Making Memories While Riding in the Paris-Deauville Vintage Car Rally

Marie-Claire and Jean-Pierre. I wish that I would have thought to ask why the driver is on right in this French automobile.

As Jean-Pierre's gloved hands maneuvered the sleek Delage around a tight curve, I gazed at the sun-dappled landscape and told myself to remember every detail of that specific moment in time. The sensation of the cool wind blowing across my cheeks, the soft buttery feel of the leather as I ran my fingertips lightly over the back seat and the earthy smell of the French countryside. They all merited my full attention. For unlike most trips where the sole purpose is getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, the journey is as important as the destination while riding in one of the best classic car events in France, the Paris-Deauville Rally.


The adventure had started the previous afternoon when Jérôme Hardy of the French Automobile Association greeted me warmly at Place Vendôme and pointed to the luxurious Delage cabriolet in which I would spend the day. Unfamiliar with the descriptive expressions used by vintage car aficionados, I could only utter, "She's exquisite!" As the Brass Band of the Republican Guard created a festive atmosphere by playing rousing tunes, Jérôme introduced me to Jean-Pierre so that we could make arrangements to meet at Château de Versailles bright and early the following morning.

Château de Versailles in all of its early morning splendor.

Worried that I would somehow oversleep and miss my train, I spent the night tossing, turning and wondering what to wear. When the alarm finally went off at 6:00 am, I jumped out of bed, hopped in the shower and threw on some clothes. Today was the day! I was riding in the 46th Paris-Deauville Rally.


After a continental breakfast and a pit stop at the Hotel de France, the international group of French, English and German drivers and their co-pilots returned to their pre-1941 cars and pre-1960 coupés and cabriolets to prepare for the first leg of the journey. Noticing that all of the people in the cabriolets were bundled in furry jackets, gloves and hats, I was thankful when one of the French women kindly offered to let me borrow her beanie. With the hat pulled snugly over my ears, I settled into the back seat of the Delage behind Jean-Pierre and his charming wife, Marie-Claire.


The convoy of vintage Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Bugattis, Jaguars, Mercedes, MGs and Delages created quite a stir as we drove along narrow country roads and through quaint villages on our way to the Normandy coast.


Right on schedule, we passed through the gates of the magnificent Château de Beaumesnil for a tour of the castle known as the "Norman Versailles" and a tasty lunch. A rare example of baroque architecture, the castle was built during the reign of Louis XIII and has an important collection of 17th and 18th century books.

With only 75 kilometers left to go, it wasn't long before the cars assembled in a parking lot near the port of Deauville to wait for the mayor to welcome us officially to the city.


For someone who likes to stay in the background and maintain a low profile, it was an odd sensation to ride in such a luxurious car that attracts so much attention. Inching along the cobblestone street leading to the Town Hall of Deauville, I overheard people exclaim with delight as they focused their cameras on the Delage. And for once, I set my camera down. After all, this was a moment that I wanted to fully appreciate and remember for the rest of my life.

Even though the official end of the rally isn't until Monday morning, I said goodbye to Jean-Pierre and Marie-Claire at the Hotel Normandy Barrière on Friday evening. During the return trip to Paris, I gazed out the train window and recalled all of the events of the day. Many thanks to Jérôme for making it possible, Jean-Pierre and Marie-Claire for letting me ride with them and the other participants for their warm reception. Riding in the 46th Paris-Deauville Rally was a truly memorable experience!

Want to see a photo of the Delage? There will be lots of pictures of the automobiles in tomorrow's post.

Hotel Normandy Barrière in Deauville.

Comments

  1. So very very cool. Literally and otherwise. I wonder if the driver is on the right because the car was an export to Asia.

    And I love the Chateau where you stopped for lunch--very nice. I'll have to look at it next time I'm in the area.

    I loved staying in the Hotel Normandy and will post my own review of it later this week.

    And on my next trip to Paris I know have to do the World's Largest Fashion Show as well as the Paris Deauville Ride. I may just have to move there to get everything done.


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    1. Hi Joseph,
      Jerome Hardy here. Nearly all but American luxury automobiles before 1930 were built right hand drive, regardless of French, Italian, ... Like speaking French back then, a right hand car was synonym of "classy". It comes from the knights holding their sword on the right side. Only the American manufacturers were building their Packard, Duesenberg, and other Cadillac in LHD which is a lot more safer in LHD countries. Feel free to come to Deauvile next year to admire all these "rolling sculptures".

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    2. @Jerome, "Rolling sculptures" is a perfect description for the automobiles that participated in the rally! They really are works of art, something that I didn't understand until I was riding in the Delage and could appreciate all of the details. Thanks for the interesting historical explanation about RHD vehicles.

      @Joseph, I thought about you when we arrived at the Hotel Normandy. It's a beautiful old hotel. As for moving to Paris, I think it's a great idea!

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  2. I know nothing about Château de Beaumesnil...but I am now going to find out Mary Kay. What a wonderful looking structure and what a wonderful experience for you.

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    1. If you're not already familiar with it, another castle that may be of interest is Château d'Anet. We passed it during the rally and Marie-Claire told me that it's where Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henry II, lived after Catherine banished her from Chenonceau. It's believed that Diane de Poitiers used to drink gold to preserve her youth.

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  3. So cool....now how'd you swing that?

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    1. Anne, You know that a blogger never reveals all of their secrets online. ;) But I'll be happy to tell you the next time that we see each other! December in Paris?

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  4. However do you get to do all these cool things? Looks like a fun outing!

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  5. Mary Kay -- I'm not what you'd call a "car guy". In fact, a few years ago when i was in the market for a new car, a co-worker asked what kind I was looking for. My answer? "A blue one". (and I'm not even a good shopper - i ended up with a grey one...go figure!) That being said, this adventure sounds totally awesome -- and you can color me jealous. Would love to go for that ride. Great photos, as usual.

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    1. For as long as I've known him, Stephane has wanted a vintage MG or some other car that I can't remember the name of. Anyway, I've always had lots of reasons why he shouldn't get one...until now. The experience of riding in the rally completely convinced me that there's no better way to travel, at least when it's sunny and not too cold! If you ever get the opportunity to ride in a rally, do it! It should be on everyone's bucket list.

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    2. My Mum always wanted a vintage MG too, after having one in the 60s (before it was vintage!). I think she finally got one about 10 years ago and found it too hard to drive without power steering :(

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  6. What a wonderful adventure! And great photos, too.

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    1. Thanks, Kate. There were a couple of times that I was worried that the wind would blow my iphone out of my hands when I was taking photos to post on Twitter and FB. That would have been a disaster, especially if it would have hit the Cadillac behind us!

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  7. What a fabulous experience! I don't know how you manage to track down and do all these fascinating things, but please keep doing it!

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    1. I'll try. Finding new things is what motivates me to get out of the apartment and explore Paris. It's a good thing, especially since I don't have any fun kitchen gadgets like you do to keep my at home!

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  8. Glad to know about that,its so cool and a good experience with it.All the cars are classic and i love these cars because of their graceful look and powerful machinery.

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