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May 31 2008

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European Wander ’08

Part 15

Caen to home – France to UK – 275 miles

15th Map

12 August

Last few hundred miles

We started the day by paying a visit to the Pegasus Bridge Memorial.

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Pegasus Bridge

We got there about 20 minutes after the museum opened to find it was already very busy. We were lucky enough to arrive just in time for a video in English, and a tour of the bridge and a replica of a glider with one of the museum staff. He also showed us what remains of the fuselage of an original glider (not from the raid) which showed the construction and materials used. As we saw at one of the other museums, they were made of very flimsy material with the fuselage being of 3mm plywood. This had several advantages – it meant that any competent cabinet maker could be drafted in to make parts and it saved the precious aluminium that was a ‘strategic material’. Unfortunately the joins to items such as the landing gear, which were made of steel, were also very flimsy and they often ended up breaking off on landing which meant the gliders ran along the ground on the fuselage.

If you are interested in such things it’s worth looking at the details of this raid as it really is Boy’s Own stuff – a text book raid that was executed to plan by brave men (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pegasus_Bridge will give you a start).

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The museum building has an interesting shape, depicting a parachute and wings.

This raid has the dubious honour of being where the first allied soldier was killed by enemy action on D-Day – Lt. Brotheridge – as he charged across the bridge leading his men. Both he and other allied soldiers killed in the raid lie in the cemetery of a church in nearby Ranville. Adjacent to the church is a British cemetery where further casualties of the war are buried as yet another sad reminder of the true cost of war.

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Ranville Cemetary

We were glad that we got to the museum too late the previous day as we spent a lot longer there than we thought we would, it would have been too rushed yesterday.

We left the area and decided to make a run for the ferry. We definitely had an it’s time to go home feeling and the weather wasn’t looking promising. As it turns out we were really lucky as we had a few spots of rain and nothing more. As we were riding northwards the wind was getting stronger. Some of the bridges we crossed were ‘interesting’ to say the least! I commented that it can’t be much fun driving with a caravan and the muttered reply went something like “It’s not much fun on a bike!”.

We arrived at the docks in time to catch the earlier ferry and “Good news, I can put you on the early ferry”, unfortunately this was followed with “but unfortunately we’re running late”. Our ’16:40′ ferry eventually left around 18:15 by which time we’d been sitting on the dock for a couple of hours. Oh well, at least it didn’t rain!

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One last ferry trip and then home

Finally we made our last crossing of the trip and were on home turf.

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After 11458 miles, home at last!

Reflecting on our adventure, I have to say it was a great 10’ish weeks. The bike performed well (apart from the fuel pump) and even that episode had a good outcome as we saw much more of Portugal than originally planned and we really loved it. The credit card worked most of the time and didn’t max out. Kevin managed to eat more ‘exotic’ dishes than I’d ever thought possible (even being the first to try some things!) AND no points or penalties for speeding!!!

I’d like to go on record here to say a big “Thank You” to Kevin for chauffeuring me round Europe for all those miles (he even drove the car!), it’s been the best holiday yet.

Kevin and Lynda’s European 08 Summary

11458 total miles. Bike: 10841, Car: 617

After 10 weeks away it’s quite difficult to remember in detail all the fantastic places we’ve visited. We’re pleased that we’ve kept the ‘diary’ going as it’s a great way of reliving our experience. There are, however, some highlights that stick out in our minds and some figures that we’d never have dreamt of before we started.

We visited 16 countries (including Luxembourg) and travelled to two countries I was worried about because of the alleged bad driving and bad roads (Turkey and Portugal). Those were two of my favourite countries so I’m really glad that Kevin was able to persuade me to go. And the driving wasn’t really so bad after all!

We had some fantastic riding and my favourite day was the day we rode through the Col de la Cayolle, it was such a relaxed ride with beautiful scenery and, of course, those nutty cyclists! Kevin’s was the day in the Pyrenees – it might have got my vote except that it was such a long day.

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Relaxing near the Col de la Cayolle

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One of the Pyrenees roads Kevin so enjoyed

As well as the riding our holiday was about visiting interesting places. We’re grateful to all the people who made suggestions, some of which we were able to take up and others which, sadly, we just didn’t have the time for or they were just too far off our route. Some of the natural phenomena were astounding with my favourite being Mount Etna and Kevin’s being Meteora.

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Just can’t believe the Meteora landscape

Of the classical sites Herculaneum was my favourite and Kevin’s was Paestum – the latter being another suggestion and a place we’d never heard of before.

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Paestum temple

We’re not really city people, but we did enjoy Istanbul – obviously we spent somewhat more time there than planned – and we both really loved Sarajevo, not just because it’s a beautiful city but because the atmosphere there is so vibrant and inclusive; when you consider their recent history this is a real achievement.

We found some wonderful hotels, in fact we didn’t stay in a bad one, and there were some really special ones: the Jennifer in Drama, Greece, got my vote and Kevin really liked the Chateau Des Magnans in Jausiers, France. The hotel with the best view was definitely the Estalagem Senhora das Neves in Portugal – I’m sure we’ll be returning there sometime as Portugal got Kevin’s ‘best country’ vote (mine was for Turkey) and there are excellent roads there that we drove through in a car and need to be ridden.

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That view

To ensure that we didn’t lose our photos we had 3 8Gb memory sticks with us to back them up on. These had to be augmented with another one to cater for the nearly 10,000 photos that we took. At one stage we had more than 1 photo per mile but this dropped off towards the end, as we got to more familiar countries.

Do you remember that we had electronic books with us? It’s just as well we did as Kevin has read 22 books and I’ve read 15. Carrying those books wouldn’t have left much room for the rest of our luggage!

How much did we spend? We’re not even going to think about it!

Some people think we’re nuts doing a trip like this on a bike – especially me being a pillion. My response to that is “Don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it”. Some of the things I love about touring on a motorbike: the smells – mostly good (eucalyptus trees), sometimes bad (pongy drains), but you definitely notice them more than you do in a car; the weather – yes, I know it can be a pain if it rains, but again you notice the difference more than you would in an air conditioned car. Touring on a bike is really about being there whereas touring in a car is like watching the scenery go past through a window (and how many other women can say they spent 10 weeks of holiday sitting hugging their man?) ;-).

Now we’re home again and it’s time to go out and find some jobs (we both need some mental stimulation; oh yes and we need to earn some money!). I know Kevin is hatching more plans. I have a feeling we’ll be off to Jordan via the Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary at some point in the future if he gets his way. He also has plans for an east to west crossing of the USA and top to bottom of the Americas (although I don’t fancy South America (“You didn’t fancy Turkey!” Kevin)) and…and…. Watch this space!

I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing our experience. We look forward to the next one!

Lyn and Kevin

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