Journey to France - Belgium

Motorbike Adventure France

I knew where I had to go but could not find the road to get me across. So while looking at a map I was approached by a friendly local who helped me out and had me follow him and he was to show me where the tunnel was… 15 miles down the road he indicated where I was to go and said to keep right.

So we parted and I was glad to be back in business. I took his instructions and kept right but there was no tunnel. I proceeded in the faith that he was local and knew the area. After about 20 minutes I got a terrible case of Déjà vu... I am sure I had been here before... I had, it was the intersection I had originally stopped at and was approached by the friendly Dutchman with the direction. I had done a big circle. So I retrace the route I had taken with him an hour ago and get back to the place where he told me to keep right but thought I would contradict his right and go left. It worked! There was the tunnel. Hey… left or right.. it all depends on the direction you are facing. Onto Zeeland.

This place is flat flat flat... and windy. I am not a huge fan of the wind at the best of times but riding at right angles to a gale coming off the North Sea is not one of those great riding pleasures people talk about. And it just does not let up. One saviour is that the roads are great and I will soon be in Belgium.

I cross the border and hope to see some hills that will provide some respite from this wind. Ridiculous logic as these two countries don't have a border like France and Italy do, i.e. the Alps. Though it does look slightly different it is also flat, flat, flat. An initial consolation is that there appear to be more plantations that muffle the wind. This is great, the road winds through these trees and provides good shelter. That is until you hit an opening and the gale puts me back to riding at a 10% tilt and not being a happy camper because of dislike of gales.

In no time I am in Bruges. And find my central BB with the help of no less than 3 locals. It is something about towns with canals. I get so disoriented and repeatedly in the same area. I have travelled a lot in Australia even rode from Athens to Scotland Netherlands with good spacial dexterity, but canals throw my internal radar out.

Bruges is a quiet and visually pretty town that surrounds a beautiful market square and lives up to its reputation of 'little Amsterdam' with the added benefit of the lovely smell of Belgian chocolate wafting through the streets.

My 2-day stay was a bit too brief but it is on my list of places to return to... that is the wonderful thing about travel.

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So now I am approaching the main ingredient of the trip. France for 2 months. As I approach the border I can feel some trepidation coming over me. I know it is a beautiful country but the reputation of the French is playing a bit on my mind and this is not helped by the fact that languages are not my strength and it was 27 years since I scraped a pass at school. Back in the days when girls, Kiss and adolescent fantasies held more importance to me than learning a language which was not widely spoken in my country. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

But I am not totally unprepared and am loaded with the small verbal pleasantries and a dictionary; what more would I need to journey through and photograph France?

As I am approaching the border  I verbalise my mantra for the trip... 'yes I am going to intimidated by some of them, and yes I will get pissed off at some of them, but stay relaxed and smile and enjoy'.

france nord arrival 1So I am on the British bike with UK registration, little French, riding into France.. it is an awesome and surreal feeling.

What I am armed with is a big sticker announcing that I am Australian and the phrase... "Bonjour madame/monsieur, Excusez-moi, Je veins d'australie. Je ne veins d'Angleterre.” Lets hope.

So I hit the border... cross it… and Voila!

I stop and take the obligatory photo of the bike and the countryside at the border between Belgium and France.

Next stop... Le Nord...