Wheels, Wheels and More Wheels

photo: le bouquet, sunday

'My' local café yesterday, getting ready
for reopening today.

Plus Other Stuff - Like Scooters

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 14. February 2000:- For mid February, the weather is still pretty good. One day it rains and the next day it is an average sunny day. By 'average,' I mean it is not brilliant, but is acceptable for Paris.

The daily temperatures are nudging 10 C and you can get by without wearing gloves unless you've come to France to go skiing with everybody else except for those who are photophobic.

This is Metropole's big Rétromobile issue so it is full of wheels. But since this is France, the necessary exception is sketched out in an article about the Champs-Elysées, in which I claim it is not the 'Most Beautiful Avenue In the World' every day. If it were, people would skip their trips to the Alps.

Mostly, what I remember about Rétromobile, is Michelin's skimpy breakfast for the pressphoto: original lenoir people. For almost the first time, I got up in the middle of the night on Friday morning and left the apartment, looking forward to a free breakfast.

Uncredited photo of the Lenoir, the oldest car - identical to the car at Rétromobile.

Oh, cruel deception! Myth or truth, most Parisians do not eat breakfast because they are saving up swallowing power for lunch. Since I seldom know whether or when I will have lunch, I fortify myself before expeditions.

Last Friday, the skimpy freebie breakfast - there are never any free lunches - forced me to return home early for reinforcements. After I recovered, I found I had come away with two Rétromobile items that don't fit into the feature for it.

In other words, I was so weak and lightheaded, that I forgot them.

The Berliet Foundation

After the so-called breakfast, I was grumbling around the old car exhibition, when I came upon a large crowd of press people listening to a speech in order to get another free breakfast.

The crowd seemed to be listening more attentively than is necessary for a free breakfast and this roused my curiosity. In all my life I have never heard of the Fondation Berliet, and I have apparently managed to not notice it at previous editions of Rétromobile.

In the early years of the last century Marius Berliet was building cars and trucks in the Lyon area. For Rétromobile, Berliet has a 1911 Berliet 'Torpedo' touring car and a 1919 Aries truck on their stand.

These two items symbolize the purpose of the Foundation: to create an historical archive concerning French trucks, and to do the same thing for car manufacturers in the Rhône-Alps region - where Lyon is located.

The Foundation was set up in 1982 by the Berliet family together with Renault Industrial Vehicles. Lyon and its region had 180 manufacturers of cars and trucks, and trucks made there were well-known for being sturdy enough for the mountain roads in the area.

In France, there were about 150 makers of industrial vehicles. A spokesman for the foundationposter: camions francaises told me it has no purpose other than enhancing and maintaining its historical archives - which amount to 250,000 documents with references to about 200 makes.

Its various garages of early cars and trucks - 140 restored, about 100 awaiting restoration - are not open to the public. The collection represents 27 makes from 1886 to 1984 and all of them are French.

Copy of the 'Automobilia' issue of 15. August 1920. A restored 'Aries'' truck is on the Berliet stand.

Several items from the foundation's collection have been declared national monuments. But basically, the foundation's purpose is conserving history - for the future.

This is not a deep-pockets foundation - its staff is small, and volunteers do a lot of the work. Donations - of old vehicles, of money - are accepted and they are tax-deductible. The foundation's 'public window' is its participation in car shows like Rétromobile.

No museum, nothing to sell the public, no Web site - just a dedication to remind us of the machinery that helped bring us to where we are today. Info. Fax.: 33 4 72 33 20 25.

Rallye des Princesses

The first rallye for lady drivers rolled out of Paris in 1929 and followed a route through Vichy and Hyères, to finish up at Saint-Raphaël. With many well-known ladies, the rallyes continued until the war and then resumed again in 1951.

Count Edme de Rohan-Chabot, who started it all, died in 1972 and the last rallye was run in 1974. Patrickphoto: rallye des princesses Zaniroli, an ex-Paris-Dakar competitor have revived the rallye for ladies and it will take place from Tuesday, 25. to Sunday, 30. April.

This will not be a high-speed road race through France. It will be an 'on time' event, one that requires being neither too early nor too late - but all 'getting lost' time must be made up.

Until Sunday, 20. April, the entry fee for the Rallye des Princesses is 19,500 francs for the driver and co-pilot. This fee includes assistance, mechanical aid; plus accommodations and meals. There will be a 'gala' at the finish and this is included too.

Men can participate, but only as assistants. The fee for this is 4500 francs, and includes accommodations and meals.

This year's Rallye des Princesses starts in Paris, and goes through La Châtre, Vichy, Vals-les-Bains, Aix-en-Provence, to finish up at Saint-Raphaël - with a 'gala!' The ladies will spray Champagne on each other.

Ed's Café Reopens Today

Yesterday and Saturday, carpenters, waiters, plumbers, the cook,photo: metro entry, champs elysees tile layers, the patron, wives, kids and dogs, plus a sidewalk engineering team were all hard at work on 'Ed's' café to get it ready for reopening this morning.

Métro entry on the Champs- Elysées last Wednesday.

Your magazine's café critic will present a full report on the success or failure of the revamp of this vitally important Paris café, after thorough testing and evaluation, in next week's issue.

Café Metropole Club's 18th Session

The 18th weekly meeting of the 'Café Metropole Club' came off with its usual panache last Thursday - actually becoming two club sessions totalling four hours. However this is not the reason it looks like 'Club session number 17' is being skipped. The reason is your club's secretary can't count above ten without taking off a shoe.

Two new members from Texas signed up. They were not operating on 'metric-style' time, so the club effectively had a two-hour overtime session - for you, sort of two club's in one. Read all about it on last week's 'Club 'Report'' page.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 4.07 - 15. February 1999 - The Café Metropole column was headlined: - 'Reader Turns Into Paris Sidekick.' 'Au Bistro' had 'Skeptical About Nearly Everything.' This issue had one feature, entitled 'Another Run for Rétromobile.' This issue also had 'Paris' Scene' - 'Marathons, Plus Year of the Hare.' photo: motor sculpture There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Crank, Walter!'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 3.07 - 16. February 1998 - The Café Metropole column announced 'Fake Spring Surprises Paris.' The 'Au Bistro' column was headlined 'Weather and Lucky Valentines.' This issue had two features, entitled 'The 'Grands Boulevards,' Part 23' and 'On the Ile Saint- Louis: Island in the Sun.' Nicki Ryker sent an email about 'Our Trip of a Lifetime.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Late but Sunny Valentine.'

The Metropole Paris Countdown to 31. December 2000:

Even though no readers have asked for any countdown to the probable beginning of the next century and even more importantly, to the next millennium, this silly countdown continues with the seventh issue of 2000 because once something silly like this is started it's hard to stop.

This new countdown will last only 366 days, minus the days already gone. The official reason for doing this is to give the Tour Eiffel a new chance to 'get it right' - because so many count-down fans missed shouting 'Zéro' on Friday, 31. December 1999. The 'unofficial' reason remains a mystery.

There are about 322 days left to go until the 3rd Millennium.
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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