Travelling Africa on a KLR

Category: France

Pyrenees

2016-09-12

From Pau I drive in to the Pyrenees. A constant issue is the very poor quality of the directions provided by my GPS. It frequently leads me astray. Today it has led me up a steep mountain path. Knowing I am in the wrong place I decide that it is worth taking a look up the road anyway. I ride up the road for about ten minutes and reach a reinforced swale. It is at this point I am thinking the road is getting pretty steep and I should turn around. I make the decision to head up the road one more switchback and see how the road looks beyond. I am about half way up that segment when I lose traction in the damp soil. This combined with the bumpy road causes me to have a low speed fall over. I am fine and go to the work of getting the bike right side up. I flip the bike back up right and make the decision to resume going up the hill, I start off up the hill and it is back lying on its side in a foot. At this point I decide the ground conditions probably aren’t good enough to carry on up the road. Unfortunately the road is too steep and narrow to turn the bike around so I have to back it down the hill to the swale. After wasting a bunch of time backing the bike down the hill I head back down the hill toward the nearest town to figure out how to get where I actually want to go. On the way down the bike loses the rear brakes due to air in the lines. This causes two more low speed fall overs on the way down the mountain as no rear brake on steep rocky roads is not good. Unfortunately I smack my shin on the peg during one of these falls. This will later swell up a fair bit but I am otherwise alright.

Damage Suffered during Multiple Low Speed Topples on a Rocky Backroad in the Pyrenees

Damage Suffered during Multiple Low Speed Topples on a Rocky Backroad in the Pyrenees

After the mishaps of the morning I head down the hill to get pointed in the right direction. At this point the air seems to have worked its way out of the brakes but I will still get them bled to make sure. I end up riding with four guys from Great Britain as they seem to know where the turn off for the right road is. The rest of the day is spent riding up and down mountain passes through ski resorts.

These passes are all part of the Tour de France so numerous wannabe Lance Armstrong’s are on the road. I have gained a large amount of respect for those racers even if they are all on steroids as those are some very steep hills.

Grazing Sheep in the Pyrenees

Grazing Sheep in the Pyrenees

Sheep and cows are all over the road in the pastureland. The best part of this is the cows have bells that you can hear ringing from the road, the worst part is the ‘leavings’ all over the road.

Pyrenees

Pyrenees

That night I stay in Saint-Lary-Soulan and enjoy a few Grimbergen Blanche’s to sooth my sore body.

2016-09-13

I have a swollen head this morning from too much self medication and get started late. I look up where the nearest motorcycle shop is and drive to Lannemezan to have the brakes bled. I turn up at the shop and it turns out it is a scooter shop and with limited French I speak to the mechanic and determine he can’t help me and he sends me to Tarbes. I find an independent shop there and get the brakes bled with the help of a local riding an R1200 who helps with the translations. Unfortunately this has cost me half a day so I only make it to Saint-Lary that night. The hotel here occupies a section of town with rooms spread around the town. It is a picturesque location with a river running through the middle of town and narrow winding roads. The wood has been stacked for winter already and you can tell by the overnight temperature that winter is coming. I have a strange dinner that night. I ordered what I thought was trout filets but end up being served what I think was pork in stomach casing, this was to say the least not to my taste but I suck it up and eat most of it while Mr. Beaning (steak tartar scene) the rest away. Then a second meal, this time trout filets, shows up so I have no idea what the deal is but I clearly don’t understand what was happening.

Bike Outside my Hotel Room in Saint-Lary

Bike Outside my Hotel Room in Saint-Lary

2016-09-14

From Saint-Lary I head east. It is raining and very cold at the top of the last pass. As I am heading to Fox I stop at the Prehistory Park. The park contains a museum with reproductions of the Magdalenian art from the Caves of Niaux. I am cold and wet so I spend a couple hours in the warmth of the museum before heading outside to view the stone tool and fire making demonstration the museum puts on.

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Lion Carving in Antler

Lion Carving in Antler

2016-09-15

I start the morning by replacing the headlight bulb which has burnt out. It involves removing the front fairing, disconnecting the electrical then replacing the bulb which is fairly easy and having watched Dad do the same task on his R1200 GSA mine appears to be easier.

I am off to Andorra today. It is more cold mountain passes. Because Andorra is not part of the European Union it acts as a tax free shopping zone and French people flock there do their shopping. I stop in El Pas de la Casa at the well equipped motorcycle store to replace the light bulb. Continuing on to Andorra la Villa I go over Envalira Pass which at 2408 m is the highest pass in the Pyrenees. In El Pas de la Casa I see a  sign that says -1 C. It is darn cold so I believe it, however, at the pass the temperature says 5 C.

Envalira Pass Temperature

Envalira Pass Temperature

Top of the Pass

Top of the Pass

I think the gas stations at the top of the pass are a bit of an odd sight but I suspect they are from before a 3 km tunnel was bored under the pass.

After Andorra I head towards Barcelona as bad weather is moving in. The highway to Barcelona takes me through Cadi tunnel a five kilometre long tunnel which is quite interesting, unfortunately the action cam batteries are dead so I don’t have any footage of it.

Bordeaux

2016-09-08

Drove to Rennes on my way to Bordeaux for a couple of days.

2016-09-09 and 2016-09-10

Long ride to Bordeaux. I decide to spend the extra money and get a room with air conditioning so I can comfortably work on my blog. No luck as the internet is like a 28 kbps modem.

Bordeaux Palace

Bordeaux Palace

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf

Tower in Bordeaux

Tower in Bordeaux

2016-09-11

Drive to Pau, the gateway to the Pyrennes

Normandy

2016-09-05

So Monday was my first day on the road. I drove from Paris to Caen.  The highways here are excellent! The speed limit is 130 km/h which is nice ultimately too fast for the KLR  as it burns oil quite quickly at those RPM’s and the vibration of the thumper is quite annoying. The commute goes well with only one minor incident. I was scooting along at 120 km/h in traffic when all of a sudden I see something blue fly up from under the car in front of me. Being surrounded by traffic I have nowhere to go so I will bare the impact of this road debris. As I approach it I realize it is a road sign (I can see the lettering but couldn’t tell you where.) The sign hits the front light and fairing and works its way up my right arm and helmet. Thankfully it is a corrugated plastic sign and not metal so there is no damage to the bike or myself.

On the way in to Caen I divert to take a trip to Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetary where the fiancé of my great aunt is buried.

Entrance to Bretteville-sur-Laize Cemetary

Entrance to Bretteville-sur-Laize Cemetary

2016-09-06

Tuesday I go to a sporting good store to try and find 1L liquid camping fuel bottles but they don’t carry them (or at least not as far as my Franglais can discern) so I end up with water bottles to replace my oil containers that despite being empty have been confiscated by Air Canada as dangerous goods for shipment. Armed with my new “oil” bottles I head over to Carrefour, which I’ve been lead to believe is like Walmart to buy oil. No luck, fortunately I meet a motorcyclist out front who points me in the direction of Mary Moto. It is a large complex of Motorcycle dealerships that has all sorts of bike brands. I find the Kawasaki dealership and manage to Franglais myself some oil and chain lube which I also needed.

On my way to the motorcycle shop I go into the historic centre of Caen to see Chateau du Caen which William the Conqueror built. It is massive an hard to take a picture that encompasses that.

Chateau du Caen

Chateau du Caen

Canon at Chateau du Caen

Canon at Chateau du Caen

Arrow Slit, the Round Part is for a Gunpowder Weapon

Arrow Slit, the Round Part is for a Gunpowder Weapon

View of the City from Chateau du Caen

View of the City from Chateau du Caen

After running around I head toward the beaches. The first one (and also as a Canadian, the most relevant) is Juno. I find out the 16:30 tours don’t run in September so I will have to come back the next day. Given this information I decide I will spend the rest of the afternoon riding the coast and around the countryside.

From Juno beach I head west along the coast. At one point I pass a cyclist and notice him waving wildly afterwards. I think to myself I didn’t pass that close what are you upset about. I pull off at the cliff above Arromanches to view what remains of the Mulberry Harbour. The Mulberry harbour was used to bring men and materials in to support the invasion of Normandy as no natural harbours were captured on D-Day.

Juno Beach

Juno Beach

British Crocodile Tank at Juno Beach

British Crocodile Tank at Juno Beach

Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

After taking pictures and heading back to the bike, the bicyclist has now caught up to me where he explains that he saw my license plate and knew he had to talk to me as he is also from Vancouver. He was bicycling from Brest to Caen and almost at the end of his trip.

I spend the rest of the afternoon riding through the rolling farmland of Normandy. The land isn’t laid out in a grid system so the roads wind there way through the land. Even the farm access roads are paved and have a speed limit of 90km/h, they are nice to travel on as there is little traffic other than the odd tractor.

2016-09-07

On Wednesday I went to Pointe-du-Hoc and investigated what remains of the German gun emplacement. This is one of the best preserved sites in Normandy. Unlike elsewhere it has not had the bomb craters filled and looks very similar to how it would have on June 6, 1944.

Pointe-du-Hoc

Pointe-du-Hoc

on D-Day U.S. Army Rangers scaled the cliffs here to take out the gun emplacements. The guns were not in their hardened emplacements yet so the emplacements were only damaged by the naval bombardment not subsequent fighting so they are in decent condition.

Heavy Fortification for Observation of the Coastline

Heavy Fortification for Observation of the Coastline

Empty Gun Emplacement

Empty Gun Emplacement

Cratered Landscape

Cratered Landscape

The guns were later found and destroyed in the forest.

Gun That Would Have Been in Emplacements

Gun That Would Have Been in Emplacements

After Pointe-du-Hoc, I visited the Overlord Museum. It has the best collection of equipment from World War II of the museums I went to.

Sexton Tank (Manufactured in Canada)

Sexton Tank (Manufactured in Canada)

Landing Craft

Landing Craft

I then went to Juno Beach Centre which focuses on the Canadian involvement in World War II. They have dug two bunkers out from the dune (HQ and an Observation Post) and I took a tour of them at the same time.

Observation Post Bunker

Observation Post Bunker

Cramming as much into this day as possible I visit the Radar Museum last. While it is a small museum they have a number of interesting taped interviews with locals who were there during D-Day and there experiences during the occupation and liberation of Normandy.

Wurzberg Radar

Wurzberg Radar

Radar Room in the Bunkers

Radar Room in the Bunkers

2016-09-08

On Wednesday I go to the Memorial Museum in Caen. It primarily contains artifacts from World War II in general but also has exhibits on the Cold War as it focuses on using history as tool to prevent violence in the future.

Caen Memorial Non-Violence Sculpture

Caen Memorial Non-Violence Sculpture

Paris III

2016-09-04

Monday morning I head out for more sightseeing starting at the Louvre.

The Louvre

The Louvre

Afterwards I head to Touleries Garden and cross the Seine to see the Bourbon Palace.

Tiger Fighting an Alligator Statue

Tiger Fighting an Alligator Statue

Grande Roue de Paris

Grande Roue de Paris

Obelisque de Louxor

Obelisque de Louxor

Palais Bourbon

Palais Bourbon

I cross the Seine again to see the Grand Palace and Petit Palace. A free art exhibit is available at Petit Palace so I take advantage as not working for a year to travel isn’t cheap.

Grande Palais across the Seine

Grande Palais across the Seine

Statues atop Pont Alexander III

Statues atop Pont Alexander III

Entrance to Petite Palace

Entrance to Petite Palace

Fresco in Petite Palais

Fresco in Petite Palais

The police presence is everywhere, at the Petite Palace there were approximately 30 vans filled with gendarmeries and a number of metro stations on Champs-Elysees are closed.

I then walk down Champs-Elysees toward the Arc de Triomphe. A number of high end retailers are located on the strip but I actually only find a couple interesting stores, the Renault and Toyota stores where they have a couple of race cars on the display.

Renault Sports Car

Renault Sports Car

Renault Race Car

Renault Race Car

Toyota Race Car

Toyota Race Car

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Then it started raining so I headed to the catacombs thinking that would get me out of the rain. The lineup was incredibly long and it was looking like it would not provide me the respite from the rain I was hoping for so I went to a café, had lunch, drank beer and espresso until the rain let up. As I was in the neighbourhood I took a walk through Montparnasse cemetery where a lot of famous artists from France have been buried.

Afterwards I head back to the hotel as I am done with the rain.

2016-09-05

On Tuesday I leave Paris headed toward Caen. On my way out of town I stop at Versailles Palace and the Palace Gardens

Versailles Gates

Versailles Gates

Versailles Fountain

Versailles Fountain

Versailles Gardens

Versailles Gardens

Versailles Fountain

Versailles Fountain

Paris II

2016-09-03

On Saturday morning I get a late start to the day despite going to bed at 21:30 the night before. I figure out how to catch the tram and metro instead of the commuter train today to the city centre as it is more convenient for getting where I want.

The first stop of the day is Notre Dame but the train I catch drops me off at Pont Marie so I walk across the bridge over the Seine River to Ile Saint-Louis.

Siene River

Siene River

Ile Saint-Louis

Ile Saint-Louis

This is the quintessential Paris shown in movies with beautiful narrow apartment lined streets. You really cannot find a bad view in this part of the city.

After walking the short distance across the island I cross over a bridge to Ile de la Cite.

Buildings on Ile de la Cite

Buildings on Ile de la Cite

The skyline from the eastern side of Ile de la Cite is dominated by Notre Dame (of Quasimoto fame not the Fighting Irish.)

Notre Dame (Rear)

Notre Dame (Rear)

The path I took approaches Notre Dame from the east where you have a good view of the flying buttresses used to support the upper extents of the building as it grew taller than originally planned. I then walked around the north where you can view the sculpted tympana.

Notre Dame Tympanum

Notre Dame Tympanum

The main entrance is on the west side of the building and a huge lineup has formed for a tour of the building. I decide it is best not to wait in the line lest I burst in to flames upon crossing the threshold of the church and walk around the building to take some photographs of the church and the grounds.

Notre Dame (Front)

Notre Dame (Front)

Charlemagne Statue at Notre Dame

Charlemagne Statue at Notre Dame

After Notre Dame I decide I will walk to Luxembourg Palace but get delayed walking around Ile de la Cite.

The Palais de la Cite (where the royal family resided from the 6th to the 14 century) includes the Palais de Justice (courts), and the Concierge (the fortress where Marie Antoinette was held) is also located on the island. Unfortunately no cake was available.

Palais de Justice

Palais de Justice

Palais de la Cite

Concierge

From Ile de la Cite I walked through the Latin Quarter to Luxembourg Palace and viewed the gardens there.

Luxembourg Palace Across Pond

Luxembourg Palace Across Pond

Luxembourg Palace and Garden

Luxembourg Palace and Garden

The gardens are 25 hectares and the palace now contains the French senate.

Lion Statue at Luxembourg Palace

Lion Statue at Luxembourg Palace

After walking around the gardens I went to the Pantheon, then walked back to Pont Marie along the Seine. Once back at Pont Marie I stopped at the Shoah Memorial, a tribute to all those involved in protecting the Jewish population of France.

Pantheon

Pantheon

By then my feet were sore so I retired to my hotel room.

Paris I

2016-09-01

I arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport at 9:30 having not slept on the flight over and proceed to the taxi stand to get a cab. My cab driver appears not to know how to get to the cargo terminal despite a page long set of instructions from the helpful desk clerk at Air Canada. He drops me off about half a kilometre from the cargo terminal and after talking to some people I get pointed in the right direction and walk over to the terminal. It is quite warm and humid in Paris so I arrive pouring sweat. The staff at the terminal provides me paperwork and points me to customs. At the customs office I am provided with a temporary import permit so Air Canada Cargo can release my bike. All in it takes about 30 minutes to get the bike temporarily imported to the EU. After reattaching the battery the bike is ready to go and I head toward a gas station for fuel as the bike was nearly empty for the flight.

I navigate my way to the hotel with minimal cursing… okay, maybe a large amount of cursing because the GPS isn’t reading directions through my headset and I ended up having to read directions off the screen. The driving in Paris is best described as organized chaos. It appears like there are rules but most aren’t followed, and no one on the numerous scooters appears to follow any rules, but it must work as I only saw one accident while there.

After checking in to my hotel I walk the neighbourhood (Pantin) before grabbing dinner and heading to bed as I was exhausted from not sleeping on the plane.

2016-09-02

I am up fairly early on Friday morning and figure out how to catch the commuter train in to the city and get on the subway to Trocadeo. Surprisingly I manage to find my way with relative ease.

The Trocadero gardens are on the opposite bank of the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately the grounds were under construction and the fountains were turned off, but it is still the best place to view the Eiffel Tower from.

Palais de Chaillot et Trocadero

Palais de Chaillot and Trocadero Gardens

Eiffel Tower from Trocadeo

Eiffel Tower from Trocadeo

At this point I am excited to go see the Eiffel Tower up close and head over immediately.

Eiffel Tower from the Seine

Eiffel Tower from the Seine

Eiffel Tower Ironwork

Eiffel Tower Ironwork

Pictures don’t do it any justice and I would recommend viewing in person if possible. It is at this point that I begin experiencing the increased security measures being implemented in Paris. The base of the Eiffel Tower is fenced off and you have to go through a security checkpoint to be admitted.

On the other side of the Eiffel Tower I go to the Champ de Mars which is the side most movies show.

Eiffel Tower from Champ de Mars

Eiffel Tower from Champ de Mars (looking like a real tourist)

After the Eiffel Tower I walk around the area and head to the Army Museum which is actually a number of museums.

The first building as you approach is where Napolean’s tomb is stored along with other individuals from the revolution (sorry my Revolutionary French history knowledge is limited.)

Dome des Invalides

Dome des Invalides

Napolean's Tomb

Napoleon’s Tomb

The complex also includes a museum dedication to 1870+ with a focus on WWI and WWII.

V1 "Buzz Bomb" Rocket

V1 “Buzz Bomb” Rocket

French Resistance Bomb Disguised as a Rat

French Resistance Bomb Disguised as a Rat

There is also a museum for armour and weapons from pre-Revolutionary France. It is kind of strange seeing the armour sized for a child as the museum houses the armour throughout the life stages of the Royal Family from heir apparent to King.

Dauphin Armour

Dauphin Armour

The buildings are full of armour and weaponry but the exhibit isn’t lit well for photography.

More Armour

More Armour

I also visited the French Resistance and Napoleon Era museums but didn’t take any pictures.

The last museum I went to houses the relief maps which were constructed so generals would be able to plan artillery positions in defence of various forts and cities in France.

Relief Map

Relief Map

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