Behind the Arras

We’ve been off to France again this month.  I’d been given a flyer for a classic car show in Arras, and since I needed to go to France anyway to stock up on cheaper booze (only slightly these days sadly!) I thought the two things could be combined easily.  Arras is only a little over 100km from Calais, so it would make a nice weekend trip with a cheap hotel in town easy to find.  The weather on Saturday was fantastic.  We stopped first at Majestic to pre-order our supplies (if you order in advance of collection you get a discount to cover your ferry fare) before a gentle potter down the coast, stopping for a picnic lunch in the sunshine.

Arras itself is a nice place, with two stunning old squares, that would be much prettier if they weren’t both car parks.  However, the fact that they are car parks is very handy if you wish to park right outside the hotel!  We’d been told to get to the show in good time on Sunday morning, as the free display area for cars over 30 years old fills up by half past ten or so.  As the hotel was only about two minutes drive from the exhibition centre we thought we’d be fine leaving at about 9.30 – and the first half of the distance went fine.  Then we hit the bouchon.  About an hour later as we were nearing the front of the queue, a smart Frenchman appeared and started turning the traffic about, as they were now full.  However as he told us this he spotted we were English and came over, saying that there was apparently a place inside reserved for us!  I think he may have thought we were someone else, as when we eventually made it inside (with the temperature gauge now nudging 110ºC after over an hour of inching along) we were placed with the Kent TR Register, but there seemed to be plenty of space and I don’t think we pinched anyone’s place!  We had a good wander about the show for a few hours – lots of Citroens, Renaults and Peugeots obviously, but plenty of Simcas, Panhards, Matras and other French machinery, and some foreign rarities too like a lovely Bitter CD, and several classic Americans.  We also found ourselves next to a Mini, with its bonnet open showing off a very clean and tidy engine bay.  It was therefore a slight surprise to find another very clean and tidy engine bay in the boot of said Mini, or Twini to be more accurate!

Coming home, we again took the slow route, a gentle run along some tiny rural roads through sleepy villages.  We stopped for some photos beside a few of the many wind turbines in the area.  The presence of these, alongside many traditional windmills shows that the idea of harnessing the wind in this part of France  is not new.  While not thought of as being the most beautiful part of France, the Pas de Calais is an area full of little nice little valleys and it was nice to explore it a bit, instead of whizzing past on the autoroute while rushing to catch a ferry or train.  We got back in time to pick up our pre-ordered booze, which was all neatly piled up on a trolley awaiting our arrival.  All very civilised.  (Majestic is unusual in being open on a Sunday.)
All in all another successful trip.  The car was going well (although there are a few issues with the back axle that I am trying to avoid facing up to) and the weather was fine.  The Bristol is very rare in France, although they were and are sold there new, so few people had heard of it and even fewer had seen one before.  Maybe a Club trip next year?

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