… went without a problem (apart from the utterly and completely incomprehensible French road numbering system leading us astray on more than one occasion) and we arrived at La Ferme en Ville, Bernay. As it was a Sunday evening we were expecting to have recourse to bread and scrape and in Abbeville, we’d stocked up with fruit, bread and cheese. Our hosts though, couldn’t have been more accommodating and delightful and we were treated to an excellent dinner – all home-grown salad and vegetables and locally sourced meat. That Robert and his wife were both classic car enthusiasts with a Mini and a Triumph Spitfire in the family was an unexpected bonus.
Following a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and croissant, we set out to our next stop in Airvault, taking in Le Mans along the way. Some of the Monaco Dasher’s had been together at the Le Mans Classic a couple of years ago and the centre of the town was a bit of a building site. Not so now. We found a parking place in a quiet square behind the cathedral and went for a wander round. One of the things that has been so charming about our reception in France is the extraordinary enthusiasm and interest in the Hillman that people have expressed along the way. Sometimes it’s been difficult to get out of the car park but it’s been a real pleasure to chat away with people from all walks of life.
Having dawdled along the way somewhat…
… an impromptu lunch stop at a wayside cafe with 2 Sunbeam 90 dhc’s, a TR6 and the owner’s Triumph Spitfire couldn’t be ignored – we were a bit late at Le Vieux Chateau, Airvault. An interesting evening dining with all the other guests at a long banqueting table, kept us on our toes as none of the 10 spoke a word of English (which was nice).
After a similarly communal breakfast (late again) we pressed on to the charming port of La Rochelle. It was a bit out of our way but I’d wanted to visit while I had the chance. The detour was worth it – a splendid lunch in a bustling little town with lots of history.
The Armstrong Siddeley Hurricane beat us to our destination and everyone, thankfully, arrived in one piece. The only real drama was that the Hurricane blew out an inner tube – fortunately only 20 yards from their chosen hotel – and that involved getting two more tyres and tubes flown out from Longstone Tyres in the UK.
Our first entertainment was a couple of lemonades with the local car club. An Aero Morgan in very original condition, an XK and an Austin 7 were some of the cars to look at before we motored off to Aubeterre for lunch.
Aubeterre boasts an extraordinary church cut into the rock. It’s quite the most fantastic structure and, without thinking, I’d imagined that the excavations would have begun at the bottom. Not so – they started at the top and worked their way down; a fact that wasn’t at first obvious to me because you walk in at the bottom.
If that doesn’t make a lot of sense I can be excused after 170 brain-rattling miles in a vintage special…..