I think I was a little excited by the England’s win in the RWC semi-final when I wrote the recent posting about my top 10 favourite victories over the French. I’ve had a few comments about it. I’m not going to apologise because it was a bit of harmless fun and I’m broad-shouldered enough to realise that the French could compile an equally long and light-hearted look at their famous moments over us. Like er….
Only joking mes amis. Anyone who reads enough of my postings will appreciate what a fan I am of France. I was talking the other night (Gail Porter posting) about the best meal experience I’d ever had, which was one evening with a bunch of tired kids and friends travelling in France. I’ve written about my love of the Dordogne region especially around Sarlat; I’ve talked about the beautiful Millau viaduct which I’m aching to see and the brilliant fun we had hosting guests at the Cannes film festival. It was there that I was bumped into by the world’s most beautiful woman, Catherine Deneuve. I let her off with a caution. I’ve mentioned how much I enjoy Paris, and in particular the street markets, Musee d’Orsay and the stunning Eiffel Tower (it’s the Blackpool boy in me) even if I do get serious vertigo walking down the stairs. I’ve written several times about how much I enjoy driving along the French motorways, which are the best in the world, and probably the most expensive. But I don’t begrudge a cent of the tolls. The best small hotel I’ve ever experienced was at L’Hotel in Beaune in the wonderful Bourgogne area of the Cote D’Or. I think the Marsellaise is a fantastic national anthem (see national dirges – now that was a posting) and I really do admire the way the French play their rugby (especially when they play us boom boom!). Cantona was wonderful, and my second favourite national team was always that great French team which graced the ’82 and ’86 World Cups only to get robbed both times by Germany in the semi’s. I still think Harald Schumacher should have been banned for life for that body check on Battiston. I think the whole football world was pleased to see them win the Euro 84 tournament, especially since we had failed to qualify.
So I like France and French things a lot. Not everything of course. Platini was a great player but he’s a demented administrator. The Gallic pride is enviable but their chauvinism is overbearing and unpleasant. But who’s perfect eh. One feature in the Independent this week reminded me of another thing I like about the French, their quirky car designs. If I had the money to buy any cars I fancied there’d be two French cars always in my top 10, both Citroens – the frog-eyed DS and the older classic the Type 7 Traction Avant.
A good friend of my folks, Rudi, used to own a beautiful DS and I cleaned it every Sunday morning for some spending money. They were in production from the mid 50 through to the 70’s and became the archetypal car for the Gendarme. They were so radically different from anything designed before them. Their hydro-pneumatic suspension offered 3 settings! But the thing I liked best was not the engineering but the classic design; it was a kind of ugly-beautiful which never dated. The car never suffered from changes in taste and style because its look was unique and timeless – like the E type’s ugly big brother. For a far more informed description go check out my fellow blogger’s site artofdesign.wordpress.com/2006/12/08/…
The Citroen T7, later named 11CV, was introduced in 1934. It is said to have saved the reputation and fortune of le patron of the company Andre Citroen who had challenged his team to produce a totally new car. And so they did. It introduced front wheel technology and it affectionately became better known as the Traction Avant. Although based on relatively small engines it could achieve a top speed of 100kph and it gained fame as the car driven by the French resistance, the Luftwaffe and post-war jewel thieves because of its racy performance. But again it was the lovely Bertoni design of the car that always grabbed my attention with its low-slung lines, hooded front wheels, large chrome grill, front doors that opened in the reverse right-handed direction and any colour so long as it was black. Another good friend of my folks, Ken, also owned one of these and in the early 60s this was a very chic-looking car. It was immortalised in the Maigret TV series and the star, Rupert Davies, actually bought one of the two models used in the series. Apparently his family still own the car, a beautiful 15CV version.
Ah c’est magnifique.