Sitting with friends in their garden, south facing midday sun flooding across stone walls warming geko feet. Dogs sprawled out under patches of shade from fig trees, the aroma a warm welcome, soft and sweet and friendly, this is as perfect a place as any I have known to finish an early morning ride.
A ride that took in red rock drought up close and snow capped mountains in the distance in the same glance. Long winding open climbs and short dappled ones alike. Empty roads and battered faded but still driving orange French relics of three decades ago lie asleep like dogs on the doorstep. Still, hot, sometimes stifling air shared silently with close friends on bicycles. Completed with minimal fuss and total balance. One of those rides that is what riding is all about. A ride this morning like was hoped for.
Loose earl grey tea and madeleines brought out through the vines that offer some shelter. Slight nods from the dogs to the possibility then heads slam back down on the deck, into the shade and the laze once more.
Tea, catch up, get changed, then a lift out to Toulouse in response to the ad in the paper. A goddess comes home today.
The choice of ride unreal… CX, SM, Ami, H Van, 2CV, Dyane, Mehari, GS, GSA, BX, Xantia, R4, R5, R10, R12, R16, Avantime, Tatra, NSU, Barchetta, Giuilietta, Boat tail. DS. DS…A DS to collect a DS. Too much perhaps. Nearly so, but then an SM rises from the dust.
The SM, last of the purists’ big Cits, oozes French oddness and confidence. Arrogance of design perhaps, not traditionally beautiful, not utterly coherent in my eyes, it’s aesthetic never sitting that comfortably with me and yet, obviously one of the absolute greats. Presence defined. Sink into the 70’s sci-fi seats with their horizontal ribs and curved bolsters, shiny black leather stretched and veined and broken like an old Wassily chair, similarly matched to chrome here and there. The fired up Italian up front doing the smooth talking as we rise and launch. Creaky and squealy at first makes way for lunge and waft. That Maserati V6 happy in an Italian Merak equally at home in this pointy presidential barge of the tricolour.
The details have stayed with me from my earliest memories. The offset chevrons, this Citroen badge asymmetric on the bonnet, that typeface on the back of the CX, Ami, GS, those chrome hubcaps, that plastic grille cover for winter. The red keyring on the kitchen table – again, here I’m reminded I am from a long line of Citroenistas.
Ever more exotic parking lines the street and we must be close. Pull into the old school playground acting as host today to appreciating sighs. This black mass of angle and edge shape shifts it’s way to a stop more elegantly than it’s heft should suggest and we start to sink slowly again. Back then front will lie to sleep this afternoon in this mediterranean sun.
Car parts and car books, rare cars and their proud owners circulate. The village market spills over from it’s car park into ours. Strong cheeses, dry hams, rich olives. The hat sellers display looking like a tipper truck emptied it’s brightly coloured load out in front of us onto the tarmac. It likely did. Pick up, try on in the tatty mirror bungeed to a plein tree, a number offered up. Stay or walk away.
Hands shaken, hugs given, sat down at a long table of car nerds to catch up, eat frites. do business. Frites is all there is. Frites and mayonnaise or ketchup or salt, nothing else except home made wine. Wine and frites continue until it is time to meet the green goddess.
1973 D Super. It is a rare colour. Not for the purist or period correct, but suitably wow for most. It lies low, asleep, waiting, but somehow smiling with those deep eye lined headlamps. I always preferred these glassed units of the later DS, they seemed a stronger look somehow, even more space aged, dare I say it, more modernist. There is no denying what we have here is something really special. The green gloss paint so deep and shiny it seems a shame to expose it to the dusty landscape between here and the house. But it must come home today, it has a welcome there from friends and comrades.
I have driven in many interesting corteges with these dear friends. Five Avantimes in procession. Gangs of Panhards, the back of a 2CV van like the proverbial French pig, but this sight is to behold. SM and it’s parent DS. Green curves and black edges. Across that long dark bonnet, passed it’s delicate slight glass housed nose that cuts a slim shadow, out there ahead is a luscious green cloud floating along the roads it was designed for. Appearing effortless, the DS hides it’s size and weight in an elegant suit. Big flat panels comfortably sharing space with intricate detail. It dances home never looking out of place, turning every head in a nod to the halcyon days. Tres cool.
They join us for dinner. A low orangey tungsten light above the garage almost lantern like illuminating the new addition to the stable just enough to remain a talking point through the evening. Blanquette sparkles. Road bikes lean against stone walls. Dogs rustle in the shadows. Home made pumpkin soup cooks slowly. To share this time, life, riding, these road trips, the simple bread and cheese and wine with friends that drive chevrons. This is home.