September often has great flying weather in western Europe. But sadly that didn’t last until the weekend of the French meeting. Of the 8 aircraft due in from the UK and Channel Islands, only one, John and Diana Davy were able to make it to Melun, situated around 40km / 25 miles south-east of Paris. Several of those coming from north and central Europe were similarly affected by the widespread rain with embedded thunderstorms. But Europe is a small place, and that nearly everyone booked in was able to make it, by a mixture of “Trains, Planes and Automobiles”.
We assembled for lunch on Friday 9 September at a Portugese restaurant just around the corner from Melun Airport, joining the IFR pilots who had been able to come by air. After lunch we went as a group for our first cultural visit to the Château de Vaux le Vicomte. This is a magnificent 17th century masterpiece built by Louis le Vau for Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s Superintendent des Finances, and inaugurated with great pomp on 17th August 1661 in the presence of the Sun King.
Apparently, the Château’s splendor provided the inspiration for the famous Palace of Versailles. It is now remarkably well-preserved and houses an exceptional collection of furniture, tapestries and works of art. Outside, the gardens are equally magnificent.
Dinner that night was as a group in our hotel.
On Saturday morning we went back to Melun airport to visit the static displays of military aircraft, most of which were to participate in the afternoon airshow. With over 100 aircraft, the Paris Villaroche Air Legend Airshow is one of the largest in Europe. Through the kind assistance of Marc Pollin (inducted as an IFFR member the following day), we had a superb private roof-top viewing platform to watch the airshow away from the main crowds. Low cloud in the early afternoon meant the first few performances had to be quite flat, but as the afternoon continued, the sun came through and we were treated to some great flying displays.
Aircraft performing included:
- An exceptional number of 1939-45 fighter planes: Spitfire, P-47, Hurricane, Mustang.
- Vintage jets: F-86 Sabre, Mig 15, CT-33, Hawker Hunter, L39.
- Legendary and modern transport aircraft: Catalina, DC-3, JU-52, A-400M.
- French Air Force Ambassadors: Patrouille de France, Rafale Solo Display, Équipe de Voltige and
- Airbus A400M
Saturday night was gala dinner night, back at our hotel, following the French section AGM. Another gastronomic feast, with short on speeches and long on bonhomie.
On Sunday morning we made the short trip to Fontainebleau Palace, with guided tours in French and English. Fontainebleau is one of the largest of the French Royal châteaux and served as the residence for the French monarchs from Louis VII to Napoleon III. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our guide, for the English Group was really superb, bringing the history to life with real passion.
From there, we headed to Château Rosa Bonheur for lunch, followed by a tour of the museum and studio of French animal painter Rosa Bonheur.
There was time for a quick late-afternoon stop (and a cold beer) beside the river Seine in the beautiful old town of Samois-sur-Seine, before we were taken along the banks of the river to the Samois-sur-Seine Country Club. This was an idyllic setting for our final evening, starting with looking down on the slow-moving water as we sipped sparkling wine and tasted canapes on the terrace before moving in for dinner.
Following the meal, French Section Chair inducted Marc Pollin and several partners of existing members into IFFR. Welcome to you all.
Congratulations to Alex Mairey, Michael Bock, Beate Thomsen and the rest of the team in France for a really great meeting.
For Caroline and I, it was a fast car drive home on Monday, to prepare for our next adventure – with the South West section of IFFR in Reno, Nevada and California!
If you would like to see more pictures from this weekend, Beate Thomsen has posted more online HERE