BMW trial bike (correct me if I'm wrong but I think it's called a GS1200). It's blue (if you're interested...) and I have to get onto the back from the left-hand side. Like a horse really, except it doesn't kick or move jauntily away just as you're at that critical hopping/balance/launch moment which leaves you hopping in hot pursuit after it or flat on your nose.
I came armed with toothbrush, clean undies and my fluo pink ski gloves for our (boy-free) weekend away down towards Spain. The idea was to meander along the coast as far as possible then move inland towards Prades in the Pyrennees Orientales.
The sky was azur blue, the air was sharp and sweet, and we were suitably equipped. I tried (stylishly) to get on the bike and, once comfy, shoved my hands into the rack behind me (the clinging on for dear life rack, if you like), and we were off.
One of the most remarkable differences between riding a motorbike and being in a car is the variation in what you can smell. Driving through a wood is not just pretty, it's a delight for the nose. In wafts, you find yourself identifying the fragrance of pine, the rich hummus smell of damp topsoil, sometimes even a whiff of a cepe-like perfume which makes me want to stop and jump off and start digging!
Reaching the sea, you are hit by that energising smell of ozone and salt. Going through drying lagoons, your nose is assailed by the herbs and grasses that grow its edge. On some, the salt had dried to a give a sparkling coating of white crystals. I thought of fleur de sel and wondered if we shouldn't stop and collect some...
We didn't, but drove on, stopping for a fishy lunch at Valras Plage (très average), then continuing along the départemental roads keeping as near to the coast as possible. At Argeles sur Mer, we hit the D618 and drove inland towards Prades. We spent the night at Catllar on the other side of the river Têt, dining on delicious tapas in the Casa de l'Oliver on the Place de la République overlooking the rather impressive clock tower. They were fresh, tasty and even better served with a bottle of the local wine.
On Sunday, we decided to have lunch in Spain, heading down on the D618 - the mountain road going to Ceret. It was stunningly beautiful, great fun to do on the bike because of all the twists and turns, the sudden views on the other side of a col, and the contrast to the coastal roads of the previous day. We stopped in Ceret for a coffee and then made straight for the coast, driving through Collioure and onto the Spanish border.
The roads had been pretty empty, but it was a lovely sunny Sunday, and they suddenly filled up with people out to enjoy the autumnal sunshine and a lunch out. Once in Spain, we carried on along the coast, admiring the creeks, the glorious colour of the Mediterranean and the rocky outcrops and tiny beaches.
We had been advised to have lunch at a restaurant in el Port de la Selva 'up some steps'. Apparently we couldn't miss it, and indeed we couldn't. Overlooking the sea, the mini port and the hills behind, we feasted on the best paella maritime I've ever had. Cooked freshly for us in its 3-people dish, the rice was cooked to perfection, not marred by being horribly yellow and so tasty you felt you could eat it forever. It was accompanied by a nice bottle of full-bodied Torres.
Unfortunately we had to take the fast route back to Montpellier after our delightful lunch, and I spent a couple of hours clinging on for dear life as my TWBD bombed along the autoroute; my head stuffed into my shoulders, and bent right down to cut down on wind resistance. It was a fairly dull way to end the weekend, but terribly efficient.
It was a brilliant weekend - fun, exciting, fast, beautiful and such a pleasure to be sitting on the back of such a powerful bike, behind someone who was so expert in handling it. Mmm, more please!