9 June 2013 we drove the rest of the way to Sausset les Pins (near Marseille) to visit some customers of ours. Even though we kept to the back roads again, we made pretty good time following a couple on a motorcycle ahead of us driving as if the furies of hell were after them. We decided if they could handle all the turns at that speed on a motorcycle pulling a trailer, surely we could in our little car. Every so often I’d try to explain which turn to take at the next roundabout, but David would say, “I don’t care where you’re going, I’m following them!”
Our one departure from the back roads. This is the Viaduc de Millau (another photo shot through the windshield as we were speeding along). I took a shot of the valley very far below, but it turned out to be mostly of the blurry side rails, so I’ll spare you.
This was the view from our balcony in Sausset les Pins:
Pas mal, n’est-ce pas? Which means roughly, “Not bad, eh?” (But you probably figured that one out.)
The next day we took a bit of a walk from our hotel to scope out the area. The beach there is mostly stones, but there were a few people lying on it anyway, with not so much as a towel, let alone a chair or yoga mat or any sort of padding. And they were doing a pretty good job of looking as if they were enjoying themselves. We, however, were not tempted.
The color of the water really is this spectacular in places.
And if you’re lucky enough to have a sailboat, the wind is blowing pretty much all the time. But if you don’t, as we of course do not, you can sit on a whale’s tail and stare longingly out to sea.
Winter’s grasp is unrelenting today, so although the snow is very beautiful, here are a few more memories of warmer days. These photos are from the trial run France trip last May and June. After lunch in Saint Émilion, we drove the rest of the way to Monestier to spend the night at Château des Baudry and have another of Hélène’s amazing meals. We discovered this place on our first trip to France in September 2011 and it was just as excellent the second time.
Definitely a place to stay if you’re ever in southwest France.
Interior courtyard. The entry hall and all the rooms surround this. Each room has a door onto the outside and also one onto the courtyard, complete with palm trees, lemon trees dripping with lemons, and goldfish lazing around among blooming lily pads.
Lots of little scenic spots begging to be photographed.
Everything in bloom here too.
Last time our room was the massive corner room. This time that room was taken, but we had another beautiful room. All the rooms are less pricey than rooms in Paris and two to three times the size. I made sure to get the tutorial on the shower this time (left knob is on/off, right knob controls temperature), since last time although I lucked out the first two days, I managed to inadvertently change something the third day and had a cold shower.
It’s snowing like mad tonight, which made me decide it is the perfect night to sit in front of the fire and remember summer. Here’s another post about Sturgis 2013:
Besides shopping, Sturgis week is about scenic rides, of course, and as a passenger of a rider I trust, I was free to enjoy the scenery.
All week long we rode past photographers snapping away, always with a big sign letting you know which website to check in search of your photo. I bought this one, because it absolutely captures our riding experience: me relaxing on the back, David eyes forward with laser focus. The road you see in the background is where we just were about three seconds before this shot was taken. Iron Mountain Road is stitched together with little curliques of wooden bridges, which I loved–David, not so much.
All in-motion riding photos are taken with my little pocket-sized Nikon CoolPix. Love my Canon DSLR, so it lives in a case until we STOP.
Needles Highway was similar. The passengers were snapping photos non-stop. The drivers were white-knuckling it through all the hairpin turns, trying not to overbalance and lay down the bike if someone ahead happened to stop suddenly. There was a lot of traffic, mostly Harleys, but also a few dazed-looking out-of-towners in sedans and station-wagons, no doubt wishing they’d picked a different week for their vacation. So there were occasional sudden slow-downs and you REALLY did not want those to happen in the middle of a hairpin turn. It wouldn’t have been catastrophic, because speeds are so low on sharp turns, but it wouldn’t have been fun either, and there’s a fine line between too fast and too slow on a curve when you’ve got 1200 leaning pounds of Harley, luggage, passenger and self.
But when the traffic stretched out a bit, it was just plain beautiful.
Grâce à une gentille Française (Thanks to a kind French woman) a few errors in my French were noticed and have now been corrected in earlier posts: Il fait soleil (not du soleil) and Train àGrand Vitesse (à not de). Merci beaucoup! The following is another of the accounts of our trial run last spring:
Sunday, 9 June 2013, was goodbye to La Rochelle for a while and Day 1 of the road trip. We rented a car at the La Rochelle airport. Pascale and Jacky kindly drove us there and went in with us in case my French was not up to the task. (It wasn’t.) The guy filling out the form to note the previously existing damage on the rental car was a bit cavalier and we had to have him add a few X’s once we actually saw the car. If you’re familiar with these tiny streets with stone buildings pressing in on both sides, you’ll know why all the cars are so small here. Yes, actual cars drive on la petite rue pictured below.
It’s not even full tourist season yet, but parking was at a premium. David was not too excited about driving through the town searching for a spot, especially at one VERY tight corner. I think he was relieved we had to park several blocks out of town. Definitely, made leaving easier.
We stopped for lunch and a look around in Saint Émilion. It was nearly 2:00 by the time we got there, found a parking space (no easy task) and a restaurant that would let us in (full or done serving), so within a few minutes, everyone else in the place had finished up and left and the staff was resetting for the dinner crowd.
We apologized (in French of course) for arriving so late, ordered and ate quickly, and the waiter was gracious. Lunch is served at very specific times in France and if you miss it, too bad for you!
Tough to get photos in Saint Émilion without having them infested with tourists. You have to point, focus, shoot, with no dilly-dallying or someone in shorts and tennis shoes will pop around the very medieval corner you were framing so artistically. I shot this one over everyone’s heads.
Lucked out here with this tiny alley, but if you look carefully you’ll see the top of the tower is full of people.
Another cute little private spot. No one is there because, as we’ve already covered, LUNCH IS OVER!!
Here’s the rest of vendredi soir (Friday evening).
Driving back to Pascale and Jacky’s. This is still on Ile de Ré. Doesn’t it look exactly like a Monet? The red poppies (called coquelicots) are eye-catching in private gardens but absolutely stunning massed in huge fields.
More gorgeous flowers, these in Pascale and Jacky’s backyard.
Jacky trying to BBQ after the rain started and sent the rest of us inside. David’s compassion is apparently stronger than mine or Pascale’s.
Toward the end of our two-week trial run, we spent another thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and evening with our new friends Pascale and Jacky, which somehow works even though David still speaks pretty much zero French.
David gamely ventures a “bonjour” or “merci” from time to time and neither Pascale nor Jacky speak English, although Pascale occasionally does a goofy imitation of David saying “Me too.” Not sure why that strikes her as funny. David comes up with teasing and jokes that I manage to translate at least well enough that we’re all laughing much of the time.
This set of photos is from our afternoon on Ile de Ré where we had a pique-nique, then a complete tour of the whole island. The pique-nique was very French,even though we were sitting on rocks looking out to sea, complete with aperitif (our favorite Pineau de Charentes–sweet and cold), then multiple courses and wine, ending with a nice soft camembert. We’ve never liked camembert in the states, but Jacky says the secret is to find a soft one, a week to ten days before the expiration date. To confirm that it’s soft, you take off the lid and give the middle a good press with your thumb. “C’est pas poli,” (it’s not considered good manners to do so) he warned us, so you have to first glance around furtively to make sure no one is watching.
This island is very popular with cyclists, so many went by while we were there, and every man, woman and child, without exception, wished us, “Bon appétit!” Dining is VALUED here.
It’s definitely the height of rose season right now. They’re everywhere, and definitely on Ile de Ré, the island just over the bridge from La Rochelle. The bridge is a big swooping 2 km beauty, that you could walk or bike over, but you’d have to be dedicated. The middle is HIGH.
We climbed up another little tower, this time a bell tower in a church in Saint Martin, with a tiny creaking wood staircase so small, they’ve installed a couple of stop lights to regulate the flow. It’s actually forbidden (in French) to pass anyone on the straightaways. Your only chance is if the person on the descent crams into a corner at one of the turns. The person in the lead of the ascenders announces how many are in the ascending party so the descenders don’t resume heading down before all are by. Et voilà!
This is the view from the top. Worth every claustrophobic, dusty, hair-raising moment.
We climbed down just in time. The huge bells tolled just as we made it outside.
Then we walked toward the port to try to see the donkeys that wear pants called “les ânes en culottes” but, alas, they only work Saturdays and Sundays.
In a week or so the entire island will be covered with holly hocks. Here’s an early one.
Looking out from the western tip of the island at the base of the old lighthouse. This beach has concrete and stone walls that trap fish when the tide goes down, but this method of fishing is dying out with the older generation. Seriously gorgeous, though, n’est-ce pas?
Yes, I know I should be adding to the category “Countdown to Departure” but that’s mostly packing, and packing is BORING, and TEDIOUS, and a lot of work . . . and . . . I haven’t actually done any packing yet–David is the hero who has done all the packing so far.
I feel super virtuous simply granting permission for something to be donated or thrown away.
So instead, I thought I should create a new category to document our various Harley adventures over the past couple of years, because dear reader, we went to STURGIS this past August — How many people can say that? (Well, actually, hundreds of thousands, but not people WE know.) And we loved it!
Sturgis turned out to be an absolute festival of people-watching and talking to those whose paths we might otherwise never have crossed. One of these was a young woman tending bar in downtown Sturgis, who is a grad student at DU (Denver University) the rest of the year (lured to Sturgis week by promises of huge tips). Her response to the question, “How much do you get for serving body shots (Google it) to all these drunks?” — “Not enough,” delivered (and received) with a small shared grimace. It was a tiny moment of connection with another human trying to get by. Decided to give her a big tip, no body shot required.
The scenery itself was stunning, but more on that later.
Another memorable non-riding adventure was catching the shuttle bus (not stupid enough to ride a motorcycle with alcohol in the system) out to Full Throttle Saloon, widely known as the largest, most famous biker bar on the planet. The door attendants were collecting the $10 cover charge with metronome-like rhythm, as bikers continued to stream in, and we wondered, exactly how many people can fit into this bar? We needn’t have worried. It was the size of a small town, complete with multiple live-music venues, indoor and outdoor seating (and mostly standing), even an aerial trick-riding bike show. For the cover charge, we were entitled to a “complimentary” (read “pre-paid”) shot of “S’loonshine” which was available in various flavors. I recommend the peach. Strawberry was disappointing. I didn’t try any others, so can’t offer an opinion. Two was enough for me, even riding a shuttle bus.
We weren’t actually there very long, because we had to catch the shuttle back to Sturgis in time to catch another shuttle back to Deadwood (where we and the rest of our group had hotel rooms). But we were there long enough to allow one of our group (not me) to check off a bucket list item by dancing (fully clothed, I promise) on a bar at Sturgis. She actually earned a few tips and many cheers and smiles. (Regardless, still not on my bucket list.)
Trudging back to the rendez-vous with the shuttle bus in the pouring rain through an unpaved parking lot (mud) gave me a vicarious Woodstock Moment (too young to have been there in ’69) and made me feel edgy and cool, but mostly WET and uncomfortable and rather chilled, to be completely honest. Whatever. It’s not bad as a (slightly edited) memory.
The next day we did actually ride the Harleys into town (see photo of David above, where we scored a parking spot on Main Street). Mostly, besides showing off your Harley, drinking, and wearing rather less clothing than is generally considered appropriate (I’ll let you ask Google for those photos), Sturgis is about shopping.
David and I both bought patches for our leather vests. Check out this photo of the grandmotherly type sewing patches on at her sewing machine with SKULL affixed to the side. Excuse me? What? (That’s my vest on the back of her chair, next in line, and David’s under mine.)
We do love experiencing the unexpected, and Sturgis was definitely that. To paraphrase Arnold, we’ll be back.