Today we started with an early 5:45am start in Portsmouth for the ferry to Le Havre, on the Normany coast of France. Stayed at the Portsmouh Travelodge which is the optimal place to stay for access to the ferry wharf.
With the bike packed, a 45 second ride from the carpark had us handing over our passports and checking in to our ferry. Motorbikes have the privelidge of being first on and first off, but you have to be there early enough to beat most of the cars. And we were.
There were about 10 bikes with us ranging from a little Aprilia behind us fully laden with tent and camping equipment, to sports bikes, to nice big touring bikes. Even got to see a brand new 2010 model BMW R1200GS Adventure (on my wishlist).
The 8:30am ferry got out a little late but we were on our way in the lap of luxury on the Norman Arrow from LD Lines. It’s a super-cat which does the journey in 3.25 hours instead of the usual 6 hours. And for a trip between England and France, seeing only Australian power sockets on board just didn’t look right. Apparently the catamaran was made in Tasmania and shipped over a few years ago.
Once in France we were soon off the very, ushered through the non-existent passport control (no stamp for this trip) and out on the roads.
Compared to driving a car, being on the wrong side of the road on bike felt no different. I guess it’s not like havin th hear stick on the other side, and the principle of staying in the middle of your lane still applies. Luckily the sat nav also reminds me which way to travel around roundabouts.
Out of the blocks we were heading for Honfleur which meant going over 2 big bridges and a toll road. And man, the bridges were great. In a decent cross wind the bridges a very steep. Steeper than anything in I have ridden up in the UK.
Honfleur was a nice little town built around a harbour. We took a walk around the town and took in some buckwheat crepes. Only by the time we got back to the bike did the penny drop that the navigator had forgotten to wind her watch and hour forward and therefore we were over an hour late. Nevertheless we still cruised the country roads, which are soooo muh better than the UK, along the beach and through small villages.
Note to others, I don’t have any problem doing U-turns on narrow streets in Australia and England but turning the other way needs a bit more practice. At least we got some practice picking the bike up off the ground in the middle of the road. Having no traffic around was a godsend!
Tonight we are staying in a village outside Saint-Lo in a B&B run by an English couple who like to cater for bikers. In fact we sat down to dinner with 4 other guys who were over from England for 4 days to look around the D-Day beaches and museums along the Normandy coast.
After a long day and a decent, very enjoyable ride, I think we are going to sleep very well tonight. And compared to London this place is very quiet… Rural quiet… Fantastic!
Here are a couple of photos of us waiting for the ferry. The rest of the photos of Honfleur are on another camera so you’ll have to wait to see them later.