Report from Pete Pascoe

The drive from Reims to Dijon isn’t that long, but what a drive! Our group consisted of Rod and Viv, Ernie and Jill, Graham and Claire, Phil and Jenny, and Lynn & myself. After finding our way out of the town, we set off through some truly fantastic countryside. This was the France that you see in all of those arty films, or the type of TV programme that is about people that go off and do things. I had to pinch myself I could not believe I was driving the roads in front of me. The weather was fine and warm, the roads were good and we had good friends around to enjoy it with.

We started by driving along roads lined with popular trees, that crossed the agricultural landscape in gentle curves rather than twists and turns. It was a moment to be treasured. All of this was far too good to last, and we got lost. So we made the decision to go back to the motorways. At least we can find our way to where we are supposed to be. After getting back to the motorway and ‘jogging on’ a little to make up for being lost, it was time to stop for a comfort break. A chance to stretch your legs, etc.

We pulled into the ‘services’ such as they were, it is fair to describe these as a layby with a public toilet in them. As we pulled in Ernie said that he had suffered some difficulty in changing down through the gears to come into the services. It’s at times like this that we all muck in, and it was decided to check the gearbox oil level. Rod got the trolley jack out, and Graham was in there like a shot. He had the bung out of the side of the gear case in no time and the level was found to be low. Then Rod came to the rescue again by supplying some gear oil. With the oil level topped up and the bung back in, it was back down to earth with a bump for Ernie’s car, as the trolley jack had a bit of a hair trigger on the way down.

All of the cars in our group got a quick checkover at that point. Mine needed a small top up of engine oil as these twincams use a bit of oil. Phil checked his electricity supply and wasn’t convinced it was all ok, but there was nothing we could do about it at that time, so we carried on our way. After this small interruption it was all plain sailing all the way to Dijon, we made very good time by travelling on the motorway. We had filled up with fuel at our last service stop so had fairly full tanks for our drive into town, and of course our drive out the next day. As we drove through Dijon it struck me as a very modern town, it was very clean and the roads were very clearly marked and signposted. Not that we were navigating, Graham was leading with Claire doing the navigating (and very well too).

We got to the hotel and drove down to the underground car park, and headed upstairs to check in. The hotel was of a good standard, and our room was right at the front of the building. We had a great view of the roundabout in the square outside the hotel. I know that it may seem a strange thing to like the view of the roundabout , but from our room I could watch all the other Cortinas arriving. I must admit a small amount of relief seeing the other cars make their way in (some from different directions). But the most striking thing about this particular roundabout is that the Trams run right through the middle of it.

Unfortunately, one of the MkVs had a breakdown today, John Dickinson takes up the story:

“We had stopped at what can only be loosely described as a ‘rest area’ just off the motorway, it was very basic, just a loo, drinks machine and a couple of picnic tables, it was a very hot day and we needed to ‘make use of the facilities’. Len & Ian’s Mk5 was “running a bit rough” so Ian decided he would change his points and condenser whilst we were stopped for a break. You guessed it the car would not start afterwards, the old adage “ if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. After 7 men had had their heads under the bonnet, various tools & Anne’s nail file had been used without success, it was decided the best bet was to call out the A.A. Now don’t forget we are in FRANCE, no 20 minute call out time here, I think 1½ hours was quoted, also he was told that as he was parked on a ‘rest area’ he was on private land and they would not come out unless he paid an extortionate extra call out fee. However, if he could get the car back on the road there would be no extra charge.

Now there was a small public road running adjacent to where we were parked, we could see it through the bushes, but to get to this we had to get through the toll barrier, so sleeves rolled up (Anne included!) we all pushed the car off the rest area, stopping traffic on the way, to the toll booth. The woman on duty there did nothing for French/Anglo relations as there was no way she was lifting that barrier without the ticket & payment, there was a lot of pleading from us and a lot of Gaelic shrugs from her, but she would not budge, so Ian had to run back (through the bushes) to his Dad who was waiting with the other cars, the ticket was found, the toll was paid and we were allowed through. At one point we expected passing vehicles to throw money at us because it must have looked like we were pushing a Cortina to Cortina for charity. What a pity we didn’t get a photo.

To cut this very long story short, we told everyone to continue on the journey & we would wait with Len & Ian until the A.A turned up, after about ½ hour & still no A.A. I had another look under the bonnet, I adjusted the points, removed both the points & condenser wires from their terminal and de-greased them, Hey Presto the car fired up ok, & just as a bit of extra insurance I also changed the distributor cap. Ian called the A.A. & told them not to bother coming out & we eventually got on our way. We eventually caught up with the rest of the convoy and arrived at the hotel in Dijon at 5.30pm.”

It turned out to be the opening day of the new local tram system so the whole place was in party mode. As part of this festival the town had laid on free tram travel if you got a ticket from an official on the platform. If the town of Dijon saw fit to lay on free trams it seemed only right that we should use it. Graham and Claire had already taken advantage of this and joined in the festivities.

It was now time to head into town and find somewhere to have dinner. Phil and Jenny, Graham and Claire, Lynn and myself headed down to the platform. We hopped onto a tram, travelled a couple of stops and alighted from our transport. After a short walk we found a bistro that looked ok, we sat down outside at their tables and ordered. We had a really good meal with good company and many laughs. It was for me one of the best evenings that I have had in a long time. We then headed back to the hotel, using the tram of course. Upon reaching the hotel we went to the bar for a nightcap. The hotel bar had a highlights programme of the days F1 race (Belgium), so after catching up with the days events at Spa we headed up to bed. All in all a very good day.

We went down for breakfast the next morning (Monday) and were delighted to find that Mike and Linda had managed to get their car back on the road and catch up with the trip after the initial fear that they would not be able to continue their journey past Dover.

Day 4

All photos © Cortina MkII Owners Club LTD