Normandy jaunt sept 2016
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GTS 250
Joined: 19 Oct 2009
Posts: 654
Location: london uk
Tue Nov 01, 2016 6:12 am quote
I was a hot September and likely to be for a week or so. My fishmonger had run out of oysters... So I thought how about a quick jaunt to Normandy for a spot of seafood.
I booked the ferries and 2 nights in hotels on the cheap, as my trip would be mid week and be after the high priced school holiday period. My route from West London would be. Tonbridge Kent, Dover, Calais, Boulogne, Etaples, Le Touquet, La Somme Rive, Le Treport, Dieppe, Fecamp, Le Harvre, Honfleur, Deauville, Ouistreham [ Caen], Portsmouth, London.
Ferries out P&O £15, and the night Ferry back Brittany Ferries, £79. Average price of hotels £59.
I packed a small roll bag, and covered it with a hi viz cover. Usually on dingey days I also wear a hi viz cycling jacket over my Barracuta jacket with armour.

I was going to break my journey from London in Tonbridge. My nephew Will and his wife Nina had recently moved there, so by starting with them I could get a long ride and channel hop, in on the first day. I’d also arranged to meet fellow Skok, Bill Dog in Tonbridge at his workplace, Landrover of Tonbridge. Unfortunately I got to his place at the end of the day after being delayed. I went to his reception and asked for Mr Dog. Blank faces. I mimed revving a scooter, and a shaved head plus beard. “Ah! You mean Steve!, He’s gone. “ Don’t worry Bill your Nom de Plume is safe with me.

DAY 1: After having a nice supper I was up with the larks and ready to go at 07.00. The twisty, green pretty route through Kent to the ferry terminal in Dover was most enjoyable, and as I spied the flat calm English Channel, I thought, what could possibly go wrong.
At the first passport check-in !!!?? ** F**CK !?? No passport!!! ....Tickets check, hotel bookings check, insurance check, driving licence check.. I reeled back my brain and remembered the last thing I did was photocopy everything, and the last item, my passport, I’d left on the copier. ...I explained, I grovelled. The Brit passport guy took my papers and tapped into his computer. After 30 seconds he waved me on with a raised eyebrow. The French controller shuffled my papers then waved me on with a Gallic shrug. I zipped up the boarding ramp and smuggled myself on board. 1 1⁄2 hours later, I embarked. Again 2 lots of checking and a bit of computer tapping...but eventually I was let through. Leaving the ferry terminal the first thing you pass is the ‘Jungle’ the refugee camp. I thought they’re all paperless. Maybe I’ll end up there..

I sped off southwards hugging the coast, passing Boulogne. I knew this area well as I’d holidayed here a couple of times when my kids were small. I used to think why slog all the way through France, when all this frenchness was just a spit away. This part of the northern France coastline consists of 100 metre high chalk cliffs, intersected by rivers flowing through pretty wooded valleys. As the rivers reach the coast, sometimes there’s a long harbour. At the seafront either a pebble or wide sandy beach. Buildings here have a lot of half timbering and brick, as well as soft pale yellow coloured colonial buildings.

My first stop was lunch at Etaples's market on an estuary near to Le Touquet's beaches. I tucked into, crevettes, steak frites, rhubarb tart, café and a 1⁄2 carafe of Muscadet. €20. Tres Bon!. I had a mooch about the harbour and the fish market and then headed further south in the warm sunshine. The land farmed here on the plain is big, fertile, agribusiness, and a lot of horse rearing. The roads were smooth and quiet, save for some whopping farm tractors and convoys of silver-haired couples piloting camper vans [ R.V.s] chasing their dreams. Me I was doing the same but on 2 small wheels.

There was something in the air here. It made me wonder if the rural French have as many names for farmyard smells as Eskimos have for snow. There was cow manure, fish manure, horse manure, chemical manure, pig manure and vomit manure. Around here were tall electricity generating windmills. Or perhaps they were here to disperse these nasty niffs.

I skimmed over the flat, drained Somme delta. Interspersed with flooded gravel pits and holiday homes as well as camping areas. Flocks of migrating waterfowl, swooped about and big stocky horses snorted. It was very peaceful and restful, but this place was also littered with the war graves and memorials to the carnage wrecked here in 2 World Wars and more before. How sad.

I pulled into Le Treport about 5 ish. A long port with light industry, fishing, resort accommodation, bars and cafes. It was pleasantly bustly. I was staying at the Hotel Calais, on a raised bit of the town overlooking the harbour, and squeezed up against the chalk cliffs. I took a stroll about and had a few quenching Belgian Leffe beers. In the backstreets I came across another famous Belgian. Johnny Hallyday, the most famous and probably only, French, King of Rock n Roll. Their Elvis. He had 2 café’s paying homage to him.
That night I’d booked a pavement table at a quayside restaurant. The one that looked like it had the least brothel like décor. I ordered a huge platter of Fruits de Mer and a bottle of Chablis and tucked in. Picking over a langoustine I heard the distinctive sounds of a scooter put puttering, and spied a nearby orange 70s Vespa circling, with a khaki parka rider, mod style. It pulled up next to me and I went over and met the lovely Sabine Perego. She was just touring around for a couple of days at the end of visiting a Vespa World rally in Belgium. I showed her my GTS, then I invited her to supper. She ordered Sole Meuniere and together 2 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc. Sabine told me of lots of amusing Vespa adventures and all about the rallies she’d been on and the scooter scene in Germany. We had a great laugh. Eventually she wobbled off as she was staying nearby. She assured me she’d be alright as Germans were expert drivers. I hoped so.

DAY2: Next day began with a clang at 06.30. My hotel was next to a huge church bell tower. I counted 150 dongs and 24 ding dongs. Enough to wake the Hunchback of Notre Dame in Paris. I joined the other guests for an early breakfast in the quaint dining room overlooking the harbour. The breakfast was croissants, brioche, cold cuts and cheeses and plenty of warm cafe au lait to soothe shattered nerves. We watched the fishing fleet push out of the harbour in a purposeful manner. More fish for me I hoped.

I headed south again. Bypassing an interesting looking Dieppe, it was an easy 3 hours ride to Fecamp. Plenty of time to explore the little seaside villages and enjoy the warm sun. I stopped at a pretty hamlet, where the cottages had carved out of the soft sandstone ridge behind them, caves for storage and as dwellings. At the entrance of one front door were 2 concrete bears 5 feet tall, one white, one brown in a primitive Yogi Bear style. Maybe they were a homage to early cave dwellers who used to paint hunting scenes of bison on their cave walls thousands of years ago, or maybe just some eccentric fun. I made it to Fecamp by lunch time. Another long harbour town with a bigger resort
feel. More restaurants, a bigger sea front esplanade overlooking a pebble beach, and even a Casino. I checked into my night stop, the Hotel Vent D’Oest, done out in a New England style around an inner courtyard. I also checked for signs of nearby bell towers, then headed further into the harbour area. There I found a cafe, and had a big pan of Moules with bits of bacon and a large glass of cloudy Cidre. Exploring the side streets I discovered a really impressive building, probably Fecamp’s largest. This was the Benedictine Liquer’s distillery. Built in 1898, a riot of gothic turrets, fancy stonework, and wrought iron. Apparently this herbal tipple was adopted during the First World War, by the Lancashire regiment, who were stationed nearby and back in Blighty, today, Burnley football club serves it on match days. Next to this amazing Palais was displayed a huge copper still. That evening I went looking for supper, and came across an elegant restaurant above the biggest fish monger’s in Fecamp. I was ushered by the polite hosts to a window table overlooking the harbour. But first an aperitif, a special Benedictine cocktail, with champagne and bitters. Faintly pink, crisp and refreshing. I settled for a starter of cured haddock, followed by a hearty bouillabaisse, and a bottle of chilled Gamay. It was splendide! I think the French have got their mojo back and are now serving decent food, not just tourist fodder. I slept well that night.

DAY3: Up early, no bells.. I wound my way southwards popping in to some nice beaches. I was aiming for Honfleur, but first had to cross 2 very high and scary bridges at Le Havre. These crossed the mighty Seine and it’s canal that leads to Paris. Luckily there wasn’t any crosswinds that day. I pulled in mid morning to the inner harbour of Honfleur. It was quite Dutch looking with a jumble of half timbered and brick buildings. This place is a magnet for artists and sketchers with lots antiques and nick knack shops. In one cobbled street I found the house of Erik Satie. A moderne minimalist composer who I rather like.

I pushed on from there to Deauville, the swanky resort, sometimes known as Paris Plage. I was to meet a lawyer girlfriend of mine Annabelle. She works within the luxury goods, fashion and film industries. She’d been to Deauville the week before for the International American film festival. I met her at the central railway station. There were some posters from the French government alerting people to what to do if there was a terrorist attack. They were rendered in an airport info-graphic style. It’s good to know the French are looking after their citizens, but it was also a reminder how 30 years ago we had this kind of publicity up in Britain when the IRA were active.

Annabelle found a chi chi brasserie and ordered a rustic casserole of Tripes in red wine. I settled for crab and cod. Next we went to Deauville’s grand beach. dotted with colourful furled beach umbrellas. Lining the seafront were exhibition pavilions, cinemas and Twenties style cafes. Rows of beach huts were named after big Hollywood stars. Annabelle posed by her all time heart throb Keanu Reeves, me Cate Blanchette. We fooled about on the beach like we were in one of those moody French art films, then went to the hugely splendid Hotel Normandie, to their lobby for a bit of people watching and hot chocolate. Annabelle caught the 19.00 train and I headed off to get to Caen’s ferry port Ouistreham. I needed to get there early enough in case of not being allowed out of France.

Just before Caen there was a large canal and the River Orne. Here was the Pegasus bridge, a crossing made famous by the military action at the end of the second World War. This ‘bascule’ bridge was named Pegasus after the winged horse badge of the Allied Airborne troops who made an audacious surprise raid here by glider and parachute at the beginning of the D-Day landings.

I arrived at the Customs and passport offices with lots of time to spare. The first guy at Brittany ferries was really helpful. He copied my paperwork, computered a bit, then sent me to customs. They were armed and serious looking. They took my papers away, and brought them back 10 minutes later rubbered stamped. These I showed to Brittany Ferries and with a bit more stamping, they handed over a boarding card and a fly- shield identification sticker. I was good to go, then they announced a dock strike which would delay our embarkation. Eventually the Silver Pimpernel was allowed on the ferry and I found the sleeper seat area, where bikers, cyclists and students dismissed the ‘airline style’ seats and curled up on the floor, to be lulled into sleep by a massive marine diesel engine.

DAY4: 06.00 We nudged into Portsmouth. It was grey and rainy. Firing up the GTS I cruised up to Passport and Immigration. They waved me on... They’d been called up earlier and knew I was coming through. Cheered by this, I thanked the E.U. gods for having joined up borders. Out of the harbour, I warmed up with a bacon egg McMuffin and coffee and headed off in the steady rain. I arrived back in West London within 3 hours. As I dried out, and cupped a warming cup of coffee and a snifter of Benedictine, I mused, that all in all it was an enjoyable and memorable journey, but next time, I’ll definitely will, remember my passport. Gass Silver Machine GTS 250

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South East England and North East France, Normandy and Pas De Calais

Setting off from Tonbridge early morning

Etaples market lunch. Tres Bon

Somme delta...La Manche over the horizon

Johnny Hallyday cafe. He's so famous in france he has 2 'N's in Johnny

Sabine Perego, German vesparist and top mod

Le Treport, the Hotel Calais is the tall brick building to the right of the bell tower

Breakfasters at the Hotel Calais, soothing their jangled nerves

Back streets of Le Treport. You can catch a furnicular railway to the top of the cliff

Typical beach scene on the Norman coast

Proof the French have a sense of humour as well as a sense of style

Palais de Benedictine distillery. Wow!

Copper still, used to brew the herbal liquor

Cured haddock with pickled beetroot and red cabbage

Honfleur inner harbour

Composer Erik Satie's Honfleur home

Anto terror poster, Deauville railway station

me and Cate Blanchett on Deauville beach

The grand Hotel de Normandie, Deauville

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Pegasus bridge near Caen

vespa gts 250 ie
Joined: 09 Oct 2016
Posts: 33
Location: piqua ohio
Tue Nov 01, 2016 6:37 am quote
Looks like a great trip.nice pics
2010 BV TOURER 500ie
Joined: 03 Jul 2007
Posts: 3821
Location: Lakeshore, ON CANADA
Tue Nov 01, 2016 8:01 am quote
Brings back a lot of fond memories of vacationing in Brittany and Normandy.
Only there were no posters of what to do with terror attacks, as they didn't seem to exist six years ago, when we were there last.
Veni, Vidi, Posti
2007 LX150 2015 GTS
Joined: 13 Sep 2012
Posts: 6610
Location: Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Tue Nov 01, 2016 10:00 am quote
Great write-up! If I can't be there, I can at least vividly imagine it.

Sounds like a great outing.

BTW, had an adolescent giggle at the "chi chi brasserie." In Mexico, chi-chis are well, ta-tas. We have a Mexican restaurant chain in the States called just that, Chi-Chis. Always wonder what they were thinking....
2006 GT200
Joined: 23 Feb 2016
Posts: 2054
Location: Moscow, Idaho
Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:19 am quote
Thanks for 15 minutes of vicarious high adventure! Great write up and pics!
X10 350
Joined: 12 Nov 2008
Posts: 2931
Location: London
Tue Nov 01, 2016 2:14 pm quote
Great write up!
Thanks for sharing.
'14 Piaggio BV 350
Joined: 14 Jul 2014
Posts: 729
Location: Seacoast New Hampshire (USA)
Tue Nov 01, 2016 3:19 pm quote
So... You like fish?
Great write-up & pictures, I hope to do more touring like that... Thanks for sharing!

Molto Verboso
Vespa LX150 GTS250ie GTS300
Joined: 11 Dec 2009
Posts: 1682
Location: St. Pete, Fla
Tue Nov 01, 2016 10:15 pm quote
Nice ride. Thanks for taking us along.
1991 T5 Pole Position, 2008 LXS 125, 2007 MP3 250, 2002 Lemon Flavour X9 500
Joined: 06 May 2011
Posts: 3077
Location: Staffordshire UK
Wed Nov 02, 2016 6:02 am quote
Thanks for the trip report gass, sounded like great fun! We have got something similar planned for next year, but taking in the Beatsugar rally at Amiens for 1 night as well
GTS 250
Joined: 19 Oct 2009
Posts: 654
Location: london uk
Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:23 am quote
Beat sugar
That rally has good write ups. I've done a litle bit of touring nearby. The valley road St Valery, Abbeville, Amiens is nice. And I've also been on a mate's barge from Cambria down to the champagne area around Reims, Epernay. So a bit of cast and some bubbles would be a nice tour. Gass silver machine GTS 250
2010 Vespa 300 Super
Joined: 04 Oct 2015
Posts: 471
Location: NYC
Fri Nov 04, 2016 2:11 pm quote
well written and great way to describe things, felt like we could smell the manure and the air... thanks..
Wish I could do some rides here near NYC.
The big issue is it takes a good hour to get out of the city and even then you are still in crowded places. Getting to Hudson valley takes a good 2 hours from Brooklyn and then you can start to see some nice spaces, though it doesn't compare to getting out in Europe for sure..

Maybe Ill take a trip to Montauk (when the wrist is better and I'm given the green light by the surgeon,think maybe another 45-60 days) and write about the ugly ride on the LIE also known as the I 495...
It is about 120 miles and will take about 3 hours. Maybe make a overnight trip.
GTS 250
Joined: 19 Oct 2009
Posts: 654
Location: london uk
Sat Nov 05, 2016 3:09 am quote
ride outs
Hi I live in central London, and it takes me an hour to get to the edge of London in any direction. If I fancy a run out. I get up an hour or so early. Jump straight on the scooter. Drive out and have a quick breakfast at the first likely stop. Then when you start up again, Hey you are already out and about. I always do any tour with lots of little breaks, just because I'm curious about the little places in between as well as the destination places. Last week my scooter mates in Donkeiskok, [ find them in general discussion under 'il bruno il donkei' ] had a meet up for breakast at 10.30 way out in the country. It is a 2.30 hour ride for me. But as I was out early, beating any traffic at 7.00am I stopped on the edge of London at a transport cafe for a cuppa, [tea] and a bacon sarnie [ bacon sandwich] and a petrol fill up. So made it out for the 10.30 meet with fellow riders and a second breakfast. We then had a chat and a laugh, and went on a 3 hour tour in the country and visited a war memorial en route. Heading back again I did a 1/2 hour stop at tea time at the edge of London. Big trips are easy if you break them down into small mini adventures. Gass silver machine GTS 250
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