Day 1: Threw The Looking Glass
Mirror glass from brand new mirror unit drops out 40 minutes into the journey east from Bristol. Instantly smashed on a wet, crowded British motorway. But I'm not turning back now.
Do I curse the rain? No. It will make the sunshine to come all the sweeter.
Meet a miserable Italian rider on an F800GS taking Eurotunnel back towards Sardinia. It had rained every day of his UK holiday on his new bike. He had spent the last 4 days in hospital after a U-turn collision. His gf had flown home with a fractured wrist, he was wincing every time he moved from fractured ribs. He had ridden all the way from Inverness in rain, and despite his stylish AlpineStars gear was soaked to the scab-ridden skin and cold to the cracked broken bone. A very miserable chap indeed. Silently glad I'm wearing my frumpy Triumph waterproof trousers. Note to self: do not fall off this trip.
Day 2 : Awake around 5.30 am, somewhere in Northern France
Eat the chips (US: fries) left over from last night - why do cold chips always taste so greasy? - then set off in light rain. Still glad I brought my heavy-duty waterproof trousers. Went into a little French cafe around 7.30, wet (on the outside anyway). Ordered myself a coffee and sat down. A farmer-type came into the cafe. He shook hands with the barman, the other customer, and then came over and shook hands with me. Maintenant je connais je suis en France.
This is the first Commonwealth war grave I have ever visited. It was immaculate, grass like a bowling green, rosebeds neatly edged with not a single weed. Thousands of British soldiers, and hundreds of Canadian soldiers from the nearby battle at Vimy Ridge lie here. Most of the bodies were so shattered as to be unidentifiable.
Porte de Mars is a Roman triumphal arch in Rheims, France. It dates from the third century A.D., and was the widest arch in the Roman world. Or so Google tells me.
I'm not covering huge miles quickly, as I'm deliberately navigating along old A- and B-roads. Well-engineered but empty of the traffic which now infests the peage toll-motorways. I believe I get to see more of the real France this way.
Cross the border into Switzerland. Everyone is riding bicycles and looks very healthy and well-behaved. Just to confuse the traveller, road numbers on green signs indicate toll roads - the opposite of France, where blue signs indicate toll roads or peages. Swiss road signs try very hard to push me onto their toll-roads. SFr/CHF40 (£20+) for an annual pass. Bugger that.
400 miles after setting off this morning in the rain: Damn it's warm. Wish I hadn't brought those bulky, heavy trousers.
Roadside flowers 1: Idyllium de rosis
Roadside flowers 2: Memento Mori
Day 3 : Switzerland into Italy (Dolomites)
Err..that's enough poncey latin phrases
Hot and sticky by mid-afternoon so stop by a mountain stream for a good wash. Have just about finished when - am I imagining things or have some of the boulders I used as stepping-stones disappeared? And what is that roaring sound I can hear? And why has the water gone all muddy? My brain clicks. Could this be something to do with all those "Pericolo....something something..hydro-something something..." signs I saw earlier? I hop it out of the water sharpish before the hydro-electric power plant water release swamps me. My wash kit, previously perched comfortably on a dry boulder, has been swept away.