I almost forgot to tell you, there was a river right opposite the hotel, probably the same one that I tried to have a paddle in earlier. So after dinner I decided to go for a stroll along the river bank before it got too dark. This was going to be my lucky day, almost straight away I spotted a set of concrete steps going down to the water’s edge. With a platform at the bottom and a low wall to sit on. So it was straight off with the socks and shoes for a paddle. Well I was only standing on a step with about 10mm of water flowing over it, as the next step into the river bed itself looked a little too deep but it was still a paddle, mission accomplished. Now all I have got to do is wash the duck s--t out of my socks as in the fading light I did not realise this was also a duck’s toilet!!!
The next morning it was time to ride to The Parc Naturel Regional des Ardennes. While I was packing the bike the landlady of the hotel came out and asked me in broken English, where I was riding to that day. So in my best French accent I told her Valenciennes. A puzzled look came over her face and she asked me to tell her again but this time in French. A little dismayed I told her that was in French! We both burst out laughing. I sparked up the satnav and showed her where I was going.
Again this was a cracking ride, keeping off the toll & main roads, with long straight roads going through the gently undulating country side. With no hedge rows or banked up sides of earth or rows of trees like you sometimes get on major roads to block your the view.
The fields were golden with the corn stubble and green with maze, and other crops, the farmers were in their fields on their tractors collecting in the harvest. It was very warm and the sky was clear blue, it was just a beautiful as Austria but in a different way. There was also a very noticeable lack of traffic. Just a few cars going in the opposite direction. I wasn’t in a rush so I rode at just below the speed limit. I could ride for several minutes before I would see another vehicle. This is what motorcycling is all about taking in the views and smelling the country side as you ride past. The freshly mown grass, the pine trees, the faint whiff of the cow dung as you ride past the farm yard. And at one point the stench of the sewage works. Life has a way of balancing things out!
Riding down one of these very quiet traffic free roads. I came across a recently harvested field of hay, with the large round bales of hay dotted all over the field. And on nearly every one was a large Stork. Time to stop and get a picture, so I pulled over.
Within what seemed seconds there is a queue if 3 large lorries waiting to get past me as another approches in the other direction. Feeling somewhat embarrassed I start looking down at the bike as if I have a problem. Once they have disappeared out of site I get off and get my picture, feeling a bit foolish.
Any way I arrived at my Ibis Hotel in Valenciennes, to find the hotel carpark full of white vans. The concierge informed me that they had 80 soldiers staying at the hotel and they were all their vehicles. THey were here to patrol the French? Belgain border.So I would be perfectly safe staying here tonight. Which was nice. (never miss a marketing opportunity).
After dinner I checked my route to Calais and found I was going to be there a lot earlier than my planned train booked time. So a quick visit to the internet and an earlier train was booked for an extra charge of £4.
Set off the next morning at about 9.15am for the 100-mile journey to Calais. This time on the motorway. I rode to the slip ramp about 400 meters from the hotel and hit a stationery queue of cars and lorries (should have taken the country roads).
I eventually made it to The Eurotunnel terminal, put my credit card that I had used to book with and was immediately offered an even earlier train for no extra charge, than the one I had booked last night for £4. I just wondered if there was any need to change my booking or just turn up and see what happened.
Any way I was directed straight to where you queue for the train, where the was a group of motorcyclist’s also waiting. Some of these were dressed in full MCN leathers they were all on different bikes and had been on a testing run to the Nürburgring for MCN. If you read this gentlemen, Thanks for the V2 visor cleaning sponge, http://visorvision.co.uk/shop/index.php?cPath=22 I will give it a try on my next long ride.
Well the ride home was fairly uneventful apart from seeing the Air sea rescue helicopter and Coastguard and Police vehicles around St Marys Bay and Camber Sands.
Only to find out about the tragic events that had happened at Camber on the news that night.
Not wishing to end on a such a sad note, the ride was fantastic as was the company at Hannes hotel. Here’s to the next one, and the Christmas party.
This brings me to the end of my Austrian Saga