Thursday 18th June and just finished fixing window rubbers and chrome bonnet strips to Bob’s E-type. Time to meet the others at the Holiday Inn in Folkestone. Bob would follow on later when he had installed the interior. The sun was alone in a cloudless sky, so it was out with the XJS and down with the roof. All was well, but not for Steve and Carroll whose Daimler 250 fried a wheel bearing just after the QE II Bridge. They still managed the trip, but in an Alfa.
A great meal that evening in the nearby Britannia Inn, followed by lots of drinks and bed. Friday started with bright sunshine, which followed us all the way to our destination. Even the Tunnel was relatively on time. Cruising down the smooth French autoroutes payage was a joy; why can’t ours be like these? Stopped for lunch at the picturesque landscaped Aire de la Baie de Somme, a slightly strange affair consisting of a semi self-service bar where, during your passage through it, various servers loaded whatever they were near onto your tray. I ended with enough food to see me through the weekend. Still, French food is always good – even on motorways.
On the way, we were overtaken by Bob and Sue in their E-type, now with an interior but still minus a few bits. The missing bits couldn’t belong to the engine which answered to the helm with warp speed in the outside lane. Not bad for its first outing after a lengthy restoration. The rest of the journey down was largely uneventful unless you were in convoy with our Chairman leading. An unfortunate choice at the A28/29 junction lead some unlucky members to drive a few miles further than anticipated. With no such navigational errors to thwart us, Richard, Charles and Irene and myself were amongst the first to arrive, but not before experiencing some beautiful scenery, the most awe inspiring being the bridge across the Seine. Worth every cent of the 5.50 euro toll. Known as the Pont de Normandie, the cable stayed bridge takes the E44 across the river and links Le Havre to Honfleur, combining structural necessity with an architectural elegance that surely puts it up there with the Best Bridges in the World Club.
Following a shower, I relaxed in the courtyard with a cool beer whilst the others arrived. It was not long before we headed off to the appropriately named Garage Restaurant for a welcome meal. Typically French, despite the name, the restaurant provided an excellent menu. In my case, the seafood starters provided so many varieties of crustacean and shellfish, it took longer to eat than the main course. Note to self: never order something with which you have to engage in battle to eat.
Saturday was a do-it-yourself day, so a group of us decided to explore Deauville and what better way to do that than via a “Wally Train”. (I think Vaughn coined that one). Starting at the Tourist Information Office it took us on a tour of the town, and what an interesting place it is. As the closest seaside town to Paris, it was home to the French high society and regarded as the Queen of the Norman Beaches. It was, and still is, one of the most prestigious seaside resorts in France. Often referred to as the Parisian Riviera, it gained prominence early in the last century and we saw it all. The train took us to the Morny Basin, one of the two ports here, now lined with yachts, then onto Place Morny overlooked by the Duke of Morny, Deauville’s founding father. Included in the tour was the Italianate Casino, built in 1912 and where, in 1913, Coco Chanel opened her first boutique.
Just as impressive was the two kilometre long beach, lined by a boardwalk and shadowed by huge villas of eclectic architectural styles. There are two racecourses and, it goes without saying, a Rue Victor Hugo. Oh, and an eighteen (yes, eighteen) hole Crazy Golf Course which, needless to say, is where our party ended up for an hilarious couple of hours. Bob, Gill, Chris, Marise, Graham, Anne, Vaughn, Julie and your scribe bumbled around the course with the boys playing the girls. It was a difficult course to play, but this did not stop one of the group scoring three holes in one thus saving the day for the boys.
Sunday was an organised outing to Honfleur, where, after much negotiation by Richard and Doug, we were given permission to display our cars in the town square, Place Arthur-Boudin. Originally anticipating some rain, we were soon able to lower the roofs as the sun pierced any threatening clouds, presenting us with an almost Mediterranean climate for the rest of the day.
Honfleur is a lovely place to be. Situated in the Calvados region famous for its apple brandy, it is on the south bank of the Seine estuary across from Le Havre. Off and on it was occupied by the British, due to its strategic position. A must see is the Saint Catherine Church, the largest timber built church in France and built using naval construction techniques. In case of lightning strikes and subsequent fires, the bell tower is built separately some yards away. Along the colourful café-lined harbour you can see the houses with slate covered frontages often painted by the likes of Courbet, Boudin and Monet.
We were lucky to be there that day since the town hosted a festival which included another car display where old French classics brushed fenders with other European and American marques. Our display created a great deal of interest, particularly the E-types of Chris, Roger and Bob. Dave Bearman presented a superb XK 140 convertible which complemented Mark 2’s, XJ6’s, XJS’s and XJ8’s. But it was Richard’s SS100 that attracted the most attention … from the women. Lucky man! As the sun set, we returned to the hotel for the last night to be greeted by several rows of champagne flutes which were quickly filled and promptly quaffed.
Excellent scenery, great friends, brilliant weather and wonderful cars combined to make this another successful continental adventure for the Essex Thameside Region. Thanks to members: Bob and Sue King, Chris and Marise White, Dave and Pauline Bearman, Roger and Miriam Petheram, Geoff and Mary Monk, Jean Pearce and Martin Saward, Carrol and Steve Perryman, Helen and Stephen Clark, Charles and Irene Catchpole, Graham Cook and Pat Gillingwater, Steve Rider and Beverly Warren, Bob and Gill Cain, Ray and Wanda Collins, Vaughn and Julie High, Richard Gibby, Doug Warren and Neil Shanley for coming along for the ride.