Jackie and I decided to go to St Tropez in southern France for the 5th Harley-Davidson Euro Festival. This is a relatively small rally held in the French Riviera each May and about 6,000 people go each year. I have been before and really like it. Unusually and very happily, Jackie came with me on the bike. With a ferry crossing time of just 90 minutes on a very calm English Channel, there is barely time to grab something to eat before the coast of France comes into view and soon, we were rolling along on the French roads. We had travelled 197 miles on the bike on the first day.
Day 2 was about travelling down through northern France, avoiding the motorways. This took us through many of the regions that had seen battles during World Wars I and II, and we passed many military cemeteries. We saw French, British, American and Australian cemeteries, all kept in immaculate condition. It was VE day and it seemed appropriate to be visiting war cemeteries. It isn’t until you see the sheer numbers of headstones that it really sinks in just how many soldiers lost their lives in Northern France. We stayed the night in Troyes, still in northern France, having ridden 210 miles on day 2. The weather remained wonderfully sunny and hot all day.
We rolled into famous wine producing town of Chablis looking for somewhere to get a drink. It was Sunday and an important day in France. Many of the war memorials throughout much of France were decorated with the Tricolour, the French flag, as part of the celebration of VE day. In Chablis we saw the end of a formal celebration, with a brass band playing and the mayor dress in his best suit. The vineyards around the town are plentiful and stretch as far as the eye can see. Long low strands of wire, with ancient vines clinging row after row on the slopes. These are some of the most famous grapes in the world and go to produce some of the best wines.
In the southern half of France, wherever possible, we avoided all main roads and travelled instead on remote roads, through some gorgeous countryside including through the French Alps. We were in no hurry, so were able to limit our ride each day to between 150 and 200 miles. The Combe Laval road was spectacular, where the road clings to the side of a cliff along one side of its gorge. Quite how this road was ever constructed is difficult to work out, but it must have taken a long time. Other highlights of the last days riding before getting to St Tropez included one of the best riding roads in Europe. This is the D76/D518 from Vassieux-En-Vercors to Die. Both the views and the twisty roads are spectacular. The small town of Sisteron, the view of the citadel across the river is a good one. Just before arriving in St Tropez, we rode along the Verdun Gorge, a spectacular canyon. Overall, we had a great trip down and Jackie did brilliantly well on the back of the bike for this, her first long run.