Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Jottings from the Journals... La Ferté-Macé...

Stunning masonry, Notre-Dame de L'Assomption
...I'm continuing my occasional series of notes from my journals.  Read on...

Thursday, 12th

Camped at Domfront and here in La Ferté-Macé today, to see the town.  With a population of around 7,000 inhabitants, it is a small place that has very few ancient monuments but is rich in old houses and buildings dating for the 18th and 19th centuries.
I've been wandering the town centre and I checked out the butcher's shop.  There is a local dish called tripes en brochettes noisetier which appears to be peculiar to this place.  At first glance, the kebabs I saw in the window looked very appetising.  Then I read the label.  Nothing will induce me to eat animal intestines, no matter how they are presented and completely irrespective of whether the skewer is made of hazelnut or just plain steel - as is the norm for my barbecues!
As I begin to meander through the central square I hear the thrum of an old car engine.  Within moments a Triumph pulls around the side of the church and is guided into a parking spot.  A minute or two later an old Morgan, in British racing green, appeared.  Then a steady stream of classic and vintage cars poured into the square.  The atmosphere took on a metallic scent, people appeared from everywhere and the hum of engines competed with numerous conversations.
The plate on one of the cars tells me this is Le 3e Tour de Normandie.  Across 4 days these vehicles travel through Normandy, stopping off for lunch and overnight stays at various locations in the region and today they are here in La Ferté.  What a find!  I decide to have a look at these fabulous vehicles and start with the Morgan.  It may have French plates but it is my dream car and it's British.  These gorgeous machines are coach built at the factory (first established in 1914) in Malvern, even today.  I'm told by the owner that the car is a V6. A 6 cylinder engine and that means it will go some!  I wonder if I dare ask to be taken for a spin in this gorgeous machine, but I chicken out!
A Citroën Avant
As I move through the lines of cars I come across a large gleaming black vehicle.  The driver is talking to another car enthusiast and I can't understand everything that's being said because they are clearly talking about the technicalities of the engine as they peer under the bonnet.  However, I do pick up that it is a Citroën Avant.  The Avant (front-wheel drive, independent suspension, among other innovations) was something of a first when it came into production in 1934.
I'm joined by an elderly gentleman, who is also ear-wigging.  After a few moments, he shakes his head and beckons me away.  In whispers, he tells me what that car means to him as he shares a little of his childhood experience in occupied France.  Then he leaves and, in an instant, my perception is changed.  I saw an interesting and old vehicle, he saw terror...

At the time, this was just an interesting incident.  However, Monsieur's comments continued to live with me and inspired my research of this period in French history. His comments and that research have become the inspiration for a character in Montbel, which be published in November and is available for pre-order here 

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