9 days, 4350 miles, 1 girl, 1 motorbike – Pyrenees and Alps – Part 1
15 – 24 June 2016
– route: Glasgow – Dover – Calais – Pyrenees – a little bit of Spain – south of France – Alps (French and Swiss) – got as far as Stelvio – from Switzerland back to Calais – Dover – Glasgow
– 4350 miles in total
– 1 bike (GSX650F restricted as I was still on A2 licence!)
– 1 rider
It was my first big trip on the bike. A year earlier I went to Poland from Scotland, did 1200 miles there, stayed there for 5 or 6 days and then 1200 miles back, so did around 2500 miles in one week. On the way there and on the way back I did 1200 miles on one go, within 24 hours each time. All day and all night of riding with no sleep. Everyone was saying why not fly, flight only takes an hour and a half, but I just wanted to take a bike.
After that, I wanted more. I wanted to travel to all countries. So I “planned” to do my first big European trip in May this year. “Planned”, because I didn’t plan anything apart form a rough idea of when I will go, with no exact date planned until about a week or two before and no destinations planned. What I did, I googled places worth a visit all round the Europe and created a map of places I want to see and I started putting markers on this map. Whenever I find a place I want to visit I add it to that map. So all I had was that map with these markers. Couple weeks before the trip I booked the holidays at work. Few days before I set off I decided that I will head towards Pyrenees first, and chose Pau as a destination on the sat nav. Then once I get there, decide where to go next.
So one night before I set off (was going to set off in the morning) I started packing. It only takes me 2 hours to pack everything, so I don’t see a point doing it a week before. I had a list of what I need to take, most of my luggage was taken by tools just in case I break down. So all I had to do was go through that list and put all in the panniers.
Ok, so almost all packed, now just had to put the rest of things in my tank bag – things that I will be using daily and need to an easy and quick access to – copies of V5, insurance, MOT, restriction confirmation (I only had A2 licence at that point and my bike had to be restricted), driving licence, passport… wait where is my passport? Checked one shelf, it wasn’t there, checked other places, couldn’t find it anywhere. Spent over an hour looking for it, eventually went and asked my mum if she seen my passport, she said no but told me to ask my sister. Aaand she had it… As she was handing me my passport, she said “by the way, your passport expired”. What?? I looked at expiration date and well, it expired. So I started panicking. Can I travel to other European countries form UK using my driving licence only? But it didn’t seem possible and was too much risk. Ok, so how quickly can I get a new passport? Went on polish embassy website and tried to find out, the quickest one I could get was a temporary passport that is valid for one year only, but it would still take around two weeks to get one.
A plus side of not planning anything, apart from the fact that being spontaneous is a lot more exciting itself, was that I only lost around £50 – what I paid for my European breakdown cover.
Got appointment in polish embassy sorted, and here I was lucky as I heard that normally I need to wait 2 or 3 weeks just for an appointment itself. But I found out on the website that they publish any cancellations at 8 in the morning and 8 at night, so I made sure that I was on the embassy website at that time and kept refreshing it, and managed to book an appointment next day.
Went to the appointment (had to ride 3 hours to get to Manchester, the closest embassy is in Edinburgh but the earliest appointment I could get was in Manchester). Appointment was at 9 in the morning, so I had to get up at 4. I was sick in the morning, it was so bad I was about to leave it and not go, but then I said to myself that I need to go as I wanted to get this sorted and went.
After couple weeks my passport arrived and I booked my holidays in June. Everything went well this time, I didn’t forget anything and I set off for my trip in the morning 15th of June. Start of my trip was boring, had to get from Glasgow to Dover, around 500 miles of motorways. Only stopped around 4 times for petrol, and got to Dover in the afternoon/early evening – around 5 or 6pm.
Got on the ferry, got to France and started heading towards Paris – I wanted to see Eiffel Tower even if it was just for 5 minutes in the middle of the night (I didn’t want to stay there too long). Again – boring motorways, at some point it started raining. Got to Paris around midnight, saw Eiffel Tower. It was madness riding in Paris, got flashed by speed camera (luckily they don’t have an access to British data yet so got away with it), and for the rest of the night rode towards Pau.
Around 3am I started getting really tired, it was the worst around 5am. I started stopping at every petrol station and started making long stops a lot more often. Although I didn’t get any sleep I started feeling more awake from 9 or 10am on and eventually got to Pau in the afternoon. Booked some cheap hotel through hotel booking app in the morning, so just went straight to that hotel. Hotel didn’t look good at all, but it was cheap so can’t expect much. I couldn’t see anyone around, and both door was shut. Tried to ring the bell and no one answered. Eventually after about 15 minutes someone opened the door and checked in. I didn’t want to waste a time and I was taking guarana pills to help me stay awake, but I was too tired and decided to take a nap. Woke up around 7pm, still a bit tired but was feeling a lot better, went to the shop to get food and went to clean my bike, then back to hotel, eat, shower, put wet clothes on the radiator and go to bed. Before I fell asleep I looked at my map and decided where to go the following day.
I will finish for now here, below is a short video which is just a trailer of this trip.