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Thread: The French Misadventure

  1. #1
    Rusted Doga's Avatar
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    Default The French Misadventure

    I am not very good with this and this is my first long trip on a motorcycle.Brevity has never been my cup of tea, so please bear with the long prose.
    I have been wanting to do a road trip to France for some time. But for one reason or the other I wasn't able to get everything going for it.But with the summer setting in and the forecast being very good I finally decided to apply for the Schengen. Wife was, to my utter surprise, not utterly disapproving of it- 'yes let's do it, sounds fun' is what she said. Dismayed, I double checked by emphasizing that the trip is a road trip and she would be riding pillion with me-not like Scotland where she took the flight. Nope, she had heard that right and indeed was ready to ride pillion.
    I couldn't believe my luck. I quickly arranged for an appointment with the French consulate in London and had the Schengen in a week's time.
    I stay in Bournemouth on the south coast and the ferry from Poole to Cherbourg takes under 5 hours. Cherbourg is barely 90 miles from Poole after all, so had booked ourselves tickets on that one.Cherbourg is a small seaside French resort in Normandy region of France which is certainly not one of the most stunning places I have seen.
    But it is the shortest route to France from where I am and was pretty close to all the places in Normandy and Brittany I wanted to visit. We packed light since it was summer.Only the Rynox tankbag I brought from India and a backpack were enough. All set,I was getting excited at the thought of riding in Paris the night before the start,little did I know it was going to be an unforgettable trip and not necessarily in a positive way!




    Day 1 - Idyllic Normandy
    The Ferry Crossing and a damaged passport!


    We ,as usual, started a little late in the morning. Ok, a lot later than we should have. Brittany ferry advises a checkin of at least 45 mins in advance. We could only start with an hour in hand
    and the ride to the ferry port takes at least 30 mins. Wifey, the way she always does , gave me that stare-which I could instantly recognise as 'you-can-never-be-on-time' stare. Unperturbed I fired the bike up and was making good progress, but I realized 10 mins into the ride that I was not carrying the wallet. A mad dash back home and by the time we started again, we had 20 mins left for departure.After some more cold stares from wifey and nervous riding later we reached Poole ferry port. We were the last one, and realized that it's not really as strict as an airport. We were let straight in and handed our passports for checkin. I was getting confident againand let slip my favourite line- 'See we made it'. But hold on, drama was just beginning. The guy at the counter somehow managed to detach the booklet from the passport cover.I got a lump in my throat seeing the passport in two pieces.
    We could be simply turned away at French immigration or worse still if allowed to enter but later stopped on the road by a Gendarme? Got the officials at Brittany Ferries to write a letter explaining what happened and rode onto the ferry with all kinds of negative thoughts racing in the head. Not the best of starts to a trip then? Little did we know things were about to get worse, but more on that later!
    From then on there was nothing very eventful. Passed the time on the ferry to read up on French traffic rules and soak in the views from the deck.The French immigration officials at Cherbourg were pretty cool with that.

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    Perhaps,a couple on a motorcycle is as far removed an image of a suspect(s) as one can think of so the detached passport wasn't a problem.First hurdle down-We were let right through. Fueled up and changed the speedo to kmph(UK speed limits are displayed in Mph) and reminding myself one last time to keep right we set off to the commune of Le Mesnil Garnier in Normandy, around 150 kms away.
    I had booked two nights in a cute little BnB called the Flowerpots in the village of L'Orail in Mesnil the Granier. It was a quaint little village as far removed from an urban setting that you can have in this part of the world.We reached just before dusk was setting in. The acco was wonderful with loads of character, wife was ecstatic.It was peak summer and the north of France was baking hot.We were tired and decided to have some beer and retire.

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    This was the view we were greeted with the next morning. Truely idyllic.

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    The chalet had two rooms separated by a stair and it had this wonderful rustic charm about it.

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    The place gets its name from the numerous flowerpots dotting the property. I wholeheartedly recommend this place should anyone want a misadventure of their own in the North of France!



    Day 2- Beautiful seasides!
    The splendour of Mont Saint-Michel


    The next day we were off to the Famous Cathedral of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy-the 2nd most visited monument in France after the Eiffel Tower. It was truely beautiful.

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    I clearly remember this place.I was a bit lost and we ended up in the middle of this field. We had a proper fight there, don't really remember why, I mean I know it was my fault as always, but not sure what exactly
    The Mont is completely surrounded by water at high tide, only accessed by a bridge. We visited in the afternoon and it was not really hight tide, but it was still pretty.The Mont is almost a mini town with shops and cafes lining the narrow winding streets/stairways to the top. It looks really pretty.

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    Attachment 222502
    You can get this expansive views of the ocean from the top.Majestic isn't it?

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    That's the bridge to access the Mont. It's needed since at the time of high tide, the Mont is completely surrounded by water

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    St Malo-
    After the Mont, we headed to the city of St Malo, known for its beautiful harbour and vibrant cafes.
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    Had crepes and gallates at a cafe and absolutely loved the food.It was getting late so we headed back to L'orail.
    Came back to Flowerpots and the hosts were waiting with a good bottle of wine. We chatted under the bright and clear night sky, sipping French
    wine(of course!) and gazing at the stars.It dawned on me that the last time I did this-I mean gazing at the stars, not sipping wine-was when I was a kid.Somehow between the rigors of my studies during my teens and in the hustle and bustle of Mumbai during my adult life I forgot what really made me happy.
    The host, Geoff used to race dirt bikes back in the days and liked Royal enfields. We had so much to talk about, he even fixed the rear indicator on my bike after we had gone to bed.Sandra, the hostess was one of the nicest ladies we have met and took great care of us during our stay. If you ever visit Normandy then I'd highly recommend this place.

    Day 3: Bonjour Paris!
    Normany-Omaha beach, Paris- Eiffel tower


    We set off for Paris after bidding adieu to the Flowerpots.We took the autoroutes which were boring but were the quickest route to reach Paris.
    We stopped at Omaha beach enroute to Paris. I always wanted to see that beach after watching 'Saving Private Ryan'. It is a long stretch of sand and has a monument erected by US military
    which reads-'No mission too difficult, No sacrifice too great, duty first'. Thinking that so many guys lost their lives in these waters, gave me goose bumps.It's not the prettiest beach.I have seen but certainly the most historic one!

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    No mission too difficult, No sacrifice too great, duty first

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    After spending an hour there, we got ourselves back on the autoroute towards Paris.
    Everyone in my office I spoke with had told me it's a bad bad idea to do Paris on a motorcycle and suggested I park the bike at Normandy and take the train to Paris. I used to just nod the suggestions away telling myself I used to ride in Mumbai, I own chaos, but entering Paris I quickly realized that it's Mumbai. First of all the heat. Having gotten used to the temperate climate of the UK, Paris was a jolt we hadn't prepared for. It was peak of summer and was like a furnace. The CBR quickly lost its calm and the fan started running frantically-reminding me of my duke back home(oh how I miss it ).I quickly ditched the idea of taking the CBR to India when I return, it won't be able to cope with the heat surely or may be needs a coolant change.
    Anyways the heat combined with the bumpy ride on the cobbled streets of Paris quickly sapped all our remaining energy reserves and wifey signalled to pull over.
    The one thing I really liked about Paris is we can park our Moto-motorcycles are called Motos there-anywhere, much like Mumbai and it's free. So we parked the bike on the promenade and caught some breath.
    I looked around while the CBR cooled itself and suddenly realized, I was in the heart of Paris, on a freaking motorbike. This must have been impossible in the wildest of dreams for a guy doing the eastern express from Powai to Ghansoli each day 2 years ago lol.

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    I got some shots on the DSLR of the lovely architecture and then fed in the pincode of the hotel into the sat nav app and set off.Then comes the other reason people suggested not to ride to Paris. It's chaotic with people having scant regard for traffic rules. There are scooters everywhere and I mean everywhere. These guys just zip in and zip out of gaps you wouldn't have thought possible. It really was Mumbai. My riding has now been a lot sensitized after riding in the UK where you follow and expect others to follow all the rules and general well behaviour of car drivers who give ample space to the Bikes to pass through but Paris was a shock.
    I now understand I have a mountain to climb when I get back to Mumbai. If I quickly don't regain the 'art' of riding in Mumbai I'd be a sitting duck there such has been the extent of 'defanging' the UK has brought to my riding style
    We reached the hotel after I parked the bike at the side of the road, which brings me to the last thing about riding in Paris-It's a hotbed of motorcycle theft, along with London.
    Granted the CBR is no MV Agusta, but the bright yellow colours and reasonably good condition can fool any untrained eye. So I walked away with just a disc lock on the CBR knowing full well it won't withstand 2 mins in front of a determined thief.But that was all I had to secure the bike.
    It was a budget hotel in the 16th Arrondissement , nothing of the fancy stuff we saw in Normandy but the room was reasonably tidy.Paris is famous for its cramped hotel rooms, but this was ok and the bed was inviting enough! We fell asleep within 2 mins of hitting the sac.
    Woke up in the evening, wifey got all dolled up to look her best in the customary Eiffel Tower shots. I had decided not to ride around in the night and was apprehensive about parking near the Tower, but the reception in the hotel strongly recommended riding as it was the easiest and fastest way to reach the Tower. So we did.We rode out just wearing helmets and gloves, the last time we did that was so long ago in Mumbai
    Paris reminded us of Mumbai in so many ways you see
    Paris may be chaotic and hot and humid but one thing is for sure, it's beautiful and there's no escaping it. The architecture, the roadside cafes and then the Jewel in its crown-The Eiffel Tower.
    Approaching it from the narrow cobbled streets it looked majestic in the night sky with the beautiful lighting on it. It looks the best in night, probably cities in general look their best in night time.
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    And we finally met the Eiffel at night! Beautiful indeed



    Day 4-Bliss and then Nightmare in Paris!
    Paris -Eiffel Tower,The Louvre, Notre Dame and ...disaster



    Next day we went out to see the Eiffel Tower in daylight and it was great ,not as beautiful it looked in the night, but impressive nonetheless.

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    The building in the background is the Trocadero where the nightmare happened

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    We then rode to the Louvre to see 'Monalisa'. After fighting the jostling crowd and clicking the customary 'I was there picture' realized it was all a little underwhelming.How that painting became the most famous painting in the world is something I don't understand lol.

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    Anyways after roaming around in the huge Louvre and getting awed, we headed towards the Notre Dame Cathedral.
    Security was tight after the recent attacks but that didn't dampen the energy around the place. We sat at the bank of Seine soaking in the atmosphere and views.

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    Notre Dame Cathedral

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    River Seine

    We headed back to the hotel in the evening to freshen up and went out for dinner.Decided to ride to the Tower for a tour and enjoy the views from the top.That's when my luck finally caught up with me.
    The tower top floor was closed when we reached-it was past 11 in the night- so thought will walk to the Trocadero and will sit and enjoy the views. That is when disaster struck. In between the photo shoots and animated discussion with the wife and random conversations with other tourists I realized I couldn't see the the backpack anywhere-it was stolen. I quickly ran through the stuff I thought were in the bag-

    My 35mm prime lens-gone
    2 pairs of motorcycle gloves-gone
    Ram mount and mobile phone case-gone
    Spare Honda Key-gone
    Spare motorcycle bulbs(required by law in France)-gone

    These were not cheap but nothing to loose sleep over so I was calm. Then realized I had a pair of travel documents called passports in the rucksack as well! Yes, Passports, the last thing you'd want to loose especially when you are abroad.
    This is when the enormity of what had happened dawned on me and my eyes started to well with tears. We were Indian citizens who stay on a Visa in the UK and are now stranded with no documents in France-a 3rd country. This couldn't get worse I thought. Our return ferry the next day was from the port town of Calais which is infamous for refugee trouble and I reckoned checks would be tough, no way we'd be allowed into UK without documents. We had plans of visiting the Moulin Rouge and the palace of Versailles the next day but everything was going to go for a toss now. Heartbroken we decided to report the incident at a police station and walked back to the place I had parked the bike,praying to at least find it still there.
    We called at a police station at 1 am in the 5th Arrondissement and sat there for good 2 hours while an officer noted down everything, details of our possession and the circumstances.He did wear a wry smile when we told him where it was lost. Eiffel tower and the Trocadero are notorious for thefts and bag snatching and we really should have been careful.
    The officer was very professional and gave us copies of reports and we made our way back to the hotel, cursing our luck.
    From here on wife was for some reason not posing for pictures anymore and I stopped finding the architecture magnificent! so no more pictures, only heartburn below

    Day 5-Sleepless in Paris!
    The next morning, showed up at the Indian embassy in Paris in a quite nook in the 15th Arrondissement.
    The Haryanvi security wasn't really helpful initially, but I haven't really lost the north Indian 'swagger' I picked up in my teens after all these years and a few jokes and forced banter later he was like an old friend and let us in. The officials were really helpful and explained what to do quickly. Apparently you can get a new passport issued at the embassy in 4 hours time.
    We were asked to fill all the forms and come back by 12, because it'd be lunch break soon and it'd spill onto next day if we don't hand over the forms before the break.Yes, lunch break-you read that right-the bane of every Indian who visits a sarkari daftar-the creative hour when babus free their minds and think about solutions to the problems India is facing-Lunch break!
    May be I am being harsh given the situation we were in and they were merely doing their jobs. In their defense they were rather professional and were helpful with the forms, offering to do some of it themselves. We would have gotten our passports the same day had we not decided to visit the British Embassy in Paris.That was a bad decision especially since the office was closed. It was Aug 29 of course, summer bank holiday in Britain.That day wasted in stupidity, we retired to our hotel room in the evening, wifey almost in tears in bed.That was not what she signed up for!


    Day 6-Trying our luck!
    The next morning showed up at the Indian embassy and promptly paid the fees for new passports. An eye watering Eur 300 a piece.
    They kept to their word and we got the passports same day by 1 pm.Then I went out looking for a mobile phone holder as it's impossible to follow the confusing road signs and layout in Paris without sat nav and of course gloves as they are needed by law. Last thing I wanted was to stopped and having to explain the lack of travel documents to an officer, especially since I stand out with GB number plates on my bike.Paid EUR 70 for 2 pairs of shit mesh Furygan gloves and Eur 40 for a cheap mobile phone case and mount and headed straight to Calais, praying all the way.
    But we just had the passports now, but no UK visa, so there was every chance of us being turned away at the port. In fact everyone I spoke to at the embassy and back in UK suggested we stay back and get a UK visa, but it would take as much as 7 days for an emergency Visa to be issued by UK embassy and frankly wifey was at the point of breakdown now, so i thought what the hell I'd take my chance, the worst that could happen was a refusal at the port and a 300km ride back to Paris.
    Turned out it was the right decision as we were let through after 2 hours of checks at the UKVI office at calais.
    They were rather considerate but I think if it were an airport we'd have stood no chance.
    We boarded the huge DFDS seaways ferry at 11pm at Calais thanking our stars, but home was still a good 300 km away so it was not over yet. At this point I was so filled with negativity that I thought I'd really crash the bike in some hedge or something in the thick of night as it's only expected after what had happened with us. It was crazy. We set off towards Bournemouth from Dover at 1:30 am in the night and a frantic ride began. After riding almost non stop for 2.5 hours I thought fine, nightmare may finally be over soon.

    But obviously it cannot be that straightforward for me.

    Entering Hampshire at 4 am, we were greeted with a thick blanket of fog. Yes fog,the kind which limits vision to may be 5 meters(not exaggerating) in the middle of a freaking summer in the south coast of UK. This was unreal and I took it as a sign of all the negative things I was thinking about in the ferry coming true, petrified I though of just stopping and waiting for the damn flog to clear, but something in me just kept me going.
    I just wanted to get it done with. Thankfully nothing happened-may be because traffic was scarce at that time in the morning- and we reached home at 6 in the morning,both of us in one piece .Bringing an end to the most eventful journey in my life, till date and I hope that it stays this way


    So what I took away from this trip? A few things-

    1)France is beautiful. And this was only the North. I am already salivating at the thought of doing the south next summer.
    2)Paris is Mumbai-chaotic, vibrant and beautiful.
    3)My luck is wretched-I just received a letter from the travel insurance company informing my inusrance claim has been denied
    4)This was the first and last long tour with the wife on a bike. She made this unequivocally clear during the pit stops on the last day lol.
    5)The CBR is a great little bike.Although no goldwing when it comes to touring ,it gobbled up the miles with ease.
    It has enough for all situations, at least for me.110 bhp for those blasts when you want them, sporty position and the fairing to avoid wind blast
    but not as much to make it very uncomfortable. Again, you'd be much more comfortable on a KTM 1190 adv but the CBR gives you a great compromise between sporty dynamics and comfort.It has fully adjustable suspension both front and back is light, agile and fast and has proper continuous seat, so no compromise on pillion comfort as well.
    6)I need an action camera or some other way of capturing shots while I am riding. When I am off the bike, I end up clicking photos of only my wife(not voluntarily always!).I did some rough counting-95% are of the wife. rest 5% are the bike, me or us together.Either an action camera or I need to go on tours alone which given 4) above looks very likely now

    That's it guys, sorry for the long post. If you somehow don't get bored of all the photos above, will post more. Cheers!
    Last edited by Doga; 11-22-2016 at 01:50 AM.

  2. #2
    Moderator The Monk's Avatar
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    Default Re: The French Misadventure

    Travelogue Approved

    Haven't read it yet, will at leisure

    The pics look good though!
    Biking is not about what you have between your legs, its all about how well you use it!!!!!!!

    Give your details here if you want to help your fellow xBhpian stranded in your city

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    Rusted Deathmate.Zed's Avatar
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    Default Re: The French Misadventure

    Wow! Really great pics and narration. I am sure now that it's over it will make for some really interesting memories later!

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    Addicted zincha's Avatar
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    Default Re: The French Misadventure

    Hope you are safe. Be careful bro. Travelogue is amazing.
    "The Bourne" moment. The Passports. The Police. The Embassy. A woman with you. The motorcycle.

    Share more about the bike, the riding experience and more pics please.
    Cheers!
    shiv4747 likes this.
    game for anything on wheels

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    Addicted tusharxtreme's Avatar
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    Default Re: The French Misadventure

    That is really a misadventure. Hope this ordeal is over of Visa's.
    Bad things happens with everyone, but we need to get up and enjoy more.
    Hero Honda Dawn-2009-2011
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    Still Learning© sajalsheth's Avatar
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    Default Re: The French Misadventure

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    nice pictures and places.

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    Moderator Divya Sharan's Avatar
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    Default Re: The French Misadventure

    Doga bhai, an awesome write up! Unfortunate that you faced all the issues, but these are lessons learnt for you as well as us, the readers. And not just for France.

    And please don't mind but do pass my warm regards to bhabhi jee and kindly let her know that she just earned a fan back here in India. For all she went through (pillion on a CBR, all those hassles etc) and might I add - she's beautiful.

    My favorite pics are:
    1. Your pic from the bnb stay with CBR parked below and bhabhi looking on (sorry .....)
    2. Eiffel at night (the tower alone) and
    3. CBRs pic with both of your helmets down and a blurred French building in the background.

    Other pics are lovely but I've seen similar ones before. The above 3 stood out for me.

    Time to get married, plan a honeymoon, get UK visas, IDP and rent a motorcycle.
    Last edited by Divya Sharan; 11-21-2016 at 08:33 PM. Reason: Grammar.

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    Rusted Doga's Avatar
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    Default Re: The French Misadventure

    Quote Originally Posted by The Monk View Post
    Travelogue Approved

    Haven't read it yet, will at leisure

    The pics look good though!
    Thank you Monk!

    Quote Originally Posted by Deathmate.Zed View Post
    Wow! Really great pics and narration. I am sure now that it's over it will make for some really interesting memories later!
    yes it is. There is this photo where wife was posing with the Eiffel tower in the background which was the last photo taken in that trip moments before we noticed the theft.We now look at that sometimes to have a hearty laugh.

    Quote Originally Posted by zincha View Post
    Hope you are safe. Be careful bro. Travelogue is amazing.
    "The Bourne" moment. The Passports. The Police. The Embassy. A woman with you. The motorcycle.

    Share more about the bike, the riding experience and more pics please.
    Cheers!
    Thanks mate. We are ok now. It turned out to be ok after everything and we are glad it did. The Bourne series is one of my fav btw, I remember watching all 3 in the series in one sitting in my hostel room-2 days before by final semester exams Wouldn't it be great to be a spy who rides a tech laden motorcycle? Bond to ditch the aston martin for a triumph speed triple?
    The bike, as I said did well. It was very reliable and comfortable.Just the right riding position and enough grunt for two up riding. It is an inline four so is peaky but the torque is spread decently across for a 600 so is not anaemic(like say an R6) low down-I think the current cbr 650f has the same characteristics but with lesser power may be.There are no canyons or anything in the north so the rides themselves were not so exciting frankly, so looking forward to the south of France next summer. The biking routes there are spectacular.
    I had to watch out for the speed traps and general speed limits. The speed limits are not properly displayed everywhere in France like they are in the UK. In the UK, they like to hammer it down your head with speed signs every few meters, but the French like to keep it implicit. Especially on B routes and around villages and smaller towns. You'd just have a sign displaying the name of the village when you enter and the name crossed out when you exit. You need to stick to 50kmph between these signs. On long rides when you are in the flow, it's sometimes difficult to remind yourself to slow down while entering and it happened to me a few times, but luckily I escaped any fines. Then there are these photoradar regions where speed is monitored and you need to be extremely careful else you'd be slapped with a huge Euro fine.Also donot speed on the highways, they monitor average speeds so it's not as easy as just slowing down when you spot a camera, your average speed in a stretch of road is calculated so if you have sped after a camera, you better slow down or stop much before the next camera.
    Also need to remind yourself to keep right. On the move it's easy and natural. I had no problems at all going anticlockwise in roundabouts as the road layout makes it 'natural'. but you need to be really careful when you start riding afresh after taking breaks. That's when you are most likely to be switched off and can start riding on the left. Other than these riding in France is pleasant and rewarding.
    Oh and in France bikers greet you by waving a leg and not by nodding your head like in the UK-it's funny

    Quote Originally Posted by tusharxtreme View Post
    That is really a misadventure. Hope this ordeal is over of Visa's.
    Bad things happens with everyone, but we need to get up and enjoy more.
    Thanks Tushar. yeah these things happen to make you stronger.

    Quote Originally Posted by sajalsheth View Post
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    nice pictures and places.
    Thanks a lot mate!

    Quote Originally Posted by Divya Sharan View Post
    Doga bhai, an awesome write up! Unfortunate that you faced all the issues, but these are lessons learnt for you as well as us, the readers. And not just for France.

    And please don't mind but do pass my warm regards to bhabhi jee and kindly let her know that she just earned a fan back here in India. For all she went through (pillion on a CBR, all those hassles etc) and might I add - she's beautiful.

    My favorite pics are:
    1. Your pic from the bnb stay with CBR parked below and bhabhi looking on (sorry .....)
    2. Eiffel at night (the tower alone) and
    3. CBRs pic with both of your helmets down and a blurred French building in the background.

    Other pics are lovely but I've seen similar ones before. The above 3 stood out for me.

    Time to get married, plan a honeymoon, get UK visas, IDP and rent a motorcycle.
    Thank you sirjee. Yes a lesson learnt indeed. I'd probably add the details of how to go about getting new passports and visa, who knows may be useful for some other unfortunate souls. Bhabhiji would be flattered to have a fan in India lol, but do keep in mind she doesn't really like bikers, especially since she met me lol
    But seriously it was very brave of her to go through all these. Ladies usually think of grandeur and romance when they think of Paris not a lost passport saga.
    Btw you don't really have to be married to visit Europe. In fact it's best done when you are not married. You will get all the freedom and time in the world to do things.
    Believe me it's much better to just take your bike out on a long tour on a whim than to convince the wife, plan for hotels and change itineraries
    Last edited by Doga; 11-22-2016 at 02:37 AM.

  9. #9
    Moderator Divya Sharan's Avatar
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    Default Re: The French Misadventure

    @Doga brother, do post pics if you have more. And please share with us a detailed report on how to get the necessary paperwork done for anyone planning a visit to France.

  10. #10
    Rusted akshay's Avatar
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    Default Re: The French Misadventure

    Quite an adventure the two of you had. Thanks for sharing some lovely pictures, places to stay and points of caution when traveling the other side of the pond. Well done!
    Doga likes this.
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