by Geoff Clough
The tale of how the overseas trips in the 21st Century came about is dealt with in a separate article which can be found on our website here.
What follows comprises the “Official” overseas trips organised by the BMW Club Oxford from 2005 to 2009. Many other weekend events were arranged such as camping weekends and various hotel weekends. There were also some members who privately arranged trips or joined commercially run trips, but these are not included here.
2005 Varlet Farm, Belgium
Charlotte, our hostess, looked after us very well. She spoke excellent English, set up a marvellous buffet breakfast, and had a large roll of clingfilm on the table with encouragement to make up sandwiches for a packed lunch. Her apple pie on our arrival was very tasty too!
The farm near Poelkapelle was located within the Passchendaele battlefield. Every time they ploughed the fields yet more WW1 ordnance and artefacts would be unearthed. Charlotte had developed quite a museum from these items over the years. Any unexploded shells would be collected and taken for safe destruction nearby. A loud crump could be heard twice a day as yet more munitions were carefully destroyed. Charlotte reckoned that there were enough items still being discovered to keep the controlled destruction going for another 40 years!
This first trip went more or less according to plan. The weather gave us all some idea of the muddy conditions our troops experienced in the trenches around the Ypres Salient.
2006 Spa, Belgium
Our base for this trip was AE Aventures run by Neil and Ann Leigh. Neil is a Nurburg Ringmeister (and long-time Club Member) who took us in small groups for a lap of the Nordschleife. By the time he had finished it was raining hard, and although he was wet through, he offered anyone a second attempt. Geoff Steele among others rose to the challenge and in fact was faster in the wet than he had been in the dry!
One evening, Neil led the way to a local café/bar in the village. It was reminiscent of the ‘Allo Allo’ set. The locals didn’t speak much English but made us very welcome. There was a Velocette poster on the wall. Geoff Steele spotted this and gave le Patron the Velocette T-shirt he was wearing. Entente cordiale indeed! The beers were very good too!
Neil also introduced us to a magnificent BMW Dealer in Aachen. This showroom on several floors housed cars as well as bikes and a great range of motorcycle clothing and accessories.
Colin and Anita Bembridge suggested Hotel Alpenblick in Grindlewald. Located near the Eiger and with good views of the famous North Face, this hotel looked after us very well. Happy hour was a bonus. If you ordered a drink before the evening meal you got a second one for free to enjoy with the meal. One of our pastimes was to catch flies (as there were cows grazing nearby). Colin proved more adept at this with one hand than most of us could manage with two.
Rides to the local sightseeing destinations included:
- The Trummelbach Falls (an amazing series of waterfalls and cascades falling within the cliff face)
- The cable car up to the revolving restaurant at the summit of the Schilthorn (featured in the James Bond Movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”)
- The train trip up the Jungfrau was quite an experience. This train climbs steadily mostly in tunnels within the mountain. At two points, you can disembark to view the glaciers before reaching the summit. At 3,463m (11,362 feet) the atmosphere was quite thin and we were advised not to be too energetic outside on the glacier.
The best ride was over several of the local passes. We rode the Susten Pass stopping in Andermatt for lunch. Then over the St Gotthard pass, the Nufenen pass, the Grimsel pass and back via Interlaken to Grindelwald. A great day out and dry as far as I can recall.
2008 Benodet, France
We stayed in a group of mobile homes on a great site on the outskirts of Benodet in Brittany. The units were owned and operated by a BMW Club member and provided us with an excellent base for exploration. For once I took a pillion – my sister Janet.
Trips included the Pointe du Raz, Quimper, Carnac and the standing stones. One recommended view was in Guilvinec at about 4pm when the fishing fleet returns to port. A queue of boats came over the horizon and made for port to land their catches, but they were all jostling for position at the quayside and couldn’t stay for long. Plenty of gulls were following the flotilla so there was plenty of noise too.
The swimming pool on the site proved very entertaining. There was a double slide into the pool which David Hicks and I used together. When we hit the water, we almost emptied the pool! [Other entertainment hinted at elsewhere is not mentioned here.]
2009 Couze St Front, France
Another holiday campsite, this time in the Dordogne region near Bergerac. The booking was made through an Irish lady who taught English in the local school. She was also on the local Committee de Fetes. This proved very handy as it was the Fete de la Musique the day we arrived. She reserved tickets on our behalf for the BBQ and entertainments. Later in the week was a BBQ next door to the campsite where you selected your meat, salad, bread and wine etc from a small farmers market. The meat was cooked for you on the big BBQ and there was even a mini disco to complete the evening.
The weather was settled, dry and warm by day and cool first thing in the mornings. There were plenty of opportunities to explore the region and enjoy the local wines. My favourite trip was to the bay of Arcachon and the nearby Sand Dune (allegedly the tallest Dune in Europe). We also ventured across to Rocamador built into the hillside and to Cahors with its spectacular bridge over the River Lot.
Couze was formerly a centre for paper mills. One mill remains as a museum.
On the journey down a few of us stopped at Oradour sur Glane. This was the scene of a WW2 massacre and the whole site has been left as a memorial. The site was extremely eerie since it had been frozen in time. The was no sound of birdsong which brought home the scale of the disaster.
To be continued…