As we were driving east and northwards across Spain and up through France, I was imagining all the thousands of 2cvers busily packing their cars in preparation to head to Salbris from every corner of Europe or even flying in from around the world. All the 2cvs merrily bouncing along! As we drove towards Salbris on the day before the meeting opened, however, our mood was as low as the cloud and sideways rain we were driving through. The thought of a week in a muddy rain-drenched field is never heartening. our spirits only began to lift in anticipation as the sun broke through and we started seeing more and more cars. Salbris was already buzzing with hooting and waving – and cafes were overflowing with onlookers. As we saw more and more 2cvs around, we felt sad not to be in one.
We headed north to the outskirts of Orleans to meet up with a large contingent of friends gathering at a cheap formulaic hotel and the anticipation and excitement was palpable.
After a great catch up with everyone, it was early to bed because if there’s one thing we know about getting to a world meeting, it’s best to get in the queue as early as possible, especially when a minimum of 5000 cars are preregistered. Thanks to Sam for cajoling eight cars to get up at 6am, we were in the queue just outside Salbris with just 1000 cars ahead of us, by 7.30am. Later in the day the queue was to stretch to up to 10 km long. The gates opened at 10am and we were on the site by late lunchtime. Friends arriving later were full of horror stories about the many hours they waited, the misinformation, the disorganisation. In the end and in spite of a few international incidents over marking out of territory, we managed to find space for most of our friends to camp together and were later able to joke about French use of hazard tape. As the light failed, it was harder for newcomers to spot camping opportunities and many ended up camped on grass verges in the town for the duration. Although the meeting got off to a shaky start – we were all there, altogether and about to have loads of fun.
By the end of the meeting there was upward of 7000 cars on the site – the biggest ever meeting of the friends of the 2cv and its derivatives. The discordant start to the meeting, the seeming lack of planning for the expected numbers attending and a major spate of thefts from tents, a bar that didn’t serve wine (in France!) but offered a disgusting rosé/grapefruit juice mix which soon got dubbed pample-f’ing-mousse, a laser light show with fireworks and fountains delayed by lack of translations of the safety announcements (where was the hazard tape when it was really needed?) couldn’t stop the general air of joviality ensuing. The disorganisation manifested itself best for us when we saw two disorganisers cycle towards each other, collide and fall off their bikes …
But all that aside, the warm spirit of the lovely friends we were camped with in Tarp City – our shanty town encampment – and the joy of meeting up with pals from years gone by really made the meeting for us.
A full week of partying, relaxing and chatting, the odd beer or two, Wiltz’s campmade chips, making communal curries, braving the hover and hope loos, and fetid muddy showers that got you only slightly cleaner than when you went in, a camp Hawaiian party, dancing to lots of Europop LaLa songs, introducing foreigners to table wrestling, being introduced by new Greek friends to raki, a crowded bustling fleamarket. Super-U supermarket and all the other shops who made us so welcome with 2cv related displays and put up with grown men racing kiddy trollies in the aisles, and the resurgence of the ancient sport of bonnet sledging.
Immense amounts of classic cars, from the charming rusty and mossy sheds driven straight out of a field to pristine shiny beaming models, via all the hybrid customised often tasteless vehicles. All ages and backgrounds rubbing along together – in Tarp City (known also as Tarptopia) our harmonious group stretched from five to fifty-two years. And the sun shone on us all… for six whole days!
After the World … After a week of constant socialisng it was so sad to say goodbye knowing it’s going to be some while until we see everyone again. Now here we are, sitting in the town campsite in Salbris in our van with dramatic weather outside – our first full on thunderstorm. Lightening lasting several seconds, heavy heavy rain and our tarp needs to be taken down in case the wind gets up, and our silvers (padded heat reflective window covers) have yet to go on. We have stayed on for a couple of nights in the town to get the CV joint on the van sorted. We were able to order the part locally and have spent all day relaxing, doing almost nothing and just waiting for it to be fixed by a local garage. The challenge of fixing it in Tarp City was too great and cocktails called at the time.
The town is empty, we can see the site from the campsite and it’s almost all gone now. Local businesses are rubbing their hands as they count up their profits, probably planning early retirment. The townspeople must be relieved to be able to drive around without a 2cv traffic jam. There are a few 2cvs still in town, mainly those of the organisers. We still have our wrist bands on so get some waves and cheers from them and the various lala songs are still earwigging us.
Tomorrow we head onwards … no firm plan even now. Let’s see where the road goes. Ici continue l’aventure …