VCIM17 in Nant, Aveyron, France
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 Fecamp in Normandy, and the international VCIM 17 meeting was, this time, a little further down the road in the Aveyron region of France. So, we decided to do both events, with a short time between the two, for some exploring and discovery of the beauty of France.
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.
Whilst there were many Varaderos at this meeting and will be at future meetings, we are aware that Varadero ownership is beginning to reduce and other models are becoming commonplace at our meetings. But to keep in good company, the new Crosstourer is welcomed alongside the Varadero as a part of our international identity. In 2015 we were officially VCIM15, instead of VIM15 - although the diehards will still refer to VIM as a generic term. Whatever the case, all are welcome, whatever they ride - although please don't outnumber us with your BMUUs, Moto Guzzis, Triumphs, Teneres, V-Stroms, etc.
Sunday 17th May 2015
Up and to our last breakfast with the Varabien group in Normandy. We must make our way to our next adventure at VIM in the Aveyron. After packing our boxes and several goodbyes, we set off on the next leg of our adventure. Through Paris, getting very confused by the 2m high Peage system that was new to us, but much quicker than the normal Peripherique experience. Then south via Orleans, Bourges, to our hotel for the night at Riom. A long run but not too long. It was lovely to see the volcans in the distance as we got closer, with a mental image of the views that we knew were to come. We had been this way before. The hotel was lovely, especially as we had a proper bed; not a pull down couch with slats that displaced and brought you crashing through, to the mirth of others with whom you might be sharing a cabin. Also no worry about my snoring and annoying people. We chose to have a snack meal at the hotel of Lasagne with a simple dessert.
Monday 18th May 2015
Up and to breakfast and to packing up and setting of on the next leg, odo 13331, anticipating a gentle run south to Millau. The sun shone and it was warm with little wind. Just before Millau we turned to GPS to no-toll roads and set a course for Nant and were soon on the Dourbie small roads cutting across to Nant, flanked by the steep sides of the gorge that we were riding along. The river to our side looked wonderful. Soon in Nat and found our Le Domaine de Roc Nantais and happy to be there. A nice welcome and a nice room. Unpacked and to a bit of relaxation. Then came a phone call in our room. What? 'Hello Mr Jess. This is Zebulon. Can we meet?' Me - 'What, in Montpellier?' Zeb - 'No. We are here. See you in the bar in 15 minutes.' What a surprise. So we tidied ourselves and went to find Zeb and Michelle. They had come to sort out some last minute things with management and it was good to get together and have a chat with them, mostly in French. T says she cannot speak French but she lies. She understands a lot. Beautifully warm, we sat outside with them for a while before they went home, leaving us to our own devices. We went to dinner at 8pm and were introduced to the procedure by an English speaking French woman by the name of Rocsana. There were several other people there too, celebrating a birthday or anniversary, and another group of retired ramblers. A lovely meal of buffet salad and sardines for start, followed by a chef cooked plate of stuffed cabbage with a duck a la chef dish. Then we were given a piece of the birthday cake, which was a nice addition. Two pitchers of wine and we were done. So to bed.
A stop on the way down with this magnificent bridge in the background.
A remarkable sight of parachutists walking of a cliff and floating into the sky.
Tuesday 19th May 2015
To a typical buffet breakfast, just we two. Others had presumably eaten earlier and we were the lazy ones. Back to the room but soon roused by the cleaners who wanted to clean our room. We sat a while in the bar area and did some reading and then we took a walk into the village and T bought a warm top. It had been raining in the night and was now much cooler than yesterday. When we got back I noticed that my watch was missing. We searched everywhere and came to a fateful conclusion. T was in tears. It was my 60th birthday present and very expensive. After a while I went to reception and reported the loss as quietly as possible. The lady soon told all the staff and I left them to it. To cut a long story short, a knock at the door and Sandrine had my watch. It was found where I had been in the bar working at my computer. In my hurry I must have taken the watch when we were called out by the cleaners and not put it on. Much relieved, followed by being much embarrassed. On to writing this up to date.
It is easy to forget that the French too suffered great losses during the two world wars.
Most of their war memorials are wonderful pieces of art.
Wednesday 20th May 2015
We decided to set off for a tour south. It was quite cold and overcast. Taking some small roads went to Nimes to see some of its Roman places. The weather was much better there and we were quite uncomfortable in our gear. It was very busy there with lots of stall holders setting up for a festival that was planned for the city. We wandered a little, looking at the Augustinian temple and the arena and then headed off to Arles. Then we had a problem. The visor screw on my helmet fell out so I had to manage with a helmet that was shut all the time. Not nice. We rode on through the Camargue, seeing what we had hoped for, black bulls, rice fields, horses, flamingos. Le Ste Maries sur le Mer was not how I remembered it from 25 years ago. It was packed with people and cars and had been enlarged massively. We stopped on the beach and ate an ice cream and then headed off. We changed opur plans and went to Nimes who we understood had Nolan helmets. They did but they couldn't help us. So then we set off for a recommended Dafy in Montpellier, getting there just after they closed at 7.15pm. Disappointed we headed home on the A75, a fast ride and against the wind. We walked in at 8.20pm and were greeted as having been lost but now found. We are the two english and they watch out for us. A quick change and in to dinner, finding, to our surprise that Menno, Martyn Koek and Jack Sawaday were at the bar. They were camping and hungry; so they joined us at 'our' table. Main coursse was lasagne, stuffed tomatoes, etc. It was good to see these guys and to discuss the world situation, especially Jack from Israel, who cannot ride his bike here and has to have it shipped by boat.
Nimes. An ancient Roman settlement. This magnificent temple has survived many uses and predations.
Not only a temple but an amphitheatre too, used today for various activities that include bullfighting. We didn't go in as time was limited and we had a lot to see.
The amphitheatre at Nimes.
Then off to the Camargue, seeing our first flamingoes (flamant rose).
At Les Deux Ste Maries we found it much developed from the last visit over 20 years ago. Here, Camargais horse sculpture.
...and another famous animal of the Camargue, their black bulls.
We encountered these trekkers on the way towards Aigues Morte.
Thursday 21st May 2015
After breakfast we set off for Montpellier to try to sort out the helmet situation. Noticeably warmer as we travelled south and lower altitude. The shop did not have the required screw, so I ended up with a new (cheap) helmet and some new gloves. Then we took a slow road ride home, stopping at Ganges for some lunch, at a restaurant at the side of a splendid weir. Got caught out by a 'route barree' going to have a look at a mountain road that had disappeared. When we got back to Le Roc Nantais, Zebulon and several others had arrived, Nugget, Wolf, The Prodded Dog, Stuart, etc. Then others were arriving, Big Man, Kristin, Karinda, Mensa and family by car, two from Norway by car, etc. We helped a little with the goody bags and then back to our room for reading, computing and relaxing. Then a call from Zeb to meet for a meeting of some sort. We were all guided across the road by our barman Yvan who, as it turned out, was actually the big boss of both here and two other locations. He took us through a low door in a little side street, where we discovered a cellar, a male paradise, a wine repository. We were invited to try different wines, pates, sausage, etc. Superb. After several glasses, we made our way back for dinner and were seated, perhaps 20 people, on one long table.We were mainly amongst the Dutch contingent and they were good company. Pork with a sauce, haricot beans, etc. main course. VIM had as good as started.
A light snack for Theresa at Ganges.
A Norwegian salad and steak and chips for me.
Here, the road had collapsed and was impassible. We were tempted to dry but our age and wisdom told us 'no'.
Light at the end of the tunnel.
Friday 22nd May 2015
This was the official first day of VIM and Zebulon had organised a 100km short Pre-VIM trip out with those who wanted to go. After breakfast, we decided to stay back at base camp and help welcome new arrivals and get them settled. One by one they started to arrive, Portugal, Russia, Brits, French, etc. We were expecting 84 people but we knew some were not able. Two Romanians had had a bad accident in Nice on the way down, with broken bones and a destroyed bike. Numpty had brake problems. Owen was ill and couldn't come. Gareth had fallen off his quad bike and couldn't come. A great crowd and we were pleased to finally see Numpty and Mr and Mrs Big Dave turn up. When Zeb got back we helped a little more and then took a rest in our room until dinner. By the time we were back out again, even more had arrived, with Josep from Tarragona eager to see us again. Swing and his lady Marisa, Bogdan, The Two Blues, etc. The pig was on the spit and ready to eat. Lots of speeches from the management and from Bernard Stikfort and from Zebulon, and an aperitif of peach and rose wine, with a Roquefort cream dip with bread. I really do not like Roquefort but I tried a little and got it in my moustache. Then in to eat. A nice mixed starter as usual, followed by a main course of pork and sliced potato. Pudding was served from a grandly entering cone shaped cake with two huge fireworks burning in it, borne by two fit young men that T and ? murmured approvingly about, I noted. We sat at the end of the Portuguese table; some 13 or so of them. We remembered Joao from VIM Portugal. Our hostess Roxsana, who speaks very good English, was clucking about, getting us all seated with no gaps. A good night!
The beginning of the day with participants getting ready for a day's riding. Some went off on their own; others followed Zebulon on structured tours, in strict following of the 'systeme tiroir', or the 'drawer system' in English. Some know it as the 'drop off system'. I see Karinda Drost in the centre here with her pink Varadero. Nugget is second from left on her Transalp.
Some of the Portuguese contingent with Pedro, Soao and Joao at the main entrance to our base camp.
Sebastian and Sandrine Poisson from France.
Sebastian and Sandrine Poisson from France. Sandrine has a difficult job with her husband as he is still a little boy at heart. A clown for sure.
Big Dave from England.
Some of the Dutch contingent with Mensa and Lidy and their daughter and son in law.
The organising team. From the left we have the site manager, Rocsana, Yvan, then Bernard Stikfort (founder of VIM) and Gilles (alias Zebulon) the VIM event organiser.
We foregather for our meal, with announcements and information give for the event programme and with the hog roast getting ready for us all.
Dinner is being prepared.
Bernard Stikfort (Two Plugs) and Gilles Truc (Zebulon).
It is natural for the different nationalities to bunch together. Here we have some of the Brits.
...and some of the Portuguese.
...and the Dutch.
....and the French, Belgian and Swiss contingent - with Sebastian's bald pate.
... and a good mixture of Norwegian, Danish, Catalonian, Polish, etc.
The meal was excellent.
Saturday 23rd May 2015
Up and to breakfast and then out to fill the bike with petrol. A nice sunny day. Whilst people gathered and bikes arrived I counted 56 bikes, including 27 Varaderos and 8 Crosstourers. We had 13953 miles odo. We had done 434 miles since getting here on Monday, that being done with a day out to the Camargue and then a return to Montpellier. We learned of an upset last night at the campsite between Menno and Martyn and the Portugal guys. The latter were making a lot of noise until 2am and the Dutch guys and others were no happy about it. So. Onto the bikes for a 9am start, led by Zebulon and Michelle and tailed by the Blues Lovers, Herve and Murielle. We operated the usual 'tiroir' system and when it was our turn to mark the way, we counted 40 bikes in our tour. Le Cavallerie, St-Jean de Arcas where we had a guide, Alex, to tell us, in English, about the place. Then on to Roquefort to the Papillon site where we were guided by Samuel. We had been before but this time it was in English and we understood better about the cheese was discovered and how the product was developed. Then to a café that hadn't a clue for coffee and the two women running it were a joke. So we went without, as did most others. We had dinner by the River Tarn. We picked our way through many twisty roads, stopping at the exhibition place under the Millau Bridge. Meyruis, Les Vauteurs, etc. We were up to around 1220 metres at one point, with an amazing contrast in landscape; up on the Causses and down in the gorges. We eventually arrived back at 6pm after some fast and twisty riding, with T complaining about her knees hurting. Some others had either not gone out or had got back early or had done their own tours. There are a few awkward situations in the group. Bernard and Karinda and Bernard's new lady Kristin, for a start. Then we have Jack who cannot keep up with the rest of us. He cannot handle the hairpin bends. Then we have the Prodded Dog who has a chest infection and is not well. Then Numpty Spence, whose rear brake is buggered. After a wash and brush up we went to the bar to see what was happening. We had a bit of a wine tasting and then to dinner. We took Gareth the sheep with us. We sat on a table with Mr and Mrs Big Dave, Numpty, Martyn (who was really quite ill and quiet), Iron Butt Ole, and others. A good meal with breaded turkey, rice, ratatouille, followed by a dessert of birthday cake. Then we all went to the threatre for our presentation and tombola. T won some Kirschwasser and Gareth won a hat. Then to the bar where people were well oiled and getting more so, especially with Sebastian's Calva bottle and other won bottles being tasted. We watched a little of the Eurovision contest and then made our excuses. Another excellent day.
Outside the Roc Nantais.
Armrests on a Varadero.
Zebulon at St Jean d'Alcas
...on to Roquefort.
Theresa and cheeses.
Our guide at Roquefort.
Pause for lunch.
The Millau Bridge visitor centre.
The Tombola in the evening with Zebulon and Michelle
and the little girl who was totally bemused by foreign people in general.
Spence and Gareth act the fools.
Sunday 24th May 2015 To breakfast and then to the bikes to get ready for another day of riding. This took us on a trip through much more amazing scenery that culminated for us at Mt Agouail at 1556 metres according to our GPS, with good weather and magnificent views. On the way we had stopped for our picnic at a riverside location and had started off a stone skimming session. The Portuguese won that easily. Point Sublime for a coffee and to see the gorge. There we watched a vulture way below us soaring on the wind, and then a huge eagle above us. We decided to leave the group at around 3.30pm and head back to base camp, somewhat worn out by all the twists and turns on the road which tax me heavily and make T's knees hurt. The end of the riding for a while until we head for home tomorrow. So to a bit of rest in our room and later to the terrace to meet up for another wine tasting and more chat and some photographs. Then in to dinner where we enjoyed a main course of lamb steaks, roasted tomatoes, aligot. Then we had the bearing and presentation of gifts and speeches and thanks given to our hosts and organisers and proposals for next year. There is some doubt about next year in Belgium but we must wait and see. Zebulon was overwhelmed with emotion and Bernard read his speech for him. T and I gave Zeb and Michelle a little solar powered garden gnome and some Tiptree jam. If the gnome works properly he will remind them of us. T to the packing and me to writing this - and then off, with Brian Lloyd following along with us for the ride to our hotel tonight. He is nervous about travelling alone it seems.
A stop for lunch and some stone skimming.
Le Point Sublime and some truly sublime views of the gorge.
...and back to base camp for another of Yvan's wine tasting - this one of different Rose wines.
Ole (Bonne), Bernard, Big Dave, The Tall Guy (Menno), Martin Koek the Cool Guy, and Yvan crouching.
A group photograph
We say our goodbyes and close the 2015 VCIM.
Monday 25th May 2015
VIM is over and we must go home. So to breakfast for the last time at Nant. Lots of saying goodbyes and stuff and we found our companion Brian for the journey home. He didn't want to stay with Big Steve and Keith, as they were staying on for a couple of days, and Brian asked if he could travel with us. Steve and Keith offered sympathy. We were yet to find out why. First thing, Brian needed petrol. So, having said goodbye to just about everybody, we set off for our long journey home. Clermont, Bourges, Orleans, Evreux, with Brian needing fuel stops and cigarette breaks on a regular basis. We were getting the general feel of the man. We dined at the Zebra near to our Ibis Hotel in Evreux. We had a nice steak and chips and T managed a bottle of wine, and so to bed. Home tomorrow.
Tuesday 26th May 2015
Up and to breakfast to meet Brian at 8am. Typical fare. Then to packing and loading bikes and off, the GPS playing up but easy to find the road to Rouen and then on to Calais. Stopped at next petrol station as Brian worries about 'only' having a quarter tank of fuel. A good run all the way through to Calais, with sunny and warm weather. We got there early and took an hour earlier train. Brian had to pay for a ticket as he had some concept that it was cheaper to get a single out and a single back. He also wanted to get duty free cigarettes and get us to enable him to get three times his limit. As it turned out, his ticket was for the same train as us and he trundled in behind us, having been told he had to board immediately. Anyway, we got to the other side and soon realised we were in England again from the idiots that lane hog. Stopped for a meal at Thurrock and home by 3.30pm. Great relief! Great welcome from the dogs. A little lie down and then we were settled back into our mundane life. Took the mutts out for a run. Our blind Pirate was very happy, we could tell. The bike read 14930 miles, 975 odo.
Here are a few pictures that we didn't take but have borrowed from others.
At Millau Bridge.
Gareth hiding in the undergrowth.
Gareth, Merlin and Nugget.
Our exquisite host Yvan.
Yvan and Zebulon.
Jack prepares his bike.
Gareth at the table with a pitcher of wine.
Zebulon and Yvan in the wine vault.
In 2015, this was known as a 'photobomb'.
Yvan preparing a wine and sausage tasting for us on the night before VIM.
Pre-meal drinks with the Dutch contingent.
As the hog roast gets under way.
We have never had a VIM like this before and certainly not such generous hospitality from the patron.
And to everybody else who made this VIM so enjoyable, thank you.
Here is a list of those who booked for VIM 17 - from which we counted as 20 nationalities, 57 bikes including 27 Varaderos and 8 Crosstourers
Gilles + Michelle
Erik + Ann Gro
Sébastien + Sandrine
Dave + Linda
The Prodded dog
Jacques + Odile
Tore + Kristin
Mense + Lidy
Josep-Maria + Consol
Jyrki + Ursula
FIN + SLO
Oleg + Anna
Alexey + Mario
Mike + Agata
Jess + Theresa
Richard + Lianne
Grzegorz + Tomasz
Paulo + Dani
João + São
Costas + Elena
John + Marisa
Rodrigo + Paula Faria
Sadly we had a few that could not make it.
Raul and Irina had a road accident on the way to the event and both were injured.
We wish them a speedy recovery.
Also Owen, Mike the Mad Swede, Athanman, Tarwdu and others were greatly missed.
Here follows previous VIM reports produced by Jess and Theresa Jephcott over the years. Mixed up with these are also reports from the Varaderomania meetings that we attended with our French Varaderomania friends. We could not attend VIMs 1, 4, 8, 11, 13, 16.
VIM 2 - 2000 in Luxembourg VIM 3 - 2001 in Austria VIM 5 - 2003 in Germany VIM 6 - 2004 in Portugal VIM 7 - 2005 in Poland VIM 9 - 2007 in Northern Ireland VIM 10 - 2008 in Hungary Varad'OC 2009 VIM 12 - Alpine and Varadahu 2010 VIM 14 - Tarragona and VaraMedoc 2012 VIM 15 - Wales and VaraVeyron 2013 VaraForez 2014 VCIM 17 - France and VarabienRevoirNormandie 2015 VCIM 18 - Belgium - 2016 VCIM 19 - Sweden - 2017
To contact us please email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jess or Theresa Jephcott, Fordham, near Colchester, Essex, England, CO6 3LZ
tel 07714 250949
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last updated 210715