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Thurs June 4th
I slept pretty well last night considering today im heading off on a trip that i've been dreaming about for 2 or 3 years.
My panniers/tank bag/tail pack/etc have been packed since Sunday and my new 2 man tents been tried out in the garden and all is going good, except for the air mattress that refuses to stay up for more than 2 hours.
My ferry doesnt leave Portsmouth till 11pm so i have all day to iron out any problems i may have, so i take a trip to the local camping store and buy a self inflating mattress, its not a thermarest but a cheaper copy,but that doesnt mean its going to let me down just cause its cheaper...does it?
I finish packing and collect my better half from work as she has finished early to see me off.
I give the bike a good look over to make sure all is good and put my gear on, my heart is pounding as i cant believe im finally about to leave!
Yeah its a small trip....less than 2 weeks but it may as well be 2 years the way i feel at the moment!
Im just about to walk out the front door when i spot my Suzuki diagnostic connector and trouble code index on the table (im a bike mechanic)...i forgot to put it in my tank bag, ah its ok i wont bother bringing it, its not like im going to need it am i?
I kiss my better half goodbye and feel like a total selfish b*stard as i see shes pretty upset as I start the bike.
Right this is it, lets get going, i've got some miles to cover and some new friends to make over the next few days!
I pull away from our house and onto the roundabout and straight away a brand new Audi a3 cuts me up big time, he's got his windows down so i have a quick discussion with him about his dubious parentage and I suggest he best be on way pretty quickly.
I have 120 miles to cover to get to Portsmouth (i live near Bristol) but i've got lots of time and the weather is good.
Its a strange feeling, i still cant believe im finally doing this but at the same time i hate the fact that my girlfriend is at home upset because she's worried for me, although she wants me to do this trip cause as she said this is all i have talked about for 2 years!
Im winding my way thru the country roads, getting used to the way the bike (V-Strom 650) handles with all this kit straped on, its not bad actually! I reach Sallisbury, what a traffic jam, it looks like every piece of restored ww2 millitary equipment in the UK is heading for Portsmouth to catch the ferry to le Havre for the D day comemorations.
Im sitting at a set of lights next to a 1940's US army jeep with 3 fellas and lots of luggage. They look my bike up and down, see all the kit and give me a knowing smile, i return the complement and pull away with a giddy feeling that i havent had since i was a kid on Christmas morning.
On to the M27 twords Portsmouth and its busy, 3 bikes come past me all loaded up with kit (ktm adv, yam fz1 and tdm 900) and we exchange waves and i stick with them for a while but their moving a bit fast for me, over the ton, so i back off and ride at my own pace. I follow the signs for the ferry and pull into the bustling port with a couple of hours to kill. There's old millitary vehicles everywhere and a hell of a lot of bikes. I go into the terminal toilets and change from my bike gear into my 'civy gear' ready for the overnight crossing to le Havre.
We board the ferry and i have a quick look around to get my bearings and see whats what. Theres a couple of bars, restaurants and coffee shops etc and i have some grub before heading for my sleeper seat and catching some shut eye, well at least that was the plan until the fella accross the aisle starts to snore his head off, but its ok cause i've got my bike jacket with me and in the left hand pocket i keep my ear plugs, i pop them in and close my eyes. Just a few hours and ill be in France.
Good start to what sounds like its going to be a great trip!
Did you sleep ok in the sleeper seat? I've toyed with that idea but always get swayed by the luxury of a cabin!
Keep us updated with the trip and photos - good luck and ride safe
Fri 5th June
I wake up after having a great nights sleep, the sleeper seats are really comfy and fold down flat to make a bed.
Another passenger tells me that there's showers on board so off i go to freshen up and change back into my bike gear.
A little while later im standing in a cue to buy a cup of coffee and i see an old soldier all decked out in his medals, one of the medals catches my eye because its got an Irish harp on it. (Im Irish). I start chatting to him and ask him what this medal is for, he tells me "young man thats the medal of the royal Irish gaurds (or regiment, i cant remember) and that he recieved it a few years ago on the anniversary of their foundation.
He fought in WW2 and was involved in the Normandy landings.
Im humbled to be in his presence.
He asks me where im off to and i tell him my story, he reply's that my trip sounds better and that he might slip away and join me! We share a laugh and he goes back to his family.
I head outside and its nice and sunny, I can see Le Havre and it suddenly reminds me of what im about to do.
The boat pulls in and we get ready to roll off, finally the the ramp comes down and i can see France! I roll down the ramp, telling myself "ride on the right, ride on the right"(I also have some red tape on my right hand mirror)
I go about 100 yards and i think "s*it, i dont know what im doing" I pull over and get off my bike, pretending to secure my allready oversecure luggage.
Within 5 mins theres 12 bikes pulled over on the side, all pretending to check luggage/maps etc, all grinning sheepishly at each other.Looks like im not the only one whos never ridden in France then!
I mount up, say "f*ck it" to myself and head out into Le Havre traffic.
I follow a sign that says "tout directions" and about 2 miles down the street i pull in to fill up with fuel, my credit card works in the machine and this little piece of good news spurs me on and i get back on my bike and just go for it.
My destination on my first night is to be a town called Vierzon about 200 miles away so i head out onto the motorway twords Rouen crossing over a massive suspension bridge with gorgeous views on both sides.
A few miles down the road and i come to a toll booth, i pay the fee (1euro 90 cent i think) and pull over on the hard shoulder to check my map, no sooner have i pulled over than a bmw 650 pulls in and the rider, an English chap who looks no more than about 18 gets off to say hello, its his first time in France too and he's off to the alps,we wish each other a safe trip and were back on the road again.
I jump off the motorway and head south thru Evreux, Dreux, and onto Chartres, the land here is flat for miles all around and the wind is unbelievably strong.
I come up behind a yamaha cruiser with Uk plates, in front of him theres an artic lorry and the wind is pushing it around big time.
A powerfull gust of wind comes in from the left and the lorry is blown clean off the road and onto a dirt track running alongside the road, its all i can do to keep the bike upright and i see the yamaha is having the same problem.
The lorry swings back onto the road and both Mr yamaha and i overtake him, its safer to be in front than behind him i think!
I stop at a set of lights at the city of Orleans and the Yamaha cruiser rolls to a stop beside me, "where abouts in Ireland are you from?"( I have Ireland stickers on the back of my bike and helmet.) I give my standard answer "just south of Dublin" "I was born in Dublin" he says and we pull in and chat for a while.
We move on and as soon as we get past Orleans i start to feel tired and i havent eaten since the boat this morning. I pull in to a little village called Nouan le fuzellier and locate a campsite, the guy on reception charges me 12euro for the night and on my way out the door he hands me a tin of pork and beans for free!
I pitch my tent, have some grub and then go and fill up with fuel for the trip to Le Puy en Velay tommorow.
On the way back into the campsite im approaching the barrier where i need to type in an access code to enter. There a group of teenagers sitting around the barriers drinking bottles of and as i approach one of them stands up and moves twords me, "here we go" i think as he walks to the keypad and types in an access code, the barrier goes up and he holds up his hand for a high 5 as i ride past! Everyone of them says Bonjour as i go by and it just serves to remind me that im not in the UK anymore.
I climb into my tent start to read a book i bought on the ferry, i wake two hours later not having finished the first page, i turn the light out and sleep the sleep the of the dead.
Sat 6th june
I woke this morning with a banging headache and it takes me a few seconds to remember where I am, I look at my watch and i've over slept by about 1 hour, thats not like me, I must have turned my alarm off in my sleep!
I get up, shower, pack my gear and im on the road by about 10.30am.
I've got my waterproofs on as its dark and cloudy today and sure enough within 30 mins of leaving the campsite the rain is bucketing down.
I take a bypass around Vierzon and head for Bourges, its raining really heavy now and im not enjoying this at all.
I pull in at bourges for a cup of coffee and some cheese on toast to warm me up, water is streaming down the streets and i really have to force myself to get back on the bike and get moving again.
Im hoping to make it to Le Puy en Velay today, about 240 miles away.
I keep moving at a steady pace, and pretty soon im making headway, passing thru St Amand Montrond and Monlucon.
After a couple of hours of cold windy wet riding i get to Clermont Ferand and pull in to have a kebab!
Thers lots of locals driving around with blue and yellow flags hanging out of their car windows, blowing horns and cheering, must be some local football or rugby game on tonight!
Im sitting in the kebab shop looking at my map and I decide that maybe i wont travel as far as Le Puy today as im pretty knackered and i need to dry out.
I jump on the A75 and get going again and soon the rain gives way to lovely warm sunshine!
This gives me a boost and i decide once more to make Le Puy tonight.
I get off the A75 and take a smaller road and now im having fun, the road is dry, theres no traffic and the scenery is good.
I round a corner only a few miles from my destination and see on my left some ruins of an old castle, i pull in for some pics and then get going for the last couple of miles.
The approach into Le Puy is gorgeous, theres an old chapel built on top of a hill, with the base of the chapel being the same diameter as the top of the hill! how the hell did they build it?
Some more statues surround the town, all looking down from great heights and looking spectactular.
I ride thru the town and soon something catches my eye, Buddy Mulligans Irish bar and right next door to it is Le Shamrock Irish bar, I can feel a good night coming on!
I pull up outside the bars, take off my helmet and stroll indside Le Shamrock, the barman sees the Ireland sticker on my helmet and asks me "have I ridden all the way from Ireland to here?" I tell him i've come from the UK and i could do with a cheap hotel for the night so as i can dry out and warm up.
Next thing i know he's on his mobile booking me into a cheap clean hotel 100 yards up the street, he hangs up, gives me some directions and tells me theres a room witing for me. I shake his hand and promise to return later on for a drink or 7, I really think im going to have a good time here tonight!
But thats another story.
Having fun reading your post. I haven't ventured outwith the UK as yet, but the more I'm reading about your adventure the more I'm tempted to get the panniers down from the loft and on the bike and just head off. I've been wanting to ride through France for ages so keep the updates coming.
Sat night 6th June.
I walk into hotel reception and ask for a room, "what kind of room?" the receptionist asks in perfect English as she looks at me like im something she picked up on the sole of her shoe.
"A hotel room" I say with a smile, "I believe someones just booked one over the phone for me?" ah yes, room 16 she says and i pay for the room on my credit card, i hate using the card but i want to keep my cash for more important things!
I park my bike directly outside my window and cart all my gear indoors, im determined to sample the French nightlife tonight and i start looking for some clean clothes to put on.
I open my tail pack and remove my stove and other cooking gear and think to myself jokingly "imagine i get so drunk tonight that i come back to my room and start cooking some camping food on my stove"
But surely that could never happen....could it?
Im showered and changed in record time and my first port of call is the hotel bar.
I pull up a stool and order a , oh no its the ice queen from reception, she's a barmaid aswell!
Within 20 mins her mood has completely changed and i have her laughing like a hyena and to be honest she is'nt half pretty when she smiles!
2 hours later i've got her playing traditional Irish music on her laptop and speaking fluent Irish, (all be it filthy swear words)
Shes in great form and im in even better form and its then that i drop the clanger!
"You have a beautifull french accent" i say, "whereabouts in France are you from?"
"Dreseden" she replies, "Germany, im here just for the summer months"
Christ im embarassed, how the f*ck did i mistake a German accent for a French one? I must be pretty drunk allready.
I dont think i could be more ambarassed if i pissed myself in front of her.
Only one thing to do... another frauline sil vous plait.
Beer makes everything seem better.
I finish my drink, mumble something about it being nice to meet her, make my excuses and leave, i've got 2 more bars to visit yet.
I walk/trot/roll down the hill twords Buddy Mulligans and enter to see everyone watching a rugby game between Clermont Ferand and Perpignan (I think), so this is why everyone was waving flags around Clermont today when i stopped for a kebab!
Against all my better judgement I order a pint of Guinness, now, any Irish man will tell you NEVER drink a pint Guinness in anywhere but Ireland and maybe a few places in the UK, its just not the same and a bad pint of Guinness can really mess you up for a couple of days.
I take my first mouthfull and oh my god, I cannot believe how bad this tastes, i look around the bar and everyone is smiling at me and saying stuff like Guinness nice yes? I force myself to swallow it and i really think im going to throw up.
I takes me nearly an hour to finish the pint.
I go next door to Le Shamrock to visit the barman who booked my hotel room and to buy him a drink.
Im only there a few mins when he produces a laptop computer and shows me photos that are strangely familliar.
He tells me he goes to Ireland every year to play golf and to fish, and the pics he's showing me are from a golf course not far from where i grew up and where my parents still live! What a small world we live in!
I spend a few hours here, the barman having a drink everytime i have one and all the locals making me feel as one of their own.
By the end of the night im discussing the finer points of the Toulouse rugby defense with a local who cant speak English, we communicate with wild hand movements.
Its closing time and i wish my new friends good luck and wobble off to my hotel, I've been told theres a fast food outlet called Mick burger just up the street (apt name for an Irish man looking for a late night feed dont you think?) but i cant find it, i search everywhere but no sign of it, were my French friends having a laugh at my expense? possibly.
Im drawn to the sound of laughter and music and i find myself outside another bar, will i have a nightcap, it would be rude not to.
I dont remember much about this bar except for one vivid flashback of me, on the bar gyrating to loud music and a girl has her arms wrapped around my legs and something about a dog on the bar aswell! somethings are best left in the murky depths of memory loss.
I wake the next morning in my hotel room with a stinking hangover, i open one eye and straight away i notice a strange taste on my breath, meatballs! I look around and there on the middle of the floor is my camping stove and empty food packets, looks like i got something to eat last night after all!
Sunday 7th june.
I pack my gear onto my bike and go to reception to check out, the fella on reception asks me if I enjoyed my stay, I tell him I did but that now i feel as sick as a small hospital and that i just need to find a cafe where i can chill out and let my hangover dissapear.
I pull out of the hotel car park and just roll down the street to the town square where i find free motorcycle parking.
I lock the bike up and head across the street to a small cafe with lots of tables and chairs outside on the footpath.
I order a large cofee and a sandwich and I just sit in the sun fermenting for the next hour.
"Excuse me mate are you British?" I hear from behind me, i turn around and there's 3 fella's standing there in bike gear, looking as bad as i feel.
"Nah mate im Irish" i say, "but dont let that stop you from joining me" they laugh and pull up some chairs.
Turns out they've come from Doncaster and have travelled a similiar route to mine, they've also been out last night and are feeling the aftereffects now aswell.
We drink coffee and talk bikes and routes for the next hour, they're a good bunch of fellas and its their first trip abroad too.
Turns out we're all headed to Millau today, but they're travelling a different route to me so we arrange to meet in Millau town centre tonight.
They saddle up and head off and i cross over to my bike and get ready to leave also.
I,d like to have travelled with them and they even asked me to but i declined their offer for 2 reasons, no. 1 i want to ride the Gorge du Tarn into Millau and no.2 is that about 15 years ago I had a really nasty bike crash in which I hit a lorry head on and ended up underneath it, I damaged my spine but luckily was'nt paralised, it took me a while to walk again and i couldnt work for a year.
Now i tend to travel at a sedate pace, 75 to 80 mph on the motorways and slower on the smaller roads, nearly everyone else rides faster than this so i allways feel that im holding people up when i ride with them.
Hence the reason i usually ride alone.
I hop on the bike and im pulling out of the car park when i see, in all its glory.........Mick burger!
My new French friends were'nt having a laugh after all! and its all of 50 yards from the Le Shamrock pub! How did I miss it last night?
I head out of town twords another town called Mende, climing steeply and looking back down the hillside at stunning views of Le Puy en Velay, it really is a nice town and the locals are magic.
The road to Mende is fantastic, stunning views all around and the suns out aswell, lifting my spirits and im smilling so much inside my helmet that my jaw is starting to hurt.
I pass thru Mende and head twords the gorge, the roads are getting smaller now with lots of 1st gear hairpins and steep climbs, the bike is running great and im really gunning up the moutain side, this is it, this is why im here, i havent felt this happy for a long long time. I have had a pretty shit year, family deaths and so on, but this feels like im blowing all that crap away with my throttle and the harder i twist it and the lower i drop the bike into the bend the more all those sad times of the past year just dissapear.
I drop down into the gorge and i cant believe the views, the villages are picture perfect, the river running along on my left and a sheer rock face to my right, twists and turns, steep climbs and steeper drops, and the bike feels like its got a mind of its own! im just along for the ride.
I stop numerous times to take photos and just admire the views, i look at my map and im getting close to Millau.
For 2 years its been a pin in a wall map of France in my bedroom and now im allmost there.
I pass thru another gorgeous town and i must be getting close now.
I round a right hand bend and there in front of me about 6 or 7 miles away is the Millau bridge, i pull over and just sit on my bike and stare at it, i cant believe i've done it! i've got a lump in my throat and i cant stop grinning.
Time to find a campsite, im going to be here for 2 days.
Sun evening 7th June.
I ride around Millau for a while just taking in the views of the bridge and the town, there's lots of bikes around and numerous small 2 stroke scooters with loud exhausts and some with extended forks!
I locate a campsite on the banks of the river Tarn and pitch my tent, i heat up some food on my stove and have some baguette that i bought fresh earlier in the day.
An ST 1100 pulls in to the site, 2 up with Estonian plates, they pitch up beside me and i give them a spare side stand puck to stop their bike sinking in the soft ground.
I leave all my luggage in the tent and ride into town, the bike feels so light without all the gear!
Im lookling for a good bar where I can have a few drinks tonight with the fella's from Doncaster.
I go into a newsagents to buy some disposable razors as i lost mine a couple of days ago.
I ask the girl behind the counter if she knows of any good bars but she's not from Millau and doesnt know the town that well, just then a local man walks into the shop with a massive dog and an even bigger moustache.
He looks like he's in his mid 40's and is only about 5foot 2, the dog is allmost up to his chest!
The shop keeper asks him in French the whereabouts of a good bar and he reply's instantly "The Rugby bar"
He proceeds to write down directions to the bar and then a young black kid walks in, straight away he gets into the discussion and within a minutes both he and the moustachiode man are insisting on taking me to the bar to have a drink!
I decline the offer because my bike is outside but they insist that my bike will be ok locked up on the footpath for the night!
I pollitely decline their offer and return to the campsite to drop off my bike. I stroll back into town and meet up with the guys from Doncaster, we sit outside the first bar we come to, we drink and have a chat for a couple of hours, the evening is lovely and warm.
The bar owner, a giant of a man from Turkey i think, buys us a couple of s just before last orders, and then ushers us inside for a late drink!
A couple of hours later we leave the bar to go back to out respective campsites, one of the Doncaster fellas is looking twords the sky and swears he's seen a UFO! he's quite freaked out and wont accept any other explanation other than it was a UFO! (Who says French is'nt strong!)
I start to walk away from the bar and turn around to say a final goodbye to the lads from Doncaster when i see the sign over the pub door......Le Rugby bar...!!
I walk back to my campsite, climb into my tent and fall asleep to the sound of the river Tarn flowing gently not 20 feet from my pitch.
Monday 8th June.
"My wife likes a drop of wine" says the owner of the huge motorhome as he opens the door to reveal 200 liters of French wine they have bought on their travels.
The Estonians on the ST 1100 left last night and in their place is an English couple in their mid 70's with a peugeot motorhome, their 3rd since the early 1990's he says.
He calls his wife out to meet me, Im expecting an old toothless wino to come staggering thru the door but instead an elegant and charming lady steps down to introduce herself.
Damn my back is sore, remember that cheap copy of a Thermarest i bought on day one before i left to catch my ferry? well there's a reason its cheap..... it doesnt stay up! as i discovered at about 5am this morning.
I have taken today off, im just going to hang around and relax, do some maintenance on the bike and be a tourist.
I ride to the Millau bridge visitor centre and have my photo taken underneath the giant structure, but no words or photos can do this bridge justice, it simply must be seen to be appreciated.
I spend a couple of hours riding around some small roads with lots of hairpins underneath the bridge and taking photos before heading back into town where i just chill out in the cafe's for a while, drinking coffee and watching the world go by.
I call into the local "Simply" supermarket to buy some French bread and cheese to have with my supper of soup and pasta back at the tent.
After i've had something to eat and showered etc. i stroll into town for my last night in Millau.
That night i discovered that even though Millau is a small town it is packed full of colourfull characters and places...
Like the first bar i called to where i get a front row seat to one of the most spectacular ellectrical storms i have ever seen, lighting up the surounding mountains like daylight and the streets filling with an inch of water within minutes..........Or the bar where i sit and watch an argument between a lesbian(I dont like to stereo type either, but trust me she was a lesbian!) and a crack head, the lesbian eventually won the argument after the crack head passed out and slid off his bar stool.......And then there was the bar where i sat and watched thru the window as 2 hooray Henry's jumped into an immaculate snow white Morris Minor with a red convertible top and speed thru town on the wrong side of the road.........and last but not least there was the bar where a Korean, a Turk, a Portugesse, a Spanish mother and daughter, a fella from Birmingham with no teeth, and i all got drunk on French and tried to solve all the worlds problems, despite the fact that the Brummy and i were the only ones speaking the same language.
At one stage a rumour circulated thru the bar claiming that the Korean man was none other than the infamous Kim Jong Il, on holliday for some much needed rest, it seems he's been under a lot of stress lately, but this was denied by the brummy who claimed that our Korean friend was too short to be Kim.
God tommorrow's going to hurt.
Hi there sounds great. I am leaving for 2 weeks sometime in September. I intend to go to Perpignan via Millau and yes its the first time I will have ridden on the wrong side of the road! My route will be from Calais. Are the camp sites easy to find? Hoping to hear more from you.
Hi there sounds great. I am leaving for 2 weeks sometime in September. I intend to go to Perpignan via Millau and yes its the first time I will have ridden on the wrong side of the road! My route will be from Calais. Are the camp sites easy to find? Hoping to hear more from you.
Hi, basically what i done was broke my trip into approx 250 mile segments. And then look on the map for a town or village that was approx 250 miles from my set off point.
For example, set off point Le Havre, approx 250 miles to Vierzon.
Then type into google "campsites in Vierzon" and then just print off a map of Vierzon showing 2 or 3 campsites.
But to be honest you dont even need to do this as allmost every town has signposts for campsites.
No need to pre book so you can keep your plans loose and change routes etc if you want.
Tue 9th June.
Im all packed and ready to pull out of Millau, I've had a great time here and met some good people that I wont forget for a long time.
I have a look at my map, im heading to Limoges today, approx 200 miles north west of Millau, but first i need to head south twords Montpellier for a few miles so i can jump on the A75 and head back north over the Millau bridge, i've been under and around the bridge in the last couple of days but not across it yet.
I head out of Millau climbing steeply up a mountain side which gives some breathtaking views of the town, the weather is really nice today and it feels good to be heading somewhere new.
I join th A75 and head twords the bridge, the motorway is really quiet for what should be a really busy time for commuters on the way to work etc.
I reach the bridge after a few miles and I have to say that in my opinion it looks even more stunning whan approached from the motorway than it does to drive underneath it.
I cross the bridge and pull into a viewing area so I can take some pics.
Back on the road again and I jump off the motorway and pass thru some lovely towns and villages, all very peacefull and quiet.
I start to feel hungry and decide to find somewhere that i can have a proper meal and not just more baguette and cheese.
I arrive at a small village near Figeac, there's a shop, a restaurant and a post office (i think).
I park outside the restaurant and walk inside to find what basically is somebodys front room turned into a cafe, its quite busy with local workmen and all of them turn and look at me as i sit down at an empty table.
There's 2 set menus, one is 9 euro and the other is 10, I choose the 9 euro menu and wait for my food.
A few minutes later im served a big basket of fresh bread, a large jug of red wine, a large jug of water and a dish of fresh hot chicken casserole.
The meal is gorgeous but of course i couldnt touch the wine as i was riding my bike.
Time to hit the road again and pretty soon i pass thru Brive and I get back on the motorway for the last stretch up to Limoges.
I have directions to a campsite but decide at the last minute that i'll stay in a hotel tonight and get some proper sleep.
Im sitting on my bike on the side of the street when 2 English fellas walk up and ask if im lost, both of them are in their 60's and come from Liverpool.
They have riden here on ST1100's and are staying just around the corner in a new hotel.
I book myself into the same hotel and head down to the bar to have some food.
The bar food is very expensive so i buy a drink and decide to walk into town to have something to eat later on.
Im standing at the bar and i notice a woman sitting on her own about 20ft away, she smiles over at me and gestures for me to join her, I walk over and she introduces herself, she's here to collect her friend who works in the bar.
We talk for a while and i tell her of my trip and of the sites I have seen and she tells me about herself and that she runs her own pizza parlour and delivery service a few miles outside town.
Her friend finishes work and we say goodbye and they leave.
Im starving now so i head into town and buy myself some fast food and then go back to my room for some much needed sleep.
Tommorow im heading for Le Mans to watch the practice for the 24 hours du Mans, but before that i need to stop off at a place which would turn out to be the highlight of my trip, it is both beautiful and horrific at the same time.
Its called Oradur sur Glane.
Wed 10th June.
I rise early and head down to the restaurant for some breakfast.
Straight away I bumb into the 2 Liverpool lads that i met yesterday.
We all sit down and swap stories and it turns out their heading to Oradur sur Glane this morning aswell, i ask if its ok to join them and they say no problem.
We finish breakfast and agree to meet in the hotel garage in half an hour.
Half an hour later our small convoy is pulling out of Limoges and heading thru the rolling green countryside twords the infamous town of Oradur.
I've seen pics of Oradur and read about it online and I decided early in planning this trip that I would visit the village to see the scene of the cowardly massacre for myself.
We arrive at Oradur and park up in the new town that was built after the Nazis burned the original to the ground to cover the evidence of their attrocities.
There are lots of police and tourists here and we discover that today is actually the 65th anniversary of the massacre.
We spend a couple of hours walking around the old town, visiting the church and other various buildings where the killings took place.
The old tram lines are still in place and I can see that the town was very affluent in its day.
We visit the visitor centre and I buy a book on the history of the town and then, all too soon its time to move on, Im riding to Le Mans today and I've prebooked a ticket to watch the practice tonight for the 24 hour Le Mans race this weekend.
We bid each other farewell and I head off on my own to Le Mans.
The weather turns really bad again and pretty soon im riding in torrential rain, if i didnt have a ticket prebooked for the practice tonight i probably would have thrown in the towel after a couple of hours and waited out the rain in some hotel.
I battle on and the rain just gets worse, with really strong winds aswell.
My mood has been really down since visiting Oradour, I cant get the thoughts of what the Nazis done to those civillians out of my head and its distracting me from concentrating on the road.
I stop in the city of Tours and eat some food that I had stored in my luggage, shortly after this I turn on my heated grips, my hands are cold from the driving rain, but they only last 15 minutes, water has got into the switch and the grips are stuck on full power,I pull the fuse to kill the power to the grips and continue on my way.
I get to within 5 miles of Le Mans and I hear a strange noise and I think to myself what now?
I pull over and open my visor, the noise I heard is the race cars on the track 4 to 5 miles away!!!
I ride into Le Mans and collect my ticket and head for the camp site.
55 Euro for 1 night camping!
I pitch my tent as fast as i can and walk thru the site to the race track to watch the cars go by.
There are lots of upper class British guys here in their early 20's driving porsche 911's etc, and I suddenly feel very out of place on my trusty V-strom.
I walk into the grandstand and as i do a corvette streaks past at close to 180 MPH sounding absolutley evil, it is easily the most intimidating engine sound I have ever heard, only to be passed by an Aston Martin, who in turn has a v10 diesel Peugeot on his tail! (Peugeot would go on to win the race at the weekend)
I Have been a mechanic for the past 19 years and have worked on numerous competion bikes in the UK, Ireland and the USA I can say this place is like Mecca to me and the hairs are standing up on the back of my neck and on my arms as I stand directly across from the Aston Martin pits and listen to the scream of their engines as they pull in to make adjustments.
The atmosphere is unbelievable, as are the prices for food and drink, a can of coke was over 4 euro!
At 11pm I head back to the tent to catch some sleep, there's parties going on all over the campsite so I pop in some ear plugs, crawl into my sleeping bag and even though im in Le Mans and surrounded by thousands of people having a good time i still cant shake the black mood thats been hanging over me since Oradour.
Sleep is not going to come easy tonight.
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