Champagne weekend, September 2009

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At last the time came for us to pack up RUR ready for our trip through the tunnel for the 10th Sabra/Sabre Meeting, this year in France. We had decided to take the long route and use the smaller roads but changed our minds on the day and used the motorway to our first overnight stop in Laon. We set off in gusty weather but the open top was no problem and was actually quite novel inside the tunnel. We had recently purchased a “boot bag” which is a soft bag that is designed to sit on the boot without the need for a metal cradle; it meant that even with the roof down we had room for our luggage. Shortly after our arrival in Calais we stopped for a lunch break and I mentioned that the black clouds looked a bit dodgy. Tony reluctantly agreed and we put the hood up, just in time, as three minutes later the heavens opened!!

On Friday after a lazy breakfast watching the drizzle outside we started the drive to Montgivroux which was to be our base for the meeting. As it was now pouring with rain we were not driving topless, however by lunchtime when we stopped in Dormans for lunch the sun had come out and it was very pleasant. We spent a while strolling along the river Marne before completing our journey and were lucky to have sun all the way. The hotel looked very pretty as we drove up the impressive driveway and parked in the flower filled courtyard.

It was nice to reacquaint ourselves with the hotel and to get unpacked before the others started to arrive. Most people had experienced some rain including André and Carine in their Sabra who had a difficult last part of their journey when one of their windscreen wipers broke off. Murphy’s Law decreed that it was the one on the driver’s side! We all finally assembled and enjoyed a glass or two of champagne on the terrace whilst catching up on a whole year’s news before and during dinner.

On the Saturday, with breakfast over, those that had left their hoods up over Friday night took them down and we set off in convoy to Damery, stopping at a little church set in a vineyard for some typical regional photographs to be taken. The lunch stop was at the Bateaux Restaurant which as you would guess was set on a river overlooking passing barges and boats. It was here that the lovely photograph of all four Sabras, two Sabre Fours, two Sabre Sixes and one Fiat were taken. Unfortunately Tony Richardson’s Sabre Six and Peter and Marriette’s Sabra were not quite ready to make the journey but we hope to see them next year.

Following the excellent lunch we drove the short distance to Cumières for a 1½ hour boat trip along the pretty river Marne passing through an impressive lock on the way. We then drove back to the hotel via Epernay for a Champagne reception, again served outside prior to the main evening dinner. The hotel had pulled out all the stops and the meal and wine were delicious.

After breakfast on Sunday we enjoyed a gentle drive, again in convoy, to the pressage of Champagne Dérouillat for a tour of the Champagne making facilities, before taking lunch in the pressage. Champagne was available to sample in abundance so it was definitely an advantage to be a passenger and not a driver. Before leaving there was the option to buy Champagne and most of us managed to squeeze a bottle or two into our little cars. The drive back to the hotel was via the vineyards which looked delightful in the afternoon sun. Once back at our hotel there was plenty of time left in the afternoon for most of us to enjoy a brief dip in the hotel’s outdoor pool – a bracing experience! In the evening we enjoyed our last meal together in the hotel before packing up the cars for the return journey.

On Monday morning we said our farewells and watched most of the crowd leave for home. Some of us stayed for an extra couple of days and, after a walk round the extensive hotel grounds and to a local monument, enjoyed a leisurely if large champagne lunch beside the pool. In the afternoon we all relaxed round the pool as, by then, the temperature had risen to the high 20’s and the pool heating had been turned up so the water was perfect. The weather stayed warm and we were able to also eat our dinner by the pool in the evening.

On Tuesday some of us took a long walk in the morning through the local countryside before enjoying lunch again by the pool and lazing and swimming in the hot sun in the afternoon. Luc, Jef and Els decided to explore further by car only for Luc to suffer a clutch cable failure, coincidentally similar to the problem he had two years ago during the Netherlands Sabra Sabre meeting. Fortunately he was able to sort out the problem later in the day.

Wednesday we drove with Jef & Els to see the refurbished Reims motor racing circuit and then left them and drove to Péronne where we spent the afternoon and evening.

Home Thursday via the tunnel. The little Sabre Six had done us proud and behaved perfectly all the way. We now know that the hood leaks and that the steering could be improved but we also know that the engine is solid though drinking an awful lot of oil. This winter there will be more work to do!

The approach to our hotel

Friends catching up in the sun

In the village

By the River Marne

Saturday lunch venue, Bateaux Restaurant on the River Marne

Our hotel courtyard

In the vineyards

Visiting the Champagne house, Champagne Dérouillat

Our Champagne hosts

Two beauties

Cousins

Grapes as far as the eye can see

Getting up close to the grapes

Alfresco dining at the hotel

Enjoying the sun

At attention

Another two beauties!

With Jef and Els at the Reims Grand Prix circuit