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Motoeuro 2007 - Millau Viaduct

MotoGastro 2007 - To the highest bridge in the world.

Beers in the garden, apéritifs in the wine cellar, steaks in the restaurant, hic...

Old mate Steve (in London) passes his bike test, grabs an BMW1100GS to join us. John's in North East Scotland and grabs a Suzuki 650 V-Strom - before you can say "who's round is it" the five of us are ready for MotoGastro 2007 - To the highest bridge in the word - in Millau!

We're leaving from Hull this time, it's way cheaper than North Shields, but as the five of us haven't been together for years, there's a good chance we will not be capable of riding anything after the bar opens on the ferry. A tad fuzzy in Zeebrugge we try to avoid motorways where possible, but we're often split-up at traffic lights, crossings and in towns so keeping the pack together is tricky. Hangovers do not help - Motoeuro top tip.

We're meeting Steve in Calais, but when we arrive there's no sign of him. After what seems like days we give up. Without a mobile enabled for Europe, we cant get in touch, so aim Rouen. Eventually, Steve's phone becomes Europe friendly, he texts us "at Tours". We're 175 miles north, WTF? We take Etap style accom tonight, jump on the nearest bus as ask the driver to stop at the first restaurant. Food, drink. Parfait!

The next day we meet up with Steve close to Chartres, Steve only rides at one speed - max. Within a few hours it’s becoming obvious that Steve is up for 800 miles day and us lot are making more like 200. Nevertheless, the sun is out and we make it south of Orleans, (Salbris). Accommodation is scarce, but we find a hotel sign on the side of the road “La Sauldraie”.

Mark and I go in to chat to the owner, rooms nice, not a bad price, lets stay here. The entire evening is spent outside in the sun eating, drinking, eating more, drinking more, laughing and chatting. By sun down we're well full up after 5 courses and shed-load of beer. A superb social night, but the next day we wake to a hotel bill of over 500 Euros. Oh, B'Jesus.

We stick to the more scenic ‘N’ roads as we head South the next day, the roads are good, sun is out and some great corners but we’re cursed with traffic and slowing down for the smaller towns. To up-the-pace we have a stint on the motorway past Clermont Ferrand to Issoire, not quite as bad as we thought and not a toll in sight, by the end of the riding day we’re looking for accommodation at around 5pm.

The clouds look dodgy the next day, and with Millau now only about 100 miles away we’ve got to lamp-it to get there for early afternoon to make the most of it.  After a supermarket visit we’re back on the motorway so we can get to Millau at a reasonable time. So far so good until the Sat Nav takes us off piste for petrol, no sign of Steve in our mirrors so we fear the worst - he’s lying under his bike at the last roundabout..... We check back, no sign. Steve has hit light-speed once more..... We stop for a smoke break and pulling off the motorway for lunch we find him refuelling, then we’re all back on the road to Millau only 20 miles away.

Another 15 miles later and as we ride to Millau we can see the bridge in the distance, even from 5 miles away it looks amazing. Before you know it we’re paying our 3.50 euros each to cross, and pull-in at a lay-by to set up the video cameras. The bridge sits 1/4 of a mile in the sky, you’d expect the views to be stunning, but the bridge has high sides to stop the crosswinds so views are restricted but the actual construction is damn impressive, those towering steel cables and support beams are a marvel of engineering. The French may have built this, but it took an English architect to design it - 1 - 0 to the UK.

We are all happy we made this destination. The road into Millau town is great, really twisty with magic views as you descend, we find a cafe and park up for Expresso and Coke, the rather nice owner offers to phone a local hotel. Right then, parked up, jeans on it’s time for beer! Millau is an excellent town, it’s larger than most but with lots of bars and restaurants this is the way to see France. Mark my words, get a hotel early and make sure you eat and beer-up ASAP - you’re screwed after 11pm.

Leaving Millau we fuel up on the Motorway but we’re leaving it in favour of N roads to Le Puy-en-Velay. Unable to control himself, Steve hits light-speed again and that's the last we see of him. We get a text to say he’s on route to Le Puy and will meet us there. The rain comes now and with with as much grip as a wet fish in olive oil, I am in favour of staying over in a hotel opposite the cafe we stop at to dry out. All I can see are my crappy fabric panniers with no covers getting lashed on outside. But with so many miles to go we must press-on. Mark’s Tom Tom takes us on some very odd roads through the hills but as the rain fairs up these turn out to be the best roads yet on Motoeuro 2007. We wind our way through the hills and past viaducts, vineyards, rivers and the most spectacular scenery, we’re dry now and the sun is out, you couldn't wipe the smile of our faces if you tried.

Steve is in Le Puy-en-Velay at an Ibis hotel, we end up at an Etap. Luckily they are only 500 yards apart. However, an hour later, no Steve. We get a text to say he's away back home - pressures of life are getting to him. We have more than out fair share of beer tonight and wake to a lovely French breakfast - dry, cold toast and dry bread that makes your teeth ache. Yum.

We’re off to towards Lyon and then Dijon. We must put in about 200+ miles today if we’ve a chance of getting back in time. Somewhere near 260 miles we pull in at Parcey (just shy of Dijon on the A39). Parcey is situated in the Jura (Franche-Comte region) in the east of France at 39 km from Lons-le-Saunier, the department capital. We stop at the Parcey Hotel, right by the river - perfik ! The owner invites us to put our bikes in his garage overnight. We hit the Leffe Beer, grab a seat outside in the sun and in no time the team are talking bollox and laughing at anything.

Now is a good time to mention something important if you're thinking of travelling to / through France. Cooking is a national hobby in France, if you get the option stay in a private hotel or pension, the food is always impressive. Our hosts are just a regular couple who own a small hotel - our food was superb and after wine, we're goosed by 11pm.

We aim for Luxembourg today as it would be a crime to miss out on cheap smokes. We head for the motorways and take the toll costs on the chin. 70+ miles and we’re only a few miles from the border and the rain came - angry rain. Roads were flooding as we ride but no choice. Stop in Luxembourg at a Shell garage we notice they have a convenient shop the size of Tesco at the back selling cheap smokes. Gerr'in ! We’re off again riding with what has to be the most aggressive drivers we’ve encountered. Manic speeds and viscous road manners, they take no prisoners. Refueled and re-coffeed we press on knackered as the concentration needed to survive this mad place is intense. A local points us in the direction of a cheap hotel, but within two turns we’d lost it, the rain and wet roads aren’t helping - we need rest and beer.

Sat Nav to the rescue as Mark finds a fantastic old hunting lodge on the edge of a forest, two rooms please and we’ll take our apéritifs in the wine cellar. Pewter jugs of cold beer were served and after Marky had deciphered the menu we took the time to reflect on a mad, mad day of riding. Sun, rain, thunder, lightning, humidity - we’ve had it all today. Checking my phone Steve made it back by 10am the same morning - 700+ miles in 16 hours, doesn’t sound like great fun but he's safe back in Blighty. Our evening meal was the best so far and believe me we’re had some fantastic food. We have found heaven and it’s called Hotel Barriere in Belgium of all Places. Motoeuro? More like MotoGastro this year :)

It's really misty the next day but at least it's not raining, we ride through the forest, pick up the motorway to Brugge. We’ve got an hour to find emergency gifts then off to the ferry. Herded on first before the cars, we secure our bikes. Last evening on the beer so let's make the most of it.  George and Mark can't resist the 3 foot long Toblerone bars in the gift shop then it’s time for enthusiastic clapping and cheering at the live band. More beer, Brandy? Go on then. Another pint anyone?..... Oh lordy.

150 miles back to Tyneside, time to go our separate ways. It’s been a blast, happy days! MotoGasto 2007 - Anyone got a Rennie?

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Motoeuro 2007 - Millau Viaduct

The five bikes of Motoeuro ready for Millau.

Motoeuro 2007 - MotoGastro

A typical evening for the boys of Motoeuro!

Motoeuro 2007 - Millau Viaduct

Arrival at the Millau Bridge.

Motoeuro 2007 - Millau Viaduct

Awesome. The bridge isn't bad either.

Motoeuro 2007 - Millau Viaduct

Steve and his BM at the Millau Bridge.

Motoeuro 2007 - Millau Town

Millau town below the bridge.

Motoeuro 2007

Lunch on the road heading for Parcey.

Motoeuro 2007

Hotel Barriere - A culinary treat for the boys.