After settling in at Chez Maurit, the next excitement was getting to Angouleme to see what was going on. Friday was billed as a bit of a special day and much was made of the Concourse de Elegance in the evening but, if I went to the races again, I would probably give Friday a miss. There was quite a lot of hanging around and by the time the party got going, it was time to get going – so we missed it.
As we did one of the bends on the way home. It was dark and the lights, although good for a vintage car, didn’t illuminate the tightness of the left-hander. Fortunately, there was a straight-on option – which I took!
Before we left the city, we took the opportunity to roar around as much of the circuit as possible. It’s very short and tight and heaving the Hillman round at speed would have been testing. I’d had to patch up a bit of the silencer before we left England but the repair hadn’t lasted which made our lap a bit of a head-turner.
The following day, we positioned ourselves in the small town of Aubeterre in order to catch the procession of classic and vintage vehicles passing through. We got the timing a bit wrong so decided we’d go on to Chalais where the vehicles had gathered for lunch. When we got there, we were ushered in to the parking especially reserved for the top cars. I wasn’t about to disabuse anyone of their notions regarding our status and happily joined the tour which took us back through cheering crowds to Aubeterre.
Two things which made distinct impressions on The Ambassador’s Daughter and me were firstly, the quality of the French roads which must be the best in the world – silent, smooth and largely empty – and secondly, the enthusiasm and delight the French – old and young – have for vintage cars. Passing through tiny villages in the middle of nowhere, old folk would rise from their seats, clap and call ‘Bravo!’ Where we parked, we found it hard to get away, such was people’s interest. It was all very heart-warming and we never for a moment thought twice about leaving the car unattended for the day in a car park or a back street – we knew it would be safe.
Sunday was the big day and the practicing started early. It was exciting stuff and the competitors were not behind the door considering the nature of the circuit. There were a couple of prangs and a few cars probably went home with less bodywork than they started with but I can only imagine that a good time was had by all.
Inevitably, there was a good showing of Bugatti’s but, come to think of it, I’d never seen so many Renault Alpine’s in one place either.
The sole representative of the Jowett marque was parked in one of the main squares in the town. It looked very original and well used. I would have liked to have seen under the bonnet but the owner wasn’t in evidence. But all this fun had to come to an end and on Monday morning we set off back to England. Once again, our hosts for the two stops we made were charming, accommodating and we ate very well.
The first sign of any inclement weather for the whole of our time in France came on Wednesday morning. We’d stayed at a small manoir about 50 miles South of Rouen and fortunately, the owners had made available a small motor house for the car overnight….
… so the car was dry to start our dash to Calais for the 1.20pm train. It was a bit of a long haul but the car is comfortable and despite the wind, noise and the horrendous traffic in England ….
… the 9 hour trip back to Suffolk wasn’t at all onerous.
So, both sadly and happily, that really winds up this particular adventure and I was expecting to settle down to a moment’s peace and quiet but …
… hello, what’s this turned up in my workshop?