Elly goes to France: Part Deux

The reason for being in France was that some dear friends of ours were getting married. Several other friends brought classic Citroens, and we had our own parking area at the wedding venue. 

Yes, that is a pair of RHD Ami 8 saloons. The groom owns one of them. The gorgeous orange GS estate is a car I did a photoshoot on for Classic Car Weekly eight or nine years ago. It now belongs to Darrin of Citroen Classics, which is where the groom works these days, handling parts. 

Following the wedding service, there was a very enjoyable hoon convoy, which saw the fleet of Citroens take to the streets of Saint-Amand-Les-Eaux, with much bodyroll and horn tooting. Marvellous. 

We certainly created quite a scene, with our British Citroens and 1960s dress code! There were many bowler hats. 

The rest of the day felt like a 2CV camp indoors, with much merriment and silliness. 

The following day, we discovered that there was a classic car meet in the Centre Ville. Excellent! Elly met an elderly relative. 

Trying to pick my favourite car was not easy. I adored this Vespa very much, and the Mustang was not without appeal. 

But this Alpine 310 has wacky wipers, and is oh so French. The Renault Floride behind it was nice too. 

Sadly, no Ami 6 saloons were present, but this Break was very pleasant. 

Finally, this shabby-chic GS estate was absolutely delightful. I would love to own one. 

After returning to the wedding venue for a lunch of leftovers, we began our gentle drive northwards to Dunkerque. I didn’t crack much above 90kmh on the autoroute.  There was no rush, and my passenger may have been a bit fragile… 

We booked into our Ibis Budget hotel, and immediately ran away from the horrid, chemical smell in our room. We left the window open in the hope that the smell might dissipate somewhat. 

An amble along Dunkerque’s long prom was pleasant enough, with an entertaining mix of architectural styles and lots of cafes. We chose one for a spot of dinner and blistered our way through an embarrassing failure of our feeble French… 

However, we did some sightseeing before we ate, with beauties such as this nice Renault 5 ‘supercinq’ not far from Elly. 

We thought that this shambolic C6 might be the most hopeless car we would see, but we were wrong. Check out those gaffer tape repairs though!

That turned out to be a mere starter though. The main course of pure Autoshite was this C15. The tinworm had left holes in the roof! 

Generally though, France was disappointingly bereft of old tat. This is a country where people would only buy a new one once the old one had finally fallen apart completely. Either more modern cars just don’t soldier on regardless, or consumerism has finally taken hold here. It’s a bit disappointing either way. 
But, holiday time is over. We’re now back on the boat, heading back to Kent, where a spell of work awaits. There will be another part to this tale though, as we still need to get back to Wales! 

For now, here’s our last photo in France. 

Elly goes to France

After the success of the recent trip to Birmingham, it was time for a rather larger adventure. France! A 2CVing chum is, today, marrying His French love (a lady, not any of his Citroens) so several of us have driven to the Continent in our 2CVs. 

Our trip began on Thursday, when we drove from Wales to Sussex. Here we are lunching in Crickhowell. 

Earplugs were very necessary, but Elly lapped up the miles with no bother. Motorways can be scary places in a 2CV. The legal limit is your top speed and actually passing people can be annoying if they speed up. Sometimes, they look in the mirror and refuse to let you past. I just assume these people have a need to compensate… 

After a pleasant stop over with Rachel’s family, we headed to Dover. Three miles from the port, a collision up ahead brought everything to a halt. We had a nervous wait while the emergency crews did their thing. 

We were very glad to reach the ferry port in time! 

We were even more glad to find friends that would be on the same boat. Yes, the yellow one is a 4×4. It was on Top Gear a LONG time ago, driven by Kate Humble. 

The crossing itself was undramatic, and some friends in an Ami joined our happy convoy. 

Then we pushed on for Saint-Amand-Les-Eaux. This is a town tucked near the Belgian border, and is suitably French. We even found a Renault 4!

There are two minor problems with Elly. One is that the speedometer bulb has stopped working, which made driving around last night entertaining. The other is that oil seems to be misting on the inside of the windscreen. There must be a mild leak on the offside cylinder. Hopefully not a major one. We need to get back home yet! 

More in the next post. 

Video! VW Caravelle

I’m really trying to clear my backlog of videos. Here’s another! A road test of the Volkswagen Caravelle (née Transporter) T25 (or T3 anywhere else in the world). This wasn’t just a quick test: I ended up covering around 150 miles in this vehicle, and managed to sell it! Here’s what I thought of it.

Video: Honda S-MX update

So, I finally managed to get a video together! That’s despite various technical failures and almost zero spare time – thank new magazine Rolls-Royce and Bentley Driver for that. Sure, I recorded it a few weeks ago, but hey, it’s live. Right here! Enjoy. Stick with it. Contains snow.

A day of travel Pt2

Buoyed by the rampant success of my first post, which an entire 32 people have read, I shall continue my travelogue.

My good friend helpfully guided me to the right platform at Acocks Green train station, and the next stage of my journey began.

The seats were green and the propulsion was via diesel engine and ZF automatic transmission. Yes, further travel by torque converter.

Only for two stops though. I was deposited at Solihull. I like Solihull, but this was my first visit to the train station. It’s from. So grim that while I attempted to consume a Ginsters sausage roll, a lady who worked there struck up a conversation with a passenger about how much the toilets stank. I was forced to halt my sausage roll consumption. I no longer felt hungry.

Salvation rolled into view.

This wasn’t quite as luxurious as I’d hoped, but was comfortable enough. The seats also didn’t hurt my eyes. The gentle thrum of diesel engine was very relaxing, in a way the dreadful noise machines of Arriva Trains Wales just are not. Most passengers fell asleep, including one who was reading a musical score.

We arrived in London, where fear was impossible to find.

There you are. London, yesterday. As we rattled along the underground, I marvelled at how those Arriva Trains Wales noise machines actually seem quite refined compared to this. I’m not sure the London Underground is actually legal under the Geneva Convention.

At Elephant and Castle, only one lift was working, so I gamely tackled the 111 steps to the surface. I was out of breath by the top, where I discovered that Thameslink trains were in chaos due to signalling faults. I was told to jump on the train arriving at platform four, only to then be told that it was actually arriving at platform two.

I wasn’t actually sure where this train was going, so consulted the Cityplanner app on my phone. From that I was able to deduce that the train was heading to Sutton. I stayed on it, as instructed, and ended up at South Merton as I’d hoped. Not before seeking assurances from another passenger, who I thought was a guard. Oops. I broke the rules of London. He chose another carriage.

From the station, it was a short walk to my Airbnb. Very pleasant it is too, situated on this beautifully quiet road.

That’s not the actual house, but this Golf lover isn’t far away. I detected a whiff of conservative about the house owner, confirmed by a Tory sticker on the fridge. I thought it best to say I was sightseeing at the weekend rather than taking part in a march against leaving the EU. I’m not sure why, but I often find myself reluctant to discuss my day job. Scared of sounding like the car bore I so clearly am?

Anyway, the bed is comfy and the decor marvellously dated. The tea is Earl Grey though, which isn’t really tea at all.

Still, it is cheap, with excellent transport links. I now need to seek breakfast and think about work. Which mostly involves being a car bore. Lovely.

A day of travel

I’m not sure I’ve got what it takes to be a great travel writer, in fact I’m pretty sure I don’t. Here’s an attempt anyway.

I left Wales in my Vauxhall Omega, a little saddened by the fact that the offside heated door mirror was not clearing very sufficiently. The roads curved in their usual, appealing manner and traffic levels were mercifully light.

Eventually, I arrived in Newtown. Alas, passing through this town, which doesn’t seem that new at all, is still very necessary. Oh for the completion of the bypass! I will rejoice. It’s not that Newtown is particularly horrible, just that getting through the place is about as enjoyable as getting through the crowd at a Sex Pistols gig. It’s possible, but smooth progress is unlikely. And you might get a bottle of something unpleasant thrown at you.

To prove my worth as a travel writer, I took an actual photo.

I took this to enable me to work out the economy. It came out at 32mpg. I wish I hadn’t bothered working it out.

I pushed on, with Ken Bruce doing his best to raise my spirits. He did this admirably, with a surprisingly passionate rant about the loss of cricket to pay-only TV during the start of popmaster. I agreed wholeheartedly. Swallowing Sky’s filthy cash has taken cricket away from younger generations.

I digress, as did Ken. Motorway was eventually reached, and my average speed rose. It was so sunny that I actually had the sunroof back, until the noise got too much. The Omega is a peaceful car at a cruise. Wind noise is entirely wrong.

The M6 was in a good mood, and spat me out onto the A38m with no hold ups at all. As I descended into the multi-lane madness of the Aston Expressway, I was reminded of commutes to work gone by. The skyline of Birmingham is interesting, but the inner city limits do not match the flashy grandeur of the centre proper. Brum has got a bit flashy in its old age, but the transformation is the mere magic of a make up artist. Brum is still quite grotty. The underpasses only highlight this. I used to find them exciting as a child. Not anymore. It’s almost as if the city designers thought it better to hide a view of the city from motorists, least they never come back.

Now I had the challenge of remembering how to get to my friend’s house. This meant passing through some of the vibrant, multicultural parts of the city. Second nature to me when I was resident here, but dazzling and different to one who now lives in the Welsh countryside.

I passed through Tyseley, home of much railway excitement and a house my friends used to live in many moons ago.

My reverie was soon cut short though. Unfamiliar with the roads, I found myself in the wrong lane. I put on my left signal and appealed to the motorists of Brum to help me. Mistake. One miserable old codger in a bronze Honda Jazz just pointed at the sign that now told me I was in the wrong lane. In hindsight, mock-applauding him was a mistake. He barged past. So did the 4×4 pick up behind him, also pointing at the sign. Well duh! Of course I’ve seen the sign! It’s how I knew I was in the wrong lane. Oh, for info, this sign is helpfully just after a set of traffic lights, not before. I hadn’t gone blasting past the cars in question either. We were in the same queue at the lights. The road markings are quite invisible when there are cars stopped at the lights, which hardly helped.

I pushed on to Acocks Green, and the surprisingly calm oasis that is my friend’s garden. I have fond memories of many visits here over the past 18 years or so. We had time for a very quick drink, so we headed to a Wetherspoons that we often used to frequent. It was busy, full of those for who have found the reality of life a little short of glamour. Also, it’s good value. We had two teas, and we could squeeze our own bags. I have no complaints at all.

Well, maybe one. I did laugh to see it necessary to have a slippy floor sign mounted beneath the hand dryer in the gents. Naturally, it’s one of those high-power jobs that gives grounds to sue for damage to hearing. It blasts water from your hands, all over the floor. So a sign is necessary. Modern progress eh?

I decided not to take photos of it. Time here was short, and I had a train to catch. To be continued. Possibly. I have more photos. Promise!