VaraMedoc 2012 (France)

and VIM14 in Tarragona (Catalonia)

Jess and Theresa's Account

 This was yet another of our grand adventures. The French Varaderomania meeting was being held near Bordeaux and the international VIM 14 meeting was just a step further, the following weekend, across the Pyrenees in Catalonia. So, naturally, we decided to attend both. 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 and their VaraDahu in 2011 and we had had a wonderful time with them. So, we decided to take the required two weeks for our 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 adventure.

Our Varadero is/was (in August 2012 we bought a new, last of the model) an XL1000VA6. A 2006 silver model with ABS, centre stand, heated grips, panniers and top box. To that we added a 12 volt charging socket, a Baglux tank cover, a Baglux tank bag, a Puig/MRA combination screen, a Garmin Zumo 550 GPS system mounted on a bar and Touratech mounting bracket.



Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th May

held at Lacanau, near Bordeaux in France

The French Varaderoistes always choose a name that suits the region of France in which their meeting is being held. This year, it was the Medoc wine region.
 Tuesday 15th May 2012 - We packed our gear for our grand adventure across the water in France and then on to Catalonia., We set off, headed for Dover, arriving there at 6pm. Our dog Pirate was convinced that he was coming with us as he had seen our tank bag and thought that it was his tank bag. So sad! The weather was good. A short ride on the train under the channel, chatting with a French lad who was going home to see his mum. Soon found our Etap Hotel in Calais and wished that we had done some more riding. Found a Buffalo Grille and soon got into the French way of life. (115 miles.)

Wednesday 16th May 2012 - Set off, no breakfast, Satnav set for La Roche Sur Yon. Stopped at Rouen and visited the cathedral. Arrived in good time at our Etap Hotel and found a nice grille restaurant (Grille du Claire Bocage) next door. Weather Good. (518 miles travelled since home.)

Thursday 17th May 2012 - A little rain in the night but dry for our trip to Royan, switching off the toll road possibility on Sat Nav. Caught the 2pm ferry across to Le Verdon? At 17 euros. 2 x grand crèmes! Getting anxious about the forthcoming arrival with our French friends, running lots of phrases through my head. Delayed our arrival a little with a stop at Hourtin Plage for 2 x GC's and 2 x Croque Monsieurs. Beginning to appreciate the landscape of this area of France (Aquitaine). Almost entirely of sand & dunes. Many pine trees. Roads excellent. Then to bite the bullet and find our Azureva accommodation at Lacanau. A big welcome on our arrival with several familiar faces. Sebastian, Le chef, Alain, Didier et Sylviane, Tintin, Zebulon, etc. Lots of double kisses with the ladies. Theresa was totally bewildered by the welcome and tearful at her lack of understanding. To the room to unpack and shower and then to the bar. Much chat but feeling the usual awkwardness. To the restaurant and sat far corner, joined quickly by the chef and others. The women made a girl's table and tried to coax Theresa to join them. She wasn't having any of it. Lots of wine 'a volonte' (it would never happen in England) and beer in the bar. Weather good, if a little cool outside. So to bed. (Filled up at 855 miles, 28.23Euros, 18.04 litres.)

The arrival!

Centre stage, Monsieur Zebulon, who will be hosting next year's VaraVeyron near Millau. Swing from Switzerland far right.

Les dames!

Monsieur Le Chef, Jacques, addresses the group to explain what is going to be happening for the next few days.

The Team Leaders!

Varalo 33 (Laurent) - Perceval (Alain) - Varaderomania (Jacques) - Alubat (Alain) - Gilou (Gilles)

Friday 18th May 2012 - To breakfast and ready to Roule a 9 heure. Dry and warm. 30 or so bikes. 'La systeme tiroir' was used. Good to be back with these lovely people, so friendly and welcoming to the 'Deux Anglais'. Some good riding around the area. The first part to L'Herbes ( a shanty town, literally, of fishing community, mainly l'huitres - oysters) and on to Arcachon, where the bikes were formed up. Only 14 Vara's now, 2 Crossrunners, 9 BMW's, 1 Ducati ST3, 3 Super Tenere, 1 VFR, 1 CBF1000, 1 Moto Guzzi (Varabien/Didier). 32 bikes in total. Sat by a huge anchor statue and ate our Pique-nique. Then joined a small group of 10 bikes for a ride to Bordeaux. A fast and excellent run led by Macho Perceval. We stopped in Bordeaux and did a tour with our guides. The Bourse is magnificent. The 'Miroir' in front showed us its mist. A Belgian lady talked to us in English, explaining what we saw, the theatre, the incredible statues, etc. Then a fast run back through heavy traffic in Bordeaux. Shower and change and then to the bar and restaurant and early to bed. Theresa was hungover this morning! Good craic! Almost 270 miles today.

Getting ready to leave for our first day of riding.

To the beach.

Jess and some BMWs

On the horizon is Cap Pilar, the largest sand dune in Europe.

M et Mme Le Chef as we walked to L'Herbe. A remarkable place. A sort of shanty town of shacks and cabins on the shoreline, given over to fishing and dining.

The beach and shoreline.

Nous sommes ici!

We are here! la region d'Arcachon.

A map of the Arcachon region, much renowned for its sand dunes and forests.

At L'Herbe we explored the fishing village, although everywhere was closed for the season. But we were made welcome by some of the inhabitants.

The menu! One day we will return to eat here.

The oysters are kept in water until they are required to be eaten.

Tintin gets the best seat and view.

Monsieur Le Chef organises the bikes into a circle this time. It is usual for him to make it a long line of bikes in order of year and colour.

Visite de Bordeaux pour quelques uns. Some of us visited Bordeaux.


Le Grand Hotel de Bordeaux.

Three magnificent columns in Bordeaux...

...and an equally magnificent fountain sculpture.

The bridge in Bordeaux

The mirror plaza where a water mist is periodically sprayed, so forming a mirror like surface.


La Galerie Bordelaise.

A beautiful example of architecture taken from Italian and English styles.

Back at Lacanau village for dinner. We sat with Bernard and Cecile.

Cecile was keen to hear us speak English as she used to work in a bank in Paris where English was in common use.

The location was perfect for the meeting. In the usual French style, there was a lot of humour and good food. We had had an excellent day.

Saturday 19th May 2012 - 8.30am start from Lacanau and off to catch the ferry to Blayes. Raining hard. Got wet foot. T got wet arms. It eased later. Some beautiful roads and through many vineyards. Mouton Rothschild. Picnic at Blaye Citadelle and had joke about a transvestite who wandered through. Group photo. Some good fast riding on superb small roads. 13 euros per moto for ferry. Back to base for shower and change. Restaurant and parting speeches. Received two mugs from the team (that we use now at home). We gave some solar powered flowers to the main ladies. Spent most time with Bernard et Cecile. She wanted to hear English as she used to use it when she worked in a bank in Paris.



...and so, after dinner, VaraMedoc drew to a close with talk of future meetings and ideas from Zebulon for next year in Millau.



Sunday 20th May 2012 - To breakfast and farewells. We had decided to stay two extra days. We were soon alone. It was cold and overcast, so we did some reading and soon got bored.

On reading our diary some months later, we did some exploring of the area and some reading, hoping for the weather to improve. It didn't and we spent two days reading our books.
Tuesday 22nd May 2012 - Clouds broken, blue sky and a little sunshine. Our last breakfast at Lacanau. (1215 miles.) We set off for Lourdes. Had a wander around this magnificent place and bought a couple of rosaries and got some spring water from the shrine, plus loads of photographs. Later to Tarbes to find our Etap, with dinner at a Buffalo Grille - again!

A few pictures from our visit to Lourdes.

Always busy!

 Wednesday 23rd May 2012 - Chain oil and grease up as Scottoiler empty. (1408 miles.) Weather OK and got warmer as we headed for Figueras via Foix, Perpignon, etc. At St Paul de Fenouillet we turned off to take the road to Gorges de Gamus on the D10.[?] We had come that way with the Varaderomania maniacs a couple of years before and we wanted to see it again. We stopped briefly at the same viewing point by the hermitage and noted that it was very windy. So windy that I suspect other bikers that were there would have persuaded us to turn back, had they spoken any English. We set off and soon got a taste of the strength of the wind, as a walker shot around a corner, narrowly missing us, he on the verge of taking flight. I had never known such wind strength. But, hey ho, the Varadero is a heavy bike and she weathered it and we were soon on our way through this spectacular gorge. Then we took the D14 to pass another favourite sight, that of the Chateau de Peyrepertuse, that we had climbed up to with the Varamaniacs. Arrived at Il Moli & checked in to our magnificent apartment. Bernard & Karinda arrived about an hour later. We had a lovely evening sitting in the beautiful garden with drinks and then in for dinner of roast chicken, Spanish style. More drinks in the garden and then to bed. (Filled up at 1478 miles, 1.565 Euro /litre, 28.08 Euros, 17.94 litres.)

Magnificent countryside with spectacular views as we travelled towards VIM and very different to the Medoc region.

A few pictures of some of the sights.

The Gorges des Gamus


The Land of the Cathar Kings. This region is renowned for its many castles, built at a time of many wars in medieval times.

Peyrepertuse. We walked to the top, two years ago, with the Varaderomaniacs.

Towards the end of the day we arrived at our pre-planned lodgings called El Moli, near to Figueras in Catalonia. Our intention was to meet up with Bernard Stikfort and Karinda Drost so that we could visit the Salvador Dali Museum nearby, the next day, on the way to VIM.


the 14th

Varadero International Meeting

held 24th to 27th May 2012

in Tarragona, Catalonia

Thursday 24th May 2012 - Nice breakfast. Very warm and sunny day. (1658 miles.) Headed on small roads for Tarragona, stopping off first in Figueras to visit the Salvador Dali Museum.

A strange place dedicated to a strange man.

You either love it or hate it!

Very slow riding due to many lorries. Bernard led, as he likes to be in charge. Arrived around 4pm and found many other early arrivers. Stuart Barker controlling bookings. Mad Mike and mate, John & Catherine, Nugget & Wolfgang. We met the organiser, Josep, for the first time. We were given keys to our gitehotel (log cabin) & were delighted by it. All the necessaries, with enough accommodation for five persons if necessary. Went for a wander to explore and we met other early birds. Went to the beach and found a bar and had a couple of beers and decided on a meal there later. What was booked for twelve of us expanded by 8pm to about twenty. It was a good long table of us. A good start for VIM. (Fill up 1716 miles, 29.69 Euros, 20.78 litres, 1.429 E/l.)

The check-in point at the Tamarit Camp

Some of the early arrivals. Jess far left. Numpty Spence far right.

Bernard (Two Plugs - NL) and Eric the Viking (Snurrepus - Norway) decided to dig holes in the sand and stand in them by the Mediterranean. Erik is hosting VIM16 in Norway.

The castle on the cliff edge next to the beach.

Erik has judged the true meaning of VIM perfectly. Shame about the trousers!

The early birds gather for the evening meal at the beach bar. Tardwu (Gareth from Wales) far left, with Stewart Barker next to him. Spencer far right. Other names please!

Bernard and Karinda, with Merlin (Wolfgang) front right.


Friday 25th May 2012 - More relaxing. T on beach with Barbara & Wolfgang and a swim for her. J avoided it, too hot! J into Tarragona to buy shorts and shoes more suited to the climate. Lots of Kindle reading. Jess reading the Count of Monte Christo, Theresa reading Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities. Jess at reception for some time booking arrivals in. Frenchies in safe and in good humour. Barbecue in the evening for around 90 peeps. All excellent. A good VIM start.

Our gitecabin. Superb base! Our own hacienda and fridge for the beer.

Josep explains the orders for the day.

In the evening we all got together for a barbecue. The twit is the Frenchman Zebulon. People soon realised that he is quite a character.

Bernard, Barrie Tinson (father of VIM) and Theresa Jephcott.

Bernard and Karinda

Saturday 26th May 2012 - Didn't do ride out in morning as Theresa was hungover and it was very hot. Theresa went to the beach. Jess did some reading. Went for Tarragona for the pre-arranged heritage walk in the afternoon. It was excellent and of particular interest to Jess as he is also a heritage guide in his home town. Big meal in evening in 'our' beach restaurant. Tapas. Sat with the Dutch folk and a Porto Rican lady. Gareth gave his 'sheep talk' about next year's VIM 15. Zebulon invited us for a VIM 17 in France. VIM 16 will be in Norway. (NB there are a lot of sheep in Wales. More sheep than people. Some are very pretty!)

The basilica in Tarragona.

Shops that look as if the are ready to collapse.

Street art.

Our tour guide.

Our tour of the walls.

This wall is over 2000 years old! This is a little of what is left as Tarragona knocked most of its walls down.

Klavs and Marika Grass from Latvia.

Sunday 27th May 2012 - Went to breakfast for the first time and were annoyed to find that it was so good. Egg, bacon, sausage, cheese, ham, bread, fruit juice, amazing spread. We missed the arranged winery trip and the people tower (something that this region is famed for) as we wanted to relax and it was too hot for riding. We clearly missed an excellent trip out and later regretted not being there. More beach and reading. What stupid idiot sits on the beach in full sun? Jess endured for a while to be a good mate to Theresa. We went on a tour to Poblet Monestery later, surprised that we could not ride as an organised group due to the law preventing it. We supposed it was a throwback from troubled times when there was a lot of unrest in the country, civil war. A nice ride up there. The guide was good and the monastery was very interesting. To Tarragona afterwards to see the Roman amphitheatre and to buy a book about the city. Amazing place! Tarragona shares a lot in common with our hometown of Colchester - both being Roman in origin, both with Roman walls and a Roman circus. Then back to camp, dinner at 8pm and farewells for another year. Sat with Josep, Bernard, Mensa, Marika & Klaus. Excellently funny meal as there were so many choices and there was nobody who could speak English to explain what the sixteen or so courses were. It was a packed room. Rocket fuel was provided by the Slovakians. To Bed. Another excellent VIM!

Our visit to Poblet Monastery.

The Roman amphitheatre in Tarragona.

Back to base camp and a beer or two. Jan Willem far right.

As VIM draws to a close and the speeches and gifts are exchanged, Erik the Viking offers some liquid refreshment to our host Josep.

Jack Sawadee from Israel presented a plaque from the Israel Motorcycle Club.

And the hero of the whole event was Josep.

A superb host! Thank You!

But also not forgetting the sterling work done in the background by Stewart Barker from Scotland, who did all the computer bookings and sorting out of the welcome procedure. Stuart seems to like this sort of thing as he is doing the same for VIM15 as well. Thanks Stuart!

Monday 28th May 2012 - Packed and went. No breakfast. Said a few last minute goodbyes and off at 8.20am. At 8.20pm we arrived at our Etap in Orleans, some 800km. Sore bums, hard riding, all on motorways. A few stops for eats and fuel. Weather excellent. Millau bridge beautiful. Midi-Pyrenees beautiful, Auvergne, Clermont Ferrand, etc. Straight to bed to read but too tired. 9.30 asleep, had eaten earlier!

Tuesday 29th May 2012 - Sunny day. Breakfast at 8.30. Headed for home by Route Nationale, the weather getting increasingly colder and wetter the nearer to Calais we got. Tunnel home and home proper by 9.00pm. Phew!

Thank you everybody for making VIM 14 so good!

Countries Visited

We had travelled in three countries


Our VIM Comment.

This was our 10th Varadero meeting (9 VIMs and 3 France). Each one has been enjoyable for so many reasons.

1. 2000 - Luxembourg was good because of the countryside, the castles, the roads - but bad because of the rain and the horrible damp accommodation. We were in a caravan and the bike fell over in the wet ground and our windscreen shattered.

2. 2001 - Vienna was good because of the beautiful ride to get there and the impressive riding that we were shown. The guided tour of Vienna was superb. We didn't enjoy this VIM so much because we were separated from the main group due to our accommodation. We don't do tents or dormitories!

3. 2003 - Germany was good because of the biker motel at Holtgast (now sadly closed). The food was excellent (those schnitzels!) and the organisation was superb. It was bad because we were separated again by our accommodation, but Bernard and Karinda made up for it with their taxi-service. It is not Germany's fault either that there are no mountains or scenic routes in that area, making the riding a little dull.

4. 2004 - Portugal was exceptional because of its location in the mountains and the beauty of the country. The riding was superb and the organisers were a great team who really knew how to guide us on the various routes. It was bad for us because our accommodation was so far away from the base camp and because we ate at restaurants away from the site, thus preventing us from enjoying the beer properly. The sun shone and we were bowled over by the beauty of the country. Despite the limitations of the base camp, this was the best VIM for us because of the sun and the excellent food and the beautiful hotel that we stayed in - and of course, the riding.

5. 2005 - Poland will never be forgotten by us because we took our children with us. The base camp that was chosen was superb, the best location that we have ever experienced at a VIM. Our accommodation was comfortable and everybody was able to be together. The organisation was excellent, the food was brilliant (best breakfasts ever), the entertainment was great, the barmaids in the bar were beautiful, the area chosen was lovely to explore. But it was wet! It was the wrong time to visit Poland for us.

6. 2007 - Northern Ireland was unique. We expected rain and we got rain. In fairness, we had a superb ride to the site and the first evening was sunny and warm. We felt really sorry for the organisers as they had everything planned perfectly. What they could not plan was the weather. We had a lovely time meeting our fellow Varadero friends and the sightseeing was excellent, especially the trips to Londonderry and to Carrickfergus Castle.

7. 2008 - Hungary! What can we say about Hungary? It was the 10th VIM and the best VIM for us. We had good weather, great company, a splendid location with everybody together, splendid organisation, trouble free riding, nice food, cheap beer, varied entertainment, a great tour guide in Gyorgy and Jana, good riding to and from VIM, mountain passes, nice places to stay, etc., etc.

8. 2009 - France Varad'OC. This was very special for us. We didn't know how the French would react to us. We were the only foreigners - les deux anglais. We thought that the English have a bad name with the French. But we are not typical English. We speak school French and we like to meet people and to absorb the culture of different peoples - especially the food! This was special because we had the chance to use our French, to communicate with real French people, to live as they do, to observe their ways. Our new found French friends were marvellous. They know how to enjoy life. They are very relaxed and have great humour. They were extremely friendly to us and they made us very welcome. The organised rides were superb. The food and the atmosphere equally so. We love France and cannot wait until we visit again - we booked for Varadahu in the French Alps in May 2010! Au revoir! We did't attend the VIM this year due to distance and time required.

9. 2010 - The Alps. Double delight for us, starting off with our French friends at their Varadahu, and being made so very welcome, followed by a VIM in the Tyrol that we were part of the organising team for. To compare this superb double experience with previous VIMs would be meaningless. Both events this year were immense fun. The base camps were excellent choices. The food, the riding, the sights, the activities, the weather, the friendships - all excellent.

10. 2011 - We didn't have an event this year due to VIM clashing with the June date of our medieval event that we organise each year in the UK.

11. 2012 - France (VaraMedoc) followed by Catalonia (VIM14). Another double meeting of Varadero friends. Both events combined nicely with the French meeting in Bordeaux enabling us to, once again, be immersed in the French way of life. The riding, the after-riding, the accommodation, friendship, hospitality, were all excellent - the weather not quite so good. This was followed by a lovely transition with riding east through the Languedoc, visiting places that we had visited before with our French friends in 2009 and crossing over into Catalonia. Meeting with the founder of VIM, Bernard Stikfort, we went on to enjoy the hottest VIM yet, located at an excellent campsite with gites in Tarragona. Once there, all the pressure was off and the emphasis was on relaxation, food and drink - and a little riding. The gradual decline of Varadero ownership was being noticed, it being a model that is being discontinued. We were seeing the new Crosstourer coming in and more of the German make that need not be named. VIM is changing!

Sadly, Greece (VIM6), Sicily (VIM8), Turkey (VIM11) and Slovenia (VIM13) were all too far for us to travel in the week that we had or else clashed with other events back home. We would like to see a VIM in France some day, one in northern Italy and other warmer parts of Europe. What matters is that we all meet as friends at this thing that has been created for us, and continued by, some very good people.
 For our previous experiences at other VIMs, please see below.
VIM2 - 2000 in Luxembourg
VIM3 - 2001 in Austria
VIM5 - 2003 in Germany
VIM6 - 2004 in Portugal
VIM7 - 2005 in Poland
VIM9 - 2007 in Northern Ireland
VIM10 - 2008 in Hungary
VIM11 - Turkey and Varad'OC 2009
VIM 12 - Alpine and Varadahu 2010
VIM 14 - Tarragona and VaraMedoc 2012
VIM 15 - Wales and VaraVeyron 2013

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