I am not particularly fond of summer – those incredibly long days that disrupt the sense of time and scorching temperatures that turn every activity into a challenge. It’s safe to say I was more than happy to welcome autumn with its charming weather. While personal preferences may vary, I believe that many would agree with me when I say that it’s the most beautiful season of the year. Landscapes are adorned with a golden-brown color palette, and the sun gracefully ascends above mist-covered fields as leaves drift one by one. But for the ones in the know there’s something even more exciting at the horizon; Journées d’Automne!

Annually, as October rolls around, the streets of Beuvardes, nestled within the scenic Aisne department in France, come alive with classic cars representing various eras and origins of the automobile industry. This invite-only event spans three days, commencing with an atmospheric opening barbecue on Friday. It continues on Saturday with a thrilling trackday at the Ecuyers circuit, complete with lunch, dinner, and afterparty at Château de Nesles. Lastly, the weekend concludes with an engaging rally on Sunday, culminating with a lunch at Château de Vic-sur-Aisne.

Arthur, who runs his own workshop in the Kortrijk region in Belgium, dedicated to reviving the almost-lost craft of metalshaping and coachbuilding, offered his workshop as the perfect starting point for our trip to set the mood. Arthur himself added a touch of style to the group with his 1972 bright yellow ‘Hell Gelb’ Porsche 911T 2.4. Emile drove his 1974 aubergine-purple ‘faggio’ Alfa Romeo GT1600 Junior, while I assumed the role of co-pilot in a dark blue ‘dunkelblau’ 1987 Porsche 911 3.2 G50 with Ben at the wheel. As the clock’s small hand slowly but surely edged towards vertical, our aim was to reach Beuvardes as quick as possible. Dennis and Pieter had already arrived at the B&B with Dennis’ green ‘Verde Pino’ 1975 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super Nuova. Some of the participants had gathered at the opening barbecue, but we decided to savor a nightcap at our lodging before retiring to our beds.

We were among the first visitors to the paddock at the Circuit. Amid the gentle morning sun, a Jaguar Lister “Knobbly,” Bugatti Type 37, Lotus Elite, and a few Alfa’s were bathing in the warm light, promptly elevating our expectations for the day ahead. Early arrival had both advantages and disadvantages: unfortunately, coffee was not yet served, but it did provide us with the opportunity to see all the participants arrive, giving us a chance to get to know everyone.

Once the clock struck 9, the true enthusiasts were already waiting at the circuit’s entrance. That Bugatti Type 37 from earlier, stood already second in line, right after an Alpine A110. My priority was to get a good cup of coffee. After I joined Ben as co-pilot on track with his Porsche. The asphalt was still wet from the morning dew, causing the rear of the 911 to break loose from time to time.

After this brief session and another cup of coffee, the paddock began to fill. Spanning a range from pre-war classics to the 1980s, and everything in between, including a handful of race cars. Notable among the latter were the 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300, the 1936 Delahaye 135CS, and the 1947 Maserati A6GCS ‘Monofaro’. Yet, my eyes were continually drawn to that green Lotus Elite with a silver roof standing in the 60’s paddock.

As the afternoon progressed, growling stomachs signaled the perfect time for all to gather at the Château de Nesles for lunch. We savored a quintessentially French experience, commencing with an appetizer of charcuterie, followed by a main course of stew with creamy mashed potatoes, all washed down with a generous serving of fine red (or white) wine. A warm and familial ambiance envelops the tables, while the present photographers, including myself, gathered at the entrance of the tower located at the corner of the château’s yard. Ascending the steep stone stairs, requiring careful concentration, brought us to the tower’s summit. In this spot the already iconic image was captured that encapsulates the essence of ‘Journées d’Automne’: A diverse collection of vintage cars against the stunning backdrop that characterizes the Champagne region in France.

In the afternoon I had the privilege of taking the driver’s seat in Ben’s 1987 Porsche 911 for a few laps around track. Thank you for your trust and sharing your passion, Ben. Although I have some fundamental experience with sports cars, I had never set foot on a race track before. Fortunately, the Porsche 911’s remarkable responsiveness left no room for doubt; it clearly communicated its expectations and where it desired to go. This experience has transformed a long-held aspiration—circuit driving—into a wonderful reality. After a few laps as a passenger alongside Dennis, who skillfully handled his Giulia, and with Thibaut in his Delahaye, an unique experience in its own right, coupled with engaging interactions with fellow participants, it became evident that the type of car you own matters less than the passion you bring to it. And with this beautiful mindset, the paddock emptied as the sun had long hidden behind gray and dark clouds.

Photo by Dennis Noten

Much like lunch, dinner unfolded at Château de Nesles, but an entirely different ambiance blanketed the estate’s courtyard. The guests were elegantly attired, each holding a glass of champagne, a cocktail, or a non-alcoholic beverage, as they congregated in a corner of the yard. Amidst the dazzling headlights, we engaged in friendly banter, attempting to identify the arriving cars by their distinctive silhouettes.

After a round of cocktails and jokes, time for dinner had arrived. The cuisine was nothing short of exquisite, even though the specifics have become somewhat hazy in my memory. The wine, too, was exceptional! Following a dessert, the festivities shifted to the opposite end of the yard, where the “talon pointe” – afterparty continued well into the late hours of the night.

At 7 o’clock in the morning, I rose from my slumber, free of any lingering regrets from the previous night. I was all geared up for the oldtimer rally, as it usually takes place on Sunday. Given that the track day had allowed everyone to indulge in some high-speed excitement the day before, there was  air of relaxation among the participants. Perhaps it was also due to the fact that the Champagne region in the morning unveiled a breathtaking scenery, an absolute joy that required just a moment of quiet appreciation to savor its full beauty.

Following a coffee break in a quaint, ancient village, where the cobblestone road gave the distinct sensation of travelling back in time (or perhaps time had stood still here?), we embarked on a final 40-kilometer drive toward Château de Vic-sur-Aisne for one final lunch. Handshakes were warmly exchanged and hugs were given. The time had come to make our way back home, With just one final stretch of our journey left to complete. Dealing with the wind and eating flies In the Delahaye kept me awake on the drive home.

Thank you Etienne and Guillaume!

Until next year, Journées d’Automne!