France 2010 – Not quite the ride I expected, but an experience none the less…
After travelling to both France and Germany previously on my bike I felt that it was time to make another trip abroad. Originally it was going to be a week long event to the alps but due to commitments with my University course we decided on a three night trip. Rather than use the traditional Dover to Calais ferry route we opted to use the Channel Tunnel. This was a straightforward 40 minute crossing from Folkestone to Calais. Once out of the channel tunnel it was all plain sailing until when we arrived in St.Omer the guy who I was riding with indicated to me that something was wrong. It turns out that he had clutch problems and could not change gear. When we arrived at the hotel only a short distance away this is where the problems really started. It turned out that Mark (the guy who I was riding with) had no european breakdown cover (rookie mistake). As this was a Saturday evening we figured that we could maybe get his bike fixed locally the following day. However, this was a Sunday and everywhere was closed. To cut to the chase, all the motorbike shops locally were closed on the Monday as well, so basically we could not travel any further into France as we were returning back to the UK on Tuesday. For the mathematicians amongst you, yes thats correct. I travelled 180 miles to Folkestone and only 25 miles into France. Not quite what was planned or expected but it was an experience none the less.
In these situations you can only try and turn a negative into a positive and this was easily achieved. St.Omer is a beautiful town steeped in history. As riding on the bikes was a no go there was nothing else to do but to explore the town on foot. I do enjoy a drink and to be fair, I do enjoy photography as well so imagine how I felt when I landed in a bar that had a photography exhibition going on. The exhibition was of work by a local photographer called Jean Louis Saelens. After purchasing more than a few beverages the landlord was more than happy to show me around and we discussed a few of the images in more detail. The images were presented with mount board in black frames. There were plenty that had more than a hint of Cartier-Bresson about them. I also detected a hint of Paul Strand as well. We also managed to visit Notre Dame Cathedral which is amazing and is undergoing a major renovation.
A great experience and something which I would gladly do again.
So what did I learn from my trip to France? I think we in the UK could learn a lot from our french counterparts. Litter free streets, sensible drinking and no gangs hanging around the streets causing a nuisance. It may not cure all of our countries problems but its a good place to start.
The images below are a mixture with no particular theme. They were just interesting things which I came across whilst I was there. Some are abstract whilst some were long exposures taken whilst sitting at the bar having a cold beer.