When it comes to adventures, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of traversing scenic landscapes, discovering new cultures, and embracing the freedom of the open road on a motorbike. Armed with a BMW GS (not mine, I was a passenger!), two panniers full of clothes and a sense of adventure that was exactly the plan for the next week. Outside of that, not much was planned, I simply knew that the route would be as follows:
- Start in Chichester
- Ride to Kent to catch the channel tunnel
- Arrive in Calais and drive to Reims
- Drive from Reims to Lyon
- Lyon to Montpellier
- Montpellier to Toulouse
- Toulouse to Bordeaux
- Bordeaux to Nantes
- Drive from Nantes to Normandy
- Drive from Normandy to the ferry port
- Catch the ferry to Portsmouth
- And ride back to Chichester from there.
Why did the journey begin in Chichester?
Well, at the time that’s where I was living, so ya’know, it made the most sense! If you haven’t been, here are the top things to do in Chichester. It’s a gorgeous place, located on the south coast of England with a nice balance of countryside, coast and a small city. It’s surrounded by Roman walls, has a beautiful cathedral and some pretty damn lovely people living there. But you can read about that in different posts. Because whilst the journey started in Chichester, that wasn’t the destination…
Motorcycling from Chichester to Kent
My motorcycle journey began in the historic city of Chichester, and after ensuring the bike (BMW GS 1200) was in top shape and the gear was securely fastened, I set out with a sense of anticipation and excitement, ready to conquer over 2,500 miles of European terrain. As a disclaimer, I was not the one driver. Not only do I not have a bike licence yet, BMW GS is a hell of a beast and SO incredibly heavy to lift and I absolutely would not cope with it. But I digress.
The journey to Kent went pretty smoothly. I’m not going to lie, packing for a week into a super small pannier was not easy, and neither was getting up early to put on multiple protective layers. But still. I did it and off I went. Riding through one heck of a rain storm and having to pull over for shelter in a nearby petrol station. Eventually, the rain passed and I was on my way, driving onto the channel tunnel, making friends with fellow bikers and getting excited about the trip ahead.
Motorcycling from Calais to Reims
Driving through the Channel Tunnel never ceases to amaze me, one minute you’re in the UK in Kent, and 35 minutes later you’re in Calais in France. It’s a remarkable engineering feat and once the journey was done, it was onwards to start the road trip around France. The drive from Calais to Reims took just under three hours.
Reims is a city known not only for its stunning cathedral but also for being the heart of the Champagne region. I’d love to say that I couldn’t resist sampling some of the finest bubbly the world has to offer… But I don’t like champagne. I know I know. SHOCKING. People tell me it will change, but as of now, it hasn’t occurred yet. Anyway, in Reims I stopped for food, a nice walk around the city and then back to catch up on sleep before starting the next leg of the trip.
Motorcycling from Reims to Lyon
The journey from Reims to Lyon took about 5 hours, due to a break in between (because seriously whilst the GS is comfortable, who can sit on a bike for that long!). But it was worth it because Lyon was a highlight of the journey for me. After walking through the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière and admiring the view from the top of Fourviere, I hopped into Lyon’s cable car, descending into the charming streets below in search of dinner. The city’s restaurants and cafes spilt onto the streets, with the sounds of conversation echoing across the streets creating the most delightful atmosphere. I eventually settled at Restaurant Un Deux Trois, where I enjoyed a set menu that included a unique potato salad, delicious terrine with chutney, steak with béarnaise sauce, and a heavenly chocolate mousse. The restaurant was small but with its efficient staff, the evening was perfect and after an evening stroll through the city I made my way back to the hotel.
Motorcycling from Lyon to Montpellier
I spent the next morning enjoying the hotel’s facilities, taking a swim and grabbing breakfast before setting off on the next leg of my trip: Lyon to Montpellier. The drive took just over 3 hours and it wasn’t long before I was in the hotel ditching my stuff, freshening up and heading out to explore. My first stop was eating aligot. A dish that kind of resembles cheese fondue mixed with mashed potato and uses a particular type of cheese found in that region.
The next day, I had the extraordinary experience of spotting flamingos in the wild, setting the tone for an adventurous day. You see, I was off to explore Aigues Mortes; a mediaeval city surrounded by walls that have well-preserved the mediaeval charm, quaint shops, and delightful eateries found inside the walls. It was completely charming and it was nice to explore something different on my travels. After that, I went back to the hotel to restock the bike and continue on the next leg of my trip.
Motorcycling from Montpellier to Toulouse
The drive to Toulouse took 3 hours; 2.5 for driving and 30 minutes as I stopped in a nearby park and some elderly gents on a bowls tour invited me over for some cheese, ham and wine. Humans really are amazing sometimes. Unfortunately, Toulouse didn’t provide the opportunity for exploration as after nipping out for dinner to this incredible empanada spot, I fell ill. So instead, I spent my time resting in the hotel.
Motorcycling from Toulouse to Bordeaux
The drive to Bordeaux only took two and a half hours, but being ill made it feel like ten. I arrived feeling weak and unable to explore, so I checked into the apart-hotel, whipped up a bowl of comfort food (spaghetti bolognese and some Milka brownies!) had a bath and called it a night. I think I slept for about 12 hours, but the next day I was feeling back to normal, so headed out to see what Bordeaux had to offer! My favourite spot was Place de la Bourse and the Miroir D’eau/, a fountain that creates the illusion of a mirror by misting and filling the floor with just enough water for the effect. It was a perfect blend of contemporary art and historic surroundings and was amazing watching everyone and their dog (literally) running through the water.
Motorcycling from Bordeaux to Nantes and Normandy
After Bordeaux, it was time to head towards the last stop on my trip: Nantes and then Normandy. A place where history came alive as I explored a local event where people were honouring D-Day, with planes flying over the beaches, vintage cars and bikes gathering and people dressed up in old uniforms.
As my adventure in France neared its end, I boarded a ferry bound for Portsmouth, reflecting on the trip and all the things I learned along the way. It was a busy trip, and whilst it may not be for everyone, I had an incredible time exploring new surroundings whilst enjoying the feel of the breeze in my hair. So if you’re a motorcycle enthusiast and you need something new to do, this route is definitely for you. It’s a voyage that combines the freedom of motorcycling with the beauty and culture of remarkable regions, making it an experience you’ll treasure for a lifetime.