Saturday, 4 June 2011

On my way . . .

I took to the road at 5am on Thursday and arrived at Folkestone without incident. Motorcyclists, I didn't realise,  get grouped together by Eurotunnel and made to wait until all the cars are aboard. Only then do we ride on - not very equal ops. I couldn't help but notice that all the other riders had very expensive and powerful models, as well as the 'right' gear. It must have cost them thousands. For my part I must have looked like some vagrant to them - dressed as I was in my non-standard clothing and sitting on my weedy little bike. But it didn't bother me. I don't need to look a part - I just want to get up an go - and go. And you don't need to be flash to do that.

My baggage is minimal - just one smallish rucksack (or do people say 'backpack' nowadays?). Choosing luggage has proved to be tricky, not least because I have to cater for crossing the alps on the one hand and the dead heat of Calabria and Sicily. Hard to accommodate all those conditions with the amount of baggage  space I've chosen. It will be intersting to see which bits I got right.

I'd planned to call into the family in Belgium first but that turned out to be impractical, so I headed for Reims instead. I arrived on Ascension Thursday - a holiday in France. This made it easy to get around town but rather quiet  on the whole. I guess the high point of the day was my first sight of the monster cathedral. I turned into a boulevarde with 'lollipop' trees on both flanks and there it was at the top of the road. I rode right up to the cathedral and parked the Honda on the square, next to all the Harley Davidsons and other 'super' bikes (Note to self: Where do people get the money from to buy these toys? They can't be in education, surely?). As I'm riding more these days I am struck by the sheer convenience of parking a bike. In France, it appears you can park a motorbike anywhere provided you're off the road; that's it, I think (but I may be wrong).

I found myself fascinated by the language style of French motorway announcements. The English seem to favour the imperative rather a lot, e.g. "GET in lane" features frequently.  The French illuminated boards seem a little more diffident. One - a reminder about seat belts after leaving a toll displayed,  "Moi, j'ai mis ma ceinture. Et toi?" (I've got my seat belt on. What about you?). Sounds like some form of playground persuasion. Maybe we're more accepting of orders in England.

Shall conclude. Off to Mulhouse in Strasbourg tomorrow. Here's hoping the sunny weather continues.

PS Do you remember C&A? I thought they had gone for good. At least that's what Grant Alderson told me - after  he'd bagged several pairs of trousers in their closing down sale in Kingston. But not so, here's picture I took in Reims. It would appear that rumours of C&A's demise were premature!

And as for Etam, claiming to be the greenest clothes shop ever, all I can offer is this photo - taken again in Reims.

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