Monsieur and Madame Speer have once again been invited to join this prestigious group of enthusiasts to take part in this very special event, lasting two and a half days gallivanting around Provence in our beloved MG’s.
This is our story.
Late already for our departure time and JS decides he must clean the MG, a first I must add, because our Belgium leaders, Jean pierre and Tiny have already spent three days washing, t-cutting, polishing and vacuuming their MGF. JS did it in 5mins with the jethose,and a bit of fairy liquid! Meanwhile,I went on the internet, for a crash course on navigating. And duly collected all necessary items that international navigators must have,i.e. a pencil,rubber,clip board and maps of course. I also added a nylon stocking in my kitbag, because I read once that this can cure a dodgy fan belt!
So, the Speers are ready, prepared and raring to go.
Rendez-vous at 12.00 hours at au Chateau les Quatre Filles at Sainte Cecile. A downpour just before arrival, but we are told by our leaders that absolutely no one arrives with the roof up! So that buggers up my hairdo and ruins the clean car.
27 immaculately turned out MG’s are all in line on the lawns of the chateau, from a 1935 MG TD,MG RV8,MG TF,F,A,and B.with their proud French, Dutch and Belgium owners standing by their beloved possession, dressed in colour coordinating outfits and leather deer stalker hats in case of rain! We park our car and join the guests for an aperitif in the Pits, I mean the Cave, and are looked upon rather suspiciously by the other drivers. We are not French, Dutch or even Belgium, we have a right hand MGF, with a french plate and horror of horrors we are English. How could their secretary invite such company to this select group?
We sample the first white wine, then a rose and finally a delicious red, it’s amazing how a little wine can loosen the tongue, even I was conversing in the grammatically correct present tense.(I actually thought about heading for the future anterieur,with a little imparfait du subjonctif,but thought better of it!)
Then it was dejeuner, a three course meal including baked ham en croute, and tarte au pomme, all served with their own delicious wines. Of course. Almost forgetting that we had to actually start this rally at some point, everyone “rolled” to their cars, started up and “slurped” out of the Chateau grounds.
As we departed, our secretary Jean Paul asked us. “Avez vous mis votre compteur journalier at O?”, “Naturallement” I replied in the present de l’indicatif,and away we went!
Following a lovely old gentleman in a rouge MG A, I asked JS how could one person drive and follow the “routes, destinations and indications sheet ” all on his own? Then it was made clear: continuing to drive at top speed on hair pin bends, he just simply picked the sheet up, put his glasses on and balanced the sheet on the wheel, naturally there was some weaving about, but who cares. We are in Provence; most of the competitors were well over the alcohol limit anyway!!
We passed blissfully through Cairanne, Carpentras, Apt, Les Borrys, Le Tholonet and finally arrived at Rousset, a lovely hotel facing Saint Victoire, near Aix en Provence.
A quick shower, smart clothes on and straight to the bar, bear in mind we had travelled 98miles without so much as a beer, we were thirsty sun burnt MG drivers in need of immediate sustenance.
At the crack of dawn, the group were up, petit dejeurneured and preparing their pride and joys for the Saturday rally.
Now, you may or may not be aware I am not good in the morning, let alone at 8am, so the Speers were a little late for the preparation and Jean Pauls “pep talk”.
What was more disturbing was that every one of the 27 MG’s were looking immaculate, except for ours! Apparently the sneaky lot had been up since 6am washing, polishing and shining their beauties. Jean Pierre and Tiny were not amused that the English pair were letting the entire side down already! Not to be outdone, out came my Grandma’s pale pink silk handkerchief, edged in lace and with a flick of the royal hand I dusted the entire body of our MG F, looked upon by the rather amused French “Le roast beef, iles sont incroyable!”
Off we go. Roof down, land of Hope and Glory blasting away on the 10year old radio, sun, blue sky, gentle wind, what more could one ask for!
Today we took the Cezanne route. Absolutely magnificent. Brilliant red poppy fields, the grandeur of Mont Ste-Victoire, with her limestone rock reflecting light, turning blue, grey, pink and orange. In his last years of life, Cezanne painted and drew Ste-Victoire more than fifty times, and as part of his childhood landscape, it came to embody the incarnation of life within nature. (So there you go, I’m not totally a bag of wind, occasionally I educate you all!) PS. Thank you “The Rough Guide to France! 2011)
A short rally before lunch today, 60miles, finishing at the restaurant “Les Cavalets” Bauduen. This restaurant overlooks Lac de Sainte-Croix, with an incredible panoramic view of this beautiful lake. A quick aperitif, a three course lunch accompanied by the finest of the local wines, and the party moves on.
A little worse for wear, I instruct my driver to take a left out of the restaurant, he questions this because all other 26 cars go right! I insist they are all wrong, and two miles down the wrong route, a slight domestic is erupting! Obviously I have made the mistake, but you know blondes are allowed to make mistakes, but this cost us valuable time, and completely buggered up the mileage calculater.
So when we finally found our teammates we were 4.6miles out of sync, then the mathematics had to come into play, another problem with Blondes!!
Visiting Entrecasteaux, Mousteirol, The Abbaye du Thoronet, a Cistercian monastery, a remarkable monument of history dating from X1siecle. Exhausted, but totally content we arrive back at HQ, and after more gourmet food and wine we head for bed.
Sunday morning, fewer enthusiasts cleaning I notice. Age, wine and exhaustion is becoming apparent all round, but I still lightly dust our car, must keep the image up!
Now, when we first arrived no one could speak English or so it seemed. However, in the car park today we were greeted by almost everyone with a “Good morning les Anglaise, you slept well?” Eureka, we have cracked it, they can speak English, and what’s even better they follow their english words with the compulsory non-English tradition of three Provence kisses,(that’s three times 54,162 kisses, I love the French.)
Today we have been told that the morning will require absolute concentration on behalf of both the driver and the navigator, the route will present some very difficult narrow roads, and so vigilance is uttermost.
Attention, route tres tres etroite,circulation dans les 2 sens!!! This was an understatement.
414 metres, Col de Babaou,followed by Col de Gratteloup, 90degree bends, only wide enough for one MG, this was some challenge for two cripples. (A deviation follows!)
The previous night JS had complained of a right sacro iliac pain (too much driving syndrome) so the expertise of a retired physiotherapist was required. (Where is cag when I need her?) Positioned appropriately on the hotel bed, VJ, desperately trying to remember the technique, pulled her patients leg with a strong tug, JS shrieks, I let go and promptly fall backwards into the dressing table. With the result that JS is cured and I am prostate on the floor.
Rescued by Jean Pierre and Tiny, who have a medical survival kit to match any french pompieres.I am supplied with a kiss from JP and a hug from Tiny, and then dispensed with anti-spasmodic spray, a self-adhesive steroid patch,ibuprophin and more kisses.
So, we attack this intimidating course with confidence and ability, but little experience!
Problem was, we were also joined by equally inexperienced persons, namely cyclists, in matching purple streamlined nylon all in ones, padded pelvic area softeners, and huge helmets. And motorhomes!!!
Stress was at its highest, JS still looking at the fauna and flora, me navigating and concentrating on the road and wishing I had my newly acquired protective teeth grinding device at hand!
We pass Hans and Noortj Hoefnagels, a Dutch couple resting from this nightmare, sampling the local water from a fountain near a chapel, I ask if its Holy water, cos I need it now!
Arrive finally at HQ for lunch, boiling hot, over navigated, JS is stuck to the wheel, our MG is just about to give up the Ghost and we are greeted by the winners, who incidently had air conditioning in their MG, calmly stroll over to this mess of a couple and say “Where have you been you Anglaise? nous sommes arrive une heure tot!” I thought I would either cry or strangle them, when Jean Pierre strolls over looks them straight in the eye and says “so,vous avez une Sat Nav? Then you are disqualified”
There is a God after all.
All my Love OLIF xxxxxxxxxxxxxx