An early morning departure from Ickham… “So long as Keith’s not driving (and Monsieur Queru has not regained his driver’s license), we should do the first stage in about five hours.” It took 10 hours.

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Down the A2 to Dover and onto the ferry. David surprised us with reservations in the First Class Lounge, very civilised, real expresso and Champagne. Calais arrived too quickly…

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So, from Calais we turned right and headed South through Boulogne, paused for coffee in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage. South again through Abbeville, on to Rouen, where we took the “tout directions” sign litterally and drove the ring-road – twice. The next few kilometers were a bit untidy, but we finally made it to Alencon – and Le Mans. Just in time to dress for dinner – a very special dinner.

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Even the cab driver enjoyed our ‘reunion’ story.  This map shows the hotel location and the ‘Rue de l’Etoile’ – it also includes the Cathedral Saint-Julien (where our old seminary cells were) – and ‘our stairs’ at Escalier des Paris de Gorron.

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When you think about it… we hadn’t seen Florence or Maman for 40 years (we had lost contact completely) and the whole evening could have been a total disaster… But it wasn’t!

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The years fell away, Maman had her three prodigal sons back, and JB had a new Grand Maman…

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And it had only just begun… we were invited back to Maman’s ‘big house’ in Rue de l’Etoile the following day for lunch… A very long lunch… which ended just before breakfast!

On Day 2…

 

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We spent the morning exploring the old town… we had lived in these old streets 40 years ago. We were due at Maman’s at noon…

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Doc had lost his battle with cancer just four weeks prior to our arrival (on his 93rd birthday) – but his presence was still there…

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The house was just as we remembered, but this time we got to visit the 3rd floor!

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Florence teaches JB about French cheese…

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JB teaches Maman about French cheese…

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Then someone (probably David) made a speach…

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Keith – being Keith – about to lose his cherry/s…

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Clockwise: John, Keith, David, Florence, Marie – somewhere between the 5th & 8th courses – and well into the 2nd case of wine.

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JB and (for him) Grand Mamam…

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Maman’s three prodigal sons… the picture is not out of focus – WE were!

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All of us – in the garden…

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Maman bids us farewell – she needs a break from us…

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Mid-afternoon, we went in search of the old Seminary we had spent a few weeks in – and found this little bar – we needed another drink…

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The Seminary (background) had been extensively renovated but this IS the Escalier (Steps) des Paris de Gorron we used every day… (Click here – scroll down)

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Our Steps again – just to be sure…

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Cathedrale Saint-Julien – at the top of the steps…

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Cafe Le Tertre Rouge

We still had to find the Cafe and Service Station where we (and the Old Blue Truck) had been taken, for repairs, after our accident. We had no idea where (and no old photos)… We could remember it was on the 24 Hour Race Circuit – and something about a ‘Red Slope’.

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It was not going to be so easy to find… there had been so many changes over the last 40 years! We set out to drive the race circuit, and almost immediately, there it was. The garage had gone years ago and the Cafe had become a bar and restaurant, but it was ‘our Cafe,’ and – it was CLOSED!

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BUT – we knew our way around the back – where we had lived in the mechanics’ yard – found the new beer garden – and the new Owner!

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Isabelle was cleaning the entire place before closing after The Race season which had ended 2 days earlier – her husband Damien was settled down to watch ‘Les Bleus’ play in the World Cup. She listened to our ‘Le Mans reunion’ story – opened the bar, and later prepared dinner for all of us, just like the previous owners did – 40 years ago. That’s what we needed – more drinks!

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Things did get a litle untidy… JB was the only one capable of using the camera – and he did…

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070bLeMans24Comparing Race Posters… from just one week earlier, and 40 years ago! The 1966 poster was given to John by the Cafe du Tertre Rouge’s original owners.

And sometime, just before dawn, our reunion in Le Mans ended. Florence and Marie (somehow) got us back to our hotel, and we… I can’t remember…

To view larger photographs of the evidence, click HERE.

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More on The Second Trip – 2006… 

1. Together Again
2. Ickham to Le Mans
3. Agen, Canal du Midi, la Baise
4. Heading North, Le Tour
5. Hannover and Holland
6. Final Week/s in Paris?
7. A Few Panoramas

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