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Slovenia-Croatia 09/07: The Coast Road

The Croatian coast road is fabled among bikers, and I was the one who had insisted we make it part of our adventure. When we set off from Split, though, I felt I must have made a terrible mistake. The route crawled among morning traffic through one built-up area after another, and it was hot.

I enjoy just rolling through towns checking out the scenery, but I knew Howard would be hating it. At lunchtime we took a side road down to a seaside village, where we had lunch and, in my case, a quick swim. Afterwards the road climbed with the cliffs, becoming faster, cooler, emptier and generally more Howard-friendly.

I became intrigued by roadside stalls selling brightly-coloured liquids in bottles alongside strings of garlic, red and green chillies, and watermelons kept fresh by spray from hosepipes. We stopped in a layby and investigated one. The glowing bottles were fruit juices, and we bought a bottle of bright, sweet mandarin along with four fresh figs for a total cost of around £3. I asked if I could take a photo, and the stallholder insisted Howard had to be in it. He hates being photographed, but, as you can see, put on a brave face.

Looking at the map before our trip, we had noticed that the road passed through Bosnia for a few miles. We were concerned, not because we thought we'd be in any danger but because neither of us had insurance or breakdown cover for that country. It was an uneventful few miles, luckily, and, once again, nobody checked our passports. Shortly after we reentered Croatia, I happened to be looking down at my dashboard and noticed the odometer had ticked over to 10,000 miles.

Dubrovnik is another big town, with lots of steep, narrow streets stacked above each other. Eventually we found our road and a brand new apartment, completed that very week, whose owners were delighted to have us christen it. We bought supplies from the supermarket and ate them on our balcony, admiring our view of beach below and mountain above (these reminded me of my favourite scene from The Naked Gun, see icon) until it was too dark to see more than the lights of aeroplanes overhead and cars on the high coast road.

145 miles

Roadside fruit and veg stall
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I can't think of a better way to explore Europe - it sounds wonderful!

We'll be exploring France in September, but not on motor scooters. Any favorite places we should make sure to see?
Even though I've been going to France since I was a tot, there's still lots I haven't seen! But the Loire is lovely, all river and castles. I've also visited Normandy a lot - mostly for the roads, but you also get cider, cheese, D-Day and the castle from The Story of O (which I haven't read).

France is so big (when you live in England)! How long are you going for?
Three weeks. A big chunk in Paris, of course, then a big loop by car. I've never been to France, so it's all going to be new and wonderful.
The Michelin Green Guide to France (or, for greater detail, the individual Green Guides for various regions) are a pretty good way of finding out what's good to visit. Unless you've set aside several months, I suspect your problem will be what to leave out, not what to include!

Paris has plenty to see and do all by itself. Sure, you could go up the Eiffel Tower, see the Mona Lisa, etc. in a weekend if you rushed, but my own preference would be to give it at least a week or two. (I've now spent about two months of my life in Paris and have plenty of unfinished business. Even the Louvre has 35,000 things to see; when a friend and I spent a whole week there in 2001 it's sobering to reflect that we spent an average of only 4 seconds looking at each object.)

If you can't give Paris a week or two, I'd suggest enjoying the rest of France and leaving it for later.

I agree about all the stuff huskyteer mentioned, but add many of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Also:
  • Futuroscope (cinematic theme park)
  • Île de Ré (a modest yet pleasing spot which feels Mediterranean, but is in the Bay of Biscay so far less crowded)
  • The Millau viaduct, tallest bridge in the world
  • Aven Armand caves
  • …whatever I think of immediately after hitting submit. (-8
…and now I'm dismayed you didn't manage to sneak in a joke about having to Split.

One of the big problems I have on holiday is forgetting that people are continuing to go about their daily lives. More than once, after a day of pootling through scenic countryside I've encountered a stinker of a traffic jam and gone "Ah. Yeah. 5pm."

I'm relieved you made it through Bosnia OK. Someone I know — a reckless idiot I know — went there many years ago and had the same insurance. And then a light tank accidentally rammed his rear window with its turret. The driver didn't seem inclined to negotiate about liability, so that was his cost. On the other hand, the fact there were still tanks on the streets of Sarajevo back then might indicate he was frankly lucky to get back at all! Someone else I know visited Sarajevo recently and it was apparently peaceful and lovely, if depressingly scarred.
When we asked a member of hotel staff about passing through Bosnia, she got the wrong idea and assured us it wasn't a war zone and it wasn't dangerous even though the people were poor; she was Bosnian herself and had come to Split to work (and yes, damn, should have managed a Split pun somehow).

Daily lives: our big error was doing the major tourism sites, Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle, at the weekend, because of course all days were days off to us.