A magical day at Deux-Chevaux

A magical day at Deux-Chevaux

Many years ago on a backpacking trip to Europe with a friend I was introduced to the Citroën 2CV or deux chevaux. During a six week tour of various countries and historical sites he took 90 photos of the cars and 10 of me, I think you can guess where the relationship ended.

History aside, I thought my husband would have a lot of fun driving a vintage car around Provence for a day. The answer was simple, there is a Dutch/French company called 2CV Experience that hires out lovingly restored ‘two horsepower’ cars for the day. It couldn’t be easier as they are based minutes outside of Aix-en-Provence. They currently have 12 cars and are soon expanding their inventory to 15. These pristine cars are fully restored by hand, meticulously painted and ready to go when you arrive. All the cars are named: Tournesol, Olivier, St-Tropez, Menthe, Sahara…we got the keys to Lavende for the day.

The Citroën 2CV was produced from 1948 to 1990. A technically well-built and designed car, it was affordable and literally designed to move the French rural population from dependence on animals (horses and carts) to the automobile. The car continues to be iconic. It is minimalist in design, lightweight, offers easy service and consistent reliability. Over 3.8 million cars were produced in 42 years of production.

I couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect day in the middle of March. It was a brilliantly sunny, cloudless and warm day. At 10am we were instructed on how to ‘roll up’ the canvas convertible, from then until 7pm it was ‘topless day’.

We had a rough idea of ​​our day trip. It looked something like; head for the bank and then “debate” whether to head left or right. This would be followed by a more cordial conversation about where to have lunch and then finally a quieter ride back to home base. Fortunately, 2CV Experience came to the rescue by providing a detailed map, route instructions and tourist notes for a 145km tour of l’Etang de Berre. There are actually seven lakes, but Etang de Berre is the largest. The area was formed during the last ice age. This inland body of water is fed by fresh water sources. The entire territory is more than 20 km long and 16 km wide. There are numerous small villages and towns to visit along the way.

First stop was Chateau La Barben, just outside La Barben. It has a structure dating back to 1064. The castle has been restored and now serves several needs; day trippers, bed and breakfast guests and special receptions. Unfortunately we arrived early in the season and too early in the day so we were unable to explore the interior. The exterior is certainly well restored and the location is a beautiful cool oasis surrounded by water sources.

The next towns were Pelissanne, Salon de Provence, Grans and Saint Chamas. Each city has some unique locations and photo opportunities. In fact, the village of Grans was our favorite stop. The village is small and maintains a true Provençal feel with a mix of homes, restaurants and cafes. This small village has a permanent population of about 3800 inhabitants.

The other cities weren’t particularly noteworthy, although each has some unique characteristics and offers photo opportunities at the most unexpected moments. Although the rental company provides all the picnic tools, you still need to spend a few minutes buying the ingredients. Instead we ended up in Istres at a restaurant for lunch. It is an ancient city with a few remaining Roman sites, surrounded by a bustling city. A quick drive through the area and it’s clear that you shouldn’t stray too far from your car and keep your valuables handy. That being said, we stumbled upon Pinçée de Sel for lunch on the high street and it was excellent.

Afternoon stops included the village of Saint Miter les Rempart, this village should NO be omitted. The ancient city was surrounded by high defensive walls that date back to the 14th century. There are two main entrances to the old village, the North Gate and the South Gate. Don’t miss the residences built into the old village walls. This small village is a lovely, relatively quiet stop on the tourist circuit. Unfortunately, the weather was ticking and the sun was pointing in the wrong direction, so the next towns were literally bypassed for another time.

My husband, the wannabe driver, was warned about some of the car’s quirks. First was where the emergency lights were just in case of unforeseen events. Important details include the fact that there is NO power steering, NO power brakes and the transmission is not synchronized. Translated, this means you have to use some muscle to drive the car and you have to think ahead. With a non-synchronized clutch, if you need to downshift into first gear, the car must come to a complete stop before engaging the gear. The gear lever is interesting as it is on the dashboard, with a unique shift pattern. The Lavendre was fun to drive, cornering required little steering effort and rolling braking in second gear was the name of the game, avoid a full stop if possible. The car accelerated well. The car seems to perform best at 90km/h and below; much better to enjoy the sights and sounds of the small towns, natural sights and historical monuments along the route.

At the end of the day it was a truly “magical” experience in an old classic. This company’s small team is well organized, professional, responsive and provides excellent route notes! Otherwise, we may still be “discussing” the directions.

#magical #day #DeuxChevaux

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