26 June 2017
Mmmmm........ I can't keep track!!!!!
We decided that we would not fly home. For us, there is no pleasure in flying these days. Both of us have travelled extensively for work and pleasure and back in the day it was fun and one helluva lot easier than the nightmare it is today. So we got the train.
We have never left Stiletto in anywhere but her home port of Gosport so we were determined to leave her safe and secure so that hopefully we would return and find her as we had left her with no nasty surprises. We made sure the outboard and kayak were locked and we put the dinghy down below. We put the cockpit canopy up. Everything down below was switched off and she was in " sleep" mode.
Bags packed, we walked for 20 minutes to Brest station. Our train to Paris Montparnasse was in and to our delight we were travelling by TGV which pulled out dead on time. What a joy! Comfort better than 1st Class in the UK. Lovely seats with head rests that you could tilt to one side to support your head if you wanted to snooze. A rubbish bin between our seats and a peaceful journey, no loud but inaudible announcements every 30 seconds, just a softly spoken guard announcing each station stop - just the once. With an average speed of 186 mph, reaching over 200 on occasions, it was fab! Amusingly we found ourselves passing through the places that we had previously sailed to and stayed at and bizarrely whizzed through Le Mans knowing we would be back on the bike in a couple of days. A sprint on the metro to Paris Gare du Norde and we checked in for the Eurostar to St Pancras. Not as luxurious as the TGV but fast and comfy. We were somewhat daunted but at the same time reassured (if that makes sense) at the police and military presence around the stations and for the first time ever, I found myself nervous at being in crowded public places. St Pancras to Liverpool Street and from there to Chelmsford where we were checking in to the "Bishop Road Hotel" - home of Andreas' eldest twin daughter Victoria and her partner Matt - where we would do an overnight stay before driving down to Gosport to sort out the bike. Victoria has not only been kind enough to have our post redirected to her home but she is taking care of the car also. Door to door = 10 hours. Easy peasy. And we got to see the beautiful French country side, travelled in total comfort (loads of leg room) and every train left and arrived bang on time . We drove down to Gosport next day, checked into the Old Lodge at Alverstoke and set about prepping ourselves and Harriet the Honda for our journey back to France. A 3.45am departure on Thursday meant we were at Clacketts Lane services by 5am where we were meeting Allan for breakfast before travelling on to the Euro Tunnel. Checked in and a 40 minute blast later, we arrived at Calais where we met with Guy and Harvey. They had come in Guy's beautifully restored Porsche Carrera Targa and were the lead car for the trip with the 4 bikes following behind. We met the rest of our group- Nick and Herbs- at a service station just south of Calais. They had travelled via ferry from Hull to Zeebruge. So, with the pack altogether, we headed for Caen where we did an overnight stay. Herbs is ex army and his knowledge of military history is outstanding and each year he organises a visit to a place of interest. Last year we did the Somme, walked through the trenches and visited several of the cemeteries. This year the theme was the Normandy Landings and we visited Omaha and Gold beaches as well as the Pegasus Bridge. Herbs had produced an information booklet for each of us, it was obvious he had gone to great lengths and I feel this mention in despatches is well deserved. On reading it, once again, Andreas and I were ashamed to admit that our knowledge of WWII was sketchy to say the least. It was only when we were standing physically on the beach we could see the enormity of the exercise and what a blood bath it was. What affected me most of all was learning that men died through drowning, due to the weight of all the kit they carried, before they even got to the beach. The Pegasus Bridge was liberated by soldiers in 6 gliders which landed close by in the early hours of June 6th. The logistics of the whole exercise is mind blowing and given that communications were so incredibly difficult it is a small wonder that the whole plan worked at all. It was the most fascinating day, brought home to us yet again, that so many died for us to live the lives we enjoy today but also the National Curriculum needs to step up its game and spend more time covering WWII. Having done our tour, we headed for a hotel in Mamers which was to be our base for 3 nights while we visited the track at Le Mans. It was about a 30Km ride away from the track and part of the fun is always the ride in. Beautiful empty roads, virtually no traffic with smooth surfaces. Every bikers dream. We would stop off for a nice lunch, then do a few hours trackside before heading back to the hotel for a cool beer before supper. The down side - we had chosen the hottest few days for many years and the heat when wearing leathers, boots, gloves and helmets was horrendous and we were all in total meltdown. As soon as we stopped it was a race to get all our kit off to cool down. We had a fantastic few days. Great camaraderie with truly nice friends. Shame it was soooooo hot.
Song for this post : Motor Biking by Chris Spedding
Thought for this post : Sometimes you have to work hard to maintain your family ties and friendships - they are worth it. We've had a wonderful time but sadly couldn't fit everyone in on this visit. We now need to get home to Stiletto and resume our chilled lifestyle.
Highlight for this post : The TGV experience was a revelation. There is much to do in the UK to catch up. Beats flying any day of the week!