Curbs down town. Skid marks, traces, history. Famous bends, perspectives. Rascasse, Casino, Tunnelle, la Piscine. On a late and mild november afternoon I walk the complete lap in Monaco. The champagne light bounces of the retro concrete facades. Everything is quiet, but in my head I hear the engines screaming. Best lap time.
During my first hike through the kingdom I wonder where the big players are. Monaco seems empty these november days. Winter sleep in St Moritz maybe? But the closer I come to the boulevard the bigger the cars get. Bentley come in packs and are sold like hot cakes. Get a fresh plate and off you go.
Touch down in London for a quick visit, soaking up the energy of this swinging city. "Why are you here, now?" Mainly this day will be colored with art, colleges and royals. In between though I scan the streets to update my view on britishness 2012. It is a jungle out here, but is a Camel Trophy the answer? We Chelsea.
Paris, Place Charles de Gaulle, the point of gravity of this metropole. History meets modern times. Look right and one can feel Versailles, look left to spot la Defense on the horizon. A collection of landmarks on a string. Around the Arc de Triomphe the traffic hectically turns its cycles like a never ending washing program. So what is mobility like in this town? We are here to find out what makes the parisians tick.
During our hike up to the old arc we have spotted a street full of dealerships. Motorcycles and scooters that is and everything that can be put into this niche. Mp3 anyone? This city is made for it. Scale up the product and you end up with a smart before things get serious. Our final conclusion after three days in the french capitol: you better be smart over here. We wonder why the French did not invent this micro car.
La France, think of cars and you think of bumps and scratches. How does big and beautiful fit in this picture? We make a turn into the Avenue Foch to search for an answer. We have heard that somewhere beneath this broad street Paris rich park their cars. It takes a little while, but finally we step into an underground walhalla. The floor is oily and the atmosphere petrol-esque. Garage Foch, something between a barn full of forgotten exotics and louis vuitton on wheels. A changing collection of cars, old and new, its size overwhelming.
Tuck in your car or let it rust away in the dungeons of Paris, here you will find both ends of the spectrum. And yes, someone with a very soft spot for de Tomasos must live just around the corner. Some high lights. Garage Foch, definitely worth a re-visit some day.
With an Audi S8 V10 routinely parked in front of our house (hey, it's even frozen in time on GMaps), with R32 Golfs as 'shoppers' parked around the corner and with daily spots of Astons, Rollses and tons of Porsches - this funny little runabout here still managed to catch our eye, and win our sympathy every time we strolled to and from our nearest tube station.
London - you guessed it. Chiswick to be precise, a nice and upmarket residential area where we've set up our holiday camp this week.
The car: a Triumph Herald, Michelotti-bodied and rather successful in its days. It was built for more than ten years - out-phasing its own successor, the 1300. All Heralds sported a separate chassis with bolted-on body panels, enabling the engineers to quickly convert their design from hardtop/coupe to sedan, convertible - or even an estate and van spinoff. This version here is a second gen convertible with 'angry eyes'; in that sense you could even call it ahead of its time - Peugeot, eat your heart out!
The Herald and its beefier 6-cylinder Vitesse sister always hit kind of a soft spot with me. Don't get me wrong, I don't particularly like 'em, but -next to a blue 356 coupe and a white Mark 2- a pale coloured Herald is one of my earliest childhood carfreak memories. A friend of my aunt's drove it and used to bring it round our place a few times. I guess already then I thought it was different.
I guess it still is.
This particular Cockney item was moderately tuned with some nice period details. Couldn't tell if the engine (61 bhp standard) had been tickled also, but the Minilite rims and bullet mirrors go well with the red paint job. The body coloured bumpers were standard kit on certain models. On the inside, note the full wooden dash and substantial door panel trim. The after-market steering wheel rim seems a bit on the beefy side also, so these 'lightweight design' holes seem well justified.
...And do mind the slightly mouldy smell - if you're getting too close.
Oh well, then again, what do you expect from an island-born convertible? All character, mate.
There, I said it.
We are strolling down Guloudong Dajie, a street full of little boutiques and tea houses. I can't help drawing parallels with Main Street Santa Monica, or better, Melrose Avenue. The atmosphere, the trees, city life. As my mind travels back in time my local city guide asks me to stop comparing. "This is Beijing, not California!"
He is right. A different kitchen with new ingredients, nevertheless spicy and colorful. One would not expect it, but the locals have a hang towards Tokyo style car tuning. Bright with a broad brush approach and funky detailing. A colorful example is parked in front of a model and figurines shop. A perfect match. CFX Beijing could be a nice side kick. To be continued...
Somewhere in a parallel universe someone had the same idea I guess. I am on my way back home after a fantastic weekend in the Ardennes.
As I weave through the one way streets of Thuex it starts to rain cats and dogs, well a whole asylum that is. In centre ville the Belgium grays are lit up by dashes of bright yellow. An opportunity I can't resist. I park my car, grab my camera and run across the street. A curbed Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV Bertone in full rallye trim. Within minutes I am soaked with inspiration and rain, wondering what the fire extinguisher is doing here on the sidewalk.