Welcome! Our names our Patrick and Danette Harkness. We are from beautiful Vancouver BC, Canada, and are just starting a new journey. We thought we should introduce ourselves as we hope to be travelling on the bike for a year and that you might like to get to know us.
Patrick is 37 and I am 33, and we have hit a pre-middle age crisis. Patrick has always wanted to run away on his motorcycle ever since he fell in love with the sport when he was a teenager. When I was lucky enough to meet up with Patrick he had just bought a racing red BMW K75 and asked "who needs a ride?" Well I was quicker then the blond beside me and jumped on before she could and I have been happily on the back ever since.
I am lucky enough to be in banking and financial planning, and Patrick is an equity trader. So after hearing Patrick going on and on and on - well you get the idea, about running away for awhile on his motorcycle I said let me see what I can do.
After 32 months of saving money and buying a 2002 BMW 1150 GS, we are finally ready to go. Patrick works for an excellent company that has worked out a leave of absence for him and I have just up and quit my job (which has been very liberating).
So we are starting off on our adventure today. The bike is headed to the shipper at Vancouver Airport this afternoon and Patrick and I fly out on Monday July 14. Our first stop is Amsterdam, then to Ireland to meet family and friends and then we are just going where ever the road takes us. Our intent is to cover both western and eastern Europe, Syria, Jordan and Kenya.
So everyone, jump on and let's go for a ride.
Just a quick update today. We are in a town called Perpignan France. We are staying here for 5 nights to get organized and to do some much needed laundry!!
The weather on the ride up was mild and sunny from Spain. We had to go around Barcelona to continue on our way north and that was certainly a scary ride. Everyone was doing at least 130 klm and the trucks were passing each other as well as cars. I closed my eyes and tried not to poke at Patrick as we seemed to be dodging trucks for about 25 minutes....i've aged about 10years.....
We then took a smaller highway that had no tolls to get through to the French boarder. This was a much smaller and slower road so Patrick and I could communicate a little. I was having trouble understanding why there were women standing on the road, I mean it's still a highway. Well they were hookers, I know, I know it begs a whole other set of questions where; who ; why ......
Anyway we made it safely to France and we have booked a Gites de France for 7 weeks just outside of Nice. This should get us through the holiday season and hopefully any really cold weather.
We are now enjoying our coffee and pain de chocolate on the riverfront and planning our next 5 days of travel before we get to our next rest stop which happens on the 29th of November.
Hello all !!!!
Currently in Villenueve Loubet just outside of Nice in the South of France. Small town of 11000 or so with the worst drivers and traffic jams I have seen for such a small town. I can't imagine what must go one during the summer. Scary really.
Anyway, to back up a little, when last we left you we were in Perpignan near the Spanish border. We stayed for 4 or 5 days getting to know the town and such. I took some day trips up towards the mountains which were a ton of fun. I am not going to try and remember the road numbers so you will have to come over and discover them yourself. The roads were empty of cars, twisty, up and down hills, went by castles and chateaus. Perfect.
Only one odd thing about Perpignan was the birds. Starlings. At 5 o'clock every evening they came back from there day jobs to roost in the tall trees of the town. Not just a few birds but hundreds of thousands, they blocked the sun out. When we first saw them from the window of our nice family run hotel, Danette and I were astonished. The trees were bending under the weight of all the birds !!! Bizarre. Thought we were in a Hitchcock flick. Went out the next morning to find the bike covered in bird shit ........ not impressed. Still more unimpressed to be crapped on ourselves during the evening strolls around the town.
Moving on, we stayed a few nights in the city of Avignon, that has a bridge, that has a famous song written about it that I have never heard of. Danette was able to fill me in by singing the song over and over.....
Weird thing is that the bridge does not actually cross the river, it stops about halfway across. Of course the town has taken advantage of the fame and charges a fee just to stand on the bridge, that does not cross the river. Go figure. I think I am getting bitter.
Avignon is a really nice town. The old section is surrounded by the old city walls that were built to protect the town. Very cool. Inside the walls is a very busy city. Lots of cool shops and places to eat. There is a very old palace on a hill that was the home of the Popes at one time. Huge place with a large square in front.
There is a weird vibe about the main street in the old section. Lots of young folks , mostly guys of north Afican descent, hanging around looking rather intimidating. Lots of police also hanging around. bad combo apparently. We were walking along a street, like say Robson street, when sirens and noise erupt. We are trying to see what is going on as the crowd thickens. More police are trying to get through. The young guys are yelling at the police and trying to hold them up from getting to the scene of whatever is going on. Danette and I are caught up against a wall in a big crush of people as we are watching and trying to move away. Police car tries to get past the crowd, guy reaches to the car and opens the passenger door yelling at the cop driving. Large cop comes and pulls young guy into the midst of the rest of the cops and rough him up a little. I am thinking, okay that was fun, but can I get out of here please. All this happened about 8 feet away from us and in a space of only seconds. The crowd, seeing their buddy getting the business from the police are really angry, yelling and screaming. Danette and I are still trapped in the crowd and can't really move. Next thing you know little cop pulls out his pepper spray and from about 10 feet hits the crowd, and us with it. The crowd breaks and runs from the fumes. Danette and I are coughing and our eyes are watering as we fumble down the street. This whole scene takes about 20 seconds from start to finish; shocking speed. Anyway, nothing else occurs and we get ourselves back to semi normal. Don't let this cloud your view of Avignon, it really is a great town that we both enjoyed.
I loved the whole incident if you are reading Paul !!!
Just outside Avignon is a place called Pont du Gard. A roman aquaduct that crosses a river. Very interesting. Graffiti carved into the bridge from the 1700's.
Skipping ahead a little brings us to V. Loubet. We are staying in a Gite. Basically it is a self contained one bedroom basement suite in a guys house. Cheap but basic is the deal. We have a gas stove, small fridge, and a microwave for making pipocas. Look it up. No tv in this place which is fine with me as there is nothing on but Hercule Poirot in french and soccer. Oh yeah and bad variety type shows, singers then jugglers then dancers. All with commentary in between acts from the guests on the couch. Screaming fans complete the picture. I don't get it.
Anyway we will be in the Gite until December 27th and then into Nice for 5 days through New Years. Lots of reading and riding between now and then.
If you don't split lanes on your motorbike here people look at you funny.
Okay, i have a few update to share. Sorry about the delay.
So, I think Patrick left off while we were in a Gites de France in Villeneuve Loubet on the Riviera. Well, i,m not thrilled with the Gite, it is a basement suite and the shower curtain and I have had many a fight as it likes to cling to you. Also for some reason the shower nozzle is hand held (please picture how you fight off the shower curtain wrapping around you and washing your hair at the same time with only one hand). So needless to say it was an interesting spot.
The biggest problem though was that we were way out of the way of the town. This meant having to take the motorcycle everywhere or walking 2.5 km,s through a forest as the streets have no sidewalks....odd. We have found that the drivers here are very very agressive and basically are trying to either kill us or just run us of the road for fun. We miss what we had experienced in the other parts of France.
So, there we were, a little bored and a little frustrated when I had the best idea. I booked us a four day trip to LONDON. Now at first Patrick was a little concerned as we didn't really have the budget for it and of course we would still be paying for the Gite while we were gone. However, apparently I had a rather crazed look about me and was ready to snap so Patrick came around.
Here in Europe you really can get cheap flights all the time. We flew with Easyjet and also booked a hotel in London through them as well, all on the internet. The hotel worked out well as it was easy to get to (just off a tube stop) and was in a nice area of town by Kensington Palace.
To sum up our London trip we:
1) spoke to everyone who would talk to us as it was all in English
2) saw the new Lord of the Rings TWICE
3) went on a bus tour of all the major sights
4) hit as many pubs as we could manage in four days, you can never go to enough warm friendly pubs.....
5) had japanese food
6) walked about 100 miles
7) had sun every day we were there except the day we left on Dec 20th
So London, good place, great vibe and we'll go back.
So back to France we spent a quiet and weird Christmas day. Patrick took me to Monacco so I could see the casinos and the royals. It is a very small place and you can tell everyone has money to burn.
On the 27th of December we head to Nice for the next 5 days to make it over the last of the holiday season. It was a good choice as we were back in a bigger city that had everything we needed Plus a great walkway around the beach of the Mediteranian. It was warm there most days getting to about 15 degrees. We spent most of our time window shopping and sightseeing.
So where are we now you ask????
We have spent the last few days on the road and back tracked to Narbonne France. The temperature is about 3 degrees and that is cold cold cold for poor me. I look like a stuffed bag on the bike as now I just where all the clothes I took with me.
Side note to my friends- i hate all my clothes and want to burn them.....
Today is Sunday January 4th and on Wednesday we (including the bike) are jumping on this great train that will take us to Frankfurt Germany.
So get out your ledderhosen and some cold beer, we hit country number NINE.
p.s. we just want to thank all of you who sent us an email or a comment through this site over the last month, it made the holiday season a little closer for us..
So we finally leave the Eastern part of the south of France. No need for further comment except .... Yeah!! Yippee!! Much jumping up and down and rejoicing. We jump on the bike with most of our clothing on as the temp has dropped to about 3 degrees. Makes packing the bike easier ....... A little rain makes the riding nice and slippery just perfect for really testing your riding gear ( it failed) After the chilly ride we stopped for 2 days in Arles. Nice place Arles, lots of cool roman ruins including a cool amphitheatre. From what I understand this area was given to roman soldiers for service to the state, like a pension. The Alycamps is a road with carved stone coffins lining it. We arrived in the morning to find we had the whole site to ourselves. Very cool. Did I mention that it was sunny and freezing cold?? Was a good day anyway. So strange that this part of France is so different from the Cote DÁzur and yet is fairly close.
Onwards to Narbonne. Once again get all your clothes on so that you appear to be the Michelin Tire Man. As an added bonus the wind is blowing at about 90 kms/h . Oh Goody !!! Suffice it to say that this part of the trip was not D´s favourite as the bike was acting like a sailboat. Getting blown around by the wind on the motorways is not the most enjoyable pastime in the world. Narbonne is a nice city once again with lots of old churches and castle type thingies. Also has preserved in the square a part of the Roman road that went through the area. Betcha it led to Rome......
Must say that travelling off season is neat as it feels we have the whole of Europe to ourselves. The weather is colder but still I would recommend it as it is cheaper and the towns like Arles and Narbonne would be packed in summer time. Seems like the people are more relaxed as well. Except in the Cote d ´Azur but I digress.
The autotrain is a neat deal. Drive your car/motobike onto the train and after a nice sleep in your compartment on the train you wake up in Frankfurt rested and ready to go. Good in theory. We arrive at the station early to catch the train. Posted on the gate is a sign that says STRIEK. Narbonne train station is on strike. We have to ride to Avignon 200 kms away to catch the train. So sorry!!! It was no big deal but a quick 200 kms later we find the train and settle in to await departure. The guys that tie your bike down have clearly done this a ton of times and are pros. You get a complimentary beverage on the train and away you go. Getting off is just as easy. What a great set up. Look up Autozug on the internet and you should find it. Lots of different destinations. Good way to get you and your bike to the good riding without lots of boring motorways.
After a slight unintended loop around Frankfurt , we found our way to Heidelburg and Stefan Knopf´s place. Look him up on the internet as well. His site should be listed on HU as well. Tours, B&B, rentals,shipping, he does it all and is one of the good guys in the world.
From here we will arrange transport for the bike back to Canada and then buzz around Germany by train.
See ya soon !!!
We are having fun fun fun !!!!
What Patrick forgot to mention was the train strike in France which ment we had to high tail it to another city in France 200 klms away. That wasn't my favorite as the winds down here are scary and huge !
When we got on the train it was great fun meeting lots of folks who spoke good english and we talked until 11:00 at night. We then had to sneak into our train compartment as we were sharing with two other men......all to save money..... Anyway they were from Germany and Denmark and we talked about their countries and got some inside information.
The next morning, we were told that our stop was 15 minutes away however it was actually only 3 minutes and we had to jump off the train in our shorts holding on to our pants, motorcycle helmets, jackets.....not pretty as all our new friends were laughing their heads off and waving out the train window. It was a funny experience and we learned that you must be ready to get off the train.....
Anyway Heildelberg is a very nice small town in Southern Germany (down from Frankfurt). It has one of the longest pedestrian zones filled with bars, shops and cafes. I am now able to buy a pair of jeans as my summer travel pants are not warm enough. We are staying at Stefan and Petra Knopfs B and B and it is pretty perfect and feels like home.
We head for Berlin on the 11th of January taking the train. We have no German but we have our phrase book and are getting along fine.
Both Patrick and I really like Berlin, it's got a great vibe. Such a great mix of old history and also a brand new sections of the city with high tech buildings and a fab transit system. We must come back to Berlin and spend at least a week here.
So our next stop will be Dresden. We were trying to make it to Poland to Krakow but we couldn't get Visas and accomodations set up in time. So we might do a little detour to Austria.
Must run as trains wait for no one........
p.s. it is a little on the cold side at 1 degree is now the high temp of the day
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