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I've had two goes around USA, and just love the place, would do it all again, fantastic country, people, and roads, and roads...
But, want to catch up with some friends in Europe, and a 4 week foray at a time that fits better with work, is order du jour, or should I say cette anee.
Again, good old Mainfreight and Jeff Larsen, can ship to Europe, Rotterdam or Hamburg, certainly for an extended trip well worth the cost, but for my 4 weeks, I'm trying a rental from Raceways in London, Suzuki GFS 1250, NZ$3900 incl insurance and AA Roadside, unlimited km's.
Despite what some adverse comments on Google say, I found the company helpful and OK to deal with. The bike had moderate miles on the clock, but was sound, and being Suzuki, never missed a beat.
Only beef I had, a minor one, it was a bit too high geared for the alpine stuff in touring rig, I'm sure my CB1300 with its lower down torque would have been more fun on the hairpins and switchbacks.
From London, I'm through the Folkestone ETunnel to Calais, ($77 me and the bike), and doing mainly B&B 2 night stops every 3-400km, following the 2010 Tour de France course.
This years TdF is reverse way round, not yet made public, and the course differs from year to year, I might or might not cross-over.
The trip will take in the northern battlefields, down through the champagne area around Epernay, into the Jura, across under Geneva, down to the Riviera, Cannes, Nice etc, up to Valence and the Rhone Valley, into the Pyrenees, and a rapid 2 day streak back up north to Normandy, across to Guernsey, over to Portsmouth, quick look at Stonehenge on the way up to Derbyshire, then back to London, and home.
I've found a useful website, anglofrenchbedandbreakfast.com, a network of english speaking B&B's with a rural/local flavour, and half my accommodation has been booked through this system.
For the rest I've used booking.com, which has been really impressive, just enter the town of interest, punch up the local map, hover over a hotel flag with a desirable location, click the price order, and you get a list of hotels in your price range, pix of bedrooms, dining rooms, tables de hote, and wifi and parking availability.
Click the book now, and thats all done in 2 minutes flat.
So its out with the phrasebook francais, and re-acquaint myself with the lingo, I shore sheep in Picardie more years ago than I care to count, but memories refreshed as...
for 2 glorious months I lost track of where I was, a car would arrive, I'd get taken away to another farm, given a barn of sheep, a bed and food and wine, and wine...
One of my hosts, taking me to catch the plane home asked me, now I had seen France, where would I rather live....
and I choked like an All Black in a RWC quarter final.
Mostly, we end up in our lives doing what we have to do, not what we want to do, and I came home to the farm. One of the nice things about maturity is you realise thats all bullshit.
I had a wise old form-master at Tech who used to say you cant do a week's work in a day, but you can do 12 months work in 11, and take the 12th one off.
Others define success as being able to do what you want, when you want, how you want.
Work hard, dont be too extravagant in your wishes, and its do-able alright.
Actually, not having a missus, is probably a big help too, LOL
Anyway, having done it, the conclusion is France is a fantastic country for a motorcycle holiday.
Avoiding big cities, the rural roads are bike heaven, low density traffic, sealed to high standard, beautiful scenery.
I read somewhere you'd be flat to average 60km an hour, there's a village every 5 or 10 km, and frankly, you'd be nuts to want to do it any quicker, slow is the essence of this place, although some of the traffic you encounter is, well..., nuts!
Traffic police are said to be vicious on speeding and drink driving, but I never saw all that many in 3500 miles, those I did see looked as young and pleasant as you'd encounter in USA for instance. Maybe a bit latin looking in the South, but they got plenty of latin traffic problems before a lone motorcyclist got into their radar frame. The highest density of road police I saw was in the West around Aquitane, quite a few speed cameras, but plenty of warning they're coming up.
The frequent tipple was never a problem, who wants to ride a bike when you can walk to the nearest village cafe and put your feet up for an evening.
Gas was never a problem either, available 24 hrs with a chip-embedded credit card at most supermarkets, 60 million people in France and the Intermaches are all over the place, as well as service stations. Ditto for ATM cash machines. You'd think you were in the middle of nowhere, but just program the GPS for nearest cash or fuel, and voila, there'd be something within 15km, most of the time closer.
The weather was a bit British in the North around the Channel, but fabulous everywhere else that time of year, late June/July, but like any tour it comes down to the people, and like in any country, French provincial folk are no exception, friendly, and a lot of fun. These days pretty much all young folk have had some sort of English at school and are OK with trying it out and engaging in a bit of Franglais. Its a bonus for the Kiwi traveller that the French like their rugby.
French women dress and deport themselves something fantastic. If I was a pro rugby player and got the boot from the Hurricanes, I'd be over to Avignon in a flash, even if it meant getting beaten up on the rugby pitch every weekend!
In my time in France I experienced 9 different areas that were each deserving of a week's stay, one group told me they'd been taking a decent holiday every year for the last 24, and had never been out of the country.
That about sums the place up, I'd go back anytime.