Thursday, 19 April 2007
Classic Cars in the South of France
‘You drive for once’ His Lordship said and tossed over the keys. I opened the ‘suicide doors’ of the Riley affectionately known as The Grand Duchess and settled in to the plush leather seats. I could hardly see over the long gleaming navy blue bonnet and I struggled to get a firm grip of the large steering wheel. On with the ignition, out with the choke, a blip on the throttle, press the starter button and she purrs into life. As soon as we turn into the village people languidly hanging out of windows enjoying the warmth of the evening rush out clutching camera’s. At fifty six years old this lady still has the power to stop human traffic in their tracks and draw admiring looks wherever she goes.
We make our way towards the medieval hilltop village of Fanjeaux, and La Cassaigne, past the impressive and enormous nunnery of Prouille dedicated to St Dominique the founder of the inquisition against the Cathars and other heretics. It’s not unusual to see a stream of nuns in full habit scurrying across the fields all in white with their veils streaming out behind them. We sit on one of the pilgrim routes to Compostella and the way marks have all been freshly painted in readiness for this years influx of walkers to the area.
We bowl along the empty roads, boop boop go the lovely vintage period horns as we pass two excited locals, they wave cheerily and flash wide toothless grins and give us the ‘thumbs up’.
The countryside is patterned with fields of rape now in full flower. As the sun begins to set it stands out in stark contrast to the landscape of vines and wheat. It must be this years best bet on the grant from the common agricultural policy but as George Melly is reputed to have said to Brian Sewell as they descended one May morning into Salisbury ‘It does look rather as if Constable had started the painting and left it to be finished by Gauguin.