Jess and Theresa's Account
4th May 2016 - Wednesday
Up early and on with last minute packing. Fleur (one of our dogs) was already aware of what was going on and had one of those faces of disapproval. The weather was good. All loaded up, we set off at 9.10am on the beginning of our grand adventure to the Varaderomania meeting at Le Drome in France. Arrived in good time at the Eurotunnel and caught the 11.20am train to Calais. Out the other side and found the A26 to Reims. We stopped every hour to fill up or have a rest, finally arriving at 6.10pm at our Ibis Hotel in Troyes, where we were to break our journey. Wash and brush up and out, having a beer in the bar and then to the Hippopotamus steak house nearby. Then back to our room to relax and to get some sleep. The TV had various English speaking channels, mostly concerned with Mr Trump. It makes a change from all the coverage of Leicester City (English football team) winning something or other.
5th May 2016 - Thursday
A good night's sleep. Awoke to another fine day in our Ibis Hotel in Troyes, France. Down to breakfast and then to catching up with the internet and to packing our kit ready for the off. It is election day in England and there is plenty of buzz about that. We had about 400 miles to do and decided to break it in one hour sections. Kilometre after kilometre, we enjoyed fine weather and clear roads, finally seeing signs for Grenoble and then picking up a very winding road that would take us across the mountains to our destination. We had some beautiful views, as one might expect, with no traumas. We stopped a few km short of where we thought we were going and, sure enough, we found ourselves in a village very close to where we thought we were and found the site Le Lac Bleu, met up with our friends, many kisses and handshakes, registered for our cabin and then to our cabin, very relieved to be there safe and sound. We unloaded our stuff and had a look around LT10 Rapidhome and were well pleased. A three bedroom cabin, all to ourselves. Then I went off to get the tank filled, leaving T to do the girly stuff. I was back by 7pm and had a showered and then we walked over to the bar to see what the craic was. We were welcomed with a glass of Clairette de Die, a local speciality, a bit like Champagne. Then a beer each and some interrogation by the crowd and then a little sit down by the beautiful lake. I surprised myself with my speaking but I realise that I am still very limited. It was lovely to see some old friends but disappointing not to see some we had expected to see, such as Zebulon and Michelle, Perceval, Bernard and Cecile, Christophe and Natalie, etc. Le Chef, Jacques Segret and Mikko were here with their Caterham car as Jacque's injury to his shoulder, after the wild boar incident, has left him with a lot of pain and him unable to ride a bike. We were surrounded by mountains. The location seems perfect. We were called to dinner around 8.30pm and it was a tight squeeze. We sat with the Blues Lovers, Herve and Murielle and others that we did not know. Buffet service, use the same plate for both courses. A fresh plate for dessert. Shortage of wine - but who cares. Bed by 10.30pm, tired.
Getting closer and sunnier.
The mountains in view.
Our view of Le Lac Bleu, upon arrival.
6th May 2016 - Friday
Up and at it and then over for some breakfast at 8am. No coffee! What!! Bread and jam and croissant and collected our picnic bags and back to get ready for the off at 8.45am, led by SkyBike, aka Henri. 740 miles ODO. A superb sunny day, cold at first but soon warming up. Lots of hairpins and fast riding on D roads, visiting an abbey site where we had our picnic and ending at Die for a guided tour around the factory where they make Cremant de Die. We bought a bottle for home. Rather than hang about waiting for the others, we made our own way back arriving around 5pm. 884 miles odo fill up. 8 miles ODO arrived back. Got up to date with this. To the bar for a beer and then in to the restaurant, finding a place at the end of a table where the French folk don't have to feel obligated to talk to us. We were joined by Swing and Mara from Switzerland and Seb and Sandrine Poisson from Rouen. Very funny conversation. Sebastien had bought a two litre bottle of liquid from a young lad at our lunch stop for 4 Euros, thinking a good deal. He had been sharing it round and I took a sniff and it smelt potent. He seemed OK on it but we stuck to the wine. He had an MRI scan of somebody's brain and then he had one of his brain. His revealed a big dick and balls in it. I made him promise to send me a copy of it. He speaks no English, yet we had a good conversation. Sandrine just accepts the way he is. A clown, she says, useless she agrees. :) We had a large starter of mixed food, salad, meat pie slices, ham, etc. Main course was cabillaud (cod) in a sauce, rice and haricot verts. Cheese to follow and then we went to our room tired after long day's riding.
Une pause cafe - Coffee break.
Beka, Varabien, TinTin, etc.
A wide variety of bikes, something that is now quite normal. The Varadero was the beginning and this is what it has become. A gathering of like minded friends.
Theresa with our white Varadero.
Abbeye d'Aiguebelle. A grotto for prayer and contemplation.
Monsieur Jacques' new toy, the Caterham.
I love this picture. This is what these meetings are all about. Riding new roads, exploring new places, having fun with new and old friends.
The 'tiroir' system that we use makes sure that nobody can get lost. Ha!
Then came our visit to the factory at Die, where 'Cremant de Die' is produced.
...and we are able to try the product.
Salut TinTin !
7th May 2016 - Saturday
Woke late after a good sleep. To breakfast in a hurry, the last ones, but there was coffee this time, but no croissants. All aboard and away at 8.30am 888 miles odo. Absolutely magificent views during our mountain pass riding. Une cirque, an immense gorge that we looked down from above. Lots of snow at 1180m and below. We stopped at Loreac??? for a coffee break and then on to St Nazaire?? Where we arranged the bikes according to model, ours being one of the 11 Varaderos. We have something like 45 bikes. 8 Crosstourers, the rest a mix but mainly BMW. The group has changed its emphasis so much since we first joined them. There were no Africa Twins, a subject of much discussion as the AT has its own club, although they would be welcomed. We learned that Zebulon had crossed a line over the internet moderator situation and had been cut off by Jacques. Such a shame.
Michel and Henri (l'organisateur).
Gathering in the morning at base camp, getting ready to set off.
Seb and Sandrine - true 'characters'.
Jacques and Mikko arrive in the Cat.
Up high and on the snow line.
St Nazaire, with its magnificent aqua-duct.
Swing. Names please.
Le Chef, Mikko, LesDomis, etc.
Les BluesLovers, Herve et Murielle.
Theresa and our Belgian friends.
...and back to camp, ahead of the others, because we were stupid and missed the marker.
On leaving St Nazaire with its amazing aquaduct, we headed up high and were really enjoying the winding roads when, I became aware that we had nobody behind and nobody in sight in front. A couple of junctions later with no markers present, we concluded that, somehow, we had missed a turn and were now alone. Easy answer as we would simply ask Mr GPS the way home. We needed cash so we headed for Die, where a festival was taking place and with much activity. We parked up and walked into the town, found a bank and sat at a street café and had a coffee. We then went to find some petrol to fill up for tomorrow at 930 miles odo. We had trouble with the machine not accepting our card and realised that it wasn't accepting anybody's card. So we went to a different pump and found ourselves telling others that, 'il ne marche pas'. Back to a deserted base camp at 4pm, 1038 miles odo, 146 miles done today. Sat down and wrote our excuses for our disappearance.
Cher Henri, Messieurs, Mesdames, etc.
Je vous presente une note de
MES EXCUSES1. J'ai manque la sentinelle et je ne sais pas quand exactement mon erreur se passer.
2. Je suis Anglais ainsi je suis stupide.
3. C'est la faute de moi totalement (pas de Therese).
4. Therese est un ange.
5. Je suis un viel homme.
6. C'est la vie !
7. A l'annee prochaine !
8. Nous vous aimons.
Nous avons pris la route touriste (avec café) pour notre retour.
Jess (et Therese)
Les deux Anglais
7eme Mai 2016
....and we were made to pay for our stupidity, being presented with an award.
Our hosts, the owner and workers at base camp.
Gradually the others started to return to camp and I took the opportunity to show my note to Sebastien who chuckled and corrected some of my grammar. So I rewrote the piece with the intention of giving it to our leader, Henri. However when Jacques arrived in his Caterham, I proffered my note to him. His face beamed and he put it away in his pocket, presumably to make sport with me later in a crowded room. I thought I had best write it here for posterity and later gave the first draft to Henri when he arrived. On reading it though, he roared with laughter. I had to make many apologies to the others. We had been missed and we had missed Le Grotte, an underground cave of some great beauty. Sure enough, at dinner, the opening announcements did indeed feature my note's contents and with the outcome that I was called to the front to receive what I can only conclude was the group's 'What a Plonker Award'. What fun! We sat at the end of a table, as is usual, sat next to a couple that we had got to know for the first time this year. We had a lovely meal, starting with a salad based plate, then pork in a sauce with rice and beans. Cheese course, chocolate brownies, coffee and to bed. Great fun! There's nothing quite like the pressure of being out of your comfort zone. We had taken the bold step once again of joining these lovely people, who welcome us with open arms, who are so tolerant of our poor language skills and who are a joy to be with. We try to blend in, keeping to the sidelines as much as possible, yet we have such fun with them. Laughter and gestures with lots of 'franglais', make great entertainment it seems. So, until next year in the Tarn - perhaps. Our future is so unknown at the moment. Will we sell our house? Where will we be? To bed for the last time in this lovely location in Castillon sur Dioin.
8th May 2016 - Sunday
Up and to breakfast for the last time, finding plentiful supply of coffee, croissants, bread, jam, juice, etc. We said our goodbyes to those we saw and then back to the cabin to get packed away and loaded. Then more goodbyes and some attention from our lovely leader Henri. He will miss us all now after his great triumph. So, onto the bike and off, with others gearing up to do likewise. We took the Col de Grimone route west by recommendation and found it to be a delightful ride, reaching the main route heading north to Grenoble. Weather excellent and an odd feel to the ride as we had a tail wind and were creating our own turbulence as a result. After 400 or so kilometres, with hourly breaks, we arrived at Le Gite La Bergerie at Rue de Bas, Laubressel near to Troyes in the Champagne region. We were greeted by our hosts, Carine and Laurent Zazo, who showed us to our new resting place, a delightfully restored barn, or gite as it is known. After we had sorted ourselves out, had a shower, etc. we joined them for a drink and a chat. They had quite good English but I vexed them with my French. We met their two sons Matthieu and Pablo, typical reticent 10 to 12 year old boys. The weather still excellent we unpacked the garden furniture on our terrace and enjoyed a sumptuous meal of garage bought salad, crisps and biscuits with orange juice and coffee.
9th May 2016 - Monday
A good night's sleep. Spent the day lazing outside reading our books, fighting to get internet coverage (total failure) and writing diary, etc. I went out in the morning to do some shopping and found a huge Leclerc supermarket, struggling to get everything that I had bought in the bike's top box. Salad for dinner with wine. We didn't fancy going out as the weather had turned a bit damp, as forecast on the telly.
10th May 2016 - Tuesday
Harry's 21st Birthday (one of our sons) - Another lazy day with the weather getting worse but with interludes of sunshine. I took the bike back to Leclerc to get some bread and coffee and other bits and had a chat with Laurent in his man cave that had apparently been rebuilt after the war after the Germans had blown it up. We were pleased that it wasn't the allies wot done it. Their location is excellent with a lovely adjoining house. The weather improved a little and T basked in some sunshine whilst I continued with my re-reading of 'The Map that Changed the World'. Later we put all our gear on and went for a ride to the Lac de L'Orient and then back to take a look around Troyes. Quite unimpressed by such a bustling place with many unsavoury looking types, we headed for the Buffalo Grille near to where we are staying. A nice meal with a nice big beer, we headed back and sat outside for a while with a glass of wine before retiring.
11th May 2016 - Wednesday
Up and to the packing. Time to go home. 1471 odo on leaving. Said our goodbyes to our host Laurent. Carine was at work at the boys at school. It was raining and we were not impressed. However as we joining the autoroute, ahead looked clear and, indeed, as we went, we were clearly running ahead of the bad weather. It soon dried up and we had an enjoyable ride to Calais, arriving an hour early and getting an earlier train. Then in to Kent and the boring ride home, with the usual idiots on the road blocking lanes, especially on the A12 where lorries crawl past each other at an annoying rate. We just wanted to get home. Sure enough, we arrived at around 3.15pm and normality was restored. The weather was nice and we sat outside and got to know the dogs again, who were certainly pleased to see us but had clearly enjoyed their time with Chloe and Fraser. We had 1827 odo on arrival, some 3000km round trip. We had not had one downpour of rain to contend with for the whole week.
Our latest French adventure had come to an end and normality had returned - until another day.
Thank you everybody for making we two English people so welcome.
To contact us please email to email@example.com
Jess or Theresa Jephcott, Fordham, near Colchester, Essex, England, CO6 3LZ
tel 07714 250949
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