Engines sputtering, a strong smell of petrol in the air, excited spectators cheering on the fastest contenders…You’d almost expect to see Dastardly and Muttley (Satanas et Diabolo) with the pedal to the metal.
Once a year, vintage car lovers honour a traditional rendezvous at Le Puy-Notre-Dame, a medieval, fortified town in the heart of l’Anjou, in the Loire valley (France).
The Grand Prix Rétro takes place in the last week of July and allows visitors to get a flavour of old time car competitions, providing a flashback to a bygone age that is mourned by many of the owners of these models that are seemingly straight from a time machine.
You are able to book rental cars through Amadeus technology in some 38,000 locations worldwide, but you surely cannot get the keys to one of these models!
The Grand Prix Rétro is Europe’s biggest gathering of three-wheelers and cyclecars (small cars manufactured between 1910 and the late 1920s), as well as other “véhicules d’époque” built before 1940. It is a showcase for exceptionally-preserved vintage Bentley, MG, Bugatti, Amilcar, Frazer Dash or Darmont – many coming from the UK and also motorcycles and side cars made before 1950.
The race follows a circuit – protected by hay bales – through the centre of Le Puy -Notre-Dame, a “village de charme” with deep historical roots (one cannot miss its impressive 13th century collegiate church where Saint Mary’s sacred belt, which was recovered by the Crusaders, is kept and worshipped).
The village is served by several gîtes (rural tourism accommodations), a travel concept which is strongly supported by the European Commission due to its value as a sustainable development-based alternative to mass tourism.
Incidentally, you can book many of these gîtes through Amadeus LinkHotel technology which facilitates access to independent hotel properties connecting them to the multi-GDS and online travel community.
The vintage car race initiative was launched by the local group of vineyard owners back in 1997 and is now being managed by a dedicated association with altruistic support from several organisations and private individuals. Le Puy-Notre-Dame is also a major wine-growing town of Saumur and Rosé d’Anjou varieties. Contrary to its wines, its Grand Prix Rétro event can definitely be consumed with no moderation.