Before I go on about my inconsequential little trip, I just want to express my solidarity with all those affected by the various violent incidents in France and across the world today. I hope that one day humans will realise that killing each other for any cause is something that deserves to be and should remain in the past.
We rolled out of the hotel in Aigues Mortes spot on ten o’clock, it was already 28 degrees Celcius. Breakfast ended up being more leisurely that I had intended and yes I did get caught by Le Patron, but hey go with the flow and anyway I’d eaten by then, so an extra coffe whilst chewing the fat didn’t matter at all; this is La France after all! The funny thing was that as we talked I remarked that I had never seen the Camargue flamingoes up close, then five minutes down the road I find a massive flock of them, but sorry, no photos as I was on a busy road, still great to see anyway.
We negotiated the city of Montpellier and got on La Méridien, the Sat-Nav told me that this was to be our home for the next 580 kilometres, but I had other plans! Traffic thinned as we headed north and became very pleasant; then we arrived at Pas de L’Escallette where road works put a spanner in everything! Unfortunately the stretch of road was steeply uphill, winding and just into a tunnel = chaos as everyone tried to fight it out and wouldn’t merge in turn, same the world over. From this I learnt that Netherlands drivers hate motorcycles filtering/lane splitting, Belgium drivers hate us even more than the Dutch and actually aim at us, German drivers totally ignore us, Brits don’t like it either but are too embarrassed to say and the French, ah Les Française, they love us because we represent that little bit of La Révolution that is in every one of them and they get out of the way and even help us!
Then we got to le Viaduc de Millau; one of the modern engineering feats of the world. Scribbled on a bit of paper by a Brit, but built by French engineers. The engineers get my vote because I could scribble it, but I ain’t got a clue how to build it, well ok I do, but you can go across it first! The bridge is the tallest in the world with one mast topping out at 343metres above the base of the structure. It is the 12th highest bridge deck in the world, being 270metres between the road deck and the ground below. It cost of approximately €400 million and was formally opened in December 2004,
Then back on the road for another hour and we get to this beauty, Viaduc du Garabit. Built between 1882 and 1884 by Gustave Eiffel, it was opened in 1885. It is 565metres in length and has a principal arch of 165metres span and looks fantastic. We took a little detour off the A75 to see the bridge from this angle, but there is a rest area on the Autoroute from where you can also see it, again, good French thinking for you!
So what was La Méridien like on Baby Harls?
The short answer is hot, very hot and in more ways than one! We have travelled 380 miles today and whilst I wouldn’t be ready to go do it again now, I’m sitting outside enjoying a late supper and feeling pretty good. In essence it’s the kind of motorcycling that she was designed to do and boy, does she do it well! The cruise control is a real plus, though to be honest I’m still getting used to it, on some of the long straighter sections I certainly was able to relax a bit. We spent most of the day cruising at around 130kph/80mph and if I needed a little extra grunt for an overtake she certainly put a smile on my face! In other words, good fun!
We did the 320miles from Aigues Mortes to St Amand Montrond in spot on five hours and that included two stops; one for fuel, petrol and coffee and the other was the deviation off to photograph Garabit. So an average speed of 64mph, er, that’s good!
From St Amand we took the back roads along the delightful River Cher. This is the very heart of France, “le centre d’hexagone,” and I love it. It’s a good excuse to not to ride an autoroute all day. The roads were delightfully quiet and the shade from thoughtfully planted trees very welcome, a total contrast from the baking exposure of the Autoroute.
Once we hit La Méridien the temperature never fell below 30degrees and was still up there when we arrived at the Chambres d’Hôtes at 18:30! Hot work indeed.
Now it’s starting to go dark, the last birds are bidding the day farewell and the crickets are chirping to greet the moon. Pierre, the owner of the Chambres has joined me on the patio, we talk of many things; the joy of motorcycling, the tragic stories many corners of France hold and the reasons to enjoy life. We sip small glasses of local wine and gulp larger glasses of Vichy water as the mosquitoes begin to buz around us. Tomorrow, France will wake to a new day we agree, but the sadness of this one will live long; c’est tragique.
“Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road.”
Catch you soon.