Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A day at le Mans

The background to today is that the wife is away on a miniatures tour, and today she brought some of the people on the tour to see her collection of miniature dolls' houses.   She had parked the people-carrier at Le Mans station to bring everyone here when they all arrive from Paris on the train, and will leave it there at the end of the day when she takes them back again.   Meanwhile I will drive to Le Mans in the little car to meet the party, and collect Dick, who is on the tour with his wife, and who is not a miniatures enthusiast, but is a car nut, and take him to the world-famous 24 hour race track at Le Mans. The good news was that the car park was having some work done so they didn't charge us for having parked the people-carrier for five days. Can't be bad, 45 euros saved :)

We start at the museum at Le Mans that has been completely revamped recently, and is now focused on the 24 hour race rather than a general history of automobiles.  Dick was delighted, his favourite was a Ford GT4. Here is a picture of him next to it, and a general picture of the museum.

After the museum visit we drove on to a restaurant called "Le Casque" for lunch, recommended to me by Marie who runs the restaurant near my house and who used to work there. It is used by the racing drivers, and the glass panels separating the tables are signed by some of the drivers. A very pleasant meal, by the way.

After the meal I took a wrong turning and we found ourselves inside the race track compound. What a shame! We couldn't find the way out again very easily, so we had to drive all around the place......

Then on to the go-carting track, where we met Marie's husband who showed us round.

To round out the day before I took him back to the station, we strolled around Old Le Mans and had a quiet beer in the square. It was warm, sunny, windless. Fantastic.

There is an epilogue: I took Dick back to the station; I could have just dropped him off, but I hung around waiting for the wife just to say 'bye, and confirm that all was well. Her passengers arrived, but she seemed to be taking ages to park the car? Eventually she arrived, from an unexpected direction, and panted "The-long-term-car-park-is-full-so-I-left-it-in-the-short-term-parking-can-you-sort-it-please?" And disappeared in a rush for the train. The short term parking is free for half an hour but exhorbitant thereafter.

So I'm there with two cars, doing the car park shuffle, waiting for the Paris commuters to come home so there's some space in the long term parking. 3/4 hour later I get a space, but, with perfect timing, while I am in the car park, the heavens open. It is a deluge. We say it's raining cats and dogs, but the French say it's raining like a pissing cow, which I think is just delightful.

I'm staring at the rain from inside the station, it shows no sign of letting up, so being both decisive an impatient, I decide to leg it. After the first ten metres, I can't get any wetter so it matters not a jot that the car is 40 metres away. But a nice finishing touch, I thought, was that the rain had formed a puddle around the driver's door, so my shoes filled up as well, as I was getting in.

So there I am at the barrier, and the machine that reads my ticket has no electricity, so the barrier won't go up and let me out. Eventually I manage to contact the attendant by phone, who takes 15 minutes to arrive, while I watch the rain ease off to a light drizzle.

"You do know there are two umbrellas in the people carrier, don't you?", says the wife, later, on the phone.


ReedBunting said...

Heheheh, that's a funny story! Shame you couldn't take a picture of your drenched self to post on the blog!

@eloh said...

Wonderful story and beautiful pictures.

I call those torential down-pours turd floaters because it washes everything not nailed down into the creeks and roads where it - just - floats - away!

Phil said...

Brings back happy memories of my crusades to Le Mans in the 90’s. The journey was always an adventure in itself. Lunch and liquid dinners at a café bar 200 metres on up the road from Mulsanne corner. Making sure you were fully awake an hour before dawn to witness dawns early light. Special. GT40 mark’s 1 & 2 were my personal faves. The opening sequences of the film ‘Le Mans’ where Steve McQueen is seen driving his Porsche through the French countryside, still makes me smile albeit longingly.

Where he stops at the trackside to gaze quietly at the spot where he pranged it the year before, is precisely the spot where we used to park our tents for the week at camping bleu. Funny – I drove a Gt40 Mk 2 at Goodwood circuit some years back. Being a tad under 6ft it was one of the most uncomfortable driving experiences of my life. Getting in required tuition. My knees quickly blistered against the metal dash. My head and helmet was permanently tilted over by the low roof, and I boiled dry within ten laps. How those guys raced for hours on end in those things back in the day, I have absolutely no idea.

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