Kennet Valley TR Group venture on a French Tour for 2017
Four KVG cars, TR4A Wendy & Fred Holloway, TR250 Jill & Phil Horsley, two Triumph Stags of Linda & Emrhys Barrell and Moreen & Gerry Thorne and friends Pat & Paul Wagstaff in their Honda CRV ventured back into France in September.
After a suitable pre-trip dinner in Port Solent, we boarded the 22:45 Brittany Ferry, Mont St Michel to Ouistreham port near Caen for the overnight crossing passing the British Navy's new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth looking very regal in the Portsmouth dock, this ferry a good way to do this as you get a night's sleep and are up bright and early 07:30 CEST disembark to travel south.
It had been pre-decided that this day would purely focus on the trip to the accommodation, Chateau Serbise, near Pons some 528km (328 miles) away. We had all rented toll tags which made the journey much easier especially for the RHD cars (the TR250 was of course in its element), just approach the toll at 30km and it auto opens and bills your account.
Chateau Serbise, our accommodation for 2 weeks.
The journey took circa 8 hours including several stops and breaks and of course lunch, we travelled via Le Mans, Tours, Poitiers, Niort and then we arrived in Pons about 16:00 and went to the local E.Leclerc supermarket to get initial provisions to add to those we had with us (including at least ten tins plus of baked beans, air fresheners will be needed??) and then went to the Chateau for the 17:00 access time. We settled in and had a very welcome dinner, a chicken casserole prepared by Linda that had travelled with us and turned in for the night.
The first week, was spent visiting various attractions although it was true to say the weather was very British and raincoats were needed, however it didn't dampen spirits, places visited were Mortagne sur Gironde (a pretty little port/marina), Cognac (of course Martells was on the list), Saintes (with a magnificent Roman amphitheatre), Talmont (with caves), Saint Sauvant (which claims to be the most beautiful village in France, an as you guessed there are many other candidates and we'd debate it too.) and Pons (a way point in the middle ages for Pilgrims travelling from Paris to Santiago and famous for its 12th century ribbed vault, the oldest and best preserved in Europe.
The Martell Cognac classic delivery lorry at their new visitor centre, shame about the dust all over it.
The amphitheatre, Saintes
Mortagne sur Gironde
The Roman arch, Saintes
The highlight of the holiday was to visit Angouleme, some 40 miles away for the infamous 'Circuits des Remparts', historic races around the very narrow 11th century streets and a magnet for classic fans especially the British being nearly 68% of the attendees to the event. This super event started in 1939, this urban race track returned after World War II as part of the Grand Prix season from 1947 to 1951, hosting events where famous drivers could be seen, such as Juan Manuel Fangio.
The racing was revived in 1975 and has been ever popular since, it attracts large crowds and classic racing and petrol heads from all across Europe with the largest contingent from the UK. With £ millions of Bugatti's, Morgan's, Allards full on racing it is a very exciting event. This year there were some TR's racing too, a TR3A and TR4.
This is a full weekend with practice taking place on the Saturday and qualifying and racing on the Sunday, for €29.00 (£26.00) you could get a pit pass and programme where you could fully take in the exciting atmosphere of the event, jumping out of the way when you hear the pit whistles and superb sounding classic and vintage racing cars roaring by, you can get right up to the cars, talk to the drivers, smell the fumes everything a true petrol head wants. For this money you can also get track side to watch the racing etc., if you want a grandstand then that'll be extra and are best pre-booked as they are very popular.
The racing was superb and very exciting, a full race card not dampened by a heavy rain storm half way through. Derek Bell (7 time Le Mans winner) braved the rain and did several demonstration laps in a beautiful open top Bwentley, very public spirited thank you Derek, it was well received by everyone, all too soon it was the last race and we ventured into Angouleme for a super Cantonese meal at 'La Cantonaise', 19 Rue des 3 Notre Dame which we can thoroughly recommend, then back to the Chateau to relax, phew!
Running in conjunction with the racing was Concours D'Elegance Friday night won by a beautiful Lagonda and what is the now extremely popular Internationale Rallye des Charente, a whole days 110km 'navigation' around the Charente area of France, four KVG members took part, you can read the report here. Internationale Rallye des Charente
After all the excitement of the weekend, the following week the weather picked up and we were able to fully be on holiday, still touring and visiting places such as La Rochelle (a beautiful port and marina north west of Pons), Braye to the south travelling through wonderful vine field laden with beautiful grapes ready to be brewed into those wonderful fuels of France, Wines, Pinot & Cognac (with it very large citadel containing shops, crafts, hotels, a camp site and of course the original Roman ruined fort) and Barbezieux and its castle.
Now thats a bottle of wine!
Lathe fishing at Talmont
Open French roads are a real pleasure
Fantastic mural in Angouleme
Arromanches and the infamous Mulbury harbour from D Day
It was then time for the return trip, the route back was via a stopover in a quaint small four bedroomed hotel 'La casserole de la baie' near Mon St Michel, Arromanche, Normandy then ferry.
This was a superb TR and Stag adventure, the road are much quieter than the UK, people are very friendly, great interest in classic cars, quite often other drivers give way to you at junctions, and don't be alarmed if they toot their horns at you, nine times out of ten they are admiring your car. So why not try it in your TR we are sure you'll love it, details of the suppliers we used are below.
Brittany Ferries http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk
Chateau Serbise via Olivers Travels www.oliverstravels.com/france/vendee-charente/chateau-serbise-estate/
La casserole de la baie http://www.lacasseroledelabaie.fr/