Vive La France… again!

I’m well behind with my blog as it’s now January 2019, but I still want to record my adventures.

Back in October I rode with my club, Dykes on Bikes® London UK over to northern France for a long weekend.  As you know I only just managed to get my fatboy back from the USA tour in time, so was very pleased to be able to ride her on this trip.

Thursday – 25th October 2018

Trying my very best to be restrained in the packing department I just loaded up one bag… it was rather large though lol!!

Unlike Badger, who is relatively conservative with her packing

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Our Vice-President, AnneMarie (Stolk), Sergeant at Arms, Gill (Badger) come to meet up at my home and we ride off to Folkestone, picking up our President, Sylvie (Petit Chou), on the way, to stay overnight and catch a very early euro shuttle to France in the morning.

We booked a whole house, via AirBnB, in Folkestone and we arrive after dark, which gets the neighbours curtains twitching… especially with all the noise.

The house is called the Blue House and it is indeed blue…

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it’s lovely and after a coffee, some food and posing in our new tour hats….

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we settle down for an early night.

Friday – 26th October 2018

Next morning, I am up with a lark.. well before the larks actually.. 4am and give the rest of the girls a knock, make my way downstairs and get myself my first coffee of the day.  Everyone comes down and is dressed ready to go… I’m still in my pyjamas, which does not go un-noticed I can tell you… oops!

Out to the bikes and its a very dark, crisp morning brrrr…

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naturally I am last but then horror!! My bike won’t start.. dead as a dodo… WTF!  I give it a few minutes to recover and try again.. nope nothing…. the girls gather round while I wait a few more minutes and hey presto she starts… no idea what’s going on there, but no time to ponder, we need to get on the road to the euro tunnel terminal.

Arrive in plenty of time, so I can feel a coffee coming on and march off to find one.  Then it’s time to board the train

 

and within 20 minutes we are on our way to France… yay!

and here we are….

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In no time at all we are de-training in France… whohooo… then on our way….

We come across this concrete bunker and decide to pull over for a closer look

 

very interesting…. the walls are immense, guess this is going to be here for at least another 100 years.

Back on the road to….
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yep.. Belgium… what?? Thought you were going to France you say, well we are, via Belgium of course!

We are visiting Ypres today, the whole town was annihilated in the first world war and was rebuilt exactly as it had been before the devastation… a beautiful gothic town hall has been totally recreated in all its glory.

 

It is also the site of the Menin Gate where every day at 6pm they have a ceremony to remember all those who were lost during the war.. a very moving event.

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4ef5147e-1f02-4d9c-b2e6-161063d41ebd it has inscribed upon every wall the names of all those who were lost in the Ypres area… there are lots of them, from all over the world, including a possible relative of Badgers.

We mark the occasion with yet another group photo.. with DOBzilla, our club mascot, of course.

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After lunch it’s back on the road… just 6 miles to a preserved section of the miles of trenches that criss-crossed this area during the war, at Sanctuary Wood, (full information can be seen here Sanctuary Wood, Ypes, Belgium), we see what is an amazing and extremely thought provoking museum.

 

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After this we make our way back into France

 

and on to our holiday home rental in Boubers-lès-Hesmond.

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This is Maison Hann, a lovely home in a small village… highly recommended.

 

It is certainly good to get settled in and warm up… Stolk and I jump on our bikes and ride to the nearest supermarket for supplies.  When we get back Sylvie and Badger prepare a scrumptious meal… yummy.  The accommodation is really comfortable and very stylish.

 

 

Must be time for another selfie or two…. or is that groupie??

During the ride I notice my bike really isn’t running properly, especially at low speed, it seems to be struggling like the fuel isn’t getting through… it’s very similar to the problem I had with the bike I bought in the USA on my first tour there, that turned out to be a pinhole in the in-tank fuel pipe, grr will have to sort that out when I get home.

Saturday – 27th October 2018

Next day, its pretty frosty so I want to use my heated gear… hang about, wheres the plug on the bike… OMG I haven’t put one on this bike… STOP IT!  Amazingly Petit Chou has a spare lead in her bag…. what a star!  I get my tools and Badger comes to give me a hand… I take off the seat to get to the battery and start to take off the connectors to fit the lead, and promptly drop one of the nuts trying to get it back on so have to take the battery out to find it… so start again… then drop the bloody nut again… this time it disappears on the ground…. STOP IT!

Stolk comes out to help….

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After an age looking for the lost nut, I find a replacement, whew, and all is well.  Back into the house where everyone is patiently waiting, as per… and we are soon all ready to go, except of course my bike won’t start again, I keep trying until the battery is struggling to turn over… looks like I’ve flattened it, so Petit Chou and Stolk go off to ask the neighbours if they have any jump leads, while I continue to try and start her.  Just as they are returning with some pretty old looking leads the bike starts… WTF.

Stolk has organised a route for us to visit an ancient site at Dolmen à couloir: La table des fées…

 

pretty cool.

The roads are great, twisty country lanes and byways,

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We next visit the Canadian Cemetery at Vimy Ridge….

and potentially another Badger relative is on the wall….

It’s a huge site, gifted to the Canadian government to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of fallen Canadians.  There is also a reconstructed network of trenches and the landscape has been left battle scarred with thousands of bomb craters everywhere.  Again another moving visit… but we are also treated to a rainbow to alleviate the gloom.

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We speculate on what the pyramids might be, but never did find out.

We decide it must be time for a castle or chateau so go in search of one…

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This one’s closed…. but we never miss an opportunity for a groupie!!

The sun is going down now so we make our way home for another lovely meal concocted by Stolk, Petit and Badger… I think I might have laid the table…. mmmm.

Sunday – 28th October 2018

Sunday morning and we are planning to ride over to visit the site where they fired V2 rockets at Britain during the second world war, La Coupole.  My bike is still playing up but am managing to keep her going.

On the way we pass a crumbling castle.. ooo better stop and see if its open…

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It’s not, but I do get a good photo though.

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and… of course… seriously gangster!

La Coupole is quite an impressive site with much of the original bunker intact.  Inside there are displays, a cafe, a planetarium and would strongly recommend a visit if this is something you are interested in; see more at La Coupole website

 

When we come out, Badger finds this lovely mustang muscle car parked next to her bike… sisters…

 

bit blurry… not one of my best efforts.. sorry.

We had a relatively late start and now wend our way home down some great roads and are soon back at our rental home.

Another great meal and earlyish night ready for our last day tomorrow.

Monday – 29th October 2018

Today we are heading back to Calais to catch the euro tunnel train.  On the way we are planning to ride to the coast and visit the Atlantic Wall Museum before catching our train home.

Another great day, cold but quite bright, we have been really lucky with the weather, just a few brief showers.

 

They also have this…. a Harley of course…

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Back on the road and we stop for lunch and to gaze across the channel, of course

 

Hope you’re not going to put that back in your mouth Badge…. lol.

All too soon we are back in Calais waiting for our train to the UK… all aboard the skylark!!

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another quick crossing, just enough time for a few last groupies…

It’s dark and wet as we exit the train at Folkestone and make our way to the M25 where Petit will peel off towards south London, Badger, Stolk and I will split at the M11 and then I drop off while Badger will continue to her home further north.. well that’s the plan….

I have been suffering with the osteoarthritis in my hands for a number of years, but it is now particularly painful so we pull over into a petrol station and talk about changing the plans.  In the end it’s agreed that Petit will go off now while Stolk, Badger and I make our way to the M25 so that I can stop off when I need to.  After a time Stolk also heads off as she has the furthest to go.  Badger and I make a stop at Lakeside services for a much needed break…

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and an extremely large coffee, lol.

We then head off dropping me at home as planned.

An altogether fantastic weekend with some great girls, I had a fabulous time, good friends, laughter, food and excellent riding.  Let’s do it again soon.

 

P.S.  Huge thanks to Petit Chou (Sylvie), Stolk (AnneMarie) and Badger (Gill) for sharing their photos with me and allowing me to add some of them to this blog xxx

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