Le Mans 2005
The Tourists' Story
Something Different - Off to Paris!
As I have done for the last few years now, I'd taken both the week before and the week after Le Mans as leave. Psychologically, I guess, I like to wind down a little bit before I go and Jayne always says that I'm a waste of space for several days into a holiday - one of the reasons why single weeks away from work don't seem to do me much good - no sooner are you off than you're back again! With the later than usual start, I had plenty of time to do very little (!) and eventually packed my bag on Thursday. The process was much the same as usual, although I'd bought myself a new lightweight tripod, as I was concerned about the weight of my larger tripod in my bag on the plane. I had also bought myself a very cheap and cheerful second-hand camcorder on Ebay, but it wasn't proving very easy to use (with no viewing screen) and I decided instead to take up my friend Graham's offer of borrowing his rather better camcorder - the one I used in 2001/02. Its at this stage that I confess to having become addicted to Ebay this year, both for buying and selling, having bought new pcs, hard disks, jacket, Le Mans books and goodness knows what else in the last few months!
There was no particular rush on the Friday morning either, as check-in at Hurn didn't begin for my flight until 12.50 p.m. Jayne had arranged for her friend Linda (Graham's wife) to give us a lift there and another friend Pauline also came along, so the girls could go off and do what they wanted to do after dropping me off. Dropping-off was about right - the car did at least stop outside the terminal for long enough for me to grab my bags and say a hurried goodbye. Then it was on into the terminal.
After a cup of incredibly hot and completely tasteless coffee the check-in opened and I got myself sorted out for the flight with Thomsonfly. I had never flown from Bournemouth before, and although I appreciate its a small operation there, I was impressed by the efficiency of the place compared to the bigger airports I've visited. Before long I spotted Alan and Jeff walking across the car park to the terminal building - well, 50% pf the 2005 Tourists were here anyway!
I'm not going to bore you with much more about Bournemouth, save to say that our flight was delayed by 25 minutes, but we still had a good flight over to France, arriving at CDG at about 4.30 p.m. French-time. We then had fun collecting our bags and lugging them to the station, only to find that most of the population of France seemed to be waiting for a train at that particular moment. It wasn't quite a case of looking at each other and saying "Taxi?" simultaneously, but it was close..... An hour or so later and we were at the Timhotel Montmartre, thanks to an especially competent taxi driver in the Parisienne rush-hour traffic.
Forgive me for the limited number of photos to this point. I'm sure you'll appreciate that I wasn't inclined to take dozens of shots of the airports or the taxi or the rush-hour traffic in Paris.... Fear not, there are even one or two pictures of cars on the pages to come.....
It was certainly a pleasant location and we had Jeff to thank for making the arrangements. This was apparently a well-known watering stop for his annual rugby trip to France...... Not only did we find a pleasant (and wonderfully air-conditioned hotel - something of a theme for the weekend), but we also found a Tourist! Martyn had flown from Cardiff during the morning and had been in Paris for much of the day. It was good to see him again and also good to see that, like me, he had persevered with the non-smoking!
After the standard wash and brush up, it was out for a beer and then on for an excellent meal in probably the smallest restaurant I've ever seen - recommended by the locals to boot! The meal was very good and I had my first (and sadly only) foie gras of the weekend, albeit on poached egg - different but very nice! After our meal we took in the gaudy nightlife just down the road (taking it in is rather an overstatement - watching it go by would be nearer the mark...), drinking coffee at a table outside in the heat, being serenaded by a French pianist doing (amongst other things) Elton John impressions. I have to say that his version of Led Zeppelin's "Rock n' Roll" was one of the truly surreal moments of all of my trips to France for Le Mans.....!
I guess we were back to the hotel for some kip around midnight - actually quite early for Tourists on a Friday night before the race (but good news for me, as I maintained my intention to stay up all night the following night), but our sleep was disturbed at 3.00 a.m. when all the alarms went off in the hotel. Jeff and I got up, dressed and left the building, which was more than could be said for the other two "sleepyhead" Tourists who, on discovering the place wasn't on fire, just went back to bed....
Despite the unexpected disturbance in the night, we were still up bright and early for breakfast at 7.30 a.m. We knew we had to get a move on because we had to be back at CDG airport at 9.00 o'clock to meet the other two 2005 Tourists, Ian and Robert at the car-hire desk. So after engaging the services of another taxi driver, we were soon on the road again. We use terms like "licensed bandit" at times, don't we? And this guy left me wondering at times whether we were going to be delivered to a dark alley to be mugged, but he actually turned out to be gem, getting us to the right terminal (there are an awful lot of them!) so that within moments of dropping us off, we were waiting to meet Ian and Robert at the car-hire desk.
Jeff, Alan Martyn and I sorted out the taxi fare while we were waiting, but we actually had very little time to wait, as Ian and Robert appeared very soon after. It had already been a long night for Ian and a long morning for both of them, as Ian had been partying the night before and he and Robert had to get up at 3 o'clock that morning to drive to the airport to catch their flight to Paris! It was certainly an unusual start to a Le Mans trip for all of us!
It took a little while to do the paperwork for the hire car, during which time Ian and I discussed the journey. I guess by now it was something like 9.20, and Ian expressed the view that we could be at the circuit for 11.30. I did think that was optimism at the time, but it gave me some comfort that we could well be into the circuit by not long after 12 noon, which would allow me to perhaps just catch the end of the Ten Tenths meeting at lunchtime. Little did we know......
Soon we were outside the terminal and off to pick up the hire car. It turned out not to be the expected Espace. but a Kia Carnival (which I believe is called the Sedona over here). Well, it was certainly big enough for the six of us and our bags and, more importantly, once we were underway, the airconditioning turned out to be particularly effective - a huge blessing bearing in mind how hot and humid the day had dawned. After the rain of the previous Wednesday night, it had turned out to be a scorcher and nothing much was likely to change for the rest of the weekend.