We set off in bright but chilly sunshine to meet , Ian , Denise and Alan at Sainsbury’s Milton Mowbray, a bit of a dog leg!! In fact a very big dog leg! They were a little late as Al was having problems with his back tyre, which makes a difference as it is usual Roy and I who have tyre trouble.
After a quick break we were on our way. Mick and Netty, Neale and Julie should have been joining us but they all had troubles at home and could not make the trip. We seem to encounter lots of little problems on the way, no fuel at the filling station, accident on the M25 etc. we were a bit pushed for time to catch the train. Pete and Jo were meeting us at Maidstone Services, they had been to a rock concert the night before at Wembley, but when we didn’t show, they made their way to the Shuttle. Despite all the hold ups we made the train on time and were quickly transported to France, for our overnight stop at the Holiday Inn at Coquelles. Roy and I often stop there and there is never any trouble (mainly because the Police also stay there).
Mark and Pam, arrived before we left, a little fraught as the sat nav refused to find the hotel ,it was good to see them again and Pam back on the bike after her knee op. The route wound its way through the beautiful French countryside, with its quiet roads, deserted villages and fascinating architecture. The weather was heating up nicely , real air flow riding. As we ventured deeper into Normandy the houses became wood beamed and thatched roofed, usually with flowers planted in the top of the thatch. Some of the beams on the wall for the houses were actually painted on but were still very realistic. We came to the Pont de Normandie, a cable-stayed road bridge that spans the river Seine linking Le Havre to Honfleur in Normandy, northern France. Its total length is 2,143.21 metres – 856 metres between the two piers, a very spectacular sight.
We then entered Honfleur after filling up, and found the hotel. The rooms were a bit small, with little hanging space but as we were not planning to stay in the rooms for too long they were fine.
After unpacking, we ventured out to find some dinner, which is not hard to do in Honfleur as the harbour is surrounded by eateries , all offering a set menu and lots of fish choices. The men settled into aa bar, talking bikes, so Pam, Jo and I went in search of food. Denise could not join us as she was feeling poorly, so we all agreed to take care of Ian for her!!.
After a very nice meal, once the men had joined us, with much wine being consumed, we manage to drag a very merry Ian out of the restaurant; they were trying to close down around us and so we wandered back to the hotel. I had given Ian some bread for Denise as she must be feeling hungry by now.
Al, the weather man had forecast heavy showers, so after breakfast some of us decided to spend the day taking in the sites of Honfleur. Pete and Jo said they would take the motorway to La St Mont san Michel for the day and risk the weather. Al decided to catch up on some sleep, so 6 of us headed to the information centre to find out about boat trips around the harbour.
Tickets were duly purchased and with adequate time for a coffee before we had to climb aboard the boat. The weather was breezy and a little over cast. We had to navigate a very large lock to get out of Honfleur harbour, which answered the question why all the boat trips left at the same time, the lock is only opened at certain times of the day. We headed out into the Seine estuary heading for the Pont de Normandie, this time to go underneath it and do a figure of eight under it as well. We then chugged down past the Le Havre harbour and round to see Deauville, by now the weather had got cold and rain was beginning to fall. After 90 minutes, we were once more queued up to enter the lock, to get back into Honfleur. By the way, Denise used the bread to feed the fish and sea gulls!!
It was time for Lunch, again spoilt for choice as there is some many places to eat, we settled on a very nice Italian place. It was then time to either go back to the hotel for a snooze or more sightseeing. Roy and I chose sightseeing and met Al, who had also been out on a boat trip and was now looking for somewhere to eat.
At dinner time, Jo and Pete said they had had a great time at La St Mont san Michel and only got wet once. We tried another restaurant and were serenaded by an Inca on pan pipes!!!, while we sat outside enjoying the food and ambiance . Later some of us tried out a local Tapas and Jo pulled! Although she says he had one eye up and one eye down, so was not looking straight!.
Today was the Normandy beaches, so we set off bright and early, with Roy leading, well as you know Roy is usually at the back, sweeping up, so by the time we were all off the car park, he had gone wrong, we quickly caught the others up before making another wrong turn, I think Roy was beginning to regret having the PMR radio fitted!. Now following the pink line we headed down to Caen, on a fairly straight route. The first coffee stop was at a MaccyDees on the outskirt of Caen, Roy struggling with 2 Sat Navs ( one on the front and me on the back) missed the turning twice and then after a third attempt which involved U turns and orders to me “NOT TO WAVE AT THE OTHERS” as we sailed past again and again (we were on the wrong side of a duel carriage way so could not cut across). We made our way in to the coffee stop car park, by the tradesman entrance!. There was much ribbing but it was all taken in a good natured manner. Then we were once more on the bikes, this time the 2nd Sat Nav ( Me) was completely off route and so we went to the Overlord Museum first before going to Omaha beach. Still no one seemed to mind.
After looking round the museum and having pictures taken at the Omaha Beach we set off for lunch at Arromanches Les Bains, here you are still able to see the temporary harbours the British built to supply the invasion. After lunch we rode down the coast passed the Gold, Juno and Sword beaches, they all have information and museums but we wanted to get to the Pegasus Bridge display before it closed, as it was the road had a very slow speed limit so time was being eaten away.
When we arrived at Pegasus Bridge there was only a little time to look round. Al, Pete and Mark decided to have a look, so we left Jo and Pam patiently awaiting their riders, and made our way back to the hotel. There was an evening street market outside the hotel and extending around the streets. So after a quick refresh we all strolled around the stalls. Ian was cold so he was looking for a cheap jumper but in the end I had to lend him my sweatshirt, it was either that or my pashmina! as the market had no cheap gear.
Today we headed off to Lisieux, Roy had forbidden me to give any directions and surprisingly we had no off routes!!! The Basilica at Lisieux was very spectacular and free to look around.
After coffee and a bit of souvenir buying, Al, Pete and Jo, decided to take the opportunity of visiting the Bayeux Tapestry, so headed off down the AutoRoute. The remaining three bikes headed to Pont Audemer, where we parked up and had a quick look around before finding a lunch stop. The church in the middle of the town still bears the scars of the fighting that took place in that area, there are bullet holes everywhere.
The temperature was rising so we headed back towards the coast and an ice cream. We came across Villiers Sur Mer a lovely seaside town, so we decided to pull up, not difficult with 3 bikes. BUT the town was undergoing major roadworks, so we diligently followed the diversions and went round and round in circles!, we passed a group of workmen so often we were on first name terms!!. Eventually we gave up and back on route headed for Deauville, but soon came across a lovely beach and ice cream parlour, so bikes were quickly parked and ice creams ordered.
We sat in the blazing sun in bike gear and the locals lay on the beach in bikinis and little else! Mark was very quiet behind his sunglasses.
Then it was back to the hotel for the last night in Honfleur, unfortunately we chose the wrong restaurant and had an awful meal with equally bad service but that was just bad luck.
Another lovely route, across country to Calais, this part of France is really beautiful and I know Roy and I will be going back again, the roads are quiet and the scenery very picturesque. At Calais we saw some emigrants but there was no trouble, we boarded an early train and arrived safely in England. Operation Stack was in place so the road to the Ashford hotel was busy, Pam and Mark decided not to join us for the evening meal it would have taken them 2 hours to get there from their house.
After a very good meal and quiet night, we all said our goodbyes and headed off home. Roy and I really enjoyed the few days in France, I hope all those who joined us enjoyed it as well. It was great to get to know Jo and Pete a little more and hope they come on some other trips.