Des Alpes Mancelles
Organise par Pierre et Claire Damiron, et Thierry Denant.
September 25 to 27, 2015.
The eleventh running of our popular Costello Gathering centered on the rolling hills northwest of Alencon in the Alpes Marcelles area of Normandy, northern France. With eight Costellos in attendance, the enthusiastic group burbled its way across northern Europe from afar as Frankfurt, Aachen, Paris, Kent and Hertfordshire. Convening at the rural farmstead of Verrerie du Gast we were met by our dedicated Gathering organisers Pierre and Claire Damiron, who, along with geographical assistance from Thierry Denant, handed out welcome packs including route maps, tourist information on the area and free biscuits.
The group was happy to join first-time Gatherers Alun and Gill Evans who had driven from Bristol in their immaculate and original Mk I GT. Warmly welcomed they quickly settled into the Costello banter regaling tales of the history of their car and the journey to Normandy. Dinner that warm evening was enjoyed at La Ferme du Petit Guermance a few kilometres away.
Our first full day on the roads had all the cars gather once again at Verrerie, resplendent in the crisp clear morning sunshine. Alun, Guido Baldoff in his recently restored Mk I GT, Hubert Jansen (Mk I roadster), Juergen Hauber with his ultra-rare Mk III fuel-injected roadster, Peter Brodt (Mk I GT), Laurie Way and his Sebring-bodied Mk I GT and Roger Anderson in his green Mk I GT set off north towards Falaise with Pierre Damiron leading the train in his Mk II GT. Thierry Denant joined as a passenger in Lawrence Wood’s Ferrari 355GTS as his own Costello Mk I GT was suffering at home with axle trouble. Also in attendance was Pierre’s son in the family Swallow Doretti – another British, limited-run sports car.
A fascinating walk back in time around the historic Chateau de Guillaume de Normandie in Falaise was followed by a tasty lunch in Pont d’Ouilly. The delicious local cuisine was soon washed down with tangy samples of calvados, cider and pommeau at the La Monnerie distillery near Cerisy-Belle-Etoile. A detailed explanation was given on how local apples are made into the popular local drink. Most of the gathering admitted they were unaware cider was so popular in Normandy so were keen to try some samples. Meanwhile, our cars were scattered among vast piles of apples in the sunshine, surrounded by precarious cider-manufacturing equipment, making for some great Kodak moments.
Driving on the roads of France is always a pleasure, especially for those owners from the choked, camera-infested, pot-holed byways of England, so it was with some pleasure and relief that Pierre put his foot down allowing the Costello train to enjoy a good blast along the rolling boulevards, or to ‘clear out the plugs’ in case a local gendarme frowned upon our fun.
Dinner that evening was at L’Ille de Sees, just outside the town of Sees. Alun and Lawrence tried to ignore the Wales vs England rugby match taking place that evening in London, though Alun was the one smiling when we later departed the restaurant.
Our final day together in Normandy had us driving swiftly to the Chateau de Carrouges; a fabulous family home for over 30 generations dating back to the 12th century. It was once one of the many strongholds on the southern frontier of the Normand duchy. A relaxed, informative tour took our minds off oil pressure and fuel consumption for a while before touring across to the very picturesque Saint Ceneri-le-Gerei for a farewell lunch. The village is a popular spot for local artisans, painters and writers. Certainly seeing all our cars in the village car park attracted photographers to capture the moment.
One by one the cars burbled away from the car-park, drawing looks, glares and gasps from the pic-nicing tourists. All thanked Pierre, Claire and Thierry for their immaculate organisation of this Gathering which passed without anyone getting lost, going hungry or breaking down. A tribute to Ken’s cars and France’s great roads.
Talk over the previous night’s dinner and today’s lunch settled on the location of the next Costello Gathering – the Swiss Alps. All agreed this was a great plan, especially for the carburetor cars which will enjoy the fresh, cool air at altitude. Watch this space for further news in 2016.
All photographs are copyright 2015 Roger Anderson, Thierry Denant, Laurie Way, Lawrence Wood, Peter Brodt.