Five AM, Paris wakes up... and the DS is 50 years old !
"Five AM, Paris wakes up... The Dauphine square looks hungover..."
Let us speak about the Dauphine square, it is 8:30 on this October Sunday morning, it is still twilight. Not enough sun to switch on the City of Light. We drive, Stephan and I on the “peripherique” on the square immortalized by Dutronc. There is almost nobody around us. Strange but, the only vehicles around us are Citroen DS. 1600 DS in Paris, a magic sight.
We imagine with difficulty that on a weekday at the same time, we would be hooting, stop/starting, switching lanes, insulting the driver in front of us... But on this Sunday morning, my spirit, hardly waked up, has a hard time to get rid of this song. But can Paris be summarized by only one song ?
Great ID to go to see DS in Paris !
Further, on the périf’, as the locals say, we leave to the “Porte d’Issy”.
DS, DS ? But, here is Javel quay ! Sorry, quay Andre Citroen ! What a funny idea to rename this quay. Personally I liked the old name. It reminds me of days, not so remote, when by false modesty, one was not allowed to quote of trade marks on certain airwaves. The journalists spoke about the manufacturer of the Javel quay, or of that of Boulogne-Billancourt but everyone knew what it meant, of course.
Of course ! Of course ! Yes it is what I answered my friend Christophe, happy owner of a DS, a few months earlier when he told me he had registered on the Net for the DS parade at the time of the jubilee of this model. Of course, I told him, I will be there to “immortalise the moment”.
Chouketof and the Australian Goddess.
Chouketof, is his nickname (actually Chouke - small cabbage - for his wife and tof for Christophe), lived in Australia for five years. Obviously, these years left their mark. Not only can’t they stop telling us about their crazy adventures in these remote regions. But moreover, they returned from there with a right-hand drive DS. To say that some among us think that the only interesting thing that one could bring back from there is a version of Highway to Hell dedicated by Bon Scott or a strand of hair of one of the Gibbs brothers.
A year ago, Chouketof started to speak about a parade on the “Champs-Elysées”
at the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the presentation of the DS to the motor-show in Paris.
So he registered early. At the beginning, only the first 800 registered were to be admitted in the parade. But very quickly, it started to go up, to culminate at
1600 considering the number of requests.
To spice up things, and in hommage to the "down under" origins of its DS, Chouketof decides to parade with an Australian flag in Paris. Promise is made to send the photographic proof of it to the Citroen club in Australia.
So there I am embarked in this adventure.
Knowing that the end of the procession will end at the Eiffel tower, we decide to park the car close to Trocadéro. It is halfway between the “Champs de Mars” and the Foch Avenue, meeting place for the start of the procession.
All we now have to do it to get to Place de l’Etoile and find Chouketof.
"You will see, it will be easy. We are part of wave 13 ". Each wave of DS being, in theory made up of fifty cars, it sounded easy.
Wave 13 !
Paris is strangely calm, although it is true that today is Sunday morning. We only come across some Japanese tourists and a few Parisian early risers. While going up the Kléber avenue, I could not help thinking of how the Automag team finally manages to orderly park a hundred vehicles at the beginning of the Rally of the Legends. A hundred vehicles, already, good on them, but 1600... “Vive la France”.
The Arc de triomphe at la place de l’étoile is finally in sight at the end of the avenue. A little call on the mobile to know where our friends are. Yes I know, wave thirteen ! But why not use the modern means placed at our disposal.
"Hello ? It is you ? Where are you ? I am place de l’Etoile ". I hear the voice of Catherine who says to me that they are in a congestion on the outskirts of Paris. There are DS in front, behind, on the sides. She almost says that there are DS cars above and below !
A few meters further, while arriving on the avenue Foch, I realize the extent of the damage. I can’t imagine that I do not dream. The spectacle which is offered to me nails me on the spot. I do not know if I am awake or if I’m having a nightmare.
The avenue is full of DS on three lanes, as far as the eye can see.
Many people around, inquisitive onlookers, photographers, children, cyclists, a terrible hubbub but good relaxed atmosphere.
“Vive la France”, mmm, maybe, one can’t help feeling that all this is a bit of a chaos... Who could be naïve enough to think that 1600 insane DS owners were going to gently blindingly follow the instructions of the organizers ?
The DS are placed by order of arrival on the avenue by a team of motorcyclists. This said, good-bye, waves, good-bye the wave thirteen. It will be necessary to run to find Chouketof. A needle in a haystack....?
The last time that I had attended such an event was at the fifty years of Facel in Montmort-Lucy. There, I had seen 130 Facel joined together. The moment had appeared solemn to me. Today, nothing solemn , just BIG, 1600, I say 1600 DS were there, in front of me. Rows behind rows, one beside the others. Reds, green ones, station-wagons, Chaprons coupés, convertibles. As if all the catalogue was spread out on this sumptuous avenue of Paris.
French ones of course, Dutch, Belgians, Germans, Portuguese, Finnish, Danish, English, Luxemburgers, Swedish, Spanish, Norwegian, Italian, Swiss ones, Austrian ones, Czech, a Hungarian, Irish... Ha yes ! I was going to forget. Australian, a real one arrived from down under by boat. Bob, the owner actually knows Chouketof’s mechanic Geoff who attended to Chouketof’s DS in Australia. Needless to say that the meeting was hot and punctuated by the traditional rally call “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie...”.
50 years, 1600 DS and me and me and me...
There was great festive mood. People discussed between them, laughed. Some had provided for the supply side of things, thus more than one champagne bottle stood on the roof of the beautiful car. I even met Fantômas in person and a certain Jacques. Hey, Jacques, I rather had the memory of you in a Cx.
Others were there obviously enjoying themselves as happy spectators for a moment that truly felt unique. Hard to imagine that other brands could be able to bring together so many specimens of a mythical model. Isn’t the DS the car of the century for the French ?
1600 DS ! All there ? No, a call from Chouketof. My friends announce me that they arrive only at the porte Dauphine. Hey, the DS which arrive by the porte Dauphine door. Dauphine, DS... (Yes, it is true one had said not bad puns). The organizers decide to close the avenue Foch completely in order to accommodate the latecomers
There will finally be five rows filled with DSs on this 2 km long Parisian avenue.
My friends finally arrive on the avenue, Australian flag flying high, they do not go unnoticed. Click clac ! A small picture for the bet. I would like the face of the guys from the Aussie Citroën club when they see it.
By the way, our friends also had a small Belgian flag made-up on their cheek.
See, we do not know the result of the Belgium-Spain game yet, we can always imagine that at this time, the three goals were only a formality for the Red Devils, no ? One must dream from time to time...
Christophe proposes a lift in the DS in order to live the parade from the inside. The idea is tempting but this would prevent me from taking pictures of my friends on the course. Stephan accepts the offer.
Welcome on board !
Good fortune being on my side, allows me to meet a merry Dutch troop. The discussion goes about the cars, of my friends with their Australian flag... They have a DS transformed into a ute which gets a small crowd success.
The tray is finished in the way of the beautiful wooden sailing ships.
Its owner proposes to me to go on board.
Finally, it is with this vehicle that I will carry out a good part of the parade. Top spot... All my thanks to these sympathetic Dutch, they will recognize themselves.
The parade starts. After long minutes of waiting, it is in our turn. A bit of aerobatics on the ute’s tray, hold on with one hand, the camera in the other. And then, there is the emotion, the legs which tremble, the eyes which fill with tears (wind, of course), fear of missing the photographs, the spectators who applaud. From five rows at the beginning, the procession funnels into two when reaching the Arc de Triomphe.
The DS cut their way through a thick crowd. Just like in a mountain stage at the Tour de France.
We engulf ourselves in the Marceau avenue, direction the Alexandre bridge. We leave the Grand Palais on our left. To think that it is there that the DS was first presented to the public fifty years ago.
Throughout the course, hundreds of spectators have come to admire this long procession of DS.
To travel thus in open air through Paris, gave me a few moment’s the feeling of being in the skin of a certain General. I wonder even if I did not hear some notes of the Marseillaise. If, if, I assure you... The memory of a registered Belgian DS OAS -... brings me back to reality. You can say anything, this has more class than to go down the Béliard avenue in cuistax listening to “Ca plane pour moi” from Plastic Bertrand.
Joys of the congestion.
After crossing the Alexandre bridge, our cavalcade is transformed into a monstrous DS traffic jam. Think, 1600 DS all moving at the same time towards the same place. Initially, the organizers wanted to allow each DS to pose a few minutes in front of the Eiffel tower in order to fix the moment.
Result, considering the indiscipline of some, nonchalance of others, considering the large crowd of onlookers, a big f..-up.
I decide to leave my Dutch hosts at the corner of the Rapp boulevard and the Alma bridge to take a few more snaps of our friends. There I am, less than one kilometer from the Eiffel tower. They pass in front of me. But, further, they will not have the possibility to reach the Eiffel tower, and take the super memory picture of the car with the Eiffel tower in the back.
Considering the mega traffic jam, the police had decided to reroute the end of the parade towards the Invalids where the enormous rows of DS create yet another gigantic congestion in sunny Paris.
Getting into running mode (a small jogging can’t hurt), I try to find them. After two kilometers, I catch up with my friend’s Citroen and collect my brother-in-law who accompanied them. We decide to leave our friends with the joys of the congestion and opt far a small Parisian terrace, to refresh and to recover from our emotions.
Finally, at the last minute, Chouketof calls me to say to me that with a little chance, they could against all odds reach the famous finish site by borrowing a "binnewegske" (inside route) which only Belgians have the secret.
Here we go again, another bout of jogging to find Chouketof, not so easy with two pints of beer in the tummy (two small half-litres, I dare not tell you the price).
In my humble opinion, our Devils had made the same mistake the day before.
All is well that ends well, after a last race, I find my friends. Their DS is parked just behind a superb red (riding) Chapron convertible. A pretty red riding hood, and fortunately, there is big bad wolf around.
I fire my last numerical cartridges and do not resist temptation to kindly request one charming Japanese tourist to pose in front of a yellow DS. Guess why ? (see footnote)
A big thank you to all those which I met this day there, particulary to the Dutch friends who accommodated me in their ute.
Thank you also to the members of the Citroen club of Metz for their contagious good mood.
Thank you to the members of the security team for their patience.
And my condolences to the Parisians which underwent the biggest méga-giga congestion of their town’s history this Sunday.
Footnote : a lemon face wearing a lemon shirt in front of a lemon lemon, one had to take a pic.. Pity we couldn’t find a lemon for the lady to hold in her hand while I took the
50 ans Citroën DS, Paris 6-9 octobre 2005.
Translation : Chouke & Tof