Sunday, 8 May 2011

France and France, in France

Jackie and I decided to go to St Tropez in southern France for the 5th Harley-Davidson Euro Festival. This is a relatively small rally held in the French Riviera each May and about 6,000 people go each year. We have been before and really like it. This is a short video (not mine but one I found on the web) of last year’s rally....




We left the UK on Friday morning and headed south to catch the ferry from Dover to the French port of Calais. On the way, we discovered the brake light on the back of the Leading Ladies wasn’t working, so we diverted to Canterbury where I knew there was a Harley-Davidson dealer. However, the H-D dealer was no more, but had changed into a Victory and Suzuki dealership, but they still worked on Harleys as well and luckily for us, still carried a few parts. With Jackie looking at the pink helmets for sale, I bought a replacement bulb and fitted it, but that wasn’t the problem – it looked as if the fitting that held the bulb had failed, so on the forecourt of the dealership I set about trying to fix it. One of the mechanics walked by and said that he thought they might still have one of those fittings and he appeared a few minutes later with the small part that meant we could get back on the road, heading for the ship.

The delay to fix the light meant we missed the ferry we were meant to be on, but managed to get on the next one. With a crossing time of just 90 minutes on a very calm English Channel, there is barely time to grab something to eat before the coast of France comes into view and soon, we were rolling along on the French roads. Having arrived in France quite late in the afternoon, we stopped for the night in the city of Arras. We had travelled 197 miles on the bike, plus about 20 miles in the ferry.

Day 2 of the trip was about travelling down through northern France, avoiding the motorways. This took us through many of the regions that had seen battles during World Wars I and II, and we passed many military cemeteries. We saw French, British, American and Australian cemeteries, all kept in immaculate condition.

On VE day, it seemed appropriate to be visiting war cemeteries.

This is one of the British cemeteries, at Feuchy....


























One of the headstones....

























A huge cross at another British cemetery....


























A beautiful setting at the same cemetery....














































It isn’t until you see the sheer numbers of headstones that it really sinks in just how many soldiers lost their lives in Northern France....


























We went to see the Somme American Cemetery....


























Inside the memorial building, the sun was refracting through a glass cross causing rainbow colours on the wall of names....





















The crosses marking the graves of the American Soldiers....
















































An impressive French gateway. I am struggling to remember where this was....





















We saw a couple of tanks at the roadside....






































The kings of France used to be crowned at the Roman Catholic cathedral of Reims....

























There was a terrific reflection of the cathedral in an adjacent media library....

























In the afternoon, we were pulled over by the police who were stopping all motorbikes on the road we were on. They were checking for stolen bikes and were being very thorough, looking at frame and engine numbers to ensure the bikes were genuinely owned. As soon as they realised we were not on a French registered bike, they let us leave with a smile and a handshake.

We stayed the night in Troyes, still in northern France, having ridden 210 miles on day 2. The weather remained wonderfully sunny and hot all day.

14 comments:

Chris Luhman said...

Sounds like a fun trip. I like the two photos of the cathedral at reims especially the reflection.

mq01 said...

the architecture of the gateway and cathedral is stunning. looks like a fabulous time!

the police action is similar here at many rallys; street vibrations, redwood run, hollister...there are task units checking bikes/numbers looking for stolen bikes. unfortunately more bikes get stolen at these events than are found. i wonder if its the same there?

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. France:

Next month will see the summer ushered in with the Memorial Day weekend in the US. I was wondering if you had a couple of these shots to spare so I could use them in a tribute blog. They were very moving. Both my father and uncle were in WWII, in Europe. Thankfully, both came home.

I love Catholic architecture. I have been to Norte Dame in Paris, but never to Reims. Thank you for including this shot. I would be delighted if you one day included some interior pictures. I wish I could take a 90-minute ferry to get off in France.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Brady said...

I also wish I could take a 90 minute ferry and get off in France. Alas, I can take a 30 minute detour and be in the Appalachian mountains, so there isn't any huge complaint. I do wish I could stop in France, though, it'd be nice to use some of this French I spent so much time learning.

France is just stuffed full of wonderful things to see. I had the opportunity to see Utah beach and cemetery almost 10 years ago, it was amazing, and I share your sentiment about the heavy realization that you get when you see all those crosses and stars lined up.

Brady
Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

All Over The World said...

Hope you both have an Enjoyable trip South.
Nice snaps. Pity ur not home Sunday 15th May, I'm coming down to The Ace Cafe for a Snack..
All the best Tony T

bobskoot said...

Gary:

Looking at all those crosses is so sad, imagining all the people who were lost during all wars. That reflection shot is great. I also notice the differences in photographic styles in those two tank pictures. One was a perfectly symetrical framed close up of the tank with Jackie, and the other is the tank in its environment in relation to its surroundings. There is so much history to absorb within those walled cities. We hope one day to be able to see it for ourselves. Glad you lucked out with the good, warm weather

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

SonjaM said...

One of the advantages that come with living in England... you can hop on a ferry and get nice food and lovely architecture anywhere on the mainland, no wait the latter you also get in Great Britain ;-)

I have always been a big fan of the gruesome history that goes with the build of these monstrous yet beautiful cathedrals (yeah, I know I'm weird that way). The reflection pic is a great catch. Like it!
Wishing the France's and the Leading Ladies save travels!

Oz said...

Thanks for sharing the photos of the cemeteries. I really hope to visit Europe someday. Europe has so many classic buildings that I want to see. Looks like you had a great trip. Glad you were able to get the brake light fixed quickly.

Gary France said...

Chris – That reflection was my favourite as well.

mq01 – I don’t mind it if when the police stop all bikes to check for stolen motorcycles. They are after all trying to find the people who steal bikes. I have heard of bikes being stolen at rallies in Europe and despite feeling that a bike should be safe amongst all the others, I always lock mine and set the alarm at rallies.

Dear Jack – Please feel free to use any of the cemetery pictures from my blog, as you would be most welcome. As for interior shots, I had intended to tour around a couple of cathedrals yesterday, but time wasn’t on our side. When on these long trip, I don’t like using motorways / interstates, so Jackie and I kept pretty much to the smaller back roads and that makes for long riding days – for example, on the day we stopped quickly at Reims, we were on the road for about 9 hours, which sadly didn’t give us much time to stop anywhere for long. I will try though in the next day or so.

Brady – Not only is a 90 minute ferry to France a great benefit, but it also defines the start of a motorcycle tour in Europe. We also have the channel tunnel train where you can load you bike / car / family onto a fast train and get to France even quicker than on the boat. However, going on the ferry reminds you that you are crossing the sea and that somehow makes the start of the journey more fun than being in a dark tunnel.

Gary France said...

Tony T – Ah, Sundays at the Ace Cafe – what a way to spend the day. I go there occasionally, so let me know the next time you are going and we could meet up. That made me laugh when you said you were going to the Ace for a snack – that is a major ride for you from Doncaster!

Bob – Are you saying that my shot is too formal and Jackie’s is more creative? Okay, you are right and I have to agree! It seems wherever I go touring I mainly get good weather. That statement will have one of two effects now – I will either see a huge group of bikes behind me, or I have jinxed it and it will no rain a lot.

Sonja – LOL. I had to read your comment twice before I understood it, then I laughed a lot because you of course are correct about both the good architecture and the poor food! The France’s and the Leading Ladies are grateful for your good wishes.

Oz – I hope you can get to Europe someday – it is a fantastically varied place with so many different countries and cultures to see. Being a lover of buildings as well, for me the architecture, both old and new, has so much to offer.

George F said...

I hope you carrying your "telephoto", I'm sure there will be interesting things to photograph in St Tropez ;-)
The beauty of Europe is the history, I would love to visit some of the military battlefields of WWI and WWII. Great photos, love the shot of you on the Panhard tank :-)

bluekat said...

Wow, France right in your back yard, so to speak. The crosses & memorials are very moving. I love the architecture of the Cathedral and the gateway. Hope you guys have a great time! :)

Charlie6 said...

Great report and sobering reminders of the price of war, thanks Gary.

I've never ridden a motorcycle onto a ferry, sounds like fun, you really well located for some nice riding.

Dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Gary France said...

George – No telephoto, but I have my zoom....

Bluekat – We are lucky that France is so close. It is a country full of great old architecture.

Charlie6 – There are two things that you have to think of when riding a motorcycle onto a ferry. One, be careful, as the metal deck is very slippery. It would be easy to lose grip and slip the bike. Two, it is standard practice on ocean-going ferries to strap all bikes down. The straps they use are old and dirty, so take a cloth to protect your bike!