Europe June 2016 Part 4 We Will Fight Them on Beaches…

The last morning in Charleville-Mezieres passed uneventfully; after bit of breakfast and then loading our kit onto the bikes we steeled ourselves for the 300km haul to the French coast. As we pulled away the beautiful young hotel receptionist cried and screamed as she begged me to stay. Oh hang on, I had run over her foot. This bit might be bullshit.

Homeward Bound.

Tomorrow we catch the ferry home. Never the best feeling on a biking holiday, but pretty much unavoidable unless you are going to some sort of  biker version of a Reggie Perrin! (Those under forty look it up…).  Today was about kilometre crunching. Even though we did get a bit damp for a bit, around 80km or so, the real ‘excitement’ came when trying to get fuel for Geeg’s thirsty Thundercat. Ever since his  spill a few months previously, the carb set up had been out. As a result he had consistently used more fuel than my similar model.

Not a problem for the rest of the trip but today for some reason we struggled to find open fuel stations. He was running on fumes for miles. The sat-nav wasn’t helping either as it kept directing us to ‘petrol-stations’ in sleepy backwaters that had, in fact closed. One ‘petrol-station’  boasted one (disused) pump for paraffin or something, not petrol!

Not the most glamorous day of biking

Out with the maps again as we tried to find the Dunkirk Museum

When Defeat Feels Like Victory

To make something of the day we decided to take a look at Dunkirk. Here, Operation Dynamo took place during WW2. The an armada of ‘little-ships’ plucked thousands of British and French troops from the beaches right from under the noses of the advancing German Army. We found a little, but very interesting museum near the beaches and had a hour or so in there.

Good to see the memories and the sacrifice of both the military and civilians been treasured by the locals. The beach itself looks very normal now. I found it hard to imagine the harrowing scenes that unfolded here as men fought to escape the advancing Nazis. All the time been bombarded from all sides. It was reminiscent of our visits to Normandy to visit the beaches that hosted Operation Overlord (D-Day). By then the boot was very much on the other foot…

Turns out it was the place with the ferkin big gun outside funnily enough…

In we go…

Rare French Army outfit

Turns out we had accidentally followed the route of the German advance in 1940…that’s trusting a BMW Sat Nav for you!

We made or way up to see the evacuation beaches too…hard to imagine what went on here back in June 1940

Where’d They all Go?

From here it was a short hop to our hotel, but we managed to get split up on the outskirts of Calais. Not really sure how: Andy who was leading on his BMW,  was there in front of me one moment. We went around an island and then ‘poof’ he was gone! The bike has some clever electronic trickery, but I don’t recall the cloaking device! We had taken different exits: Matt also went AWOL on his GS.

Geeg was still with me and for the next twenty minutes or so we are bombed about looking for each other. Geeg and I finally hooked up with Andy. However Matt had stayed on the main road. We phoned him and thanks to the joy of a crash helmet fitted with Bluetooth  managed to speak to him. He was still riding blissfully into the distance. We agreed to meet at the hotel….

Rounding up the lost sheep

Fun Cut Short Abruptly

We all rocked up at the Campanile eventually and went to check in. Now I have stayed in Campanile hotels before and they are generally pretty decent. This one wasn’t…the rooms were ok, a bit dated but ok. But the customer service? Woeful: Slow, rude On top of  that much of what was advertised on the menu (both drinks and food), simply wasn’t available. We were too tired to move on and we had trouble finding anywhere in any case! We ate what they had available and settled down to watch the Wales game from Euro 2016 live on a big screen. Only to be told about 15 minutes from the end they were shutting up the bar for the night. They had decked the place out in European flags and put up a big screen! Why shut it down so early? Odd…

It was more comfortable here than in the bar…

The bikes had done us all proud

But the hotel was at least close to the ferry port. We passed the migrant camp again, but could see it more clearly on the way in than we had on the outward leg of the trip. It made us feel uncomfortable. We  felt like we were on the set of a film like ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘District 9’ and there was a privileged few and mass of people not so lucky. It wasn’t a great feeling to be honest. We also had some drama with Geeg’s booking we got on the boat ok in the end.

Homeward bound

Last Chance for the traditional ‘Sh!t Boy Band pic….F*ck That on tour!

I see no ships…

After the Brexit Vote these took on a new significance, bit of Dame Vera anybody??

Happy Ending

The crossing was smooth and gave us time to reflect on another cracking trip. Despite patchy weather we had got in some great riding in spectacular locations, visited some stunning places and had some real laughs. Loads of stuff for the memory banks. All of the bikes had missed a beat and apart from one very minor incident nothing had got broken either. Once back in ‘Blighty’ we were treated to the traditional damp, slippy pot-holed of the UK.

One last rest halt

Back to reality boys the ride is over. But the memories will linger forever. Roll on the next trip!

Thanks to Matt, Geeg and Andy for putting up with me!

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly

The educational and helpful bits

WTF is Reggie Perrin:

Operation Dynamo:

Operation Overlord:

The Normandy Bike Trips

The bits about films: