with a weeks experience riding a motorcycle under my belt, having just passed my test the week before, the ferry was booked, and it was too late to back out now! the bike was covered for international rescue, and i had invested in a tank bag, and a bin liner, by way of luggage. a restless night before departure, with gale force winds resulting in little more than 2-3hours sleep, i awoke at 3.30am to the alarm. butterflies don't come close to describing it. but off down to the A20, then M20 to dover. alas, due to an accident, myself, along with all the other truckers trying to get to dover early were diverted onto the A20, a single carriageway that runs parallel to the M20. arriving with seconds to spare at dover for the 6.30am ferry, met by men in hi-vis vests trying to wave me back down the ferrys loading ramp, i had made it! disembarking in calais, the car GPS that had at best 3hours battery life led me on towards the poitou-charentes region of south west france. i had decided to avoid the peage, as i was clearly a newby tourer. this was my first mistake. the small french villages that you stumble upon on the quieter roads rarely have a gas station, and most cafes close for lunch! so i ventured further south, getting closer and closer to angouleme. as you head south, the air warms, the skies clear, and you can feel the landscapes you are moving through change, you can feel the distance you are travelling. expecting the usual french reaction to english drivers, i was shocked at the waving left hand of fellow french motorcyclists, a trick you can only pull off driving on the other side of the road. as the sun got lower in the sky, and i began to ride by memory, not gps, i passed through angouleme and rode the last 30mins to chazelle with a big smile on my face, watching the sunset in my rear mirror. finally arriving at chazelles to see the olds. my mother, speechless, the first time i had been privy to such an event! 17hours door to door, a record in tardiness!


View the slow way down in a larger map




cognac, royan, poitiers, and la rochefoucauld are all worth a visit. as is perigueux, and oradour-sur-glane's museum to a village lost to the SS. the cathedral city of angouleme is definitely worth visiting, standing on a rock overlooking the river charente. originally famous for its pottery and paper mills, it is now better known for its international comic strip festival and vintage car race. the city is divided into two parts: the historic old town sitting on the hill; with the modern and industrial parts below. it is bestowed with an impresive 12th century cathedral, dozens of winding streets and impressive ramparts. a great place to visit, stroll, eat, drink and generally soak up the atmosphere. angouleme is always good for an evening out, with plenty of choice for restaurants, and a happy crowd can always be found sprawling in the seating outside the blues rock cafe in the centre of town near the market, well into the wee hours. the city also boasts a beautiful mairie (mayor's office), churches and avenues for a sunday afternoon stroll. look out for the caricatures drawn over the citys walls and buildings.

my advice if you visit the area. pick a spot on the map somewhere green and rural, and follow the smallest road you can find there. they'll be quiet, beautiful, and twisty! the locals are friendly and welcoming for the most part. just make an effort with the language, and don't just wave your arms saying loudly "DOOO YOOO SPEEEEKE IIIINGLISSSH!" and you should be fine! oh, and try the snails!!! if you have any questions, feel free to email me and ask...



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