Montagnes de France - 24 September to 7 October 2015
Premier Étape - Through France to the Pyrenees
Story Jim Paterson. Photos Jim Paterson, Mags Campbell, Dave Spence
miles through France, Spain, Andorra and Italy crossing countless
'cols' and driving great roads. This was Montagnes de France 2015.
biannual continental tour started in Reims on 24 September when seven
of our eight crews held a start gala dinner. The seven crews had
traveled from the UK with organiser Dave Spence with Maureen in the
Rover 75, replacing the planned Ford Capri which was very ill,
Donald and Mags Campbell in the Ferrari 328, and Richard and Yvonne
Bartniczek in the 1986 Alfa Spider all from Inverness heading for the
channel crossing and tunnel. Meanwhile Duncan Massie and Jenny Mackay
in the Jaguar 4.2 litre XK8, Ron and Jan Adam in a Golf Cabriolet, a
late change from the planned BMW Z3, Simon Paterson and Rachel Mawdsley
in the 1970 Austin Healey Sprite, and myself Jim with Rona Paterson in
my Mazda MX5, headed for the Hull Zeebrugge ferry crossing. We would
meet our final entrants CCHMSC members Ranald Bruce and Louise Wall in
their Fiat Barchetta at our first stopover, Chateau Chinon, after
Reims, being nearer to their current home in France.
The Western Front
than drive straight from Zeebrugge to Reims on the 24th the Hull crews
took the 'western front' route following the WW1 front line and
visiting someone the areas that we had all read about in our history
lesson days. First stop was Passendale for coffee, noting how the town
had been completely flattened during the many battles to secure the
high ground. Close by was Tyne Cot memorial and war grave cemetery.
This was a very emotional experience and worth a visit if you are in
of Belgium and into France we visited the Newfoundland Trenches and
Thiepval monument, where a heavy downpour soaked the Sprite in the car
park, which had been left top down! Oops. We ran out of time to visit
the nearby Lochnagar Crater this time and headed straight to Reims for
our gala dinner.
Reims to Chateau Chinon
Friday 25th we rose bushy tailed and fuelled up for a quick run out to the Reims Gueux GP
circuit for the obligatory photo line up, before starting the 185 mile
run heading south west toward Chateau Chinon. We passed field upon
field of vines, as we passed through the Champagne wine region,
spotting names such as Moët Chandon and other well known names
painted on farm buildings. Our route passed through Sezanne, a passage
control on the 2012 Monte Historique, on our way to Troyes. This area
has some typical straight French roads so keeping up a good average
was not are problem, though the French drivers will always overtake, no
matter how fast you go. It seems our number plates are a magnet to
them, a must get by at any cost type of thing! We found later that even
some truck drivers were infected with the same culture.
now heading into the Burgundy region, passing Tonnere and Avallon into
the Morvan massif north of the great Massif Central, to reach Chateau
Chinon and meet Ranald and Louise. We dined well and drank the local
wines made from the grapes grown in the fields we had seen during the
Chateau Chinon to Mauriac
26th would be the first of the long drives. 255 miles to Mauriac, via
Bourbon Lancy, Digion, and Vichy, the latter being known for its
connection in WW2 as the free French seat of government. We were
passing through the Massif Central as we drove by Thuret and Clermont
Ferrand, reaching the Parc Naturel Regional Volcans d'Auvergne, and the
town of Volvic. Everyone knows the name on bottled water sourced from
Some of us tried to drive up the Puy de Dome, at
4890 feet high. The Campbell's took their Ferrari but found the road
closed to traffic with the option to walk up or take the train, neither
of which attracted them. We did take in some of the views further on
when we all regrouped.
Lineup for the view on the volcansWe
all did climb the Col de la Croix Morand at just over 3200ft, as we
headed down the Volcans on our way to the overnight in our case at
Salers, just south of Mauriac. A long day but more was to come.
Mauriac to Auch
day on Sunday 27th, at 185 miles to Auch. Dave Spence organised a bit
of easy driving to make up for yesterday. We headed to Aurillac at some
600 metres above sea level, Figeac and into Causses du Quercy, where we
experienced some magnificent scenery, including buildings that appeared
to be built into the cliff sides, finally reaching Cahors, another name
seen on many wine bottles.
Still a bit to go reaching
Caussade, famous as the 'hat city' where the famous 'straw boater' was
made. Skirting round Montauban we entered the Armagnac vineyard region,
famous for the liqueur of the same name. We slept well as the following
day would see us challenging the Pyrenees, crossing into Spain.
Auch to the Pyrenees
28th saw us all head south west to Tarbes in the Haute Pyrenees region,
starting our 150 mile run, to our first sight of snow capped mountains.
From Tarbes it was a short drive to Pau, with its GP circuit, not
dissimilar to the Monaco layout. Some took the opportunity to visit
Lourdes, just off our route and rejoin us further on.
Line up at the top of col du PortaletThe
Pyrenees were calling and we passed the Pic du Midi d'Ossau at 9461 ft,
(no road to the top unfortunately) to our first peak, the Col du
Pourtalet on the Spanish border, where we pulled in at the 1794m point
(over 5800 ft), one of the highest passes on our tour. Richard's Alfa
sounded like a boiling kettle at the top, after the hard climb. An
electric radiator fan added to the post event todo list.
Updated 19 October