Days 1-2 - Glasgow (UK) to Pau (France)
Before I start, just to summarise:
- 9 days (15 – 24 June 2016)
- 4350 miles
- 1 girl
- 1 bike (Suzuki GSX650F restricted as I was still on A2 licence)
- route: Glasgow – Dover – Calais – Pyrenees – a little bit of Spain – south of France – French and Swiss Alps – Stelvio – back to Calais – Dover – Glasgow
It was my first big solo trip on the bike. A year earlier (Sept 2015) I went from Scotland to Poland for 5 days, 1200 miles each way. I did both, way there and way back on one go, all day and all night on the bike. Everything went fine and after that I wanted more.
I started “planning” to do my first big trip in May 2016. “Planning”, because I didn’t plan anything other than a rough idea when I will go, with no exact date planned until about a week or two before the trip and no exact destinations planned. I googled places worth visiting all over Europe and created a map of places I want to see. Whenever I find a new place that I want to visit I add it to that map.
Couple weeks before the trip I booked my holidays at work. Few days before I set off I decided that I will head towards Pyrenees first, and chose Pau as a first destination. I will decide where to go next once I get there.
I started packing one night before trip. I had a list of what I need to take so I just had to throw it all in the panniers. I was going to use cheap B&B’s so I didn’t have to take any camping gear. Most of my luggage were tools.
Ok, so almost everything packed, now just to put the documents and things that I need quick access to in the tank bag – V5, insurance, MOT, driving licence, passport… Wait where is my passport?! Checked everywhere and couldn’t find it. Spent over an hour looking for it, eventually went and asked my mum if she seen it anywhere. She said no but told me to go and ask my sister. And she had it… “by the way, your passport expired”. What?? I checked expiration date and well, yeah, it expired. So I started panicking. Can I travel to other European countries from UK using my driving licence only? Did a lot of googling but it didn’t seem possible and it was too much risk. How quickly can I get new passport then? Went on polish embassy website (I’m polish nationality) and was trying to figure out the quickest way to get new one. The quickest way was to get temporary passport, but even that would take around 2 weeks.
A plus side of not planning anything was that I only lost around £50 – what I paid for my European breakdown cover.
Got an appointment in polish embassy sorted, and here I was lucky as I heard that normally I need to wait 2 or 3 weeks for an appointment. I found out that they publish cancellations at 8 in the morning, so I made sure that I was on the embassy website at that time and kept refreshing it, and managed to book an appointment the next day.
Appointment was in Manchester at 9 in the morning, so I had to get up at 4 to get there from Glasgow. I felt sick when I woke up, it was so bad that I was about to leave it and not go. I really wanted to get it sorted quickly though and convinced myself to go.
Couple weeks later my passport arrived and I booked my holidays in June. I didn’t forget anything this time and I set off for my trip in the morning 15th June. Start of the trip was boring, I had to get from Glasgow to Dover, around 500 miles of motorways. Only stopped around 4 times for petrol, and got to Dover at 5 or 6pm.
Got on the ferry, crossing took about 1 and half hours. Got to France and started heading towards Paris – I wanted to see Eiffel Tower even if it was just for 5 minutes in the middle of the night (I didn’t want to stay there too long). Again – boring motorways, at some point it started raining. Got to Paris around midnight, saw Eiffel Tower. It was madness riding in Paris and got flashed by speed camera, but never got any ticket. Spent the rest of night riding towards Pau.
Around 3am I started getting really tired, it was the worst around 5am. I started stopping at every petrol station and stops were getting longer. Although I didn’t get any sleep I started feeling more awake from 9 or 10am on and eventually got to Pau in the afternoon.
Booked some cheap hotel through hotel booking app in the morning, and went straight to that hotel. It didn’t look good at all, but it was cheap so I couldn’t expect much. There was no one around, and both door were shut. I tried to ring the bell and no one answered. Finally after about 15 minutes someone opened the door and checked in. I was taking guarana pills to help me stay awake, but I was too tired and decided to take a nap.
Woke up around 7pm, still a bit tired but was feeling a lot better. Went to the shop to get food and cleaned my bike. Went back to the hotel, had some food and went to sleep. Before I fell asleep I looked at my map and decided where to go the next day.