It may sound kind of weird, but the most romantic trips for Thomas and me seem to be birding road trips. They follow our moto, “it’s for the journey, not the destination.” We usually have no idea where we’re going or what we’re going to find, but it always ends up an adventure. We went on a trip like that this last weekend – to Côte d’Opale, the Northern Coast in France.
Côte d’Opale is only two hours from Brussels, but we took the motorcycle on backroads, making the trip 9-hours round trip. We were really curious about how much we could pack on Thomas’ bike, and were surprised that we had plenty of room for 2 sleeping bags, a tent, a birding scope, cameras, tripod and lenses, and a change of clothes.
The weather wasn’t the best with overcast skies and occassional rain, but Thomas is an ATGATT (all the gear, all the time) rider, and we were set. I had on a quick dry t-shirt, blue jeans, rain pants and jacket, motorcycle pants and hi-vis jacket, helmet, gloves, and boots. I stayed dry when it rained, cool when it was warm, and warm when it cooled down.
When we ride, we stop every hour to walk around and take a break. One of our breaks was at Trench of Death – a free museum of a WWI bunker. It was pretty neat to be able to walk around the bunker and see how tough the conditions must have been for the soldiers. Thomas (a history buff) added in lots of details like that many of the soldiers suffered from trench foot (an infection from wet feet), and due to the technology boom in that time, some soldiers were still using old fashioned clubs while others had tanks and guns.
We also breaked an old cemetery where we wandered around and looked at some of the old and different-styled tombstones – most actually had photographs on them of the person buried there. Another stop was at the cute little town of Dunkerque where we got a tasty snack at a patisserie.
Afterward, we headed to our campsite and setup our tent. I’m a bit disappointed in the European campsites I’ve seen so far. They’re just nice grassy parking lots for RV’s – not the pretty woodsy like you see in the US. Still, for 6 euros, I’m not complaining – I was so exhausted by the end of day that I would have slept anywhere.
Before dinner, we headed over to Cap Gris Nez, a cape looking out towards the British coast. It was surrounded by old bunkers (and sheep), but it was a gorgeous view. I think my favorite part of the whole trip was standing on the cliff and watching the sea birds fly around under us – it reminded me of our honeymoon in the Galapagos.
We then enjoyed a nice seafood dinner and headed back to camp for a deep sleep. The next morning, we headed out to Cap Blanc Nez. It was a misty morning, but still there were amazing views.
That afternoon, we headed to Le Platier d’Oye, a birding reserve. They had several permanent hides set up around a marshy lake and a trail out to sand dunes and the ocean. We saw a few new-to-us birds that we’re still working on IDing and a ton of frogs.
We had one more stop before we headed home - Le Clipon. The GPS lead us out to a jette on the coast. We saw about a dozen wind gliders on the water and rode over a long gravel road to a pier loaded with fishermen. We didn’t see any birds there, but it was a nice break from the riding.
Like I said, it probably sounds like a crazy adventure, but we had a great time. Our helmets have bluetooth headsets so we can talk to each other as we ride, and the scenery on the country roads was beautiful. If you’d like to see more photos from this trip, they’re on Flickr:
- Birding and Bunkers on the French North Coast (45 photos)