March 1988

David E. Davis, Jr.

Mont-Saint-Michel, France -- Yesterday, we drove the Scorpio down to Brittany from Ardres, at the Pas de Calais. Our friends have returned to the States, after one final raucous party at the St. James Club, in London. There’s a hotel in Ardres called the Clément, just twenty minutes from the Calais ferry and hoverport. We love it. We cross the channel on the Hovercraft, nip up to the Clément, enjoy our first French dinner and a good night’s sleep, then drive on to our continental destination. The guys at Car magazine informed us of this gem ten years ago, and we’ve used it ever since.

Our Brittany hotel, the Château de la Motte Beaumanoir, is in the middle of nowhere in the Breton countryside. Madame la maîtresse looks a lot like Simone Signoret at the wrong end of her career, and likes to bitch about Americans. I am tempted to point out that if it wasn’t for Americans, she and her neighbors would be speaking German. The old chateau, complete with moat, is lovely, but when the lady of the house tells us on our after-dark arrival that she could fix us some eggs but she’d rather not, I am ready for the Holiday Inn.

Today we drove from Dinan to Dinard to Saint-Malo to Mont-Saint-Michel. We loved Dinard, which is a charming resort town with several hotels where I’d rather be staying, and we ate traditional Breton crepes for lunch in Saint-Malo. Now we’re watching the sunset from the highest battlements at Mont-Saint-Michel. Just a few minutes ago, we looked up to see two hawks locked in combat high above us. Screaming like the Furies, they’d scramble for altitude, each trying to get the advantage of the other. Then they’d roll into steep dives, ultimately colliding at a combined speed in excess of a hundred miles per hour. Why they didn’t smash bones I’ll never know. After three or four such midair collisions, the interloper headed for the mainland, while the champion--who apparently lived among the towers and rooftops of the old castle/abbey/fortress/prison/town--came back to the home roost, obviously pleased with himself.

Pointe du Hoc, Normandy -- This is the one D-day landing site I’ve never before visited--where the Rangers landed on June 6, 1944, scaled the cliffs in the face of ferocious German resistance, and became the first Allied unit to achieve its objective. Two days later, when they were relieved after a series of determined counterattacks, ninety of the original 225 guys were still on their feet. The place has been left as it was. Busted concrete, unfilled shell holes, barbed wire, everything much as it was when the Rangers moved out. Nothing at Normandy is more moving than the Omaha Beach cemetery, but Pointe du Hoc is a stirring memorial in its own right.

The Scorpio has done yeoman service for two weeks. It has been fast, sure-footed, and comfortable over all kinds of roads in some truly frightful rainstorms. But today, on the way down from Saint-Lô to Pointe du Hoc, I lost an argument concerning the right of way with an oncoming French eighteen-wheeler and he busted our left-hand mirror. I caught considerable hell from the female passengers, and I’m mortified. If I’d been driving a left-hand-drive car it wouldn’t have happened, but the Scorpio had been so good for a long that I’d begun to believe that it and I could do anything, and I turned out to be wrong by about three-quarters of an inch.

Fuel is expensive in France. We ran four vehicles--including the Scorpio--in Britain for a week, and our fuel cost a total of $259.70. A week’s French fuel--four tanksful--for the Scorpio alone cost $169.42.

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