Saturday, September 15, 2012

Advancedbiker goes to France - Part One - Day One

In July of 2012 I started to get 'ichy feet', I had only been aboard on my BMW R1200 GS motorcycle once this year.  Our annual advanced motorcycle workshop to Normandy, So I had a think, did not take me long, HOW about combining my interests :
  • Motorcycling
  • World War War One
  • Motorsport
  • Photography
Well I fancied having a look at the old Grand Prix Circuit just outside Reims, in the Picardy region of France.It is know as Reims-Gueux and was a triangular motor racing road circuit which hosted 14 French Grand Prix between 1926 and 1966.  The first official Formula One event being in 1950 and in 1972 it closed due to financial difficulties.  The buildings were just left to decay, so I thought it would be an interesting place to visit and record it in photographs, before it disappeared forever.

The next part of the plan was to arrange some accommodation as Reims was a good run from the French coast at Calais, as I wanted to use the Eurotunnel to get across. So why not find a place to stay in Northern France close to the World War One battlefields.
After some searching on the internet I managed to find a couple of places, mentioned my idea to a couple of friends and within minutes the trip was ON.
In mid July I booked my Eurotunnel and our band of 4 motorcycles were all sorted, then a few issues started to arise.  One of my fellow travellers had a allegy towards cats, so that ruled out my bed and breakfast choices....What could I do next....I know, contact Glyn in Spain, via Facebook as he is a regular Somme visitor.  As luck would have it, he had met an English couple in a cafe on the Somme, a few days before I contacted him and they had just open a bed and breakfast.  A few emails were sent and we were booked into Beaumont Hamil View : Beaumont Hamil View Bed and Breakfast
All sorted.
Next get route planner and times to get the small group to Folkestone, meeting two riders at Hilton Park on the M6 and the other rider at Beaconsfield Services on the M40.  I always use Google Maps and it gave me a good idea of times etc and it allowed me 30 minutes at the Eurotunnel in Folkestone before departing to France.....Well that was the plan.
I left at 0800 hrs, meeting up at Hilton Services at 0900 hrs and then we were off down the M6, M5,M42 and onto the M40 before a short break at Warwick Services.  The place was very busy, with it being a Saturday.  We left Warwick Services ahead of time and made for Beaconsfield making up 30 minutes on Google time.  I am sure the sat nav, my GARMIN Zumo 550 is more accurate.  Well we got to Beaconsfield still ahead of time, but the rider from Tewkesbury was running late, good old British weather - FOG, and traffic jams.  Not to worry, still on time........ That was until we hit the M25 - The biggest car park in the United Kingdom.  For some unknown reason there were variable speed limits in force, 40 mph, 50 mph and 60 mph.  Traffic was virtually at a stand still for no apparant reason, so we had to filter and all my best laid plans of not RUSHING were slowly slipping away.  My times were now looking a bit tight as we had to fuel up before the 'Tunnel'.  So here we were stuck on the M25, well slowly moving and the last check in for our train being 1420hrs for the 1450hrs departure.  Sat nav now telling me arrive at the Eurotunnel at 1410 hrs, and that was without the fuel stop........

Well we made it...... Sticking to the speed limits....Got to the booking in booths at 1419hrs... Put my credit card into the machine and within seconds...I had my ticket to travel on the train I wanted the 1450hrs, arriving in France 1625hrs (Have to add one hour on).  Everyone was sorted and our number was loading, so we went straight to the holding lanes to await our turn to board.

On the Eurotunnel, 35 minute crossing, next stop France......

I do like the tunnel, stay with your motorcycle, it does not need strapping down and there are no slippery ferry decks to ride over.

I didn't want to use the motorways in France, so the Sat Nav had been loaded with a route, I had studied the maps and just in case wrote a few hints on a peice of paper I put in my tank bag.
Everytime I usually leave the Eurotunnel, I never find the right exit off the motorway....This time I was determined to get it right, even going on Google Earth to look at the junction...

Our destination was Auchonvilliers, right on the Somme............And to my surprise I got it right this time and we all headed away from Calais on the D943 towards St Omer,in glorious sunshine.  In St Omer I got a bit lost and took a turn too early but soon got back onto the road I wanted, the D190 to the D341 to Arras.  In Arras I wanted to pick up the D919 as our host David had recommended it a s a 'Good Road.......'.
It was nice to be back in France and recognise some familiar names on the sign posts, like the Block Haus  and La Coupole from World War Two.  As we left Arras, I was relying on the sat nav to get us to the Bed and Breakfast as I had arranged an evening meal.  We entered Auchonvillers, known in the first word war as Ocean Villas, rode past Avril Williams Tea Rooms to the edge of the village, heading towards the Canadian Newfoundland Park Memorial.

With all the motorcycle parked up and secured it was time to be shown our rooms, which were fantastic....Then to meet our hosts David and Anita Platt in the garden to the rear of the property for a chat and a few drinks before dinner.
Meet and greet the hosts David and Anita Platt

I didn't stop long for a drink as the views need recording on the camera.  To the far right the towers of the Theipval Memorial could been seen.
The evening sun catching the brickwork.
Looking towards Theipval Memorial and in the foreground is Newfoundland Park
So in effect from the garden you are overlooking part of the Somme battle field, bearing in mind it was 25 miles in total and to put it into perspective we were basically looking across onto Hawthorn Ridge.  So looking right to left....
Hawthorn Ridge

Looking left towards the Sunken Lane and White City
 With the skies so clear it seemed only right to try and capture the sunset. Plenty more to take.  So day one done, a few miles covered, no incidents, time for dinner, plan tomorrow, time for bed.  Must remember sunrise in the morning.. Did I make it ?


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