Suzie gets a facelift.

I eventually gave in and bought a GIVI Airflow.

Advertisements

I have been resisting an after-market screen for my V-Strom.

My Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000 brought me very comfortably around Europe in May and June and on my day trips and commutes recently and I have to say I was very happy with the comfort level. Someone had commented on a post of mine that I needed an after-market screen to increase comfort but I had resisted going for one. I felt that it would adversely affect the look of my V-Strom.

There are a number of reasons to consider an after-market screen to add to a motorcycle. It can decrease wind buffeting and also reduce noise. I felt that neither of these issues were particularly intrusive on the V-Strom and that I could do without changing the screen. Then I saw Norman’s GIVI Airflow on his V-Strom at a biking meet recently and I thought it looked good. He assured me it had made a marked difference to the comfort level so I was converted. Craig at the AMI & Overlanders shop in Gorey ordered a GIVI Airflow suitable for my V-Strom. When Craig called me to say it had arrived I rode in to the shop and Conor and I installed it in a matter of minutes. I am glad I was convinced to go for it because there is a noticeable reduction in noise and it has reduced buffeting, even if I didn’t think there was too much in the first place. The screen is easily adjustable and it only takes a few moments to change the height. I set it just below my eyeline and it works great. I don’t think it looks too bad either. The featured image was taken on the quay in Wexford. The image below is a little closer and I hope you will agree that it looks good on Suzie.

IMG_0835

Now is absolutely the time to enjoy it because the weather is glorious. Today it was reading a nice 24 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit) with beautiful sunshine and blue skies. Yes, I know bad weather will test the effectiveness of the screen a lot more but hey, I’ll take the sunshine while it’s here.

D-Day and Saint-Mère-Église.

A visit to the Cotentin Peninsula and the D-Day celebrations as my tour of Europe is drawing close to an end.

D-Day and the Normandy landings are commemorated every year on 6th June.

From Le Mont-Saint-Michel I rode my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure up the Cotentin Pennisula to Saint-Mère-Église. Saint-Mère-Église was one of the first villages in Normandy to be liberated from the German forces, by the U.S. Army 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, on the 6th June 1944, as a result of the Normany landings. I got there in the late afternoon and met friends from home who go to Normandy, specifically Saint-Mère-Église, every year for what proved to be one of the biggest pageants I have ever witnessed, the D-Day Commemorations. I unloaded the tent from Suzie and started to get it set up as quickly as possible in a stiff breeze. I had experienced some showers on the road North from Le Mont and it was clear that rain and stormy conditions were not too far away. I got it up quickly with some help, and sure enough the rain and strong wind arrived right on cue, as I and my friends walked towards the Place du 6 Jun, in the centre of Saint-Mère-Église. You can see from this image, that I took moments after getting the tent set, that the wind was starting to whip up. The bushes are sideways and the tent is under pressure already.

IMG_0642 (2)

Saint-Mère-Église is well known because of an incident that occurred during the airborne attack, involving a paratrooper known as John Steele. The paratroopers from the 82nd Division had been dropped over the village while the local population were tackling fires caused by incendiaries dropped before the attack. The Germans were present, supervising the bucket brigade, trying to put out the fires.

DSC07079 (2)

The descending paratroopers were clearly visibly, and easily picked off by the Germans. John Steele’s parachute got caught on one of the church pinnacles and he was a sitting target. I’m told that a burst of machine gun fire was directed at him. He was hit in the foot and feigned death. The wound in his foot caused him to bleed heavily and this convinced the Germans below that he was dead. He survived and was captured but later escaped from captivity and rejoined the fighting. He regularly visited the village after the war until his death in 1969, and was made an honorary citizen of Saint-Mère-Église. An effigy of John Steele hangs from the pinnacle of the church in his memory.

DSC07123

The Normandy landings and the men that liberated Normandy is the theme of the commemorations and it is just extraordinary how many exceptionally well preserved, genuinely original vehicles turn up here in immaculate condition, exactly as they would have been in 1944.

IMG_0615 (3)

The whole peninsula is the stomping ground for a massive variety of military vehicles and the roads and narrow streets of the small villages nearby are chock-a-block with the usual holiday traffic as well as these military vehicles.

DSC07125

Enthusiasts in precisely accurate battledress uniforms come every year in every type of vehicle you could think of from the era, to commemorate and celebrate the beginning of the liberation of Europe from the Nazi regime. That beginning was the landings at beaches such as Utah and Omaha that are just a few kilometres away and well worth visiting.

DSC07241

There are museums in Saint-Mère-Église and Utah Beach, and many more that are worth visiting in the greater area of the invasion. I visited the ones in Saint-Mère-Église and Utah but because it was so stormy and wet, I didn’t much feel like going further from base. The museums I did visit were very well worth it.

DSC07251

The exhibits included original aircraft, realistic battlefield scenes and examples of trench defences.

DSC07247 (2)

There are also a huge number of memorials to the people that lost their lives in the landings and the ensuing battles.

DSC07216 (2)

And as you travel around the immediate area, within 10 or 15 kilometres of Saint-Mère-Église, little villages like Carenten, a village that the Americans hoped to, but failed to take that first day, you meet more vintage and military vehicles.

DSC07269 (2)

When the rain became heavy, it’s not hard to understand why some stopped and sheltered until the latest burst of rain eased off.

DSC07271 (2)

Others braved it even during the heavy downpours whether they were on vintage Harleys or open-top troop carriers.

DSC07280

One of my favourite bikes on tour in the area was this 1943 Harley that the owner drove around on, and I managed to catch up with him in Saint-Mère-Église. He was kind enough to take a picture of me with his bike. That picture, which he took with my phone, is the featured image. I took an image of him driving through the square in Saint-Mère-Église.

IMG_0612 (2)

I wasn’t the only biker that was impressed with this Harley because every time he parked the bike, a crowd of admirers began to gather.

IMG_0639 (2)

As well as the pageantry and fun that this annual event creates, there is a serious side to the proceedings. The brave warriors involved in the landings are honoured and remembered by the French civil and military authorities.

IMG_0591 (2)

Wreathes are placed at the memorials to those who lost their lives in the endeavour to bring liberty in 1944. While the speeches were in French, it was obvious they were delivered with passion and admiration for fallen heroes.

IMG_0600 (3)

The crowds watching were a mixture of locals and interested spectators like my friends and I, as well as many that were dressed up in very realistic WWII uniforms. It also appeared to me that many that attended were currently serving military personnel, intent on paying their respects to their veteran predecessors.

All too quickly my couple of days in Saint-Mère-Église came to an end. It was time to head to Cherbourg for a return ferry trip to Ireland.

DSC07289 (2)

I really enjoyed my trip around Europe and there are too many highlights to pick a favourite. Visiting friends in Austria and experiencing their party atmosphere again was really great. The beautiful Italian Alps and Lake Bled in Slovenia, Gmunden in Austria and Namur in Belgium. Too many great experiences to crown any as number 1.

IMG_0647 (2)

An overnight trip on the ferry and before I knew it, Suzie and I were preparing to disembark in Rosslare. A short spin home and time to reflect on a great adventure and of course, time to think about what’s next!

 

The Normandy Landing.

On to Dieppe in Normandy in Northern France and the cliffs at Étretet. A stop at Le Mont-Saint-Michel on the way towards to Saint-Mère-Église for the 6th June.

From Belgium Suzie and I moved on to Dieppe in Normandy, France.

After Belgium it was on towards Normandy in deteriorating weather. It was getting a lot cooler than it had been down South, in Austria and the Czech Republic for example. There the temperatures had been between the high twenties and low thirties in Celsius. Now it was down to the low twenties and occasionally into the teens with showers and ever increasing wind. I had ridden my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure bike from my home in Ireland, taken the ferry to France, and then on to Germany, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, through Austria and across Italy in the Alps to Slovenia, then spent a few days with friends in Austria. I visited Hungary and the Czech Republic, crossed Germany, and then visited Luxembourg and Belgium. I was now heading back through France, to be at a small town called Saint-Mère-Église, on the 6th June. I was stopping for a night or two in a small port city called Dieppe in Normandy. It is overlooked by an impressive looking, 15th century fortress, Château de Dieppe.

DSC06965 (2)

The city was once a walled city and one of the five original gates to the city, known as Les Tourelles de Dieppe, has survived.

DSC06974 (3)

Dieppe is quite pretty, but to a large extent it’s importance as a port and a seaside resort has all but disappeared, and while it does have a port side boulevard or promenade with a myriad of restaurants to choose from, it is probably not the most fashionable of places to holiday now. It is still an interesting and historic city to visit and is very popular with motorcyclists.

DSC07010 (2)

It’s also still quite a busy port for the yachting fraternity and you could spend a considerable amount of time admiring the pleasure craft tied up in the marina.

DSC06937

It is noticeable too, how many of the finer cars in life are to be seen in Dieppe. Apart from some Porsche and Ferrari examples that seemed to be there for some kind of event, that standard of car is certainly not out of place on the streets of Dieppe.

DSC06955 (2)

I visited one of the great little restaurants situated along the promenade and while the language barrier did cause some problems, as neither of the two girls that were serving had any English, I had to use my very limited French and a bit of guess work to choose my order. I think you can see it didn’t work out too bad.

IMG_0533 (2)

A nice fresh fish dish with the fish wrapped in bacon. I didn’t do too bad in the dessert section either.

IMG_0535 (2)

No idea what it was but it tasted gorgeous. One of the girls chose a white wine for me that came in a carafe so I didn’t have the benefit of looking at the label. Whatever it was, it was light and dry and went very well with the food.

The next morning I rode up to Étretet, which is best know for it’s white chalk cliffs, and is very popular with tourists, and the beach and town were very busy. There were also lots of fine motorcycles and vintage cars to admire in the town.

DSC07056 (2)

It was warm and sunny and the queue for ice cream was extensive as you can see. The streets of Étretet are full of beautiful old shops and buildings and there are no shortage of interesting restaurants and cafés to chose from.

DSC07040

The beach is excellent with a great promenade from where there are many places where you can take steps down to the great looking beach. You can walk right up to the top of the white cliffs on either end of the beach as there are well worn paths to get you there.

DSC07026 (2)

After Étretet I set out for a well known landmark. Le Mont-Saint-Michel, as you can see in the featured image, is one of the best known images of all attractions in this part of the world, and it’s well worth a visit. Nowadays you can’t actually drive up there as it’s always so packed with tourists. It’s well served with a large amount of car and coach parking and shuttle buses to bring you right up to Le Mont. I didn’t hang around too long though as the gathering rain clouds were an omen for my visit to Saint-Mère-Église for the final part of my visit to Normandy.

Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic.

The city of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic is a great treat and definitely worth a visit.

Cesky Krumlov is a fairy tale in the Czech Republic.

Suzie, my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000cc and I, had crossed from Ireland to Continental Europe in mid May and headed South through the Black Forest and the Alps, East to Slovenia and Austria, and after a quick dip into Hungary, endIMG_0470 (2)ed up in the beautiful city of Gmunden in the North of  Austria. Now it was time to move on to the Czech Republic. To the city of Český Krumlov. Český Krumlov is a small bohemian city in the South of the country set in beautiful surrounding countryside, on the Vltava river. As you take the little winding tree lined road north towards Český Krumlov, you see the river that flows towards the city on your left. Along the banks are rafting and canoeing centres where you can take aDSC06707 ride and enjoy the beautiful views from the river. There are many of these centres as well as camping facilities in the beautiful countryside that is South Bohemia. Cesky Krumlov is most famous for it’s massive castle but is ranked alongside Prague in terms of being a UNESCO world heritage site for it’s old city sector. It is amazing. On the day I arrived there was a music festival on I believe, and there was classical music in the streets, which was a treat. As well as the spectacular little squares and medieval buildings, the city has a vibrant air about it and unfortunately it has really been discovered by international tourism. When  we visited last, almost twenty years ago, it had been by train from Prague. We had enquired there about some interesting places to visit in the Czech Republic and someone had suggested Český Krumlov. I had been on a break from work in Bosnia at the time and was relying on public transport.

We took a train from Prague to České Budějovice and then a narrow gauge train travelling at about 25mph brought us to Krumlov. IMG_0474The return journey cost us the equivalent of two Irish pounds and we practically had the place to ourselves. We were delighted because even back then it was hard to get elbow room in Prague, on Charles Bridge for instance. That is no longer true in Český Krumlov. Now it is packed to the rafters with people wielding selfie sticks and queues in the restaurants are almost a definite. Back then the local food and beer was so cheap and yet of such great quality. I was amazed at the number of people that still chose to shell out three or four pounds for an internationally famous Dutch beer when the Czech beer was gorgeous and a large bottle of the tasty brew was about 50 pence or cents.

DSC06795

The castle is so massive it’s almost impossible to take an image of it that gives you the sense of it’s size. All of what you see above is part of it. Here is another view that might help to give you  an idea of just how big it really is.

DSC06742 (2)

In the first photo the section above is just the left hand portion of what you see. You can walk right up into the castle and through the maze of passageways and squares that made this a formidable fortress as well as a Palace in the days before it became a museum.

DSC06769 (2)

  DSC06766

Enjoy the beautiful town squares and I hope when you visit there are as many bands and musicians for you to listen to. Expect the food to be excellent here in the Czech Republic and local beer is vDSC06811ery good even though it is difficult to find a bar in the traditional sense. I found a restaurant called Papa’s and I was lucky to get what appeared to be the last remaining table on the veranda over-looking the river. The food and wine were fantastic. The dish I had was turkey wrapped in pastry and sitting on a bed of spinach. I highly recommend you give Papa’s a go if you’re ever looking for some place to eat in Český Krumlov. I found a little bar later that served local beer and it was as good as I remembered it to be from the previous visit.

This area is extremely popular with motorcyclists and they were everywhere. I saw a most unusual BMW bike parked near a pension / hotel and I wondered what the motivation for the livery was.  The reason for the popularity withDSC06822 motorcyclists is the challenging roads and the beautiful views as well as good food and beer. I stayed in a great little pension / hotel called The Vlatavin and the couple that own it definitely went above and beyond to make Suzie and I feel secure there. Suzie had her own  covered mesh compound for the night and the accommodation was first class for me too.

copy2.jpg

So, having enjoyed Český Krumlov, it’s time for a good sleep because tomorrow is going to be a long day. I intend to cross Germany in one day and it’s a wide country. The weather is holding well with good temperatures so it should be a nice spin.

 

 

From Stelvio to Bled, Slovenia.

Through the Italian Alps to Bled, Slovenia.

After Stelvio I stopped in a beautiful town in South Tyrol, Italy called Silandro, or Shlanders if you prefer the Austrian version. First night in Italy so it had to be fantastic Italian food and wine and a stay in a lovely hotel. Next morning I tracked East through the Italian Alps. Remarkable little towns that seemed to be barely perched on the steep mountainside. 

Then after two days in the Italian Alps I decided to visit Lake Bled in Slovenia, and to get there the best option seemed to be the autobahn through the 7.5 kilometre Karawanken tunnel that links Austria to Slovenia. So Suzi Suzuki had the first run on a motorway all the way from Northern France.

When I visited the castle I made sure she had some shade from the hot sun as well as the company of some other motorbikes.

Now it’s time to return to Austria, to Burgenland South East of Vienna, to spend a few days with a great friend who has a “roundy” birthday to celebrate. Steaffi and I were peacekeepers together in Bosnia twenty years ago and have been close ever since and I’m looking forward to meeting his fantastic extended family again. I think there is a possibility that we might drink one or two white wine spritzers too.

In the Summertime When the Weather is Hot.

Great weather in Ireland means biking. Hot weather in Clare brings on a need to visit the picturesque village of Doolin.

High temperatures in May in Ireland definitely means bike time.

It’s getting close to my big trip in Europe but the weather has been so warm and dry in Ireland DSC05705 (2)that it would be almost impossible to resist a little motorcycling. The Wicklow hills are in my back yard so myself and Mrs. Rambler did a trip to Powerscourt Waterfall. At 400 feet or 121 metres it’s quite impressive. It’s in a mountain valley near Enniskerry about half an hour South of Dublin. It’s a very popular place to visit and particularly when the weather is warm it gets a large number of visitors. We combined it with a visit to some of the quaint villages in the area. Roundwood, Laragh and Glendalough are only a short distance on the V-Strom and we did a quick spin up to Sally gap and Lake Tay which are only a stone’s throw away as well. There’s always something to see in the Wicklow area and lots of people come out to take advantage of it when the weather is good, and why not. We enjoy hill-walking a lot and Wicklow certainly has a lot of possibilities for outdoor pursuits.

Last Monday I was checking my favourite weather app and noticed it was indicating 23 degrees in Clare so I packed the tent and a few other bits and DSC05733 (2)pieces on to the V-Strom and that’s a fairly easy task as it came with panniers and I added a top box. The trip to Doolin in County Clare is about three and a half hours but I stopped a few times for fuel for the Suzuki and fuel in the form of coffee for me. I was delighted that the app was right in relation to temperatures. The readout on the dash showed a steady increase as I went West. By the time I hit Clare it was staying steady at 23 degrees Celsius. It even showed 24 degrees briefly with a blue sky and plenty of sunshine. I rocked up to O’Connor’s Riverside Camping and Caravan site about 4 pm in the evening and set up the tent. DSC05779 (2)I hadn’t done it for a while but I got it up without too much of a problem. I have stayed at this site before and it’s really smashing. The staff are friendly and helpful and I also noticed a new addition in the form of “glamping” yurts. I had never seen these in the flesh before and they definitely made my little tent look far away from glamorous. I couldn’t believe how luxurious they looked inside and had to take a picture to show Mrs. Rambler. If we get a chance later in the summer we might just give them a go.

I spent an hour or so exploring on the V-Strom. It’s only a few minutes to Doolin Pier where you can take a ferry ride to either the island or to view DSC05756 (2)the Cliffs of Moher. I visited some of the little towns nearby too. Lahinch and Lisdoonvarna are only short distances away. When I got back to the tent I parked up the bike and walked up to O’Connor’s pub which was always a great spot for food and music. By now I had built up a good appetite. I was relying on previous experience and was not disappointed. The food was as good as I had hoped. DSC05767 (2)It’s always a good place for seafood and the service is quick and efficient but I was obviously too early for music. Not too worry though because Doolin is a great place for traditional music and after a leisurely walk taking in the beautiful red sunset I visited some of the other pubs. They were all very busy and the music and poetry renditions were great. It is hard to believe that Doolin could be so busy this early in the year. It seemed like there were twice as many visitors from outside Ireland as from within the country. As is usual in these homely places with nice music and lots of visitors, everyone talks to everyone, and it’s a nice way to meet people and have a relaxing evening.

Back to reality the next morning. I realised why I don’t chose to stay in the tent too often. I was a little stiff to say the least of it. It’s nice to do it occasionally but I don’t think I’d like to be crawlingDSC05730 (2) into a tent for a few nights in a row. I folded away the tent and sleeping bag and packed up the bike. I decided to forgo the pleasure of cooking my own breakfast even though the kitchen facilities in the Riverside site are first rate. I stopped not far from Bunratty Castle and  enjoyed a hearty full Irish and then set off for home. It was a nice trip in brilliant weather but now its time to start getting ready for a longer bike adventure, further afield.

As I mentioned earlier, I am taking the ferry to France shortly so today I visited the AMI (Adventure Motorcycles Ireland) shop in Gorey to have someone else throw an eye on the V-Strom before the big adventure. Of course there was no sign of the lads. Gary, Craig and Derek are off working hard investigating routes for future tours or actually guiding a tour at the moment. David had just headed off somewhere before I arrived. It’s amazing how these guys always find somewhere urgent to go on their bikes to somewhere interesting and exotic, like Portugal or Greece or Morocco, where the weather is good. It’s hard work but someone has to do it. Which left Joanna and Conor minding the fort. Which they were doing admirably. Conor had a quick check on the bike and we adjusted a few things, all with a view to satisfying myself that everything was in order for the anticipated high mileage in the next few weeks that I am really looking forward to.

Suzie in the sunshine.

When it’s sunny in Ireland you have to get your bike out. The V-Strom was a joy to ride today.

Weather in the high teens means bike time in Ireland.

Today was a beauty so I decided to take the V-Strom out for a spin. I haven’t being biking lately because I’ve had to take it easy recently after a quick pit-stop in hospital for an oil change and service. It was an over-due bit of maintenance on me, rather than the motorcycle for a change, but I am well on the road to recovery. It’s like when you get new tyres you’ll be told to take it handy until they’re worn in a little bit. In Ireland if you see that yellow thing up in the sky, well then it’s time to get out and about and enjoy it because it could be back to dampness again without too much of a delay. Not to worry, it’ll change again before you get a chance to get accustomed to the new weather situation.

I met up with my brother-in-law, Declan who wanted to knock the cob-webs off his Triumph AmericaIMG_0162, a cool little cruiser, that has been well behaved since a few incidents I described in an earlier post (http://wp.me/p7IHqF-wo). Yes, it’s the same Triumph America that I “push started” more times than I care to remember in France a few years ago. All is forgiven now and Declan and I met up and went out to enjoy the sunshine. 18ºC is a positive heatwave in April in Ireland and it was not to be wasted. Since I’m not fully back to fitness,  and Joan the Weather Lady on the national TV channel had advised of the possibility of sea fog near the coast, we decided to go to one of myIMG_0160 nearest and dearest destinations, the little inland city of Kilkenny. It didn’t disappoint. Thronged with other people out enjoying the sunshine, it is always a pleasure to visit. The castle is a complete gem and definitely not to be missed on a sunny day. Already Kilkenny is bursting at the seams with visitors and tours from overseas. Rather than making it feel overcrowded, it gives Kilkenny that cosmopolitan air to it. It makes you feel you are where it’s all happening, in a relaxed sort of way. People are strolling around enjoying what there is to see or just chilling in the beautiful castle gardens.

One of my favourite spots to visit in Kilkenny is Sullivan’s Brewing Company where they have DSC05369their own beer and their own wood-fired pizzas. Declan and I had a gorgeous pizza each and a pint of their award winning Maltings Red Ale, sitting in the sun-trap that is their beer and pizza garden. That’s the good life for sure. We enjoyed that little piece of heaven, sitting in the sunshine, but reality intrudes and before long it was time to go about our business. We walked up High Street and I showed Declan a motorcycle shop up beside Rothe House in one of the laneways off High Street. Brodericks is run by Enda Carrigan. Enda was busy with a customer so we just checked out his stock of motorcycles and as usual he had a nice selection of bikes to look at. Shortly after that we parted ways and when I got home I was satisfied that I had got a spin on the V-Strom and it was as enjoyable as expected. I have to be fully fit for my big European trip on Suzie in May and it won’t be long now until I have to get all my gear onto the V-Strom for the first time. Maybe a little practice run might help. You’d never know.