If you clicked the link to this webpage, it means you like cars, and people who like cars. If so, I think you’ll find this article to your liking.
At the beginning of this month of August, several good European oppo-people decided that Normandy would be a prime spot to meet up, drink beers, grill meat, carve corners, visit stuff, and nerd out about torque steer mitigation devices. And drink beers too.
This event featured:
- Björn, hooning his surprisingly at ease in the bends Renault Twingo 2
- Fritz, who enjoyed every toll thoroughly with his beastly Nissan GT-R R35
- Luc, who closely followed him in a badgeless blue BMW M135i xDrive sleeper
- Clément and Myriam, riding a typically French LUXURY Renault Clio 2 (i.e. with a lot of broken stuff)
- Andréa and I, sharing the wheel of her egg-shaped blue Honda Civic Type R FN2
The roads leading to the AirBNB - a creepy yet full of charm 70s house - set the tone for the rest of the meet: good tarmac, reasonably narrow roads, with long bends and slight elevation changes. At the end of these, we were greeted by a plate of freshly baked crèpes, cooked with (special) love by our chef Fritz. That was a good start!
After a good night sleep, we enjoyed a wonderful view, which would greet us every morning for the next few days:
After a coffee and a few GPS related struggles, we were off to our first stop:
D-day area (day 1)
We soaked in the weight of history, gazing at the cliffs once stormed by brave men who’d free Europe. 75 years after, there were still shipwrecks visible near the shore, and this sight was humbling. A few hundred meters later, all of this was ruined by the massive flow of tourists. I think this visit must be great in the months after or before the holidays. This place really deserves calm and solemnity.
Thankfully, the second stop of the day was a museum, strangely located in a residential area, which granted us the touristlessness we were craving. This museum was actually a former bunker and retraced the history of the Atlantic wall (note to Trump: this one didn’t work either). The visit was interesting, unsettling and claustrophobic. It was strange to stand where German soldiers fought to defend the Reich against the “invader”. Some mannequins didn’t help with our uneasiness.
After driving back to the AirBNB, through the aforementioned amazing roads, we concluded this day with beers, laughs, and grilled meat. What more could we have asked for?
Sea museum in Cherbourg (day 2)
The next day we set out to do our furthest away activity: the Sea Museum in Cherbourg. It was almost a 3 hour drive, but every minute was worth it. As before, the roads were great to carve, but on top of this, we crossed numerous villages on the way there. Every single one was beautiful. Every. Single. One. It’s not an exaggeration. They seemed suspended in time, and if you were able to excuse the WW2 theme park vibe some gave, they reeked of authenticity.
Our final destination, the Sea Museum was a wonderful visit. The museum in itself was really well made, but what struck us most is the visit of “Le Redoutable”, a former French Nuclear Missile Launcher Submarine (SNLE, in French) that we could visit from aft to bow. Walking in the entrails of this giant of steel, designed to bring apocalypse in the form of nuclear fire was awe (and fear) inspiring.
Even if you have seen a few submarine movies, I doubt anyone can have a sense of the sheer size of such a machine. It felt like walking around a small village crammed in a steel tube, next to a nuclear reactor and ICBMs. It was unreal.
The road back to hub was kind of disappointing as the GPS chose to take us through more mundane roads. The fact that we were tired may have played a role too. Thankfully, there was still beer.
Distillery visit and AirBNB swap (day 3)
Day 3 would see us leave base of operation near Caen to go near Rouen, and the departure of Clément and Myriam. But before going to the next AirBNB, we had to make a little stop to taste one of Normandy’s specialties: Calvados! We chose to visit the distillery Drouin, because they had tours, and weren’t too far off the 2nd AirBNB. Yeah, we are real connaisseurs (or however do you English speaking people chose to fuck up this word).
We learned a lot We learned a bit They said stuff We forgot everything because of the Calvados. But the place was beautiful, the tasting was great, and we took a metric ton of pictures because there was a contest where you could win a bottle, but we all forgot to send said pictures. Also, Calvados.
We then proceeded to the AirBNB through some not-so-fun-but-we’re-tired roads to our next hub. Even though the highways were no fun, they at least provided plenty of opportunity for some of us to enjoy launch control.
The next AirBNB was actually a floor on the owner’s house. Although we’d have preferred having our own space, the owners were very nice, and based on the Estafette being restored in the barn and the car magazines in the living rooms, we’d have had a lot to talk about! Too bad we didn’t get the opportunity to, but we consoled ourselves with yet another barbecue.
Rouen (day 4)
This morning saw yet another departure. Our dear Luxemburgish friends left us, and took the group’s drivetrain diversity away with them. It was down to Björn, Andrea and I. For this day we chose to have some low-key city visit, and we set our sights on Rouen. This decision was the good one, as the city is gorgeous.
After having thoroughly explored it, we came back home and had “the talk”. Fearing that the “meet” would turn into “annoying couple with a friend tagging along”, we decided that this would be our last night in Normandy. The weather seemed to agree as rain started pouring on us. The last beer together was therefore an indoor one.
Amiens (day 5)
Having planned both our itineraries, Björn and we still decided to have a last hurrah in Amiens. Officially it was for gas and food, in fact we wanted to keep enjoying each other’s company to keep the party rolling just a tad longer.
After a decent meal for a reasonable price, and a bit more sightseeing under the rain, we told each other goodbye, and everybody drove home. Thankfully, we could comfort ourselves knowing that this wasn’t the last time we’d see each other!
This meet was nothing like the one in the Vosges. It was way more intimate, which was a good thing as it was my first time organizing something of the sorts, and it already kind of scared me to handle hundreds of euros which weren’t mine.
We’ve had lots of laughs, beers, arguments about cars, learned a crap-ton of technical details thanks to Björn’s immense knowledge, and enjoyed the roads and the sights of Normandy thoroughly. One of the highlights of this meet was the cooking (thanks Fritz!). Cooking together, be it a proper meal (like crêpes) or a barbecue, is really a wonderful opportunity to bond and spend time together. I hope our experience will help make the next gatherings even better!
In the meantime, drive safe(ish)!