Saturday, December 17, 2011

HB and Mike do France Part 1

Back in 2009 HB and I went on en epic three week tour of France. I had visited France a couple of years previously as part of a solo tour of Europe (another post coming soon) and really enjoyed it. French culture is awesome, its really chilled out and everyone enjoys their food and wine, the scenery is amazing and the people very friendly, especially if you're Scottish thanks to the Auld Alliance. It would make the perfect holiday destination for us to relax, especially as we'd just went through the joy of buying our first house.
We'd asked if any of the Winton Massif were up for coming along for the ride and Hammy and Claire joined us riding Hammy's KTM Adventure.
We caught the ferry to Ijmuiden, just outside Amsterdam from Newcastle in England. It was an overnight trip so we hit the bar on board.

Me and HB on the Ferry
Hammy considers the Dry Sack Sherry. Dunno how nice that'll taste.

The ferry was uneventful and got in at 9 the next day. Our first stop was Epernay in the French Champagne region, home of Don Perignon and loads of other famous champagnes. Both bikes managed the 440 mile trip with ease and we arrived in Epernay in around five hours. In good weather the speed limit on the French motorway is 135kph, around 85mph and people can use them properly. No one sits for ages in the outside overtaking lane like they do over here, to do so in Belgium is illegal. Sweet.
Anyway, as I was saying. We arrived in Epernay in around five hours. We headed into the centre of town to find the tourist information and get directions to the campsite. I parked outside a bank and HB nipped in and got a wee map of the town showing all the champagne houses, the campsite and loads of other tourist sites we'd be interested in. I tuned back to the bikes an "Fuckin Hell!" It wasn't a bank we'd parked outside, it was the Moet and Chandon champagne house! 
We found our campsite easily. It was a nice site with wee hedges between some of the pitches for some privacy. the bogs were clean and there was a wee van selling pizza, wine and stuff beside the river that ran along one side of the campsite. Once we were pitched up we headed into town for some supplies, like beer, bread and bog roll. A lot of French campsites don't supply toilet roll. A fucking nightmare when you are bursting for a shite at 1 in the morning. Believe me.
While we were sitting in the campsite enjoying the excellent cheap wine two English guys pulled into the site, one a giant lanky guy on a Yamaha R6 and the other an older guy on a Honda Blackbird. They'd ridden through the night, stopping for on bike sleeps in lay bys, Nick Sanders style. They were totally fucked. The older guy was the father and the giant the son. The asked us what out cruising speed had been and were really surprised when we said 90mph. They said after about three or four hours they'd slowed to 70mph as the wind blast was really sapping their energy. We helped them pitch up and headed into Epernay for some food.

Epernay campsite.
Hammy and Claire gettin' their eat on

The next day it we headed out for a look round some champagne houses and a wander round the town. 

Outside Moet and Chandon
Porche 356
A lovely Porche 356 was in the carpark.
This bottle is for sale for something like 250000 euros

There's literally miles and miles of tunnels like this under Epernay, loaded with champagne.


The tour of the champagne house was awesome. The guy spoke excellent english explaining how the champagne was made and how the bottles are only touched buy one guy who turns them when they need it. I probably shouldn't have done this.
That's a very expensive bottle of Dom P fucked then.

Hammy beside a regular sized door.

A nice Harley in Epernay.

After the day walking around the town we spent the evening chilling oot at the wee van beside the river in the campsite.

After a breakfast of pain du chocolat and croissants from the wee bakers van that came round the campsite we got the bikes loaded up and headed for our next destination, Morzine in the Alps.
The ride to Morzine was another long haul on the motorway. It gets much warmer as you head south, heading towards the Alps you expect to see the mountains from miles away, but from a distance, its more a continual rise than dramatic peaks. You don't really see them till you're there. 
We had planned to stay in Morzine but when we arrived there a massive Harley rally had taken over all the accommodation. There was plenty space in the campsite in a neighbouring village though. We threw the tents up and got more "supplies" from Morzine. We chilled in the campsite for a bit before walking up the hill to a wee restaurant for a beef fondue. There was loads of nice bikes everywhere. Awesome night.
Beef fondue.

Claire and Hammy in the campsite.

HB in the Tent

The next day we headed of down the Route Des Grande Alpes, the tourist route that takes in the highest roads in Europe, going over loads of passes, or Cols. First biggie was Col du Colombier.
At the top of Col du Colombier

It was ace to be back in the Alps, looking at these photos, the one thing that I remember is the smell. There's a reason that detergent manufacturers claim their product smells "alpine fresh". The smell is awesome. The air is really, well, fresh. We were heading to town called Val d'Isere. Planning on doing some of the really high passes. We rode south stopping at various places for photos and food. In a wee town called Beaufort I was given a sticker for my pannier for free by an old woman I spoke to in a shop. I felt guilty taking it as we were only passing through and hadn't even eaten in Beaufort.


We carried on south, riding round Lac Roseland. I was really enjoying the ride when fucko.

The GS cut out.

The. GS. Won't. Fucking. Start.


Hammy and I whipped the tank off to check various things. There was no noise coming from the fuel pump. None at all.

Not fucking good.


More swearing to come in part 2. 


  1. A baker's van comes around the campsite?

    Now that is camping I could get used to. Not that I don't enjoy traditional oatmeal for camping breakfast, but that a baker's van sounds better.

  2. Aye, the French love their freshly baked food. Nearly evey campsite has a bakers van come round in the mornings, or you can place am order the day before.