Apr 17, 2011

Days 1 & 2: Frankfurt to Troyes to Bordeaux

This trip really snuck up on us! When we first planned the route, we decided to wing our nightly accommodations. Then the Sunday before we departed, we changed our minds and researched and booked hotels/B&Bs for every night in hopes of reducing stress on the road. And we were so glad we did! We wouldn't have found a lot of our favorite places if we had waited till the night of our arrival.

So Saturday, 26 March arrived, and Brian and I woke up early to load up the bike and head to Troyes, France. We ended up leaving around 10:30 (a little later than planned) due to some "comms" issues - but it sure felt great to be on the bike again! Brian had done a great job of prepping it for the trip by getting the tires changed and having a full inspection done the week before.

To start our trip, we took a great road through the Saar Hunsruck Nature Park that borders Germany and France. We were in great spirits! Nature parks are really fun to drive through because you and other motorcyclists are the only ones on the road. They are especially fun when you're pumped about being on vacation for 2 weeks, spring being on the way, and the beginning of motorcycle season! Unfortunately, I was so excited, I forgot to take pictures. Oops!

As we crossed the border into France, you could definitely see a change in the architecture and quality of gas station food :) Our lunch was a sandwich and salad at a regular old gas station, but it was really fresh and tasty!

This first day we experienced a mix of great and not so great weather - we hit some small sprinkle clouds, but we also had sun. It was definitely a bit chillier than expected, but luckily we had packed layers!

Because we got started late, we arrived at our first hotel kind of late. This first night was the only one where we drove in the dark. But we were on smaller roads (not the highway), so we felt pretty safe. We stayed at a B&B Hotel (not actually a bed and breakfast - this is a hotel chain like Motel 6) just north of Troyes. Dinner that night was our only meal in France that wasn't that great, but we were so starving, we scarfed it down anyway!

The next morning, we encountered our first challenge of the trip. B had carefully parked the bike under the motel's walkway, but the parking spot that we had used to access the walkway now had a car in it! Needless to say, we started our day with a nice game of Tetris in getting the bike out of its safe parking spot :)

We spent Sunday riding through the gorgeous French countryside; again we had some sun and some rain. We arrived early that evening at our first real bed and breakfast. We knew it would be perfect as we drove up the long gravel road and were directed to park in its big wooden barn! It's run by an English family, Allison and her 2 kids Ben and Georgie, and it's smack in the middle of the Bordeaux wine region of France. Yay! It was an adorable farm house with great rooms and a huge fireplace, and after a chilly ride I was very excited about the fireplace!

View from our room

Our loft

Allison welcomed us with some delicious Bordeaux wine, and after cleaning up and settling in, we had a really nice evening with her and her children. Later on, just before dinner was ready, the two other guests for the evening arrived, Veronica and Jean Josef. They were an older French couple and were so much fun to talk with. Because they didn't know much English, Ben served as our translator as we all devoured a wonderful 4-course meal prepared by Allison. A French cheese pastry, roasted duck with fig preserves, more great French cheeses, and fruit and cream - THIS was the French cooking I was so excited about! I wish I had videoed part of our conversation - we talked about family, politics, French and US stereotypes - all while Jean Josef smoked his classy pipe and we listened to the fire crackle. It was perfect!

Jean Josef, Allison's mother-in-law, me, Veronica, Brian, and Ben

View of the common area from the loft where our room was located

Apr 11, 2011

Motorcycle Trip - France, Spain, and Portugal

Brian and I just returned from an amazing, memorable 16 day motorcycle trip where we traveled over 4,200 miles through France, Spain, and Portugal. Here's the map of our route:

Each day was like a different vacation - we saw so many types of terrains, ate such different types of foods, and just had a huge variety of experiences. I took tons of notes and photos to document the highlights of each day, so, I plan to blog about each day separately. Yikes! We'll see how I work through it all :)

A few general thoughts:

- We saw spring in fast-forward. When we left Frankfurt, it was still quite chilly and grey. But as we drove southwest, we saw more green, more flowers, and more sun. The flowers in Spain and Portugal smelled so sweet and fresh. Our favorites were the orange tree fields in Spain that were in full bloom. Entire cities smelled wonderful because their sweet smell was so strong. I also loved the lavender in Portugal.

- The variety of wines we tasted was awesome. I definitely have more of an appreciation for the wine-making process after this trip. We enjoyed everything from Bordeaux wines to northern Spanish wines (from the Rioja region) to Portuguese Port and Douro wines to southern French wines. All were extremely tasty!

- You'll hear a lot about the food we ate in my daily posts, but in summary, there was so much delicious-ness.

- We definitely had to get into motorcycle riding "shape" again. We were pretty sore the first few mornings. After that, we were only sore on days that we rode for really long periods of time (7 hours or more in one day).

- We had all kinds of weather. Luckily, the majority of days involved the sun :) But the first few days had some cool and wet times. No huge downpours, though, which was really nice. In the rain we experienced, with all of our gear we could only tell it was raining by the light pitter patter on our helmets. Not bad!

- We didn't have any major problems or issues with the motorcycle. Only had the headlight burn out, but luckily we were in a major city and...well, I'll tell you that story when I get there :) But we were so lucky to have such a smooth trip!

I can't wait to write all about it!