We had an e-mail from the X Wycombe MAG rep Paul Minton offering us a visit to his biker orientated "retreat" (I thought it was a B&B but I turned out to be wrong!) some months before (www.jthebs.com). Sounded like fun so we agreed to go. We knew things were not going to be ready but Paul offered us some "mates rates" and was interested in some feedback on the idea and on what he'd done.
Tony, Karen and I went on what the others called "the vomit comet". That's the fast ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. It takes around 3 hours and it can make you feel a bit ill. It was with Britany ferries and cost £99. We set off at 12 noon which left us plenty of time to have a bite to eat before the ferry left at around 3.45pm. It was running about an hour late so we didn't arrive in France until around 8.30pm. We got to Pauls at around 11pm. The total distance was around 200 miles.
Jo, Ted, Danny and Dee had got there at around 4pm. They had set off from Jo's at around 4.30 Am and gone on the chunnel to avoid the ferry. This involved around 400 miles but the crossing was much quicker (and less vomity!).
A tip for traveling in France. The French don't like to let you have petrol. They don't put services on the motorway very often. You usually have to leave the main road and track it down. If you're like me and get confused about which direction you're going when you re-join the motorway (maybe because you're on the "wrong" side of the road) then you might want to avoid that. So fill up in the UK. There is a garage right next to the port in Cherbourg but this is just a little joke the French have with us. That particular petrol station is an automated one where you put your card in and there is nobody there to talk to. At least, you put your card in if you're French but they have a sign saying "French cards only" (in English - they know we want to use it you see as it is right next to the port). So unless you have a French bank account, you can't use it. We did find Petrol at Saint Lo just as I'd gone onto reserve and Tony's fuel light came on but you do have to leave the main road.
On arrival I was surprised to learn that we'd booted the Mintons out of their family home and into another building! The day before we arrived they had been living in the big building but they decided to have that as dedicated guest accommodation and moved into the smaller building (think that's right). The main building has a kitchen, living room (will be converted to a dining room later), large communal area (will have snooker table, bar & big TV later) and several rooms. Outside there's ducks, chickens, a pool and a huge trampoline.
On Saturday we headed off to Le Mont Saint Michel which wasn't very far away and had a good wander around. On the way back we stopped off at a cider museum and a windmill. We headed back rather quickly as it looked like rain was on it's way and we'd all had enough of that on the way the previous day! We made it back just before it started to hammer down.
We'd got enough food for about 30 people earlier in the day (Paul kindly took it back in his car for us while we went out). We put the barbie on and had a sit-down meal in the large communal area in the gîte with Paul and his family. Warning - do not accept alcohol from the hosts! Paul and Sandy collect all sorts of strange home made concoctions from the locals (cider and some strange spirit). Luckily we didn't lose our vision for too long.
Paul had booked us in for some karting on the Sunday. It was great fun. We didn't have much experience but by the end of it most of us were zooming round the track at a rate roughly inversely proportional to our weight. Ted won the race as not only was he one of the lighter ones but he had the power of insanity on his side (used to do banger racing so pretty tame for him!).
We headed back on the Monday. The chunnel riders left at around 10am and team vomit left at around 11am. Tony Karen and I had time to visit the museum at Sainte Mère Église.
Our Ferry didn't leave until 8.15pm so we had a good wander around Cherbourg. I was accosted by a christian regarding my Darwin fish so I had to give a small lecture on intelligent design and the position of religion and science in our schools etc. He was OK and was just curious to know what it was about. Must start to carry leaflets around with me as I hadn't prepared a speech!
The others had a bit of bad luck due to a fire in the chunnel and were delayed but just beat us home still. The ferry arrived at 10pm. We didn't get back until around midnight.
Hopefully we'll get together again for a visit either next year or the year after to see how it's all going when Paul has got the place running smoothly (well - running at least!).
Some videos here - http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=619E06ABD9C14021
All photos - http://www.flickr.com/photos/psmithson/sets/72157594246790259
Random few -