Welcome to the Crews

(Yeah, well, my regular reader knows I like music-related titles to my blogs. You have to be old and a Judi Tzuke fan, or both, to appreciate the one above. Took me 218 miles of driving today to come up with it.)

We have completed the second day of our trip in the Grin – see yesterday’s blog. We’ve reached that delightful nowhere land in France that sits south of the Ardennes and west of Burgundy. Our last several miles to Brienne were characterised by seemingly dormant, apparently windowless villages, all about a mile long, separated by a few hundred metres where the speed limit wasn’t 50kph. Speed cops must have regular field days here.

We’d been where speed was once a must, earlier in the day. A few years ago I found by accident (ie, I was lost at the time) all that remains of the once famous Reims motor racing circuit. Closed in 1972, with little evidence left save the shells of the very evocative pit, paddock and grandstand buildings, this was, for 50 years, one of Europe’s premier motorsport venues. All the greats of the post WW2, pre 1970s years raced here. Today, after driving the delights of part of the Chemin des Dames and a long stretch of what was Stage 6 of this year’s Tour de France, we reached Gueux on a scheduled stop, and drove around those roads that still remain on the circuit. Great to see there is a classic motorsport event here on 14 September this year. I’m sorely tempted to return.

Gps Jane hated me today. Her idea of the way to our venue was motorway all the way, and she nagged us endlessly. I was determined to sample the roads through the champagne vineyards towards Epernay. It reached the point where the “right” route for me was the polar opposite of her instructions. A good but ultimately wearisome game.

Anyhow, we arrived at our venue by 5pm, ahead of our compatriots on the Big Trip, who are all from “oop North” and had journeyed from Belgium after a night on the Hull-Zeebrugge ferry. Living in Kent, we’ve always felt privileged that some people hate the place so much they built tunnels at both ends to let people get out easier than that.

Not so our compatriots, who misjudged the timing of their trip from Zeebrugge and arrive at nearly 9pm. Several hotel rooms had been reassigned by then, and the rather good restaurant in the hotel was only narrowly persuaded to carry on serving.

But it was a great sight to see four other Grinnalls driving into the hotel carpark. They, plus a TVR and a Mazda, are the crews we will be travelling with for these next two weeks. Stay tuned.

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