Sunday, September 25, 2011

Angoulême the easy way

We went to Angoulême for the Circuit des Remparts. Hours of thrashing down the motorway are out so we opted for the TGV, with a change of trains (and stations) in Lille. To add spice we took three Brompton folding bicycles.
We left Lewes on the 05.29, making a cross-platform change at Gatwick, onto the Gatwick Express for Victoria, a more spacious and comfortable way to reach the smoke. Unfold the bikes and we head for St Pancras. Outside Buckingham Palace a shout from Richard Banks reveals a saddle malfunction and a bike pump fallen in the road. Essentially a shakedown run for his new Brompton 6-speed we limp to St. Pancras where running repairs are effected.
After a coffee stop (Costa, £5.65 for three) we depart at 08.27 by Eurostar for Lille. Breakfast on the train in first class comfort is most acceptable. There is time for a quick cycle tour of Lille, in the old town, where we spot a vintage Peugeot folder with 22" wheels and a beater bike with Fichtel & Sachs Dreigang.

After a snack lunch on the concourse at Lille Flandres we join the 12.45, departing six-minutes late for points south. On arrival we assemble the bikes for Angoulême-Nord - it is a climb out of town to les montagnes. We check-in to the F1 hotel and take supper at a Chinese buffet. Saturday and we are bicycling into the boondocks in search of classic cars and the Le Rallye International de Charente. The morning is wet as we stop at the Chateau de Balzac, an intriguing walled house where we decline a tour. On to Bric-à-Brac at Vindelle, where Richard scores two Duralex glasses, 50 cents, for his Citroën 'H' campervan project. The old motorised bicycles are another attraction as we take a pic-nic lunch. We cycle on stopping at a wrecking yard on the outskirts of Montignac where we spot a wonderful selection of postwar French (and German) vehicles including an 'H' van.
Further on we realise that Montignac was a stop on a previous tour and we head with anticipation to the Bar le Donjon. See PunchBuggy Passim. After a few beers some 400 classic cars are passing our table. There is traffic chaos and the boys join the action, directing the cars in their high-viz jackets.

On the return leg I'm struggling up the hill past La Templerie, at Champniers, necessitating a water stop. Supper at La Boucherie, a meaty restaurant next to our hotel.
On Sunday we take a taxi into Angoulême, where we have lost the teashop at Les Halles and the Tribune du théâtre, the grandstand on the short chute past the startline. Sitting in the grandstand opposite there is discontent as folk stand to watch the racing. We move on, watching the racing from many different vantage points, and ducking into town during the frequent showers. The racing is splendid, watching folk wrestling their aging machinery round the tricky street circuit.

The track looks somewhat neglected with hedges uncut and plants unpruned on the ramparts. We grab a cab to an Italian restaurant close to our digs. Monday morning we roar into town and take tea opposite the station, buying baguettes for the train journey north. The weekend is over all too soon.
Pics by Richard Banks and RLT.

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