BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Five days in Barry, relaxing with good friends.

Monday 13/5/13

Leigh and Annmarie headed off to work this morning and left us to our own devices. We pretty much did nothing all day. It was pleasant, and very relaxing. Travelling, and packing and unpacking every day does wear a bit thin after a while so it's nice to stay in one place and just have a rest.

It's also a novelty to sit and watch TV that is broadcast in English for a change.  Floyd isn't allowed on the lounge so while we were watching TV he found a novel way to get round that...

"I'm not on the lounge. I'm on Suzanne. So that's OK"

We did venture out to the supermarket and stock up on a few necessary supplies. : )

Tuesday 14/5/13

Today the guys gave us the keys to their car so Suzanne and I could get out and about if we wanted too. We did go for drive to try and find a Morrison's supermarket as we were told they were much cheaper than the little corner shop down the road. We drove around for quite some time before giving up and heading back to the corner shop. More rations were bought and the shelves restocked.

Suzanne did a bit of washing and managed to break the door off the washing machine. Yes, it came right off in her hand. Sorry guys, just what you need a few days before you go on holidays.

Wednesday 15/5/13

Yay, we found Morrison's. I love supermarket shopping here. Today we found some very tasty delicacies. Wensleydale cheese (Gromit) with cranberries in it, pork pies, some very nice Lindt chocolates, and other "essentials" like that. The prices here are so cheap. It's going to hurt when we go home and go shopping.

I also discovered these.

When a good mates name is Thornton, this chocolate is just wrong. Needless to say, we didn't buy any. Sorry Dave.

Thursday 16/5/13

Suzanne and I took the boys for a good walk around the bushland nearby. That's another thing I've noticed here. There are large areas of bush within a two minute walk of just about everywhere we've been. Great for exercising dogs, and people.

Suzanne and Leo the Chihuahua.

The boys at play.

The boys worked pretty hard chasing sticks and slept for about an hour when we got back home.

Annmarie's mum, Pat, was a dinner guest and she is a real sweetie. She and Leigh have different opinions on a lots of things, but are still good drinking buddies. It's good to know someone else has a mother in law that they get on well with.

Friday 17/5/13

Reality struck hard today. We took the bike down the the pressure washer and started to clean it. Removing all of our travel stickers was hard and the bike looked naked when we had finished. Once it had been washed pretty well we headed home where the work continued. Scrubbing, washing, polishing, lubing, and so on. By the time we'd finished it looked pretty bloody good. Too good to leave behind.

Scrub, wash, rinse, clean.

Isle of Man, Bushy's pub, England, Germany, Assen, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Andorra, Spain, Montreux. All gone.

Our baby, all bathed and clean.

Now we have to clean all our gear, make sure it is spotless, and pack it up to send home. Australian quarantine is very strict, and I don't have any problem with that. Australia is very isolated and as a result we don't have a lot of bugs or diseases there. The last thing we want, or need, is a bug that could impact any part of our agricultural industry. Especially the vineyards!

We have decided to leave our bike with Leigh in Wales so we'll pick up a hire car tomorrow to use for the last few days of our adventure. Tomorrow we'll drive to Hitchin and spend our last few days with our friend Carla Jayne and her mum Barbara. While we are there we'll clean all our gear and prepare everything to be sent home.

We'll be washing off a lot of good times.


The decision has been made, the bike has to be sold. It's a bloody brilliant bike and is listed on ebay here:

Monday, 20 May 2013

Some days you just have to have a rest.

Sunday 12/5/13

After last night's fun and shenanigans, today was a very lazy recovery day. We took the dogs for a walk down to the beach where they ran themselves ragged again, then sat down and watched the World Super Bike races on TV.

Leigh and Annmarie laid on a superb roast dinner with lashings of vegetables. We haven't had a lot of veggies for a while so it was a real treat. The veggies here taste so good as well. We definitely have to start our own veggie garden when we get home. It just HAS to be done.

With very full bellies we all jumped on the lounge and watched a weird movie called Seven Psychopaths. I'm still scratching my head about this one.

Suzanne and I have been back and forth about taking the bike home with us. Today we got a couple of quotes and decided "Hang the expense, we'll take it home". Then I jumped on the government website to complete an application to import form. While filling out the form I discovered that because I had been away from the bike for more than forty two days in total during our holiday, I'm not eligible to import it into Australia. I could have cried. We are very disappointed that we can't take it home with us.

We'll try and sell it before we go. Or should we leave it here for our next trip? There are still a lot of places to go and see...


The decision has been made, the bike has to be sold. It's a bloody brilliant bike and is listed on ebay here:

Welsh party time. A night out in Cardiff.

Saturday 11/5/13

As is the ritual in this household, Floyd and Leo needed to be taken for a walk this morning. Leigh and I took the boys down to the beach where they had a great time chasing a tennis ball, digging holes, and running themselves to the point of exhaustion.

Floyd "Throw that ball again and you can fetch it yourself."

Leo "Is it time to go home yet?"

It's a sad sight watching two dogs walking back to the car so slowly that they can't keep up with us.

In the afternoon Aidan, another one of the guys I met at the Isle of Man, rolled up. We spent the afternoon doing boy stuff. Talking about bikes, reading bike magazines, working on Leigh's van, complaining about women, all that sort of stuff.

Leigh had a night out planned. He drove us all to the railway station where we caught a train into Cardiff and after a few dramas with Suzanne and I getting hold of some cash from an ATM, we found our way to O'Neill's Pub. We caught up with some of Leigh's mates and his brother Erin, who we met at Cartagena.

Early in the night. Suzanne, Leigh, me, and Aidan.

Suzanne and Annmarie being kind to an old man (me).

OK, things are stating to go down hill now.
Can you tell?

Many hours later, and after a "few" cleansing pints, we made our way toward the railway station. On the way we walked down Chip Alley and picked up a chicken curry with chips. Oh boy was that nice or what? Yummo! Why does take away always taste so much better after a visit to the pub?

Then it was onto the train for the trip back to Barry.

Some of us coped better than others.
Goodnight Annmarie.

Back in Barry we grabbed a taxi for the quick trip home where those of us with stamina (Leigh and I) enjoyed a lovely whiskey. The rest of the crew hit their mattresses.

It was great night and we all had a lot of fun. Thanks Leigh and Annmarie.

The decision has been made, the bike has to be sold. It's a bloody brilliant bike and is listed on ebay here:

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Calais. Ferry to Dover, then onto Wales.

Friday 10/5/13

Excellent. Blue sky at last. Well, that's what I saw when I woke up. Unfortunately the weather wasn't going to be kind by staying that way. Yup, it was another dark and gloomy, wet day.

Off to the ferry. After a few questions at the English border crossing, the guard kept our passports and sent us over to another building for someone "to check out what you've got". Oh no. I thought we were going to have to unpack everything from the bike. If we had to do that there was no way we would make the ferry on time. After lots of questions, aimed at ensuring we were not going to bludge off the UK welfare system, we were asked if we had flights booked to go home to Australia. Once we produced the booking confirmation and proof of payment, we were free to proceed to the ferry. These guys were just doing their job, looking after the UK's interests. I have no problem with that.

I managed to ride onto the ferry, without hitting anything this time, and the crew tied the bike down. Have a look at the cradle they had on this ferry.

 The most secure ferry trip the bike has enjoyed.

After the crew untangled a rope that was wrapped around the propeller, we sailed out of the harbour about half an hour late. Wales, here we come.

The ferry trip took about an hour, and it was one of those trips where people couldn't walk around on the boat because it was so rough. Suzanne took a quick liquid sleeping pill and slept most of the way across. She didn't even see the white cliffs of Dover.

Obligatory white cliffs photo.

Last time we were here we rode past the battle of Britain Memorial because it was raining. This time I was going to stop for a look, I didn't care what the weather was like. So in we went.

The Battle of Britain Memorial is a large memorial laid out like a giant propeller. At the centre is a pilot looking out over the English Channel. Waiting. It's a moving tribute. 

B.O.B. represents all the dogs that lived at R.A.F. airfields during the war.

Memorial wall.


Another loss.

A waiting pilot.

Our timing was bad because normally there is a Spitfire and a Hurricane on display, but they were away being repainted. Really guys, both at once. I would have loved to see the Hurricane. Oh well. After a coffee and a snack we made tracks for Wales.

After fighting heavy traffic for miles and miles and for far to many hours we arrived in Wales. I'd forgotten how cool the little back lanes were. Luckily as we left the ferry there was a sign reading "Keep to the left side of the road" otherwise I would have forgotten.

I love these little back roads.

Around six o'clock we parked the bike in Leigh and Annmarie's garage. It was so good to catch up with Leigh and Annmarie, another wonderful couple of people we've met on this trip, and of course Floyd and Leo.

The boys were happy to see us, but then they're happy to see anyone.

Floyd getting cuddles from Suzanne.

OK, I have to make a public admission. I think Floyd is the coolest dog I've ever met. 

After a few drinks we sat down to a terrific chilli Leigh had put together. Well, three of us did. I think the gin and tonics that Leigh was mixing for Suzanne may have been a little strong as she was off to bed very early.

We stayed up chatting for hours and enjoyed a couple more drinks or three.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, great people are what has made this trip what it is. Leigh and Annmarie are up there with the best. It's really good to be here.

And, the decision has been made, the bike has to be sold. It's a bloody brilliant bike and is listed on ebay here:

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Villers Bretonneux and the Aussie Diggers.

Thursday 9/5/13

First thing this morning we found ourselves back at the Adelaide Cemetery. The Adelaide Cemetery was started in 1918 by the Second and Third Divisions of the AIF and initially contained ninety graves. After the armistice more graves were brought here from other small graveyards in the area. There are now nine hundred and fifty five Commonwealth servicemen buried or commemorated here. Nearly a thousand lives cut short. Such a waste. Of those, two hundred and sixty one are unidentified. There are four hundred and eleven British, twenty two Canadian, and five hundred and twenty three Australian soldiers here. In 1993 and unknown Australian soldier was exhumed from Plot three, Row M, Grave thirteen, and is now buried in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

One side of this cemetery is full of Australian servicemen. The other side is also dotted with Australians.

It is a very disconsolate place.

The entrance holds visitor and information books.
The sad sight that greets you when you walk through the gate.

A lot of the graves have small decorations.

Like family photos.
Photos encased in perspex.
I wonder what Bill would have achieved if he had made it home to Australia.
Far too many of these. Unknown soldier.
This unknown soldier was taken home to Canberra.
The right hand side is all Australian.
The cemetery is very well maintained.
A big thank you to the caretakers.
We met a couple of Aussies from Sydney while we were here. Stephen and Deanna. We had a bit of a chat but the atmosphere here doesn't lend itself to a good conversation. More to contemplation. We all felt the same about the great loss. I left with a lump in my throat.
I had read about Adelaide Cemetery so in a way I was prepared for what was there. I wasn't prepared for what we saw next. As we were riding back into town I saw a sign that read Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, so we went to have a look.

The Villers-Bretonneux Memorial is home to 10,762 war dead. Nearly 11,000 people. The Australian flag flies next to the French flag, and the majority of the headstones carry the Australian Infantry Forces insignia.
West Aussie Corporal Ball was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in battle.
Aussie and French flags side by side.

More Aussies.
Rod Bruce, a long way from home but always remembered.
This whole place made me feel proud of what our Diggers did, but also very sad.
We had a quiet ride back into town to find some lunch, then go to the museum. What we didn't know that yesterday and today were public holidays in France commemorating the end of the second world war. So the museum was closed. It's actually a part of the local primary school.
Museum on the left, primary school on the right.
Well done kids.
For the people of this town to still hold Australia in such high regard is testament to the Diggers efforts here in 1918. Outnumbered by a large margin, they forced the German's out of the village, then held it, then advanced and pushed the German's back further. It must have been an unbelievably huge achievement by the Diggers for the village to adopt Australia in such a way.

If you're an Australian in France, you owe it to yourself, and our Diggers, to visit and pay your respects. It is a place I will never forget.
It was time to make our way to Calais. Off we go. On the way we came across some mobile chicanes. Some people call them Harley Davidsons.
Come on, come on, hurry up.


Where's the kitchen sink.

We rode through quite a few villages which were nice little places then when we were close to Calais, the sat nav sent us over a mega high bridge, then turned us around and sent us back again. Even Suzanne freaked when she saw how high this one was. It was the Tom Tom's last dig at us.

We checked in to our hotel and discovered that there was a bar near reception. After this morning's visits I needed a beer. As I was walking to the bar I said hello to a young couple playing pool, and got a G'day in return. It was a couple of kids (in their twenties) starting out on their trip around Europe. Sorry guys, I'm old and I've forgotten your names. The guy grew up one suburb away from Suzanne in Victoria. What are the odds?

Grimbergen Rouge? Red beer? What the?
It's actually very nice.
After we had a drink we dumped our gear in our room and headed out for dinner. We decided that as it was our last meal in Europe (for this trip) we'd splurge a little. We found a bar that served food and enjoyed a delicious last supper.
This is how the sun set on the end of our European holiday.

It's an early start tomorrow so we don't want to miss the ferry. When we roll off the ferry it's a four hundred kilometre ride to Barry in Wales where we'll catch up with our Welsh mates Annmarie and Leigh. It's fitting that I end our holiday with Leigh as I met him right at the start on the ferry to the Isle of Man. 

Full circle.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

France. Saint Avold to Glisy, via Villers-Bretonneux.

Wednesday 8/5/13

I think Europe is determined to make us struggle through the last few weeks of our trip by hounding us with bad weather. A month ago people were talking about the coldest, longest winter in forty years, and it still hasn't finished.

Even so, some of the flowers are making a valiant attempt at pretending it's spring. These were in a small garden outside our hotel room.

That was unfortunately the end of the day for anything bright and colourful. We rode out to the motorway and it was cold, wet, grey, and raining. Then the thunder started. For those of you that don't ride, motorcycle helmets don't have windscreen wipers, and you can't wipe your helmet visor often enough to keep it clear. Vision is an issue.

We rode for a few hours then when it became so grey that the road and the sky were the same colour, and I was struggling too differentiate between the two so we stopped for lunch.

After a nice lasagne we were back on the road and the weather had cleared a little so the going was a lot easier.

After four hundred kilometres our wheels were in Villers-Bretonneux. This French town holds Australia very close to it's heart because of what our Diggers did here on the Western front, coincidentally on April 25th, in 1918. The connection is very obvious as soon as you enter the town.

You see signs like this...

 I think this means that Robinvale in Victoria is a sister town.

 The school in town was paid for by Victorian school children, many of them sons and daughters of fathers who died here.

One of the main streets in town.

The Melbourne bar. One of many Aussie named businesses. 

To be honest I knew nothing about this town, or what happened here, until I started researching this trip. After I discovered it's history, it was somewhere I had to visit.

You'll find the full story at this website:

It was pretty late so we had a quick ride through and realised there were no hotels here, so we rode on to Glisy and found a bed for the night.

On the way there we rode past the Adelaide Cemetery which is now home to a lot of fallen Aussie soldiers.

Once we were in Glisy we did our usual supermarket food buy up. While we were in the shopping centre we found a very surprising shop.

 Everything you would ever need.
Shotguns, rifles, etc.

Inspecting the selection of handguns. Have a look at the ammunition on the back wall. Security? Um, no.

It had been a long day and we were pretty happy to hit our hotel room. We'll head back into Villers-Bretonneux tomorrow morning for a good look around, and to pay our respects to the fallen Diggers.

And, the decision has been made, the bike has to be sold. It's a bloody brilliant bike and is listed on ebay here: