VéloSolex moped

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Increasingly dependent on getting from A to B as quickly as possible I have noticed a rise in commuters using electrically operated bicycles and small motorized scooters. They seem to offer limited comfort and even less protection for the rider who, for an inexplicable reason, think they have the power of a large Harley, BMW or Honda at their fingertips and get themselves into precarious positions on the road causing much frustration to others.

In a far gentler era the predecessor of these street demons was VéloSoleX or more frequently referred to as a Solex which was moped – or motorised bicycle – originally produced by Solex who were based in Paris (France) and founded by engineering friends, Maurice Goudard and Marcel Mennesson.

Designed by Mennesson during World War II, the Solex was produced between 1946 and 1988 in a variety of versions largely utilising the same technology of a motor with roller resting on and driving the front wheel of the bicycle.

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Being very competitively priced and hugely economical to run, the Soles was a massive success. In total it sold in excess of 7m units. In 1947 even BP created “Solexine”, a pre-mixed  oil and petrol mix for the Solex’s two stroke engine and sold in a 2L can. By the late 1940’s Solex was selling 100 units a day rising to 1500 a day by the mid-1960’s – when it was blessed with a new maximum – though limited – speed of 30 km.

The company now makes a range of electrically powered bicycles. An early version, designed by Pininfarina, was launched in 2005 as the E-Solex.

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By 2014 the Solexity Infinity was launched, again from the pen of Pininfarina – with capacity to travel up to 80 km on one charge – at the costs of around €2,000 – keeping the brand alive!

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As French as the Beret, Brie and Baguette, the Solex, a classic French icon of the mid-20th century, has a very special place in my psyche as I explored the opportunity in the 1980’s of importing them into the UK. It was perhaps my first brush with the ever increasing dominance of the words “Health & Safety” in our national idiom.

I was required to deliver details to the Ministry of Transport who after some consideration and lots of teeth sucking, decided that the fuel tank, which was then made of a reasonable durable plastic was too feeble to withstand any front-end impact and the risks of fire were too great.

Solex also commissioned various evocative advertising posters, which in their own right are increasingly collectable.

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For our French speaking friend’s – we know who you are – the equivalent of a an Owner’s Manual for a Vélosolex is a must – Le Guide du Vélosolex click the Amazon link below the image to get yours!

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Le guide du Vélosolex

Why not pick up a classic French VeloSolex enamel sign that will look at home in your Gite in La Gironde, on the wall of your Flat in Fulham or your Man-cave in Manchester! Click the AMAZON link below the image

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FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX LE VRAI BICYCLESD2C56E9B-03F2-4C9E-AF3A-13C55668EEA2

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FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX REFERENDUM 2

I love VeloSolex – and all this little motor cycle represents – you can too with this iconic T Shirt! Please click the Amazon link below the image 

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Velosolex Moped T-Shirt. Gents Ladies Kids Sizes. Bike Cycling France Motorcycle:X Large – 48″

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Photo Credits – with grateful thanks – Solex SA

Citroen DS

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In the mid-1970’s South West France was my family’s holiday destination of choice. My Father believed that an ability to speak foreign languages broke down barriers and what better place to explore our newly acquired school French.

Myth and legend has it that my Father’s family, apparently Huguenot and named De Winton, hailed from La Rochelle and left during an early era of persecution to settle in the South West UK. So returning to our ancestral roots felt very natural to our DNA.

My sister had the bright idea to contact certain Cognac makers asking if we could visit their production facilities. She received several embossed replies, and we visited several but the most engaging and somewhat surreal visit was to the House of Hine. We were flattered to be greeted by Jacques Hine at his empire’s front door; forty years ago it was unusual for a factory to receive non-trade visitors.

M. Hine made us very welcome and showed us around the wonderfully archaic catacombs of his business explaining in poetic detail the process of making their fine Cognac – which to this day holds the Queen’s Royal Warrant.

You can enjoy a bottle of Hine’s fine VSOP Cognac by clicking the link under the following image 

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Hine Rare Vsop, 70 cl

M. Hine apologised but explained that he has to attend a funeral but had asked his works Director, Gilles, to continue our tour to the company’s new facility outside town. He insisted that we should use his car. The image of this charming, and I suspect wealthy French distiller, in his black suit disappearing into Jarnac on his aged Solex scooter – see our post here – Solex moped – was comical.

Meanwhile Gilles beckoned us to the courtyard where M. Hines’ gleaming black Citroën DS sat waiting to for us. The clunk of the heavy doors, the smell of the black leather and the oh so Bentley-comfortable gliding ride was truly magical. The Citroën DS had always been my Father’s favourite car. This was truely a French icon of progress and technology and always ahead of its time.

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The Citroën DS – if pronounced carefully sounds like the French word for “Goddess”-  was manufactured by Citroën from 1955 to 1975 – selling over 1.4m cars and was a true symbol of French ingenuity. The classic French icon was designed by the genius, Flaminio Bertoni, engineered by André Lefèbvre and the ingenious pneumatic self-levelling suspension was developed by Paul Magès. It was the first production car to have front disc brakes, it also had power steering, semi-automatic transmission and directional head lights.

Our featured image shows the DS Pallas 23 from the mid-1970’s.

Our visit to the then new facility was fascinating and upon our return to the main office we were ushered into the Hine tasting room. M Hine, having returned from the funeral, proceeded to present us some souvenirs of our visit including a silk scarf for my Mother and a bottle of Hine’s finest, for my Father. He then explained that we all needed refreshment and produced a ice-chilled bottle of champagne which he served into the finest Baccarat crystal glasses Baccarat Chrystal Paperweight

Dreaming of beautiful and fine Baccarat Champagne Flutes? You can order them individually by clicking the link below the image

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Baccarat Mille Nuits Champagner Flute

If like me you love the car why not get the T shirt – in appropriate Burgundy – by clicking the link below the image

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Men’s Citroen DS T-Shirt Burgundy, XL

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Images courtesy of Citroen, Hine and Baccarat Christal with grateful thanks

 

 

 

 

Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits

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It’s 1979 and I’m on the Night Ferry, an overnight sleeper-train running between London’s Victoria Station to Paris’ Gare du Nord. Cue the accordion soundtrack, the slight hint of Channel No 5 and certainly the distinctive aroma of a Disque Blue. Where else could we possibly be? Ah…Paris!

 

The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (literally “Sleeping Cars”) maintained twelve carriages that were custom designed to fit the smaller gauge of the British railway network. The service departed daily from Victoria – from platform 2 to Gare du Nord, starting on 5th October 1936 and discontinued in 1980 – using the same rolling stock throughout.

 

Prior to Eurostar it was the only non-stop way to get from London to Paris by boat train. The carriages were loaded onto “train-ferries” for the cross channel section of the journey and at Dunkerque the carriages were off-loaded for the onward journey to Paris.

 

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The luxurious Wagons-Lits was founded in 1872 by Belgian, Georges Nagelmackers, who had seen the Pullman night carriages operating whilst on a trip to the United States in the late 1860’s. He imported the idea into Europe. Wagon-Lits quickly established itself as the premier provider and operator of European railway sleepers and dining cars. They only provided the carriages and relied upon the domestic or state-wide operators for the locomotives that pulled them.

The journey that I would have loved to taken would have been on The Côte d’Azur Pullman Express which ran from December 1929 until May 1939. The service was operated by Wagons-Lits and the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée (known as the PLM). The train was scheduled to leave Paris at 08:50,  stopping  at Dijon, Lyon and Marseilles and making further stops at the resort towns along the French Riviera including, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, Nice and Menton  reaching its final destination, Ventimiglia (Italy). The entire journey took 15 hours and 10 minutes.

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Accompanying the promotion for this new service many iconic travel posters were commissioned including in 1929, the Pierre Fix-Masseau piece – shown as our featured image.

Pierre’s father, Pierre Félix Masseau, was, until 1935, the director of the École Nationale d’Art Décoratif  (“Art Deco”) in Limoges. The inevitable result was that, Pierre’s poster work – and that of his many poster-art contemporaries, Roger Broders, Cassandre and Paul Colin – was heavily influenced by Art Deco, a successor to and reaction against Art Nouveau.

Art Deco was above all associated with both luxury and modernity; it combined very expensive materials and exquisite craftsmanship realised in modernistic forms – hence its use in these seductive travel posters.

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These wonderful posters were designed to lure inquisitive travellers into sampling the delights of the then modern European and luxurious railway system, to holiday in alluring destinations of snow and beach but, above all, they are the most remarkable examples of stylised commercial art. Our continued fascination with these fine works has resulted in their comparative scarcity and justifiable value.

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Image Credits – With thanks to SNCF, Wagon-Lits and the estate of Pierre Fix-Masseau

 

 

 

 

 

Vilebrequin swim shorts

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The beaches within easy reach of most Northern European airports, namely those on the the Côte d’Azur, the Costa Smerelda and the Costa del Sol have for several years been the scene of a particularly charming Father and Son(s) bonding custom – which I am happy to admit my son and I have been part of. The engineer of this pan-European display are the nice people at Vilebrequin.

In 1971 photographer and motor racing enthusiast and Saint Tropez resident, Fred Prysquel, was inspired by the local artists, the light and colour of the Cote d’Azur to sketch a design for a pair of classic swim shorts – known as the “Moorea” cut – that would give birth to the dynamic and iconic brand, Vilebrequin. Curiously, its name is the French word for the “crankshaft” which we understand was inspired by the metal spiral staircase in the first shop to bear its name.

Given the prevalence of sailing in the area, Prysquel decided to use spinnaker sail cloth – noted for its quick during properties and resilient to sun and wind – for his shorts which, since their debut, have featured vibrant colours and maritime patterns. With the success of M Prysquel’s early design the signature and witty sea turtle image has become synoymous with the beaches of the South of France.

The brands fame spread to other European hotspots, becoming essential kit – almost a uniform – for the beach bound “Yuppy” where it would usually be accompanied by a signature and highly waterproof Swiss watch – up to at least 300m – often made by Rolex or Omega Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Master Co-Axial

In 1991, Loïc Berthet, took over the brand and added new models. The original model was also enhanced by the addition of a over the brand. He further develops the brand by adding a back pocket secured with Velcro with an eyelet “draining” hole and a cotton lining.

As our Yuppy hero grew up he would often confront the challenges of parenthood. Vilebrequin, being savvy to their customer’s circumstances, realized that they could expand their collection and exponentially grow their market by the introduction in 1995 of the matching Father and Son range – with boy’s sizes starting at a minuscule 6 months.

My son and I each had a deep blue pair with curiously stylised wrapped toffees which we adored. His pair were a little large for him when bought so we had several years of seriously cool beach co-ordination! See our picture below on Spain’s Costa de la Luz – paradise but don’t tell too many others!

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In a decade from 1990 Vilebrequin opened stores in London, Paris, New York and Madrid with a distribution network in more than 50 countries.

In 2012, Vilebrequin was acquired by US fashion corporation, G-III Apparel Group, Ltd., who, in addition to a drive to expand its operations in the Far East, have extended the range with a “Mother and Daughter” collection.

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Photo Credits – with grateful thnaks – Vilebrequin and author’s own!

Heinz Tomato Ketchup – v – HP Sauce

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Our house is probably no different to most, particularly in the UK, where aside from salt and pepper, breakfast table condiments can cause clear division. I am talking about the Clash of the Titans of iconic breakfast sauces. Heinz Tomato Ketchup -v- HP Sauce!

If you wonder down London’s Fulham Road upon ordering a takeaway sausage or bacon sandwich at recently refurbished “The Cherry on the Top Cafe” – or any similar “greasy spoon” – you’ll be asked simply “Red or Brown sauce?”. “The Red” referred to is, usually, Heinz Tomato Ketchup – my son’s favourite and “The Brown” is almost always HP Sauce – my favourite.

The original recipe for HP Sauce was invented and developed in 1899 by Frederick Gibson Garton, a grocer from Nottingham. It is understood that he used “HP” – standing for Houses of Parliament – a building which appears on the HP bottle’s logo to this day. It’s rumoured that the sauce was used at the turn of the 20th century in a restaurant at the Houses of Parliament.

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HP Sauce’s uniquely distinctive taste come from the combination of a malt vinegar base, blended with tomato, dates, tamarind extract and spices. Garton sold the recipe to Edwin Samson Moore for £150 in settlement of a debt. Moore, was the founder of the Midlands Vinegar Company (the forerunner of HP Foods) and launched his HP Sauce in 1903.

Until 2007 production was at the HP factory in Aston, Birmingham. One of the giant logos from the top of the tower – a local landmark – is now in the collection of Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery.

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Quintessentially a British product – at heart if not now of manufacture – its place in the national psyche is fixed – and annual sales in excess of 28 million bottles attests to this icon’s popularity. Even John Betjeman wrote of the product in his poem “Lake District” – “I pledge her in non-alcoholic wine / And give the HP Sauce another shake.”

The HP brand was transferred from the Midlands Vinegar Company to Smedley HP Foods Limited, and then sold to the French Groupe Danone SA in 1988 for £199m. In June 2005, Heinz purchased HP Foods from Danone and in October 2005 the UK Office of Fair Trading referred the takeover to the Competition Commission which approved the £440m acquisition in April 2006.

In May 2006, Heinz (now KraftHeinz) announced – to great controversy – its plans to switch production of HP Sauce from Aston to its European sauces facility in Elst, Netherlands. The factory at Aston ceased production on 16 March 2007.

Although its available in many different varieties the glass HP bottle is still readily available – and iconic. Above all it’s well worth the wait, however frustrating, for the viscous and delicious blown sauce to descend from the neck of the upturned open bottle. You can always opt for the soft and squeeze bottle!

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And in the Red corner…

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Introduced in 1876, Heinz Tomato Ketchup is produced by H.J. Heinz Company and is one of the world’s  best selling ketchup brands and heinz has for many years used the slogan “America’s Favorite Ketchup”.

In 1907, Heinz started producing 12 million bottles of ketchup per year, exporting all over the world. The packaging of Heinz Ketchup is perhaps as iconic as the contents and the wide variety of bottles used over the years mirrors the very similar brand development of Coca-Cola.

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Now I get this condiment’s tomato/vinegar/spice combination works well on many foods it’s particularly good with chips and hot dogs – with added mustard – see here our previous post on the wonderful Maille Dijon Mustard – Maille Dijon mustard.

Heinz Tomato Ketchup is clearly very popular. As of 2012, there are more than 650 million bottles of Heinz Tomato Ketchup being sold every year throughout the world.

Heinz introduced its iconic octagonal glass bottle in 1889 and the bottle was patented in 1890. The octagonal glass bottle is still in use today. Like HP Sauce, the ketchup has high viscosity so dispensing from glass bottles can be difficult. Tapping the glass bottle seems to aid pouring. On its website, Heinz suggests that the best place to tap the bottle is on the “57” mark.

Many other varieties of packaging of Heinz Tomato Ketchup are available including the “upside-down”squeezable bottle. Like HP Sauce, Heinz has tested an sold many different variation of the basic ketchup including organic and lower salt versions.

Where does the name “Ketchup” come from? The origins date from 17th century where a Chinese pickled fish and spice concoction was called “kôe-chiap”. By the early 18th century in the Malaysia/Singapore the word for the sauce had become kecap (pronounced “kay-chap”) and became corrupted to “Ketchup” by keen English colonials who eventually took the product to the Americas.

In March 2015 KraftHeinz cause a slight ripple of frenzy on social media was asked to vote in the Red vs. Brown after the votes were counted it was reported that first place had been taken by Heinz Tomato Ketchup securing 51% of the vote. So Red sells more and won by 1%. Still not good enough to change my alliegiance!

I guess the only real winner in this contest is KraftHeinz as they own both brands along with many other family favourite sauces. For guests with diverse tastes perhaps the only way is to serve both!

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Why not fill your larder with these essential supplies – Please click the link below the image to oreder on AMAZON

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Heinz HP The Original Brown Sauce 285 g (Pack of 8)

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Heinz Tomato Squeezy Ketchup 342 g (Pack of 10)

Pick your colours!

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Founding Member Brown Sauce Appreciation Society T-Shirt Men’s Cotton Daddies HP

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I Put Ketchup on my Ketchup Red T-Shirt – Mens Red, Medium

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Photo from KraftHeinz and The Birmingham Post