Officially it’s called: 21 MONTEE HISTORIQUE DE LAON 2012.
And for us actually it started with the 20eth version, in 2011.
Geoff invited us because the 20eth was to be bigger than normal and every extra car would add to the success.
Never seen what we saw then ... lots of people standing aside of the road, waving and applauding.
Now they could have thought “Why are you driving around in our region, go home and pollute your own country.”
But this was a real friendly welcome, the trip was nice, the organisation was good and the weather was fine; only good memories.
To be clear: my Sabra doesn’t produce clouds of blue smoke.
Although 2011 was really fine, we didn’t have the intention of going back in 2012.
Then you also start to intellectualise the welcome: indeed 600 cars means at least 1200 people that come to the region and spend their money (mostly sterling pounds) in the hotels and restaurants, pubs and gas stations.
And as Laon is put on the map this way it wouldn’t surprise me at all that through the year, quite some travellers would make a small detour to revisit the hotel where they had been last year.
Anyway, when the invitation came for the 21st montée we looked up last years’ pictures and decision was made quickly: we want to enjoy this meeting a second time.
For people uncommon with French: montée can be translated to “climb” “hill climb”.
In fact Laon is situated on what geologists would call a “witness hill”. It’s a hill (esteemed some 150 feet higher than the surrounding land) with a flat top that witnesses the fact that some millions of years ago all of the country was some 150 feet higher but erosion cut down the rest of the landscape.
Such a higher spot would readily attract population (for safety reasons: easier to defend, easy to find) and so Laon, through the ages developed as a central point, where off course, in the Middle Ages, a cathedral had to be built. So from some 20kms afar one sees the skyline of Laon in the distance. The landscape is rolling up and down (like all the North of France - Champagne) in wide gentle waves. Only the climb to the ancient centre of Laon is steeper.
We arrived in the Campanile hotel (Avenue Charles De Gaul – with the big nose) Friday afternoon. Top down off course: in France the weather is always fine (so they say).
We had asked Jacques Vandevelde to come along (as last year it was really nice). And as Jacques doesn’t like hotels he stayed in a B&B not far away. The organisation coped with it without problems.
Saturday May 12th (after a detour: Geoff had a puncture) we drove up, means UP, to Laon to collect our road books, showed that Jacques was listed to make another trip than Geoff and we. Within five minutes this was arranged for, so we could stay together for the rest of the day.
Saturday trip was nice: people waving and applauding (as we remembered) and at noon we filled a small village with some 300 vintage cars. Hardly cueing to get our lunch and off we drove again. Organisation was simply perfect: in fact we missed some turns but the road book was correct, the mistakes were made by the navigators (not to mention names).
Sunday, before noon, Geoff had arranged a visit to the Coucy Castle, some 50 kms from Laon. As well nice as terrible: it must have been a very nice castle that was destroyed by the Germans during the first world war – for no really obvious reasons else than to destroy. A medieval castle couldn’t have been of strategic importance in 1914.
The remnants are really impressive. I understand why Hollande disagrees on some issues with Merkel.
Then we went for the real montée. Means climbing up to the ancient city to the city hall over a separate trail, driving down again and up again, as often as you like, no oncoming vehicles. Like last year we saw a towing car pulling a “traction avant” Citroen. When they got down everyone stepped out, new people got into the traction and on the towing car and they took off for a new montée and again, and again. People standing aside asked drivers with some spare seats “Can you take me along for a drive??”
The French call this “ambiance” and ambiance it was.
If you like to see some pictures: home.sabra.be/photo will show you some (they had us make a detour through a shallow – Els had some concerns about it... but we both can swim, so what could have happened?).
Then there was the reception in the City Hall, the mayor was for this occasion dressed up as a Venetian gondolier (FIAT was this years’ make).
No we don’t have the intention to go there again next year.
But if itches start again???