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The email arrived on Tuesday 13th. Mike said “I’m going to France on Friday, anyone from HOC coming?”

 

Well it would be rude not to accept such a tempting offer, wouldn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The French countryside near Cassel with the TGV speeding through

 

And so it was that Mike, Laurie and I met at Maidstone Services near Junction 8 of the M20 at about 7am to fill up and check those bits you are supposed to check, before riding off towards Junction 11a for the Eurotunnel Experience. Our shuttle was leaving at 8:20am, and so there was plenty of time to arrive and take a coffee at the departures lounge before mounting the steeds again and wobble onto the cattle truck - sorry - Eurotunnel Superwaggon.

 

It seemed as though we were travelling for only 30 minutes or so before we arrived in France (that’s because it WAS only 30 minutes..), and then riding off the train onto the correct side of the road, of course. Mike wanted to checkout the meeting point at Calais for the trip to Rouen in May, so we recce’d the roads around the exit for the ferry where he was planning to meet all other HOC riders.

 

The waiting place decided, it was south-east to Cassel via the A16 and D11 for a brief interlude.

 

Ad-hoc ride-out to France

16th April 2010

DID YOU KNOW?

 

Barely 30km southeast of Dunkerque and just off the A25 autoroute towards Lille, is the tiny hilltop town of CASSEL. Hills are rare in Flanders, and consequently Cassel was much fought over from Roman times onwards. Marshal Foch spent "some of the most distressing hours" of his life here during World War I, and it was up to the top of Cassel's hill that the "Grand Old Duke of York" marched his 10,000 men in 1793, though, as hinted at in the nursery rhyme, he failed to take the town.

Click on the small image to enlarge (opens new window)

After a while in Cassel, we rode on to the larger town of St Omer on the D933, where we were able to park our bikes, and enjoy lunch at one of the delightful cafe’s overlooking the square. Mike spoke a fair amount of the lingo, and so we all ate well!

 

 

 

Then we picked up the A16 motorway (part toll), and sped along the coast and back to the Eurotunnel terminal. We had just missed our proposed train, so had to wait about an hour for the next, but enjoyed yet more coffee before boarding the train. The short trip under the sea completed, it was up the M20 and home for tea!

 

A great day out. To be recommended. So if you see a similar email later in the year, then go for it!!

Bikes parked in the square in Cassel - dodgy cobblestone road too!

More pics taken in the square in Cassel - a very quiet attractive town

On the top of the hill overlooking the valley in Cassel is the monument to a number of different battles going back in time. Mike and Laurie (pretending to be Marshal Foch) wander through the gardens, admiring the view.

Pictures showing the square in St Omer and bikes parked up. A slightly larger town than Cassel,  St Omer had a good range of cafes and other shops, and we bought bread and cakes to take home....

From St Omer, we found some fantastic biking roads while heading in a westerly direction on the D928 and D126. They were generally free of traffic, well maintained, sweeping bends, dodgy roundabouts (came into one too hot and scrapped my foot on the road - a bit...). Our next stop was Montreuil, just a few miles (sorry) Kilometers from the coast, where we took our coffee and cake in another small but attractive restaurant.

Pictures show the bikes parked outside the town square at Montreuil; the church; and Mike and Laurie frantically searching for the cake shop....!