Merlins in France 2003

The Merlin trip to France 2003 was organised for the Merlin owners club By Helen and Andy Bell and was open to all members of the club. Eventually the final total was five Merlin's. The Trip was planed for departure from Newhaven, by Sea cat, across to Dieppe.

The Story started thus; - At 5 am on Saturday 24 May in deepest Wales a lone Merlin (Dave & Sue) fires up its engine, slips in to first gear and starts its long journey along the M4 towards the M25. Later at approx 7am another Merlin roars to life in the Nottingham area (Andy & Helen) shortly followed by another Merlin in the Leicestershire are (Clive & Margaret). Andy and Helen started out along the M1 whilst Clive devoid of his compass trundled across country. A Little later and a lot further on another Merlin fires up this time in the region of junction 18 on the M25 Chorley Wood (John & Margaret). All these Merlin's had a common Goal and that was to rendezvous at a pup called the Abergaveny Arms, 4 miles from the port of little haven in a village called Rodmell.

All the Merlins arrived between 9.40am & the deadline of 12 Noon with no untoward incidents; we enjoyed a little light refreshment in the glorious morning sunshine and then set off on to Newhaven and then on to France. These four Merlins were the main body of our Raid in to France through Dieppe. However an advanced party had set of earlier leaving Ipswich (Barry & Anita) and heading for Plymouth and then on to Cherbourg. The trip across the channel was uneventful and the sea cat crossing which took about 2 hours was very smooth.

in the ferry

At 5 pm European time we disembarked from the sea cat and the weather was atrocious (What had we done we had left sunny England for this rain soaked place.

It was just like being home in Wales). We travelled in convoy to find the first supermarket we could and after fifteen laps of the car park looking for a parking space finally made an assault on the Booze section in the supermarket. As an afterthought and to ease our consciences we also stocked up with some food. Off we went again braving the elements to travel in convoy, Andy + Navigator Helen in the lead. We were heading to a little village 18 kilometres East of Rouen called St Denis Le Thiboul and hopefully to a reunion with the advance party (Barry & Anita). The trip took about an hour and passed with out incident except that is for Clive to try and overtake me on a roundabout. (Later found out he had no brakes.)

our gite

At about 5 in the afternoon we arrived at our home for the next 7 days, and there standing in the rain were Barry and Anita both with tongues hanging out for some liquid refreshment, (well it was well deserved for they had built up 2 new barbeques hopefully to be used when the heavens stop leaking.
That night we had a feast, a drink and bed.

Day two.

Today was to be a lazy leisurely day with a short trip to nearby Rouen.
The trip was great, through open countryside and yes glorious sunshine. We parked up in the town centre and on exploring the first pub we were told that there was a fete in the town square, which we promptly headed for, meeting street musicians and entertainers along the way. Its as if they new that the Merlin owners club were in town.

town center

There was indeed a fete in the town square which also is the place were Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake and boasts a beautiful monument and church to mark the spot (well worth a visit) we roamed around the fete which was based on a midlevel theme.

Andy had a strange experience at one of the displays and was forced (by Mrs B) to open his wallet and purchase a trophy to be placed back at bell towers. (If you want to know what, then you will have to either visit Bell Towers or ask Helen or Andy).

We stopped in a little side street to partake of some nourishment and then beat a hasty retreat back to base to park the cars and have some serious refreshment accompanied by some food and a few games.

Day Three.

A long haul trip is planned for to day to the palace of Versailles and a date with Louie. "Right gang are we ready to go" " Gentlemen start your engines" Err I think not. I turn the ignition key and as if in some strange slow motion dream I think where's the engine. Turn key again and definitely no joy. Quick check yes its still there Ok lets have a push gang. 20 yards down the road and yes I have found my engine (mmmmmmmmmmm Flat battery me thinks???) Any way off we went to see Louie All Merlin running well. Well all cars running well but stopping for Clive was not an option, (well done on the motorway Clive 10 out of 10).

Palace of Versailles

In the car park outside the palace (Photo) all Merlin's accounted for. The palace of Versailles is a massive place and on the approach Louie was there to greet us, Obviously he had heard the Merlins were in town. Off the girls went to get the low down on the place (Tourist info office) They got rather more than they bargained for (a very un friendly) Gendarme offered them a tour of one of the cells in the local nick Even B+B. That will teach them to brake in to a closed tourist info office Ha Ha Ha.
We spent a cracking day at the palace roaming through the extensive grounds, eating lunch at the resteraunt and generally wearing our selves out, Fantastic.

lunch time

How the other half live? Unfortunately the day soon wore on and off we went back to our Merlins. Oh well at least the engine is still there (Must have been a flat battery after all) .15 k spent on searching for a petrol station and a quick blast up the motorway, (Trying to stay away from no brakes Clive) we were all back at base camp safe and very thirsty. Go on Barry light the barbeque's! Well-done lad

Day Four.

Bird Sanctuary or RAC?
We were all set to visit the bird sanctuary at Cleres. All five cars well at least that was the plan, Start your engines err well not likely. Same old B---y problem no go, Give us a push lads. 20 yards later and bingo, fired up and ready to go, Off we set first in to RY a village 2 kilometres down the road to research a watering hole with entertainment for our Friday evening last supper, mission accomplished back to the cars and guess what no sparks again. A QUICK DEEBATE WITH Clive (no brakes) and we decided to leave the other three carry on whilst we got in touch with the RAC (GOD BLESS THEM). Arrangements made with the recovery people to pick up both cars at the Gite. A quick push again (Thanks Sue lucky it was down hill). 1 hour latter and a recovery truck turns up to take the Merlin's in to Rouen. He was not going to take both at once so Clive was elected (Bit of luck This)

Clive's Merlin gets picked up
Clive's Merlin on meat wagon Clive's words not mine.

Clive & Margaret were picked up at 12.45. An hour or so later I received a call on the mobile it was Samantha from the RAC, Bless her. She informed me that they had experienced problems with getting a Garage to accept the Merlin but had eventually sort one out and that Clive's car was being repaired as we spoke. Even more good news she informed me that my car was going to be fixed at the Gite by the nice recovery man. After she rang off I thought to my self! That will be a neat trick, as I hadn't told him what the problem was? Three hours and a couple of beers later the biggest recovery truck I have ever seen arrived at the Gite. The very nice man couldn't speak a word of English and he certainly couldn't speak Welsh and I don't speak French, and as I was babbling on about my starter motor He was busily winching the Merlin on to the Truck. Oh hell I thought I'd better get in or I will never see it again.

40 minutes latter after commuting (silently) in the cab of the truck through Rouen Rush hour traffic, we arrived at a docklands garage where, I must admit I was glad to see Clive's Merlin parked up on some waste ground with the bonnet open, minus a Master cylinder. Ah well at least I'm lost in France with someone I know. As my Merlin was lowered off the Truck Clive & Margaret came running out of the garage and Clive Said "Dave don't hang around and don't let them touch your car their a bunch of cowboys" I looked around and saw a Morgan on the ramp, A TR4 in the workshop, several old Jags and an old Porsche in the forecourt. Are you sure Clive I asked as I was trying to fend off two young Mechanics?? Who kept asking KEY, KEY, Clive explained that they had attacked his Merlin on arrival and stripped the master Cylinder, then informed him that they would get him a replacement from Paris in 10 Days. After Clive Said no way one of the Mechanics disappeared on a scooter with his master Cylinder and he had not seen it since. SORRY LADS BUT DEFENETLY NO KEY. After a quick paw waw with the garage owner and with the aid of Clive's workshop manual, I soon discovered that he did not have a solenoid and he was obviously wanting my company for 10 days also.
SORRY NO WAY.

A short while latter a scooter turned up with a Clive's old master cylinder on the runner board. We grabbed this, stuck it back on, pinched some brake fluid of the owner bled the brakes and made our getaway. Or rather push away. The grand result of all this was a wasted day with Clive back on the hand brake, and me relining on my reserve starter SUE.

On a serious note the service offered by the RAC was very good the difficulty was that the Merlin did not fit in to the French recovery peoples category, and whilst they did find arguably a classic car garage they could not source the parts locally.

Whilst Clive & Myself spent a harrowing day in Rouen the other three Merlins spent the day visiting a bird sanctuary and having lunch and drinks in a delightful little village named Cleres, a village which all five Merlins were going to visit again at the end of our holiday. We all met up back at the Gite and spent the evening telling our story to the other three Merlin couples over a barbeque and drinks and some of Barry's party games.

Day Five.

A late start to day and a trip to Monet's house and gardens were planned. We all set off for the 50-kilometre drive in scorching weather through some really great Merlin driving countryside. The weather was so hot that we broke our journey at Louviers for a quick drink in the town square. The Merlins generated a lot of passer by interest parked up in the town's central square.

outside Monet's house

Of on the last leg of the trip and after a short while we arrived at "Foundation Claude Monet". The car park was quite full with a lot of British registered cars in the car park but again the Merlins stole the limelight. We all spent a couple of hours visiting the house and gardens and split up to do our own thing. We all took some photographs in the splendid surroundings especially the lake with its bridge.
The grounds were especially hectic as there were several school trips also doing the tour. We all met up and decided to have an impromptu picnic
In the grounds outside.

le picnic

The drive back was a treat, the sun was so hot that Andy & Barry both took of their side screens to try and cool down. We arrive back quite early and it was decided to Barbeque early and the set off down to the local park to have a bouls tournament
(Naturally boy's v girls.)--- To be continued.

Day Six.

Barry organised the route today and it was to be Beauvais a short 30 kilometres run up the N31. On the way we passed through a small village street market. We carried on and arrived at Beauvais town centre where we all parked at the underground car park. (A very nice attendant told us to park under the security camera and he would keep an eye on the Merlins) very reassuring? We did a tour of the town that was quite large and eventually arrived at a bar where we all had a very welcome drink followed by a baguette lunch in the town centre.

We ended up visiting the towns' cathedral that was experiencing some internal renovations due to subsidence. At least it was cool inside. We did not linger to long in the town as it was very hot and decided to drive back through the open countryside again with the side screens off. The drive led us to a little village called Lyon-la-foret. We parked up and had a wonder round, eventually settling for a drink in the village café bar in the square.

in Beauvais

After the refreshments in the village square we headed back to the Geite again for more food and the continuation of the bouls tournament at the village park the referee was Mr Barry Jones and he can be seen in action below.

playing boules

As a matter of interest the girls asked the question " boys what exactly are you measuring? "
The final result of the tournament is still under discussion and a final decision has not yet been reached by our referee who knows it might even end in a re match next year? Well that's an idea isn't it?

Day Seven.

A lazy day today, No real plans and we all wandered off on our own having made arrangements to be back early in order to get ready for our final night supper at the restaurant already booked at Ry. Andy and Helen went to visit a local Château and bumped in to Barry, Anita John and Margaret in a boot sale held in its grounds .Sue and I wandered around locally stopping in Ry for a drink and just killing time, I believe that Clive and Margaret spent a little time looking for traffic free roads in order to rest his hand brake arm.

We were all back ready for the night ahead. The taxi picked us up at 7.30 and it was away to go.

dressed up for dinner

Dave Helen Anita Margaret Clive
Barry Sue Margaret John & Andy's behind the camera

The restaurant had a jazz band playing which put Andy & Barry at they're element. The food was good and the drink flowed bountifully. The evening was a fitting end to what had been a fantastic week of sun, sights and Merlin driving.
The evening came to an end and it left us a bit glum at the thought of leaving for home on the following day.

at dinner

Day Eight - Homeward bound.

The morning started with a full breakfast and then we all went off to pack. We all mucked in and put the two geigts back to the condition in which we had arrived at. All this done we sorted things out with the owner and we were off.

We headed off in convoy, and on the way we encountered a village wedding which brought us to a stand still as the bridal party wanted photographs with the Merlins. This done off we went and after a short drive across country we arrived at the village which Clive and my self had not visited (due to the RAC man) Cleres. This was to be the point at which we were to say goodbye to Barry and Anita as they were leaving to get the ferry at LeHavre whilst the rest of us were driving back the other way to Dieppe.
We all had a last wander around the village, a pretty little village with a lazy stream running down the centre and an old public meeting place in the middle, we had a last drink and waved Barry and Anita off.

Merlins in Dieppe

Shortly after we all made our way back to the Merlins. We drove in convoy all the way back to Dieppe where we stopped for lunch and spent the last hour or so in the hypermarket buying gifts and stocking up with essentials (booze & fags)

It was only a short drive to the ferry terminal where we parked up and waited to board the ferry.

Merlins coming home

We were not long in boarding the ferry. Andy and myself had just started up the ramp when we herd a crash. Looking back the unthinkable had happened, Clive's luck had run out and he had collided with the back of Johns Merlin. Thankfully there was no damage. A very nice man placed my car at the beginning of the unloading ramp once I had informed him that my starter motor did not work.

We set sail on the sea cat and France was quickly left behind. We all wend down to the lounge and had coffee and a snack. Before long we were back at Newhaven where we all said our goodbyes and set off for home.

Andy & Helen Thanks for all your hard work in organising the holiday, and to the rest of you Thanks for a great time truly enjoyed by Sue and Myself.
Roll on next year. P.S Clive I would fix those brakes mate.

All the best - Dave.

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