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Caux Retro


Mike Meakin

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Caux Retro is an annual event held in the village of Allouville Bellefosse. This year it was between 2nd and 5th July - several Pembletons took advantage of the invitation to Citroen Specials Club to take part (as CSC members, of course!) : Duncan Grimmond, solo in the "Silver Surfer", Dave and Nicki Parr in "Silverfish", Don Eden and Linda Kiley in "Rocket" and Eileen and me in "Bolide". As such, we presented a fair cross section of the "permutations Pembleton" - 2CV powered Super Sports, big Guzzi powered Supersports and two BMW powered Brooklands amongst Lomax, JZR, Blackjacks and Grinnall Scorpions - 30 cars in all.

The game plan was that people arrived on the Friday tea-time, attended the Mayor's welcome reception, repaired to respective billets then re-convened in the village Salle de Fetes for supper. Fortunately, Fred Carnot is alive and well, that day advising the organisers. Those who had chosen to camp at the side of the village football field in "le Stade" had already selected their spot - Duncan spied the only tree on the site and promptly set up underneath it. The weather had set VERY fair and the temperature was in the high 20s. Eileen and I had opted for the B&B facility and after a deal of casting about (in French, so plenty of gallic shoulder shrugging) we found our room: a five bedded, vast room with en suite and toilet on the second floor of the 17th Century Chateau 4kms from the village, along a tiny single-track road. Other CSC participants had booked in to local hostelries, using knowledge from previous Caux Retro events.

Supper in the Salle de Fetes saw around 70 people seated, plied with red wine and course after course of locally prepared food, served by villagers, followed by chees and more wine (strangely, the French don't appear to do savoury crackers - mental note for next time). 11 o'clock soon came round and the sound of many cars leaving the village in all directions brought Friady to a close.

Saturday morning, we were to assemble prompt at 9 o'clock in le Stade, ready for organising the day's 'drive-out', but first, breakfast at 8 o'clock in a huge kitchen in the Chateau. This was very much a DIY meal, with a sack of French baguettes, croissants, cheese, ham and packs of filter coffee. Several domestic coffee-makers sat on the side. The meal was presided over by someon's Granny - a large, red-faced shiny lady who spoke no English, but smiled a lot. The decision to greet her traditionally proved a great success "Bonjour Madame, Cav Va ? MMa-MMa : Oui tres bon", ensureed our table wanted for nothing for the weekend.

Also billeted at le Chateau was the Slovak contingency. They had "bussed" to the village, with their cars on a transporter. None showed signs of speaking English or French, save their interpreter. They poured the last coffee from the coffeemakers/ used the last of the butter but didn't make any effort to replenish.

However, at 9 o'clock everyone was at le Stade, issued with their individial Rally placques and divided in to four groups. Each group had security motorbike outriders and took a different route around the Departement. Superb organisation was apparent from the outset. One outrider would go ahead and block access from a side road until the group convoy had passed, then take up post as "tail-end", whilst the last "tail end" overtook everything and made the way clear at the next junction. As tortuous as the route was, we didn't stop but drove through some wonderful scenery that only locals would know. A river crossing (six at a time) took us back down the opposite side of the River and to lunch. Another "Stade" complete with marquee, hog roast with sausages, salads, more cheese, Normandy cider and wine - served by the same villagers we'd seen the night before. By 4 o'clock we were back at Allouville Bellefosse having covered about 60 miles of exceptional countryside. It was still hot! Time for a shower and change of clothes before a repeat of Friday evening in the Salle de Fetes - served by the same villagers. Whilst we had been meandering about the countryside, others had been busy in the village, effectively setting up a perimeter for the Sunday's event, complete with stalls, awnings - it had obviously been done before!

Sunday saw us all in our cars being directed in to designated display slots. SUCH a lot of cars motorbikes, autocycles and SUCH a selection. It was to be a long day, as the cars would be in place on Public display until late afternoon. Some 4,000 passed through the turnstiles as paying spectators. We were issued with tickets for "aperitifs" and "dejeuner" - yes, in the Salle de Fetes, washed down with plenty of wine : same villagers waiting table. The paying Public then were able to buy the self-same meals on trays - it really was a huge undertaking!

Show over, we left the Mayoral area, wondering what to do about the evening's supper (the Event, as such, was complete). The village Restaurant, normally closed on Sunday evenings was prevailed upon to stay open for a group table of eight. That table grew to 14 and the adjoing table to 12. The "Menu du Jour" was jettisoned, together with "all have the same to drink" when the proprietor simply announced "order what you like and we'll bring it" agreeing that whatever the total bill came to, he would simply divide it between the number of diners, so everyone paid the same. The agreeable part was that the "Menu du Jour" at 36 Euros came out as a 22Euros per head! Everyone was happy (apparently including the restauranteur who had taken more that evening the previous Saturday). We all said our goodbyes, each destined for different routes/destinations on the Monday.

Breakfast in the Chateau again (with shiny, red-faced Granny) and we were off. We'd allowed two days to meander back along the Normany beaches to a "Hotel de Charme" in St Martin Eglise, a monster shop in "Auchan" - as much as we could get in to "Bolide" (including a pack of "Chaumes" speciality cheese) and made our way to our favourite watering hole, 50 miles from Dunkerque - our 5th visit. It was the long trek home again next morning on the 1200 sailing. We were treated to a most appalling standard of driving back in the UK - aggressive, impatient and occasionally, just downright stupid - tempered only by the fact that at the beginning of September, we would be back again in France for the Reims "Excellence d'Automobiles" and another chance to really enjoy the "Bolide".

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