Day Four: Thursday 4rd July
I slept well and woke at six am to the sound of the ships Captain telling us how wonderful our trip was going to be. I hoped he was right. I gathered up my belongings and headed down to the vehicle deck and to my Lambretta. We watched the crew fix the ramps and the clatter of them being put in place did a good job of making sure I was awake.
The weather was sunny with a cloudless sky and although warm, it was comfortable. So now with my ten inch Lambretta wheels firmly in France, I was off through Le Havre heading east to Albert. I was looking forward to this part of the trip. a couple of years ago I took the road from Le Havre to Albert and experienced some great roads and scenery almost from the moment I left Le Havre. Unfortunately, my route planning skills meant I was taking the long straight roads to Albert. I’m still not sure how this happened.
Even though the roads were long and straight in many parts, it wasn’t going to diminish my joy of riding my Lambretta through France. I love it here, even if I still can’t speak a word of French, it’s a great place to visit.
I rode along at a leisurely speed without the worry of traffic. The roads were quiet. So I never felt the need to keep up pace with any vehicles. It was around 130 miles from Le Havre to Albert, so I only made one fuel stop, which was west of Amiens, conveniently, there was a shop at the fuel stop, inconveniently it was closed for lunch. Never mind, Albert wasn’t far. I rode into Albert before Midday and I was quite astonished not to have made any wrong turns. Apart from when I took the wrong turn to the hotel in Albert, but that didn’t count because I was now in Albert.
I pulled up and checked in to the Hotel De La Paix. I put my gear into my room and then took a walk round the small town. Albert It’s a small, but very important place to the geography of World War One. This wasn’t only my stop off point, I was going to visit a couple of places on the Somme. Some I had been to before, but there were a couple of places I wanted to see again.
One of the famous landmarks on the Somme is the Golden Virgin on top of the basilica of Albert. It was hit by the German shelling during the First World War and it was almost toppled. It stayed like this until the British knocked it down in 1918 when the Germans had took Albert. After the war it was rebuilt and today it can be seen for many miles.
The first thing I did was take a tour of the War Museum under the Basilica of Albert. An amazing place, with a huge collection of relics and artefacts of the Great War. This is most definitely worth a visit when visiting or passing through Albert.
Later in the afternoon I rode out to a few of the places I wanted to visit on the Somme. One was the grave of Boromee Vaquette in Authuille Communal Cemetery. This unfortunate farmer was shot on the 27th September 1914 by a nervous French soldier who thought he was a German soldier. He would be the first of over one million casualties on The Somme. Just behind this cemetery is the Authuille Military Cemetery, here lay the graves of British soldiers including Willie McBride, but which one is Willie? There’s two.
By now the heat on the Somme had took a hold and was mentally slowing me down. I went on to a couple of other spots on the Somme including Thiepval Memorial, The 18th Eastern Memorial & The Ulster Tower. I have been here a couple of times before so I didn’t hang around. I then rode back to Albert and in the evening I took a walk into the centre of Albert and had an evening coffee while I wrote my notes and diary for the day.
Mileage for the day: 174
Day Five: Friday 5th July
I had a good nights sleep and woke a bit later than I would have liked to at eight thirty am. After a coffee I packed the Lambretta and headed off, with my sights set on Verdun. It was around 180 miles to Verdun and there was a couple of places I wanted to visit along the way that meant adding a few miles to the journey.
There was a thin cloud cover to begin with, but it was still warm. I was riding through familiar places which made me feel good and it was somewhat comforting to have an idea where I was. This doesn’t usually happen. I was soon riding past Peronne and as usual wide stretches of landscape for miles. I was having an issue with my GoPro that I couldn’t figure why it was happening. It would freeze or refuse to record. I stopped and changed the memory card. (I like recording my journeys so I had six cards). The issue still didn’t stop and it was somewhat frustrating.
I was soon riding through Saint Quentin passing the hotel I stayed at last year. Traffic was quite light and junctions were crossed stress free. When I reached the quaint town of Marle, with a couple of cars passing and waving. First thoughts were something was wrong or had fallen off the Lambretta, but it was just them being friendly, lovely. I decided to stop for fuel. 10 minutes later and after topping up my drinking water (essential in hot weather) I was on my way.
By lunchtime the thin cloud that had kept temperatures at a bearable level had burnt away and it was getting hotter. When I reached Rethel, I turned onto the D946 were I was to go to the Monument De Navarin. A memorial to the armies who fought in the Champagne region during World War One. Behind this was the remains of trenches used, with the remains of barbed wire. Once I arrived I took a walk around here for a while, but inside was closed for lunch, so I rode on to my next stop.
Twenty miles on, I arrived at Le Main De Massiges from the road turning into what seemed to be a farm yard. Here is a fascinating part of the Great War. Trenches and relics left. Including live shells. In the hour or so I spent here, I was the only person here, but the evidence of others was here in the Visitors Book, where people leave messages of their visit.
I left Massiges and I was now homing in on Verdun. My Sat Nav said it was 36 miles and one hour away. The usual traffic free roads applied to this route, but the views were fantastic and sometimes it was hard to keep your eye on the road. I love the the birds from the roadside hedgerows that bob alongside me like proverbial dolphins alongside a boat. The last hours ride to Verdun took one and a half hours due to a couple of wrong turns, but I was soon riding alongside the beautiful river Meuse and the very familiar city of Verdun in glorious sunshine. The Lambretta was going well. I still had the half throttle hot spot and heavy fuel usage, but I was happy enough to be riding through France again and it was days like this that make it all worth it.
After finding my hotel (Ibis). I checked in. It was a spotless and very clean hotel, but a bit short of character. I didn’t care. Nothing was going to spoil my arrival to Verdun. I was delighted to be here and as soon as I finished sorting my room, I jumped on the Lambretta and headed into the centre for some supplies.
Verdun is a beautiful place. It’s referred to as a city but it’s barely a small town, but what it lacks in size, is made up with character, loads of character. There’s a number of various shops, plenty of small bars and tabacs and plenty of places to eat, especially along the front at a place called the Quai de Londres (Dock of London), with the Red phone box donated by the British after the Great War as a gift. The British had helped pay for the rebuild of Verdun after the war, hence the name Quai de Londres.
After a walk around, I headed back to my hotel. I logged my mileage, wrote my diary entry for the day and watched a bit of French TV.
Mileage for the day: 202