Long term update: Getting to know the neighbours
What a beautiful building and fabulous view. I’m sat in the grounds of a windmill, set high on Mont De Watten – and I’m only 50 miles into my little French adventure. I’d been planning a solo trip to the continent but didn’t want to venture too far on my first attempt. So armed with a map and a loose route I booked my tunnel crossing, packed my tankbag and headed south to Ashford for the night before embarking on my crossing.
I’ve been enjoying riding the Striple, but not as much as I’d hoped, as the bike is sportier than I’m used to and I’ve been putting myself under too much pressure by feeling I should be riding it in a certain way. I’m hoping spending some time riding alone will allow me to relax and just enjoy myself.
Following a seasickness-inducing ferry crossing a few years ago, I always use the tunnel. Not only is it a smoother option, but it’s also a more sociable way to travel – I like the way fellow bikers always strike up conversation, comparing bikes and discussing planned trips. Plus it’s quick, as it’s only 35 minutes from departure to seeing your first ‘keep right’ sign.
The area surrounding Calais is one I’ve passed through many times; it’s the place you usually zoom through without a thought for what’s around it. However, this time I decided it would be a good place to explore for my first solo continental jaunt. After a couple of junctions on the motorway, I headed to the coast road which sadly turned out to be very industrial. For a while I thought about switching routes, but stuck with it to Dunkirk before heading inland towards Bergues, a beautiful walled town where I stopped for a snack.
The beauty of travelling solo is that if you see somewhere you want to stop you can just stop and not worry about anyone else. You can pull over, ride four times round the perimeter of the McDonald’s car park before finding the entrance and have nothing to apologise for or anyone to demonstrate your slow riding ‘skills’ to!
I used the stop to see where I actually was, because my ‘Ali-Nav’ (a map and scribbled notes in the clear pocket of the tankbag) was slightly skew-wiff and I wasn’t 100% sure I was on the right road. Thankfully it turned out I wasn’t far adrift and after a pit stop I headed west along the D110 where the Triumph handled beautifully on the route’s open sweeping bends.
The roads were almost deserted, the only other traffic I encountered were slow-moving tractors, all of which I nipped by easily. I was thoroughly enjoying my day and all too soon arrived at my overnight stop.
I’d booked a swish hotel in Le Touquet Paris Plage, home of the famous beach race and a lovely place to sample a bucket of mussels and glass of rosé. The waiter must’ve thought me a little odd as I spent my evening with my map and notebook, planning the following day’s ride.
Day two was planned as an amble back to the tunnel, so I picked the D940, an undulating road littered with historical monuments which hugs the coast all the way to Calais. Disappointingly my amble was slightly ruined by the volume of traffic, as some of the towns were terribly congested. I’d forgotten to put my earplugs in and hadn’t realised how loud the Arrow pipe I’ve had fitted is. With the baffle out it’s bordering on offensive and gentle use of the throttle was in order as I queued through the narrow streets of Wimereux.
I’d been keeping tabs of my journey information on the trip computer and when the fuel light flashed on I thought I’d easily reach the petrol station at the Cité Europe near the tunnel. With hindsight I wished I’d filled up at one of the villages I’d ridden through on the way as it turns out the fuel station is the most complicated place to find, buried deep in the heart of a multi-storey car park. But I made it and still had time to make my crossing.
All in all I’d had a great couple of days, covered nearly 500 miles on a mixture of roads, eaten some great food, spoken to some interesting people and most importantly grown to love the Street Triple just that little bit more. Right, where next?