11 March 2010

Normandy Trip - August 2009 - Day 1

I checked the bike out the night before we were to leave. The tyres were perfect and I had to give her 250ml of 20w/50 to take it back to the full line in the sight glass. Then I checked and double checked the maps and routes were in the Garmin SatNav.

On Friday morning all I had to do was load the Touratech bags into the Touratech panniers - German panniers for a German bike!

Ready for the off...
We left home a little late for the Shuttle, but only 3 minutes! We checked in and were given the next train after our booking. A little bit annoyed but that’s the way the Shuttle does it. In front were loads of Harley’s on a trip across for the day. They went off onto the 0820 and we had to make do with the 0843. It left late. Superb. The 50 minute wait at Folkestone makes it as long as the ferry to make the crossing, except of course we have to sit on the floor and no coffee, unlike to ferry!

Once on French soil it was evident that the hurricane that had been crossing the Atlantic had arrived. Although it was supposed to have died long before landfall in Europe. The winds very high. And this could be seen as all the wind socks were horizontal!

The route that I had planned (or rather let Mapsource for the Garmin choose) had us taking the A16 towards Abbeville, then A28 towards Rouen and A29 towards Le Havre and the Pont de Normandie and then to Caen. We set off on the A16 towards Boulogne. I kept the speed down as the wind was coming hard at us from the front right quarter. As we approached the toll plaza above Boulogne we had to cross a long (1.3km) viaduct. This one is lined with glass as a windbreak, except for a narrow slit at the bottom. On the down hill I lost all steering and it felt as though the front tyre had gone. It hadn’t but such was the wind it felt like it.

We stopped at our usual place at the Aire de la Baie de la Somme near Abbeville. It was lunch time and I needed some respite from the high winds.

Once we had eaten I had a walk around to look at the tower they have built at the back with views over the “marais” towards St Valery and the Somme estuary and also back towards Abbeville. I got half way up and found they had closed it due to the wind!!

Aire de la Baie de la Somme
From here we headed south-west. The wind still strong, we stopped for petrol and my normal 50mpg (imperial gallon) was down to 45. I put this down to the wind as my speeds even considering I was two-up with luggage was some 20mph less than my usual commuting speeds!! I do 150 miles a day round-trip to work and home.

If the viaduct near Boulogne was scary, the Pont de Normandie was even worse. The preview is a small viaduct over the canal before you reach the main span. It looks like two huge chicken wishbones set into the ground with the single “bone” projecting high into the sky. The roadway is suspended from these. As we approached I steeled myself for a terrible experience. Slipping through the motorcycle lane (it’s free for us) and we started the ascent. Once again steering became harder and harder. On the downhill section we hit a cross current and we wobbled all over the place. Even at 30mph it was a nightmare. I stopped at the bottom to take a photo.

Pont de NormandieClaire had to hop off to take it as I held the bike up on gravel. We were still alive.

From the bottom of the bridge it was plain sailing to Caen and the SatNav took us straight to the hotel. Hotel de la Fontaine is in the street of the same name and is already in Mapsource, so no messing was needed to get a waypoint.

The owners, Helene and Philippe, said we could park in their private garage and we took them up on the offer. We were unlikely to want to use the bike again on Day 1.

The rest of the day was spent exploring Caen visiting the Castle of William, Duke of Normandy and later King of England, the art gallery inside and a long walk around ostensibly looking for a bar to have a drink; a bar that might have seats free and not be filled with “young people”. We eventually achieved this goal.

Caen Castle

That evening we ate at a restaurant overlooking the marina following a walk round checking the menu boards outside and a first beer of the trip at a small bar. With the Pound to Euro exchange rate at poor as it is, a simple three course dinner with a beer came out at around £50 ($75) and so it went on the pre-paid MasterCard I keep for holidays. The restaurant was called Le Costa. The food excellent and fish soup to die for!

Estate Agents in Caen
Whilst we were out we saw this rather aptly named estate agents. Usually you'd expect the first name to be Robbin' or Lying...

After a longish day in the saddle we were ready for bed.

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