Written and Photographed by Carl and Karen Danvers, Sherwood Chapter UK
If you're thinking about a road trip, stop thinking and just do it, advises Carl Danvers after a recent riding holiday in France. It’s 2am and the alarm is bleeping. ‘What’s going on?’ … then I remember – today my wife Karen and I are off to France. By 3.30am we were on the road, having wrapped up warm against the chilly August morning. It took us more than three hours to get to Portsmouth where we would board the ferry to Le Havre.
I nervously rode on to the ferry as I’d never been on the ferry with my bike before. I was worried about damage to my bike with the straps. The men on board helped and assured me that everything would be okay with the bike (The Beast). Reluctantly I left my beloved ’09 Fat Boy and went in search of the bar were most of the other bikers had congregated.
After a three-and-a-half-hour crossing, we disembarked and set the sat nav to Arromanche Des Bains via the toll road. We set off with the sun on our backs and wonderfully smooth tarmac road under new tyres. It was almost lunchtime so we pulled off the toll road and found a little gem of a village called Dive-sur-mer. We stopped for a sandwich and glass of wine, among the cobbled streets, old buildings and what looked like a medieval barn. We finally arrived in Arromanches around 5pm.
Arromanches is a nice little seaside village with plenty of B&Bs, cafes, restaurants, loads of shops full of WW2 memorabilia and one bar owned by an Englishman and his French wife. Within 10 minutes we’d found a nice room overlooking the sea and with off-road parking for The Beast.
If you’re into WW2 you’ll know how important the village was on and after D-Day so it makes an ideal base if you want to tour the battlefields and museums.
After two days of wonderful sunshine we decided to head for the La Loire valley (197 miles south). If you’re using a sat nav make sure you set it correctly, or like me you will find yourself on B roads instead of toll roads. Although, while you make little progress, you do get to see some wonderful countryside.
We decided to visit Le Mans on the way and found it to be a stunning city. After unsuccessfully finding Le Mans Harley-Davidson (the sat nav took us to someone’s house), we hopped back on the toll road.
By 3pm we’d reached Bourgueil, a wonderful village with tall buildings and wide plazas. It was so quiet that you’d think everybody had left for the summer and gone to the seaside. After finding a nice little bar for Karen, I left her with half a bottle of white wine to keep her company while I set off to find a hotel. The B&B Logis hotel in Bourgueil was perfect.
After a well needed night’s sleep we packed our stuff and set off once again east, following the river upstream. Just 14 miles later we came upon Langeais, one of the most beautiful villages I have ever seen, with its little pastry shops and cafes and the most fabulous castle nestled in between the houses and thin cobbled streets. We decided to make this place our base and I set to finding us somewhere to stay. I found a cafe bar not 200m from the castle which had rooms for 35 euros a night with shower. On inspection it was clean, quiet and had a little courtyard with a stone table and chairs with plants growing around the walls. “Fantastic,” Karen said, “now this is real France.” We unpacked and made this our base for the next four days.
A year ago, Karen wouldn’t even go near a bike, let alone sit on one. I was concerned that she would hate this trip. On waking up in our little courtyard, I found her crying. Her reply made my holiday: “I didn’t think that I would enjoy this trip, but I’m so happy and can’t believe how lovely France is.”
We spent the next four days exploring different villages, châteaux and a day at the zoo. We even went scrumping for apples and pears.
We then made our way back to Arromanches for one more night ready to get the return ferry. After a fantastic eight days in Francewith 1,300 miles of trouble- free biking we were back in England.
If any of you are thinking about doing a similar trip don’t think, just do it!
You will have stunning photos and wonderful memories of a big adventure to tell your kids, grandkids and anyone else you can corner.