Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A weekend riding a Triumph...in France

A bit disappointed with last weekends aborted trip, I decided that what I really wanted to do was ride my Triumph down long straight traffic-free roads, drifting around long sweeping bends in the sunshine. A quick look at the weather forecast made me realise that wasn't going to happen anytime soon in England; a quick phone call to the helpful folks at Classic Bike Provence and I'd booked two bikes for the weekend, plus a hotel. I then booked a couple of flights to Marseille, told El D Jr. that he was going on a bike trip, polished my helmet and packed a bag.

We had an atrocious flight down with Air France (never again) and finally arrived in St Remy de Provence Friday tea-time (unfortunately our bags wouldn't arrive until Saturday). However, the sun was shining, the temperature was hovering around 34 degC and the welcoming Sarah had our bikes waiting ready to go.

Bike and Sidecar outside Classic Bike - for sale but I'm not sure what it is...Royal Enfield?

Red Ural combination inside Classic Bike
Luckily, we'd carried our helmets on the plane, so Sarah lent us a couple of lightweight jackets and we were off, cruising down the aformentioned long straight roads. We turned off the D99 and took the uphill winding road to Le Baux de Provence, an unbelievably romantic village perched on a mountaintop - the roads were definitely testing, particularly a tight left-handed hairpin that went on and on seemingly forever.

Le Baux de Provence
After an hour or so we rode back to St Remy, found our hotel, booked in and showered before going out to find somewhere to eat. St Remy was a picturesque little town, all honey-coloured stone buildings with painted shutters, blue or green or red, all faded by the sun, with romantic little cobbled streets and charming bistros. Unfortunately I'd come with 'the Kid' so we just wanted a meal and a few drinks and perhaps a little light conversation with beautiful, sophisticated French women. Well, two out of three ain't bad as Meatloaf used to say, so we wandered back to the hotel replete.

"The Kid"
Saturday morning saw us back at the bike shop - I'd originally chosen their BMW R850 as being more suitable for my lanky frame, but decided to swop it for their T100 Bonneville, nice and light for all that bend-swinging we were going to do. The ever-helpful Sarah gave us a map and outlined some routes, lent us some wet-weather gear "just in case" ( a definite case of local knowledge triumphing over tourist optimism) and we set off for....anywhere. We rode fairly aimlessly around Provence, taking any little side road that took our fancy, then when we got tired of really tight bends it was back onto the 'A' roads for some faster sweeping bends. Heaven.

The Old Man
What we did discover was that one picturesque medieval town looks much like another; Arles, Nimes, Avignon, all had that run-down, scruffy look, ancient ruins, rats running over the feet of diners at the outside cafes. Still, we fulfilled our aim of riding, pausing for coffee, riding some more,, etc, with the highlight being a cafe/betting shop in Carpentras where the Kid first encountered a typical French crapper "that's disgusting, it's just a hole in the floor..and there's no paper..and nowhere to hang on to!" I explained that's why the French invented perfume, to cover up the smell of shit on their hands and clothes and he seemed quite happy with that.

Bull Ring at Arles
Saturday night we had another great meal and some drinks in a little bar in St Remy where the Kid took a (drunken) shine to the dark-skinned waitress, I was just happy to get back to the hotel and bed as I was knackered from the amount of riding we'd done.

Cottage at the hotel
Sunday, however, was a bit of a disaster. It started with a thunderous downpour complete with lightning that woke us up, then it rained...ALL DAY. Man, I could have stayed in England for this! To make matters worse, our hotel, booked for us by Classic Bikes, was a wonderful, romantic hideway, small cottages set in grounds overshadowed by huge fig trees and other perfumed plants - with no T.V to "spoil the ambience" which would have been fine if we'd been on a dirty weekend but for The Old Man and the Kid......we ended-up compensating by over-eating and drinking with a couple of naps thrown in. It finally stopped raining around tea-time so we got the bikes out and bombed around until dark then ate even more, more drinks in the bar of the tatooed waitress...you get the picture.
Hotel Cat

Monday of course was beautiful, hot and sunny and perfect for riding, the clear blue sky etc etc as we remarked as we dropped the bikes off and headed back to Marseille and another awful flight to London. All in all though, it WAS great riding, a bit of fun if pretty expensive.


  1. Jealous! Renting bikes in France? Awesome.

    It sounds like an adventure though. Delayed luggage, rainstorms, no telly to pass the time in the rain. Overcome, adapt, and improvise. That's about all you can do. I am glad you got out for a weekend of riding though. Good job.

  2. Trobairitz, if I'm honest it was really great, I just didn't expect rain there at this time of year. I've since discovered that the Kid is cursed, he has his own personal raincloud, so I'll make sure to go alone next time. Good food too, even for a veggie.

  3. The Diente,

    Must be terribly rough - flying to France for some weekend riding... Looks like a damned fine time, though. I hope the 'kid' didn't get too foolish in front of the waitress. I'm curious as to what she looked like - what kind of taste does this 'kid' have?

    Also, I think it's pretty neat that they still use the arena in Nimes. I thought, for sure, this is some kind of special monument, no touchy touchy. But, no, come in, take pictures, there are bullfights here. 2,000 years old and it's still in use. Not bad. I get excited by a 40-year-old motorcycle.

    Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

  4. Brady, actually the Kid suprised me, his taste is for pnuematic blondes with no brains, but the waitress was dark-skinned, shaven-headed & tattoed - but with a very pleasant nature.

    The trip was completely foolish, but born from the frustration of my Triumph sitting waiting for repair again.

  5. Diente,

    Leaving the comfort zone, huh? Nice. Variety makes the world an interesting place. I know - I grew up in a town where the biggest division was between catholic and protestant. Leaving there was the greatest thing that ever happened.

    Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

  6. Avignon I can take or leave, but Arles I love! Did you go to Martigues - the 'Provencale Venice'?

    I think you were right to switch to a T100 lest the locals thought you were on a recce trip for Herr Guderian's successors.....worse if you had been on that black outfit which is (I think) a modern (well, recently manufactured) Chang Jiang!

  7. Oh I DO hope you were nice to that hotel cat! There is nothing quite so enchanting as a fluffy pussy - don't you just want to stroke it?

  8. EL D:

    there is nothing like getting away from mundane and boring, except for the credit card bills to arrive later just when you have forgotten about them. I wished that I could ride somewhere I've never been to before. Your Kid was lucky you picked up his tab.

    Oh, BTW, Camilla has such a sexy keyboard . . . I get chills just reading her words.

    Riding the Wet Coast

  9. I always wondered why "parfum" had been invented. Shame nobody told the Turks.