Coachlines - June 2022

28.06.22 Liveryman Martin Derrick

Visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte

A small but perfectly formed group of Coachmakers and their partners enjoyed a varied driving tour to France in mid-May, writes Liveryman Martin Derrick. The line-up of vehicles included a couple of Bentleys, Porsche 911, Jaguar F-Type, Jaguar XK150 and a BMW 6-Series convertible all of which arrived in good time for the first rendezvous in St Germain-en-Laye to the west of Paris.

After a fine dinner and a night’s rest the next stop on the tour was a visit to the magnificent Château Vaux le Vicomte whose Baroque elegance, luxury and stunning formal gardens aroused such envy amongst courtiers and even King Louis XIV himself that the hapless owner, Nicolas Fouquet, was imprisoned for life on trumped up charges of defrauding the state.

The original stable block has been transformed into a museum of carriages and includes two British examples – a Hooper Landau from around 1880 and a Berline de Ville by W. Kings and Co dated 1840.

The next day the group drove to the Champagne region where we visited Bollinger to learn how its production technique is different to all the other great Champagne houses – and results in the smallest bubbles of all. We also learned that champagne flutes are not the best way to enjoy the wine, and that a simple white wine glass allows the flavours to develop rather better.

After a walk though Bollinger’s underground caves to see the hundreds of thousands of bottles maturing in the semi-darkness, we enjoyed a much-appreciated tasting.

From Bollinger it was a short drive to our hotel, the Hostellerie La Briqueterie, where we enjoyed a modest seven-course supper. Next morning we visited the Reims Automobile Museum, which contains a number of cars from French manufacturers whom nobody had ever heard of, following which it was a short drive to the former Reims Grand Prix circuit pits and grandstands and a lap or two of what remains of the famous track which last saw Grand Prix cars in 1966 when Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT19 was victorious.

Many thanks to Liveryman John Knightley for planning yet another of his famous continental tours. It was a superbly organised trip with fascinating visits, fine hotels and equally fine dining and wines that allowed old friendships to be renewed and new friendships to be forged.