and VIM15 in Pembrokeshire (Wales, UK)
Jess and Theresa's Account
This is another of our grand adventures that we would like to share with you. As in recent years, we preceded the Varadero International Meeting with a visit to France to join with our French brother and sister Varaderoistes for their own Varadero meeting. The French Varaderomania meeting was being held near Millau, near Montpelier, and the international VIM 15 meeting was, this time, closer to home in Welsh Wales. We asked permission to join with our French friends and, again, they extended us a big welcome. We had enjoyed their Varad'OC in 2009, their VaraDahu in 2011 and their VaraMedoc in 2012. We had had a wonderful time with them, improved our French, saw different parts of their beautiful country and absorbed so much of their culture. So, we decided to do both events, with a short time at home between the two, for our latest Varadero adventure.
We share our experience of both meetings with you in the form of a diary and pictures. For us a Varadero meeting begins at the point we leave home and ends at the same place. It is our annual Varadero adventure.
Our Varadero is/was a new (bought August 2012), last of the model XL1000VA. A 2012 shasta white model with ABS, centre stand, heated grips, panniers and top box. To that we added a 12 volt charging socket, a Palmer Products screen, and our relocated Garmin Zumo 550 GPS system. Plus, this time, from bitter experience, a set of crash bars.
VARAVEYRON - FRANCE VIM 15 - WALES
THE FRENCH MEETING
Varaderomania held their 8th meeting this year (8th to 12th May 2013) near Millau, towards the south of France. We attended. All are welcomed but - the language is French, so school French is advisable as a minimum. Fun guaranteed and, of course, good company, good riding, good food, good wine, good fun.
6th May 2013 Monday. The alarm woke us. To breakfast, to loading the bike and to say our goodbyes to sons, girlfriend and dogs. We only got half way down the lane when we remembered that we had not packed the passports so we had to turn round and go home again. Finally on the way at 7.00am. It was warm and sunny but by the time we got into Kent it turned foggy and cold. We arrived twenty minutes early so had time to have a coffee before going to board the 9.20am train. We were the only motorbike so had to wait to board until last, which is normal. When we arrived in Calais the sun was shinning and we set off on our adventure making our way in the direction of Poitiers. We stopped to refuel and get something to eat about 11.00am and stopped a further two times for rest stops. After a long day on the bike we finally found our Ibis accommodation in Poitiers about 8.00pm. Our route taking us via Rouen and Tours. We had mounted a new camera onto the bike and when we were in our room we downloaded the day's film. Lots of boring motorway footage! We both showered and went next door to the Buffalo Grill for steak and chips with a large beer each followed by tarte au pommes with ice cream for Jess and cheesecake for Therese.
7th May 2013. Tuesday. 510 miles already done from Colchester to Poitier. We took breakfast in the usual style at the hotel and then packed our bags and set off, headed for Pau, via Bordeaux, to meet up with our friends Bernard Mattalia and Cecile Garmigny, whom we had met at previous Varaderomania events. Set off at 10.30am. Autoroute all the way and stopped at a remarkable aire, en route, that had an archaeological garden with mainly 11th century masonry from a church or several churches. We discovered just how well the French respect their heritage. Romanesque Saintonge (a rest area) in the Lozay area on the A10, located 20 kilometers after exit number 33 Surgères. Romanesque art on the motorway! Amazing! So we stopped and had a wander around. The Motorway Company of Southern France and the General Council of Charente-Maritime have created a free outdoor museum on the theme of Roman Art in Saintonge.
We went to a supermarket in Pau to buy some chocolates and some wine for our hosts. We think that we have large supermarkets - the French double the size. Incredible! Arrived around 1615 and found the house easily and a smiling Bernard. Sunny and warm but clouds obscuring the Pyrenees Atlantique around 60km to the south. We made small talk, as Bernard has no English - nor should he have. Cecile arrived home from work later and we sat outside in the garden and talked of stuff. We got to know the cats, Lucky and Minotte, who seemed to have a mutual hatred for each other. Also Marie, one of their daughters, at college and living at home. Their other children, Guillaume and Pauline, were away at that time. We went out with Bernard to buy some wine. When we do it we go to the supermarket. When Bernard does it he goes to the vineyard. We took the car and he drove us through some beautiful country roads and villages, arriving at a typical stone built building with a sign that suggested wine. A ring on the gate and a young man appeared, followed by an older man, who invited us us in to the courtyard and then a room where wine was clearly for sale. This was Monsieur J P Bousquet, proprietaire, Saint-Faust, 64110. We each tried three generous glasses of various wines before Bernard decided on his choice and made a purchase. The wine was, 'Domaine Bousquet', of Jurancon region. It was a little sweet for our liking but would be lovely as a dessert wine. Then we stopped at a property nearby that turned out to be the now empty home of his parents, recently deceased. There was a clear sadness with Bernard and he seemed at a loss to know what the future held for it. A lovely stone built house with large garden and stunning views across the landscape. It is too far from where they work to live there and will probably need a lot of money spending on it to make it to modern standards. Back to Pau and for something to eat. Various dishes including our first ever taste of foie gras, a local delicacy. We were presented with one of the bottle of wine which we were very pleased with. To save for a special occasion at home. Some wine and to bed. A long ride tomorrow.
8th May 2013. Wednesday. Up and to breakfast and then packed our bikes, took a couple of photographs and then on our way, the two bikes and four people. Pau, Toulouse, Albi, St Affrique, La Cavallerie, Nant, St Jean de Bruel. We stopped in Albi to visit the wonderful cathedral dedicated to St Cecile and we had some lunch at a restaurant next door. The largest brick built cathedral in the world. The interior was magnificent with many side alters and painted ceilings. Therese lit two candles at the alter of the Virgin Mary, one for Mum Davies and one for Dad Jephcott.
Leaving Pau, headed for VaraVeyron.
Snow capped mountains in the distance.
The two Varaderos.
Beautiful countryside. All that was needed was to follow the bike ahead.
We arrived at St Jean de Bruel and met up with some old friends and acquaintances. Here we have Therese, Cecile, Bernard and Natalie, by the side of a splendidly cascading mountain river.
Le Chef, M. Jacques (folded arms) stands by, as the organiser Zebulon (Gilles), runs through the plans for the weekend.
VaraVeyron had begun!
It was quite warm in the sun. We found the Varaveyron site quite easily, around 4.30pm, with the assistance of some signs put up by Zebulon, and were greeted by those that had already arrived. We were directed to our cabin and were pleasantly pleased with the facilities. We got our key to chalet 27 and went to unpack and get the shower before meeting our fellow Varaderomania friends for a beer, chat and then dinner. A cabin all to ourselves with all the basics, especially a nice shower. So, the beginning of our 5 day stay in St Jean de Bruel. The chalets are located in a river valley among the trees. Before dinner, we went down to the shoreline to enjoy the scenery and Jess and Bernard skipped stones. To dinner in the function room. Many greetings and kisses for the ladies - and some of the men. We had wandered around to explore a little and soon became re-acquainted with Natalie, whom we had met at Varad'OC two years before. We skimmed some stones across the river that was adjacent to our camp and enjoyed the aroma of the lilacs nearby. Beautiful! We sat with Bernard and Cecile and were then joined by Christophe and Natalie. The four of them all live in Pau. The menu was saucisson, cornichon, salade, aligot., a cheesy pureed potato with sausage, all washed down with a plentiful supply of wine. Natalie was clearly upset by the aligot as it was not as it should have been. It is basically puree potato and a special type of goat's cheese. It should have had a different consistency apparently. It tasted good to us. (Natalie later gave us a postcard for the l'Aligot recipe, which we intend to try at home,) We went off to our chalet at about 10.00pm to get some sleep. An excellent day! We later discovered that we had a neighbour who sings at night. We didn't see him but his song was beautiful. He lived in a tree next to our cabin. Un merle?
9th May 2013. Thursday J - Started at 1056 miles. To breakfast at 0745. The usual bread and jam and cereals and a lovely big bowl of coffee, bread and jam, sitting with Sebastien and his wife Sandrine. Collected our picnic and then got the bike ready for the off. It had rained in the night but the weather was good. All set off at 0900 and back onto the D999 and into the hills. Zebulon was in charge, on his white Varadero like ours, the sisters. Very twisty roads, the tiroir system. Cantobre D145, Le Rozier D29, Le Canyon de la Jonte, Les Douzes. First stop was at a parking area near Meyreuis where we parked for a while and admired some classic cars that arrived soon after we did. We then moved on to Meyreuis where we had a drink in a cafe and caused a temporary traffic jam with the locals with all the bikes. We could see that we were heading for the Circuit Gorges et Causses as the landscape became rocky and mountainous. D996. On to Mont Aigoual, a mountain at something like 1580 metres altitude, bristling with radio masts and the like and for a time above the clouds, with snow still in evidence. Had our picnic there and the cloud cleared and the weather was good again. There were some more classic cars there, as well as some interesting little motor bikes with engines driving through the tyres. Mikeadero knew them. Solar? or something like. I want one! Then on to more twisty roads stopping at an amazing site overlooking a huge oxbow lake, a cirque. Cirque Navacelles. Therese lost her watch whilst we sat down for a while, but it was found. A big joke about her doing it on purpose and wanting a new one. Last stop was at a fortified village, a small version of La Cite at Carcassonne. It started to rain later and we headed off alone from Le Couvertoirade, dropping Therese off first at the site and then Jess to get some fuel. A long wait at the pump in Nant with around 20 bikes queuing and only one pump. Had a good chat with 4 Danes. Very wet day now. Ended the day on 1216 miles. Words of the day, brebis (ewe), mouton (sheep), belier (ram), cafe gourmande (cup of coffee with small cakes).
1510 metres altitude near Mount Aigoual.
10th May 2013. Friday. St Jean de Bruel. 1216 miles at start of day. A good breakfast and ready to go at 8.30am. Led by Zebulon, the tiroir system in action, with Perceval et Lauren at the rear. A fast ride taking in all manner of interesting places. At Cavalerie, we clearly should not have driven into the tiny village along tiny roads, as a mass cavalcade in what we assume used to nave once been a military garrison complex. A delightful little place with old buildings and clearly now much loved by its inhabitants. No sooner in, we were out again and off on our mystery tour. We stopped at Saint Jean d'Alcas where we were given a guided tour of the fort that is there. Built around 1440 and belonging to a Cistercian order we went inside the chapel, controlled at one time by an abbess, and with nuns in support. We viewed the various service rooms and up onto roof level giving us a good view of the surrounding territory. The sun was shining and all were happy. I gave a short Franglais interview on film to Skybike and his daughter Laurene, as part of a video project that the team were collating for this meeting. We passed through Saint Eulalie de Cernon taking in some beautiful green countryside and views of the mountains. L'Hospitalet du Larzac. Then we headed for Roquefort, famous for its cheese. We were to be given another guided tour, this time of the old cheese making factory, before everything went big scale and moved to some nondescript factory somewhere in France. The presentation was excellent and punctuated by funny moments that included TinTin's arm with its camera appearing out of orifices in the cave structure, squeaking knees from somebody's bike clothing, etc. We saw the mouldy bread that was essential for the flavour of the cheese, the happy ewes in the fields taken in for milking twice a day (as if! Probably now intensively farmed in a building, never seeing the sunshine of the fields.) Our lady guide was very good. This ended with a tasting and invitation to purchase from the museum shop. Then back on the bikes and stopped for a coffee at St Rome de Tarn, seated with some of our group and having a lively discussion. There were too many for the cafe to cope with, so a mass order for 40 coffees was made and at a price of one euro each. It was here that we learned of the phrase 'Jus de chaussette' as being a term for bad coffee. We moved on from there to have our picnic, choosing a nice spot next to the river to dine. Then on to Millau passing under the magnificent bridge and visiting the visitor centre that was there. We went through the centre of Millau but didn't stop. There was a lot of traffic and quite a few of us were held up in it. Through Aguessac.to Le Point Sublime, to take in the magnificent views of the Gorge du Tarn. The route continued to La Malene (toute les epingles), with many hairpin bends and narrow roads. Perfect for the bike's capabilities. Great fun for me but not for my pillion. Finally to Meyreuis and then back to camp. A long, tiring, fascinating, exhilarating, fun day! Chaussee deformee. Gravillons. At dinner we sat with Bernard and Cecile together with Christophe and Natalie. The tombola/raffle was drawn using playing cards, with Lady Duck drawing the cards (carreau, pique, coeur, trefe, cavalier, valet, dame) and Zebulon presiding over it. The French pack of cards is not like ours and we had to learn the words. It has not got our king, queen, jack due to their history of dealing quite severely with royalty in the past. We won a can of glass cleaner and a rear light for something or other (later eagerly eyed some days later by Lewis).
Didier tries the Royal Enfield Bullet.
Zebulon's white Varadero, the same as ours.
Jess is interviewed by Skybike and Laurene.
A door knocker.
Didier is interviewed too!
We arrive at Roquefort.
....and we visit the famous caves where the cheese used to be made, where the natural draft through the rockface enables the cheese to cure and mature.
Some cheeses on the shelf.
The all important moulddy bread to give the cheese its colour.
Au revoir Roquefort.
Some typical street art, so often seen in France.
Rear view of the Royal Enfield.
Une pause cafe - coffee and smoke break. It was here that we were introduced to the phrase, 'jus de chaussette' applied to the coffee that was served for one euro per person.
Our first view of the wonderful Millau Bridge.
...and into Millau town.
The Tarn Gorge.
Pause du vin - back at camp.
Prizes for the tombola. Everybody contributed a prize for this.
Zebulon addresses the assembled campers.
Lady Duck and M. le Chef, organising the prizes from the tombola.
11th May 2013. Saturday. St Jean de Bruel. Breakfast and away with 35 bikes in total. 1358 miles on the clock. 9.00am we set off, heading west - and back to base by 6pm. We had been promised a shorter day. Another fast, twisty and turny route with much to see. We travelled the D991 through Noria, then the D29 through Le Roziel. Les Vignes D97, stopping for coffee at La Malene on the D907, overlooking the river where canoes can be hired. Then on via Pougnadoires, Ste Enimie, Prades, Le Ceret, Le Chambonnet, Ispagnac, all on the D907. Then through Le Pompidou on the D9 and finding ourselves in the sunny St Jean du La Gare where we stopped for our picnic. We found a good place under the shade of the trees and Jacques took the opportunity to get the Varaderos and the Crosstourers lined-up for a photograph. I counted 11 Varaderos, 4 Crosstourers, 10 BMW GS1200s, 4 Tenere, 2 Triumphs, 1 Moto Guzzi Stelvio, 1 GS650, 1 F800, 1 FJR, 1 Royal Enfield. There were more bikes at the meeting but some were away on other tours. We stayed by the bikes and spoke with Christophe for a while about his BMW, and all the features that it has. Top of the range apparently with all sorts of gizmos. After we had eaten we joined others for a coffee in the town and enjoyed the Wild West theme of the day, with the patron and waiter dressed as Indian and Cowboy. Then off again for the last leg of our journey, on fast and twisty roads stopping briefly at a junction with a national Cevenne monument at the junction of the D10 and the D193, Col du Pas at 833 metres altitude. Took some photographs, one with Jacques, Le Chef, sat on my knee. Great fun but Theresa annoyed by all the corner taking movement, as it was hurting her knees. At dinner we sat with Bernard and Cecile as well as Lady Duck next to me, Boubi opposite me and her husband (Brigitte and Lucky Luc). Boubi had excellent English and we had a dual language conversation between all of us. Lady Duck also started to talk about her propensity for Scotsmen from her visit there a while back. She said that she had 'mets les miroirs sur ses chaussures pour observer' the tackle under the kilt - or words to that effect. Boubi had been reading Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth, to keep up her English. We had boeuf bourgignon and dauphinoise potatoes. A fruit pudding with a creamy dessert. Plenty of wine as usual, as is the French way. We gave out some gifts of a VIM13 mug each for Gilles (Zebulon) and Jacques (Le Chef). Also some Tiptree jam for their ladies. They were very pleased with this small recognition of all that they have done and do for the group. Organising such an event is never easy but looks easy to the participants. The speeches were good and I was able to understand more this year. The Auvergne next year (8th May) and Normandy with Didier (Varabien) the year after. We asked Bernard and Cecile if it was possible for them to visit us in England. The Varaveyron was at an end. Heading for home tomorrow.
Forty coffees please.
A great day!
12th May 2013. Sunday. Time to head for home. We went to breakfast and said many goodbyes. It has been a superb meeting with our French friends and they had treated us very well. I suppose that we were a bit of a novelty, without being made out to be anything special. We had tried to fit in and I feel that we did. We certainly learned much more about the French way of life. Coca, not Coca-Cola, par example. The weather was a bit dull but dry. We went back to our cabin, packed our bags and set off with Zebulon to go and have a look at a nearby location in Nant that it is suggested would be good for the forthcoming VIM17 in 2015. We took lots of pictures of the place. It looks perfect for what we want and has nearby tent camping. Special thanks and goodbyes for Gilles who has really made our Varaveyron such a great experience for us. 1515 miles on the clock, all since leaving home. 10.00 am. Back on the wonderful D999 then A75. Slight rain but nothing to worry about. Over the Pont de Millau and we just kept going. Autoroutes all the way, Clermond-Ferrand, through Paris, until we got to Calais around 8.00pm. Dover, Dartford, home. By now the weather had turned very cold and wet but we had decided not to stop and to keep going. But it was good to finally get home after our long ride from the Aveyron region.
Merci bien tous ! A l'annee prochaine.
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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