We were so excited to see that one of our clients, Mr William Garrett of Long Island City shared his love of the Citroen 2CV with two Citroen enthusiasts from France.Â Read their captivating story about their whirl wind of a road trip in a 2CV and what brought the 2 French men to Long Island City to connect with Mr Garrett.
Have Citroen, Will Travel
(this story was originally posted online at NYTimes.com and was written by Richard S Chang)
In 2003, two Frenchmen, Edouard Cortes and Jean-Baptiste Flichy, drove a 1977 CitroÃ«n 2CV from Paris to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. They subsequently wrote a book about their 10,000-mile adventure across Europe and Asia, and in the epilogue they told readers they had left the car in Cambodia. If anyone wanted to bring it back to Paris, they added, they would gladly hand over the keys.
â€œJean-Baptiste said he got 50 calls, but no one came,â€ said Tristan Villemain, a friendly 23-year-old from Nantes, France.
Mr. Villemain, a student, was the one who finally picked up the keys. He later found the car in a muddy field. With his friend, Quentin Renaud, 26, he embarked on a journey back to Paris â€” the long way.
The 2CV is the French equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle. The quirky CitroÃ«n is a beloved car, in part because it remained relatively unchanged for more than 40 years, until production ended in 1990. The two men took their 2CV through Vietnam down to Malaysia and shipped the car to Australia, where the car was then sent to Chile.
They drove up through South and Central America. They headed north through Mexico into the United States and Canada, before hooking down through the Midwest and driving back east to New York.
They have crossed four continents and traveled 25,000 miles â€” all in a car powered (barely) by a 2-cylinder engine with a top speed of around 50 miles per hour. But speed wasnâ€™t the primary concern. â€œItâ€™s very comfortable,â€ Mr. Villemain said.
Mr. Villemain and Mr. Renaud were in New York last weekend as the guests of honor at a fund-raising barbecue in Long Island City. (Their Web site, letapesuivante.free.fr, said they raised about $15,000 through donations and sponsorships.) Outside of Evandro Tech Motors, the garage where the car was being stored, burgers and sausages were sizzling on a grill. A bluegrass band played inside the garage where the CitroÃ«n was the center of attention.
Mr. Villemain was standing next to the black-and-tan car, drinking red wine. He wore a white shirt and jeans, the only pair he brought for the trip, he said, though he and Mr. Renaud looked freshly scrubbed and well relaxed for two people going around the world in an old car with no top.
Mr. Renaud, who has known Mr. Villemain for five years, explained that he had had no intention of joining his friend. But shortly before Mr. Villemain was to depart for Vietnam, Mr. Renaud asked if he had found a co-pilot. Mr. Villemain said no.
â€œI thought that was not right,â€ said Mr. Renaud, a carpenter. A week later, he showed up at Mr. Villemainâ€™s apartment with his letter of resignation.
â€œHe came into my house with a letter,â€ Mr. Villemain said. â€œHe told me, â€˜I left my job, I sell my car, I give back my apartment. I am free. I am coming with you.â€™Â â€
The two men travel light. The 2CV carries no more than a bag for each, a cooler for drinks, spare parts and a toolbox. Food is stored in a wine box, and each have a pair of gloves for driving.
A Paris mechanic who is a friend of Mr. Villemain traveled to Vietnam to get the car in shape for the trip â€” it needed a new engine and chassis because of a flood â€” and it has pretty much held up. The car had a flat tire in Australia, and they had to change some parts in Lima, Peru, and BogotÃ¡, Colombia, where they bought a colorful blanket that covers the front bench seat.
They said they enjoyed their travels through South America and Mexico the most, in part because the hospitality there was so at odds with the warnings of danger they had received. â€œEveryone was so nice,â€ Mr. Villemain said, adding that they never felt threatened anywhere they went.
Indeed, he said that he and Mr. Renaud had not paid for meals or lodging at all during the trip. The car is such a novelty that they were treated as minor celebrities, and townspeople would open their homes to the amiable Frenchmen. Arriving in a village, they gave rides to children. â€œWe also use the French touch,â€ he said. â€œA bouquet of flowers for the grandmother, a bottle of wine for the father.â€
In New York, they were the guests of William Garrett of Long Island City, a 2CV enthusiast who lives near the garage. Mr. Garrett had never met the men either, but had read about them.
â€œIn the world of people with 2CVs, itâ€™s a super-friendly, nice community,â€ Mr. Garrett said. â€œOf course, I cleared it with my wife.â€
Mr. Villemain and Mr. Renaud maintain a travel blog that Mr. Renaud updates occasionally from the road. From the United States, the two will ship the car to Senegal, where they will begin the final leg of a journey through Africa and into Europe that Mr. Villemain says has changed his life. He is planning to write a book about the yearlong drive.
â€œFor me, itâ€™s O.K.,â€ Mr. Villemain said. â€œFor my mother, itâ€™s difficult.â€