Italy 2019 - Part 1 - Wembury to Givet

Days 1 and 2 - Wembury to Givet - 451 miles -  4th to 5th July

Well, the big day had come and after finally finishing off my packing at about 1030 on the day I was to go, it was actually time to go on the biggest and most anticipated motorcycle trip of my life. Taking the Guzzi to visit Mandello.

Setting off the bike felt pretty heavy, and it was loaded up a bit more than usually, so I had to be careful coming to a stop, as I do have ducks disease…short legs. The hack up my commute road the A38 was just that, a boring hack, and so was the run up the A30 and the A303, which during my 18 months commuting to London I was all too familiar with. Eventually I found the Stonehenge youth hostel, where I was given a 14 bed room and bathroom all to myself. I chose to stop here as a run to Dover from home was not really feasible, having to arrive at the ferry terminal at 1300 at the latest. Well not for me anyway. Turned out to be an inspired stop, the hostel had a great restaurant attached to it, and that night I was the only customer. I sat and chatted to the chef, a nice fellow.

Got sorted the next morning with a great fried breakfast, top quality, with fresh juice and coffee. All great stuff, and all up I highly recommend the YHA to travelling riders. Yes, you might be in a dorm, it happens, but its cheap and comfortable.

Rolling up the road was really just a chore, the M3 and the M25, M20 are hardly the pinnacle of excitement, but I must admit approaching Dover the feeling of adventure was growing. Rolling into the National Trust car park, which was pretty packed, it felt great to find my riding companion and partner in crime Jeff there with his Norge, loaded to the max. The greeting included some expletives “we are f-ing doing it!” Yes indeed we were, a trip 3 years in the planning.

Ferry across to Dunquerque was a smooth crossing, and soon enough we were rolling off and for the 5th time I was riding in France, on the wrong side of the road. Tonights stop was going to be in the Ardennes, and part of our touring deal is that we avoid the peage and motorways if possible. Once we were clear of the port we set off cross country in the heat on the back roads with nearly every village name familiar from the story of the 14-18 War. It was hot, flat and the country was dry. The roads were mostly straight with the occaisional roundabout, and there were numerous villages that slowed progress greatly.

Eventually we rolled into Givet, and checked into our budget motel at about 7PM. Then a quick change and walk into town to seek dinner. I may have been suffering a touch of dehydration… In the setting sun the town looked pretty good, and the citadelle was impressive.

Turns out on a Friday night in the middle of summer at 8:30PM, Givet is shut!!! We only found one restaurant open, and I don’t think the tie and posh dress wearing patrons would have appreciated my cool boardies and crocs combo. So we found a bar tabac run by an Algerian bloke with little English but a ready supply of crisps and fine beer, and that was dinner! Sitting by the Muese at a table at the Bar de la Vallee was a pretty reasonable end to the first day abroad.We were already doing better on the bike front than in 2016 - neither bike had broken down, and a whole day was done. 

As I went to sleep that night my main thoughts were of an anticipation of riding places I'd never been before, never even been close to really.


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