Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This is Why We're Here

He didn’t speak a word of English but the man at the small town gas station we had finally found, was still able to communicate that he knew we had caught the ferry from Poole, England that day and we were on our way to Mont St Michel. I suppose the only crazy non-french tourists that come through are doing the same.

Most probably aren’t doing it on a monster of a two-wheeled machine however. After a 4am wake up call, a long walk, a stressful hunt, a taxi, a less stressful hunt, a train, and another taxi, we had picked up our Suzuki DL650 at 9am that morning. The English couple that hired it out to us that morning from their Bournemouth home (complete with Mainecoon and Saint Bernard, who looked like a cartoon he was so big and clumsy) had apparently spent the entire week prior preparing the bike for us. New tyres, new luggage, fully serviced, the works. Packed with all our gear it looked like it might topple but Courtney fell into riding with ease.

The 5 hour ferry from Poole, England to Cherbourg, France was somewhat of a culture shock from us. The only ferries we had been on at home had a small snack bar and two or three decks. This one had 7 decks, a full buffet restaurant, an arcade and multiple bars – and it’s ‘basic’ because there’s no pool.

Once we got past the intimidating French border police we were extremely happy to immediately recognize signs for Mont St-Michel 3 hours away. As soon as we rounded the bend into the countryside we were away laughing – literally. The French countryside looks like every picture you’ve ever seen. Those pictures aren’t of rare beautiful views seen from the occasional hilltop, those pictures are France.

We followed a highway until we decided it was too much of a risk not to get petrol and it was after 10 minutes of exploring that we came across the French mechanic, running a side by side gas station and workshop with 2 pumps and a tiny office with eftpos. He circled on a map our origin and destination and then pointed out each small town we should aim for along the way.

The rest of the ride was a dream, through small villages, past fields and lakes – past fairytale castles that suddenly appear on the horizon. Over hills hiding valleys centred on huge steeples and turrets. It was 2 hours later, nearing our campsite, that we looked across the fields and saw it – the silhouette of Mont St Michel, framed in sunset. After the cold of Ireland (and the great beer and hospitality), the hustle, bustle and horrible hostels of London, this is where we were supposed to be. Everything fell into place.

Penelope_nz's Beauvoir, France photoset Penelope_nz's Beauvoir, France photoset