au revoir Francia…Hello England…
In the morning Clive oiled and adjusted the dodgy bike chain and did a few more pre checks….
Not only did we need a new chain but the front tyre was in need of being changed, considering how far we have come and on some indescribable roads, its done bloody well.
There was a chill in the air as we ‘saddled’ up this lovely sunny morning and followed the signs to France, to begin with the roads felt like we were going around in circles, it was just the way to get up over a mountain pass and a river, a very weird road, finally once over the bridge we were in France, our final country, we both had mixed emotions, all of a sudden we were extremely close to the end of journey.
It wasn’t long till we had to pay a toll, then what seemed only a matter of minutes we were slugged again at the toll booth, this is ludicrous, how does anyone afford to travel around Europe on toll roads, or is it that we are at the ‘tight’ end of our budget!!!
We understand some toll roads can’t be avoided and are generally quicker, but the ‘side’ roads are more interesting and have more opportunity to stop and explore.
We Seized the chance when we saw a road that would lead off the toll road, this was much better and way prettier, riding through quaint villages and roads that had woodland areas on either side of the road, made this ride to the town of Pons very relaxing.
We arrived in the Medieval City of Pons and soon found Hotel de Bordeaux…Wohoo its number one on Trip Advisor (out of one Hotel in Pons!) lol
There was no parking at the hotel, but the owners were very nice and said we could use their old garage to park the bike in, which was located opposite the hotel, once again (like most of this trip) we were on the top floor and there was no lift in this old building, the stairs were narrow and winding and squeaky, our orange room was spacious and had a great view overlooking a very rustic garden.
We spent the afternoon exploring this pretty quiet little City, the streets were as narrow as the hotel staircase!
We strolled the the central square in Pons (pronounced Pon) called the Place de la Republique and overlooked by a magnificent Donjon.
A Donjon is the main tower within the walls of a medieval castle or fortress, although Donjons were not always constructed within a medieval castle’s walls built.
Pons’ dungeon as it is also known as is a beautiful monument. It was destroyed in 1179 by Richard the Lionheart and rebuilt later. We could only admire from the outside as it was closed, a short walk away from the Donjon was a fine-looking Chateau.
Looking over the castle walls was the valley and the river Seugne below, simply stunning, but also a view of the ‘great staircase’ built in the 17th century to give easier access to the town below the ramparts, its’s pretty impressive, moving on we walked into a beautiful garden that was in the grounds of this castle…beautiful…
Time was quickly getting away from us and the sun was beginning to set, we hadn’t eaten much today and were now ready to eat, but the local restaurant wasn’t serving food till after 7pm, too late for us as were hungry now…
So we hunted down a convenience store and bought supplies to cook ourselves.
The following morning we lugged all the luggage back down the winding staircase and loaded up the bike, the weather forecast was not a good one, so it looks like the waterproofs would be needed…
We hadn’t got five minutes down the road, when we had to stop, the chain on the bike was making horrible noises…
Is it going to get us to England…?
Finally we were off, only 450k’s to the coastal town of St.Malo, which would be fine normally but the blackened skies turned to rain, softly at first then hard, the rain was here to stay for the day.
Any chance we got we would stop at a service station to ‘try’ and dry off, this was a fruitless effort, as our waterproofs had become so water logged they just couldn’t keep the rain out, our neck warmers got wet and the damp rose up and into the padding of our helmets, so not only wet but also cold.
When entering the service station cafes, we would leave a trail of water following us, when we took our riding gear off we had not a puddle but almost a river under our chairs! The hand dryers in the bathrooms warmed us up and partly dried our clothes, my gloves were so wet it wasn’t worth wearing them!
We thought of checking into a hotel for the night to dry off, but the forecast was the same for tomorrow so we might as well get this ride over and done with.
We were about half a hour way from St. Malo our destination, when the rain turned to a drizzle.
We were last here in 1989, the part of town we rode in was not here before, we found ourselves in the old part of town, now this we remember, we booked into our last hotel for this trip…the Ibis Hotel budget a good old favourite for us..
The room was small to say the least, the bathroom, soon resembled a chinese laundry, wet weather gear everywhere!
Thankfully we also had a heater in the room which turned out to be a blessing and the rain had started again but who cares we were now warm and dry and looking out the window at the downpour.
The next day we woke to blue skies and sunshine, a perfect day to walk around the ‘Walled’ city.
We made our way towards the harbour, where a few fishing boats bobbed around in the clear waters, further along another ship caught our eye, a Pirate ship was moored up…we both took a few photos.
Then Clive decided to go down the steps to get a ‘different’ angled photo, before i could say ‘be careful of the green moss’ he slipped into the harbour up to his chest holding his camera out of the water.
All i could do was laugh, dripping wet he came up the steps, thankfully not hurt, fortunately the camera didn’t get wet, although a couple of lenses didn’t fair as well, they were water logged!.
A Half an hour later walking we arrived back at the hotel, my poor cold dripping wet covered in moss stained husband needed to shower, Clive had no more clothes that were dry anyway to wear, so the rest of the day we had to spend inside, while Clive tried in vain to dry out his expensive lenses, while i had the task of removing the moss stains from Clive’s clothes and finally booking our ferry passage from Caen to Portsmouth.
Luckily for us the following day was also sunny, once more we head back towards the harbour but this time go through the main gate and into the 12th century walled city, Saint-Malo, originally built as a walled citadel guarding the mouth of the Rance river, was for centuries home to feared pirates, although they’ve all gone to Davy Jones’ Locker…except the one thats with me!
Some weird art work caught in a reflection…
The streets were very quiet, not many tourists at all, only a handful of shops were open, the last time we were here it was a hive of activity, full tourist season people everywhere.
Walking through the cobbled streets of St Malo’s old town feels like you’ve stepped back in time.
Wanting to get a better look our the area we head up some narrow stone steps and walk around the ‘wall’ what a view the beautiful golden beaches were vast, lucky for us the tide was out (Saint Malo has the highest tidal range in Europe, in spring and autumn) so back down the steps and a brisk walk across the sand to Fort National which is a fort on a tidal island a few hundred metres, from the ‘Walled City’s which was built in 1689 to protect Saint-Malo’s port.
Time has just slipped away from us today and before we new it, we were having dinner in one of the few restaurants open having dinner, the walk back to the hotel was under clear skies with a full moon and a few stars guiding us.
The following day we were off to the Benedictine Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, riding along the roads we could see the slender towers and sky-scraping turrets of the abbey, even from a distance its breathtaking.
Hmmm looks like a lot of work is being done on the roads (a bridge is being built) leading to the ‘Mont’, at the moment all tourist vehicles were forbidden to drive up to the Mont, but lucky for us we were on the bike, passing many tourists who were walking the from the mainland along the narrow causeway.
The Mont is surrounded by tidal seas and at low tide the Mont is surrounded by bare sand for kilometres around, it is said that when the tide comes in it comes in faster than a galloping horse!
Mont St-Michel’s main street is lined with shops and hotels leading to the abbey, last time we were here it was the height of the summer holidays and was like a human traffic jam!
Despite the vast number of tourists this place still manages to whisk you back to the Middle Ages, its fantastic architecture set against the backdrop of the area’s extraordinary tides, 3 million tourists visit the ‘Mont’ each year, the Mont is a tiny 100 hectares and has a population of just 44.
From the abbey’s veranda, the bay stretches from Normandy to Brittany, the views from here are spectacular, you can see for miles.
Walking in the abbey is a one-way route through the giant cold Gothic rooms, I even got to stand in the same fire place that i did in 1989, but i had my two children with me that time…
While we were in the chapel, it looked like the nuns and monks were preparing for some special event, the atmosphere felt amazing, this is a remarkable place.
We then climb down into the dark, damp Romanesque foundations, we come across a giant tread-wheel, which six workers once powered hamster-style to haul two-ton loads of stones and supplies from the landing below. This was used until the 19th century.
I’m not sure how many steps we climbed today but it was a lot, but just to be here and feel the history was worth every step.
Back at the hotel repacking for the last time felt strange, we have lived out of our ‘Black Wolf’ bags for so long now, it felt normal for us, loading the bike up was depressing, HOW do we go back to a routine life and be ‘normal’.
We were heading to Caen which was only about 170 Klm’s away, so no need to hurry as our ferry wasn’t leaving till about 2pm, but with the bike in dire need of maintenance we wanted to get to Caen with a few hours to spare, just in case!
We stopped at Macdonalds for some lunch before we ‘saddled’ up for our final ride-to the ferry terminal.
We were shown which lane to queue in, with about an hour to wait, a few people in the queue came over to talk, they were blown away when they realised how far we had ridden, but to us it didn’t seem that far as we were doing it daily, but it was REALLY along way.
First on the ferry, after our bike was strapped down, we found some comfortable seats, we would be here for the next five plus hours.
Whilst gazing out of the window at the cold looking channel sea, we now had some down time where we could reflect on the colossal journey we have just about finished.
We have now arrived in our last country, England our birthplace and where we lived until we made the BIG move with our young children to live in Australia.
Finally arriving at Portsmouth, it was dark and as we went through passport control fireworks went off just beyond some buildings, what a welcome, fireworks, can’t get better than that, can you?
Our trip to our friends house in the town of Yeovil should only take about a hours ride…
We got onto the Motorway for a short while then got off to head towards Salisbury, it was from here that we went a little off course lol…the GPS was sending us down dark spooky lanes with unnatural shapes that formed from the trees that over hung the silent lanes this place looked like the ‘Headless Horse man’ was going to make his presence known at any moment!
Just to make it feel more creepy heavy rain had now joined us on our lonely lane ride…lol…Welcome to England…
Clive now found the road we were suppose to on and it all became familiar… wohoo, it was a bizarre feeling riding our Australian bike in England.
We soon arrived at our ‘Hotel’ (our eccentric friend Steve’s House) a little wet and cold, but our welcome from Steve was so warm we soon forgot about the rain and the cold, it was so great to see our old friend….
He thought we would have arrived ages ago, our reply was don’t ask!
To be continued…