
Old 10 May 2008
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I fully concour with simon.

You did not specify what kind of sights.. Make use of D roads, do not get confused about the numbering though, the d stands for Department which is similar to a county in UK. So you will see the same numbers croppping up on different roads in different departments, but the roads will be unrelated ( usually ). Unlike teh uk, France mostly kept the old A and B road system when it built the motorway network. The result is those old charming roads are nearly empty of non local traffic.

From 12 till 2pm everyone stops for lunch. if you see a nondescript building with loads of lorries parked around it at that time, it is probably a 'relais' truckers resturant. There you will get a very good multicourse lunch of peasant fare for around 10 euros. Excellent value, but dont be late.
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  #6  
Old 10 May 2008
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getting there

If i call at these 'cafes' along the way will my minimal French suffice.i must admit i n Paris the French spoke good english...well mainly lol..but i was able to say hello and good bye and thanks?
I dont mind eating local.indeed its all part of the enjoyment.
Might i just ask about camping..if i do camp the tent i will be using will be a small one, will this be safe...or do i have to lug all my kit around with me all day?
I was hope to do the suggestion mentioned earlier .to stay in an area for few days and explore.
thank you for all your replies so far.......I'm quite starting to look forward to the idea of the trip.A long while since i have explored on a bike...some 35 years i think!
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  #7  
Old 10 May 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldsomeman View Post
If i call at these 'cafes' along the way will my minimal French suffice.i must admit i n Paris the French spoke good english...well mainly lol..but i was able to say hello and good bye and thanks?
Mais Oui.
Lots of French people speak English, but they don't want to "admit" that, nor do I blame them - it is their country after all (except the bits that the English used to rule and "we will be back one day" ).
Remember, Richard the Lionheart hardly spoke a word of English, nor did he spend much time here but he was the monarch of England and a tad busy on business overseas.

Seriously, when I am in France with English expats/French nationals I fall in with this 2 hour lunchbreak ritual. When not in that mode, I carry on with the riding - it is just one more way of not covering much ground in a day, a very enjoyable way it is agreed.
I have often "grabbed" a light lunch on the move: a snack from the tankbag - everything that is not in accord with the French 2 hour stop. You can get the ingredients at any local supermarket incl stopping for fuel - they are usually the cheapest in the local area, just as in the UK.

Warning: if you do the "major" lunch thing and then an evening meal, you can pack on a lot of weight very quickly!

In truth there are many aspects of France which are no different from here, but vive La Difference!
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  #8  
Old 10 May 2008
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never had a problem in france camping. but I would advise against leaving $700 in the corner if you hook up with a girlfriend...

but the usual applies, don't take stuff you can't replace. and if you have to, keep it on you (I'm thinking passport, money, cards, camera). this not only applies to theft, but also downpours.

between london and france you have enough time to learn the basic questions:

I would like to eat something
I would like a coffee/
I would like another one
Do you have a room/camping for one person, for one night
Where is the nearest petrol/bank/hotel/camping/etc

a french guy in the UK would get no-where speaking french, it's only manners to do the same there.

really do remember about riding on the right. especially first thing in the morning, after you get fuel, after you get lost, etc, etc.

| | ride -> |
| | ride -> | (on your tank if needed)
| | ride -> |
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  #9  
Old 10 May 2008
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All excellent advise above! I'd like to add my tuppeny's worth too if i may....
When navigating on N and D roads,largely ignore the road numbers as they firstly are rarely mentioned until you're actually on them and secondly they tend to change as you cross into a different "county",follow instead the signs for the next PLACE on your list(ie:village/town). If when you approach a town or village you don't see the signs directing you to the next place you have in mind,follow signs for "centre ville" and you'll come across the needed signs soon enough....often bypasses don't include destinations to everywhere nearby.
"camping municipal" as previously mentioned are generally excellent and very safe places to leave your tent with gear inside while you go sightseeing,they're more often than not populated by retired Dutch couples who are the nicest people you can hope to meet,speak better English than a lot of Brits i know(!),and will be only too happy to keep a lookout for you when you're gone.
Don't worry about your limited French.To make the effort to speak their language means more to them than getting it hopelessly wrong....and it'll inject humour into the situation which is such a valuable thing in today's world.Old men will come up to you and ask you about your bike,where you've come from,where you've been,etc...even if you don't understand what they say,take time to try and answer as best you can.The pace of life in rural France is totally different to the UK.
Be aware of the speed limits(though the locals don't always).When on the open road it's 90kph,when you pass a village boundry sign (red border on white sign,black writing) that's the start of the 50kph limit unless it says otherwise,and the end of the limit is the same sign in black writing/border with a line through it.Take note when other motorists coming the other way flash you...there's a "gendarme" with a hairdryer nearby.
Roundabouts....hmmmm! If it's even remotelly damp take HUGE care....they're as grippy as Teflon,which is about as grippy as the white paint is in the midle of the road too.But the flip side is that you'll notice the fuel ecconomy of the bike will be better than here in the UK as the road surface is less abrasive over there.
Fuel is much cheaper in the supermarkets than anywhere else although out of hours these can be a pain as they revert to "automat" mode when the attendant goes for lunch/home and as of last year most won't recognise British credit cards.If you get caught out simply wait until a local stops to fill up and ask if you can give them cash to use their card to fill up.I've never been refused yet.
Speedferries will be the cheapest operators but if you want to sail Portsmouth / Le Harvre on a night boat then LD lines are the best bet.I tend to do that as it means i arrive fresh in the morning ready for a full day's ride.
Above all take it easy and ENJOY!
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  #10  
Old 10 May 2008
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thanks folk for your kind advice,now i have to fit supper grip tyres for when i meet a french rounderbout lol
lets hope the locals dont mind my use of a phrase book lol,oh tis should be fun as my french is as bad as my writing on a good day!
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  #11  
Old 10 May 2008
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Enjoy your trip on the little Honda, you will be fine, I,ve never had any security probs in France in 30 yrs of touring.
Usual rules apply, would you park your bike at this place in the UK?
Would you pull out a lot of cash if you were at home?
Campsites,Hm? pal up the people on the next pitch, but carry your cash.

A tip for the new, ------Put a coloured elastic band round your twistgrip, the band should then always be next to the kerb.(remember to take it off when you get back)Pete
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  #12  
Old 11 May 2008
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There are a lot off campingplaces in France.
But do not take a free camping.
I had problems on it.
But there are motorcampings, only for motorbikes..
They are mostly very good and they speak English to.
And most of the owners know the best road to drive in the neighberhood.
Have fun.
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  #13  
Old 11 May 2008
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A 250 Superdream! fantastic, somebody after my own heart! I'm going down to the alps, probably in July, on a 1977 400/4. If you stay off the motorways you'll have a great time. I'd suggest you take some good maps though as it's not so easy to avoid the motorways at times. All the signs seem to point to them and the little town you're looking for is never mentioned.

Camping with a bike is a great way to travel in France. As others have said bikes are appreciated and there are campsites everywhere. Google the Castels campsites to see how good they can get - in the grounds of chateaux etc.
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  #14  
Old 11 May 2008
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Smile

The guys above have given you great advice, and I can't add to that really. Just be confident, you'll be fine. So is your bike, so no worries there.

In a way you're going home, because France, under the Normans, occupied most of this island for a long time and your language is around 30% of Norman/French origins. Result! You're on your way!

I can't remember if it's been mentioned - you must carry your ORIGINAL VO5 and VALID insurance docs. The cops can take your bike from you till you produce them. I've always found French cops OK incidentally. Wild camping is great in France, just exercise the usual discretion and a cloak of invisibility! I have a different view from Jurgen on this one. Also that comment on roundabouts - I havent come across this slippy issue at all, in many years riding in France. Still! always a first time. I think you'll find French roads MUCH better than UK roads.

I agree with someone - Speedferries is usually your cheapest and quickest crossing - Dover - Boulogne.

Bonne route!
PS
Oh yes - dont try your credit card in 24 hour automatic petrol pumps - it wont work. You can use it however, if there's an attendant, in the usual way.

Last edited by Caminando; 11 May 2008 at 12:52.
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  #15  
Old 11 May 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by backofbeyond View Post
. . . . I'd suggest you take some good maps though as it's not so easy to avoid the motorways at times. . . . . .
You will be able to "borrow" some good Michelin maps from your local library, oldsomeman. You may need to get them on "extended loan" or leave details with somebody so they may be renewed on-line for you if necessary.

Bon voyage.
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