Oh, how things have changed. Sitting in Pepe’s flat, toasting to his 91st birthday with a glass of Champagne and Helen’s delicious scones, it occurred to me that it had been exactly a year since the last time we had visited. Back then we still lived in Australia, had steady jobs and a nice house. Now, we were on our way to Istanbul on a crazy motorbike journey, unemployed and technically homeless. It was a lovely day of celebrations followed by another lovely day of catching up with friends and family in Polegate. There were some new engagements, new babies, new jobs and lots of great food. We also saw the worlds shortest double yellow lines so that’s always a bonus…
Monday morning rolled around and we were officially on our way… A windy 2 hour ride to Dover, taking in the smells and sights of drizzly rundown seaside towns, complete with whizzing noises and flashing amusement arcades. We arrived on time and were greeted by a huge signpost that read: ‘Increased French Security Checks’. These included asking to see our passports and not opening our passports. We were asked to proceed to the next window where we quoted our ticket reference numbers and received our departure lane instructions.
Turns out, lane 52 is where it’s at! We roared in at 5 miles an hour, passed the extensive queues of cars, lorries and camper trailers to the bike lane. It was the shortest lane by far and consisted of Mr. Touratech with his BMW (a solo, 40 something, ‘adventure traveller’), two dutch super bike riders with head-to-toe tattoos and ‘predator’ style helmets complete with dreadlocks. These two did pass us on our way to the bike lane, in fact they actually wheelied across the holding tarmac which was… unexpected. There were a few couples on bikes and a trendy German guy with Retro leathers who was returning home after a year in the UK.
I was around 9/10 on the excitement scale when we were lead onto the ferry. Cyclists first, us next and everyone else at the rear. The attendant pointed out the spare tie down straps and told me to secure my bike, which I did. We also had to Frenchify our helmets with reflective stickers which was not cool.
I was glad of a coffee once aboard and was even more glad that it was actually a reasonable price. We bought out the leftover BBQ sandwiches which we had packed the day before and enjoyed a short relax as France slowly loomed into view across the channel. On departure, Rich lead the pack. First on, first off and first to proceed into Dunkirk. This was a small triumph as, technically, we were on the wrong side of the road, going the wrong way round a roundabout, with a whole ferry load of onlookers in tow. We didn’t take a Sat Nav or maps so our directions were simple. Get to France and turn left.