Folkestone was my next destination. An overnight stay, then southeast into & through France. Didn’t happen, but mistakes & shit certainly happened!
Before going to Folkestone, and my (almost) last miles on British soil, I had decided to ride into Oxford. Over the course of the past 4 decades I’ve been in England more times than I can count. But I’d never been in Oxford, or Oxfordshire. In hindsight I should have planned things differently. Spent an extra night, allowed time to explore the city & shire more thoroughly.
Hindsight is indeed 20/20. As it turned out, that saying could easily have been a subtitle for this years summer adventure (too). Mentioned in the previous post, England and Wales was just one part of the plans. Sorry, correction; “Plans”. As a result I’d not given Southwest of England, and indeed Oxford, much thought.
While eating breakfast I checked google maps. Wasn’t in a great hurry. Riding into town too early quite likely would lead to getting stuck in traffic. Well I managed to get stuck in traffic even with a pretty late departure.
Oxford city & traffic
Oxford is without a doubt one of England’s best known cities, with history dating back to the 10th century. Here you find the oldest university in the English speaking part of the world. Established in the 12th century it boasts impressive architecture, and buildings dating back to the Anglo-Saxon period.
Oxford also owes its more modern fame to films, like Howard’s End, Harry Potter (3 films shot there), and TV series like Inspector Morse and Lewis, to mention but a few.
Riding into Oxford city centre took around 45 minutes. Not because of distance, but because of traffic. Typically weather had changed, not only to blue sky and sun, but blue sky and sun plus pretty high temperature. So there I was on a motorcycle, with full gear, stuck in ultra-slow traffic, again.
Oh well, such is the life of a motorcycle adventurer.
As a result of the heat I decided to make my Oxford motorcycle tour a short one. Stopped by the The Hertford Bridge, aka the Bridge of Sighs, by a few of the Oxford University buildings, the entry to the University area, and some other buildings.
Oxford is indeed a very pretty city. I rode enough around, also due to one-way streets, to get an impression of city life and atmosphere. If you ever want to go there, my advise would be, park your car, or motorcycle, outside the city. Use public transport, and be patient.
I certainly will, next time.
Mistakes & consequences
Left Oxford and rode south through Cowley, and hit the M40 around Milton Common. In the early “planning” phase I’d thought to travel along the coastline, towards Folkestone. Get to see some seaside cities, like Brighton, for nostalgic reasons, Eastbourne and Hastings. But my friend David C said it would be a traffic nightmare, and recommended to just stay on the main roads. Get past London before rush hour.
From M40 over to M25 around Iver Heath. Made good progress, for a while. Around Warwick Would nostalgia won over reason. As a result I detoured down M23 south, in direction of Brighton. At first it looked like it would be a quick ride into town, then out again. In fact prospects of a swift ride looked so good I detoured onto some very small roads.
Absolutely bonkers plan, but the small roads were good!
So not long after I came out of small roads and green tunnel heaven, I sat there. In heavy traffic jam, just as foretold. Sunny weather, blue sky and temperature rapidly climbing past 32C made the situation sub-optimal, to say the very least. I didn’t stay in Brighton for long. The traffic was even worse in centre of the town.
Right, well finally back north and about to enter M25, full stop. Finding yourself on the M25 in rush hour on a motorcycle, and in hot weather, is about as unpleasant as it can get. I’d actually been more happy was it raining. Well maybe not come to think of it.
In the end I had no choice. Inspired by some English motorcycle riders I went into lane splitting mode.
Much thanks to my stupid detours I didn’t make it to Folkestone until after 7PM. Had booked room on a seaside hotel. It didn’t look too bad, from the outside. The first floor looked as good as the outside. There ended the posh, stylish impression.
Folkestone & Best Western Clifton hotel wasn’t a bad choice. Not at all, I’ve booked (far) worse. They say you get what you pay for. I cannot rule out booking.com got the cheap rooms. With an en-suite bathroom that probably was refurbished sometime in the late 70s. The shower did work, though water pressure wasn’t impressive.
But seaside view, decent food and drink, proximity to Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal, that was all I needed. The hotel even had a more upscale restaurant, owned by the famous chef Marco Pierre White. It was pricey, so I settled for a good burger with fries, plus a pint or two (or three), in the bar.
There is one more thing worth mentioning about the Best Western Clifton Hotel. If you’ve got Claustrophobia or Claustrophobic tendencies, take my advise and book room on first or second floor. The elevator is one of the tiniest, most squeaky I’ve ever used. Two people with luggage will have to battle for room. To make matters worse, it’s painfully slow.
You are hereby warned.