It's getting really autumnal here - very cool, dark mornings, low sunlight, and shortish days, a sure sign that riding days are limited, and you must get out and ride whilst you can, because the winter is coming.
So ride we did - to Paris.
We took four days ( three nights) and nipped down to see Lionel, whom we met in the middle of Mongolia back in July.
We set off on Nads' BMW, two up on Tuesday morning, and headed for the Tunnel. But of course, missed the train we were supposed to be on, and had to take the next one, arriving in a murky Calais at about 11.30 French time - an hour ahead of London.
We had a good run down, taking the A26/ A1, which is a bit boring but quite quick, and arrived about three hours later, after just two fuel stops and a bit of faffing about.
Two up is not great but it was to keep the costs down, and we shared riding/pillion, which made things quite comfortable for both of us. Nads' bike also has more room than my Hornet, and will skip along quite nicely at 130kph.
Lionel lives quite close to the end of the A1, and we arrived just as he was finishing washing his Blackbird. He works permanent nights, but had managed to sleep and wash his bike before we arrived. Bonus. Severine ( his housemate - not sure how to spell her name ) who also works at night - nothing dodgy though - was also up and about, although she sounded like she was dying from a chest infection.
Spent a pleasant evening with them, and another friend ( Benoit) who rode over on his XJ6, looking at respective recent travel pictures and mini movies, eating, and drinking wine.
The following morning, after a leisurely breakfast of French breads and pastries, we set off for central Paris, following Lionel. However, we'd only gone about 100m before we noticed his rear tyre was deflating. So off we all went, through the back streets to a hidden motorcycle dealer, where Lionel ended up having to buy a new rear tyre and we poked about looking at the hundreds of bikes that were there. Even found a Hornet, just like mine, although three years younger but not in as good nick.
Spent the afternoon and evening exploring Paris on foot and on Velib bikes, clocking this bloke and his ladders.
Rode most of the way to Monmartre before parking the bikes and walking the rest of the way, which was just as well because it was very hilly and Nadine's knee was hurting her.
So we checked out a few pavement cafes.
Then caught the funicular up to Sacre Coeur, had a wander through the basilica, saw the nuns doing their stuff, then walked back to the hotel.
Slept well after all that walking too. I always thought that Sacre Coeur was quite old but it's not - it was built in 18 something. Still spectacular though, albeit that it wasn't sparkling in the sun like it usually does because the sun stayed firmly above the grey clouds.
On Thursday, we set off on another foot exploring day, this time using the metro and Shanks' pony to get around.
It rained heavily at lunchtime, forcing us to seek refuge in a bar and drink wine, but we coped.
The sun eventually came out and we ventured out again, wandering around and ending up at Notre Dame, via the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysee, where there were the usual essential 'must have' items for sale.
Then we paid a quick visit to the Arc de Triumph which we didn't go up because they wanted a tenner each to scale something that commemorates France's rather infrequent military victories... and we'd both been up it before anyway.
Paris also has some great street names....like this one; Fishing Cat Street.
And some people who like to make it difficult for themselves.
All to soon, it was Friday and time to ride back to London. This time we took the A16 which follows the coast as it gets further north, and is a bit more interesting. But crikey, was it windy and stormy..... really hard work riding but ok for the pillion, roles which we once again shared.
The constant buffeting was so tiring that Nadine fell asleep - fortunately when she was on the back - but it was OK as its quite easy to wedge the pillion in with topbox and soft panniers fitted if you slide back on the seat which I can just about manage and still reach the bars. But she did wonder why she couldn't move when she woke up.
The ride back took us longer because we stopped for lunch at a service station where there was a pasta restaurant. It was good food, although it did take ages to appear.
The French might do food ok ( although this was Italian) but they're not good at ' quick', which is difficult when you're hungry and have a train to catch. Eventually we ate, reached the Tunnel OK ....but missed the train ( again) so jumped on the next one and were home 80 minutes later.
A good mini trip and a great ride. And we didn't even get wet! Yaay!