The last weekend of May took me to Souppes sur Loing, near Fontainebleau, some 100kms south of Paris. My journey was a little bit longer, for I travelled from Vienna in Austria. Souppes was a meeting of the international model steamboat fraternity because we had not only the French, but also friends from Great Britain, Germany, Belgium and of course Austria. Souppes is a nice, small country town situated by a river, with all the charms these towns have in France. Rather a ‘sleepy’ town and off the main roads, it is ideal for a weekend in France. Bring your family - hotels and a camping site are within walking distance, there is a weekend market and lots to do for your children and partners whilst you are sailing your steamboat!
In France one can find recreation parks all over the county, even smaller villages have one and most often it is a park with a lake. This venue is indeed situated in a big park, with many recreation possibilities for the public. The lake is so big that everybody can follow his or her interests without disturbing the others. Infrastructure is there with a restaurant, toilets, washing facilities and Michel Vaillon, the event organiser, had provided a big tent with lots of tables and chairs, half of them for the boats and the other half for aperitifs, lunch and coffee.
When you are visiting France, a model steamboat meeting is not only just for the competition, it is also and sometimes I think this is the main reason, a sociable event with lots of food, talking and within limits, drinking! Saturday morning saw the arrival of the ‘Amis de Vapeur’ and after the first coffees and croissants offered by the host club, we took our boats to the water. Amongst the first ones to be on the water, was my good friend Peter Arnot, the ‘Eminence Grise de Vapeur’, who came all the way from Cheltenham, England, with John Schofield our electronics wizard and steam mechanic, who is so helpful to everybody who has a problem.
Talking about services, I am in the lucky position to know Peter and John very well and these two ‘Steam Wizards’ are always very helpful, but after the sad demise of Cheddar Models Ltd. I think that I should mention here that there is a service for Cheddar Steam products run by Jerry Watson, a former employee of Cheddar Models Ltd., and that Tim Taschimowitz, ex master boilermaker for Cheddar is also running his own business now and will help you with any boiler designs or problems (All addresses and links at the end of the article). Later in the morning the navigation event was started and we had the most beautiful conditions to sail in.
Everybody tried to get on to the water as long as it was so calm and sometimes it was really busy. The nice thing about steam boating in France is that you find yourself a judge, tell him how many minutes you need to the start and he will be there! No fixed start time or time slots, all very relaxed and the main thing is to have fun. Since steamboats are known to be a little difficult sometimes, if you have a problem on the water, there is indeed no problem, since the rescue boat returns your model, you fix your boat and continue from the point where you had to stop the run.
The navigation was followed by an aperitif, once again provided by Michel and then a pre-ordered lunch was prepared, with a starter, salad, main course, desert – these French certainly know how to enjoy a model boat weekend.
The afternoon saw the second and for some the third round of the navigation event, a total of four rounds being expected over the weekend.
In the evening there was a ‘Grande Dinet’ at a local restaurant, I won’t bore you with the menu. All I can say is, ‘Come and taste the food yourself!’ There is only one question left from me and that is: ‘Why is it, that the steamboat modellers from Britain leave their island so reluctantly and why are they not showing up at the competitions in France, Belgium or Germany?’ It would really be nice to see more of you over here. Sunday morning and sunshine again. The proceedings were similar to those on Saturday, but around mid-day the rain came.
Due to this change in weather conditions, the ‘Trophee Anton’ and the endurance event of the ‘Goliath’ class had to be cancelled and the prize giving then followed. The evening was spent again in a local restaurant, together with some friends who also stayed one more night. This was ‘Souppes’ for this year, the contact is given at the end of this article. As I said, I do hope to see some more of you steam enthusiasts here on the continent. There are other meetings which have been mentioned in ‘All Points’ in previous months.
Souppes sur Loing - ‘A Toutes Vapeur’
Cheddar Valley Steam
Jerry Watson – ‘Old Cheddar Steam Units’.
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