9th August sailing home
I’m sailing home. It’s 10.30 UK time and we have just left Caen headed for Portsmouth. Today everything went according to plan. With the help of my two beefy helpers we hauled Belinda out of her garage, packed up and I headed off from Ile de Re at around 10.30. Getting up to Caen, all 300 miles (really 280 according to the bike’s clock), was easy. There was mostly little traffic, petrol stations where I needed them and pleasant enough places to stop, rest and get something to eat and drink. By 6.30 I rode into the centre of Caen and looked round it’s cathedral and sat in the pleasant shade of the castle watching the people come and go, before returning to Belinda and driving the twenty minutes or so out to the port. Her cruise control was useful on the 130kph speed limit motorways with little traffic. It was a beautiful evening as I arrived up in Normandy. I arrived around 7.30 pm in time to eat some passing fish and chips at the terminal to save searching for something to eat late once on the boat.
In the queue for the boarding I had the usual interesting conversations, first briefly with a young guy in an Audi who told me, sitting on the bonnet smoking a cigarette, that he was a jockey and had come to France twice in the last week to ride a horse, coming 4th and 5th in his races. I said that seemed not a bad result and he said at least he didn’t fall off, three people had fallen in the last race he rode. He was rather flouncy and I imagine the combination of youth and a highly rewarded job are likely to lead to this (I was thinking of footballers). Then, more interesting, after I had joined the five other people on bikes, I talked to a man who shared with me all the same anxieties about manoeuvring big bikes in tricky situations, like gravel and sloppy ground as well as similar experiences with the IAM. Then we were told to ride on. They pack our bikes closely together, practically touching which feels uncomfortable. Once showered I bought an uncharacteristic pint of Stella (it seems the only drink that would be right) along with a couple of cigarettes out on the deck watching, with a dozen other passengers, the ship moving away from the now dark harbour. I observed that English men have problems with shorts, many ill chosen and not matching a slightly formal top half. I am pleased with my trousers from Ljubljana. So, all is good, and all went well: campsites were all good, weather was perfect and there were no disasters with the bike, which performed effortlessly well. But as one or two of us said in the queue, roads in France are a bit boring from the bike point of view. A couple of guys had ridden up from Alicante and we all talked about how enjoyable the roads in Spain are.
Do I have any thoughts for a next trip? I remember after last year I felt I had got a few things wrong, but this is different because everything did go so well. I think the main ingredient was taking the time to find and book small, carefully chosen campsites. Their friendliness made an enormous difference, and for the most part I think they attract a more interesting bunch of visitors.
So tomorrow is the familiar and rather heart sink journey clockwise round the M25 from the A3 round to the A1, then dropping in somewhere on the way home to pick up some champaign to celebrate H and I’s 31st wedding anniversary. So far, nearly an hour into the channel, the crossing looks like it will be smooth, with hopefully a good night sleep.
For the first time my circulation on the M25 was uneventful and I arrived home, after 140 miles riding today. Here is the trace of the journey homeward.