by George Dyke…..
The Bastille Day celebration in New York City on Sunday July 15 was a massive event where Citroëns played a prominent role. The World Cup Soccer victory by France, drew a huge turnout for the annual festival presented by the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) – a lively afternoon of French food, wine, culture, and entertainment on 60th Street, from Fifth Avenue to Lexington Avenue.
The day started much earlier for the Citroën participants. Organized by the Greater New York Citroën & Velosolex Club, spearheaded by Howie Seligmann, we met at 9:00 am at Grant’s Tomb on Riverside Drive South & 122nd Street on New York’s west side. There we socialized for 90 minutes before heading on a downtown Manhattan rally that took us as far south as Washington Square. There was a strong Citroën component as a result of more than 20 Citroëns coming from Quebec. And I managed the furthest distance, travelled all the way from Toronto in my 1971 GS.
I was the first to arrive at Grant’s Tomb and shortly thereafter Nathalie Roussel from Citroën Corporate Communications in Paris arrived. She came over to experience the event with a French photographer and Philippe Doucet from Le Figaro –- a French daily morning newspaper founded in 1826 and published in Paris.
By 10:30 we had an impressive lineup of cars and Velo-Solex mo-peds. Rainy weather in the morning had stopped and we had perfect overcast conditions for photos. You can view a full picture gallery here:
Traffic was extremely heavy in Manhattan, and without an escort, we here forced to rely on a map of the route to ensure we got the various locations were we stopped along the way. I had to pay a $15 toll to get into New York on The George Washington Bridge, and sitting in the traffic congestion is would have gladly paid $30 to get out! (Fortunately, I had to pay nothing to get back across the bridge to New Jersey at the end of the day).
From a stopover at Washington Square we travelled north to the birthplace of President Theodore Roosevelt where, at 28 E. 20th St., where next door, Chef Antoine Westerman of Le Coq Rico bistro laid out a delicious lunch for us that included fresh butter laden sliced baguette, velvety and tangy blue cheese, pate, escargot and sparkling wine! We spent over an hour taking in the atmosphere and I took the opportunity to dive into my tool kit and secure a fuel line on a beautiful 1963 DS 19 that had come from Montreal as we noticed that the brass fuel tube fitting into the carburetor was working its way loose and potentially a disaster if it were to pop out.
From Le Coq Rico we drove around Grand Central Station and up 5th avenue were crowd that finished watching the World Cup Soccer match cheered in the streets and even more so when they saw Citroëns!
We ended up at the a south east plaza of Central Park at 60th Street were we parked to join the FIAF festivities.
At 5 PM, Howie awarded prizes to all that attended, and many of us departed to begin the voyage home. It was sunny by then and I took the Palisades Interstate Parkway north on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River to Doodletown and then 9W all the way to Kingston NY before resting there for the night.
The following day I took lovely roads through the New York state mountains all the way to near Watertown where I joined Interstate 81 and headed back into Canada. The GS was in it element on those roads and the combination of the 4 cylinder air cooled engine wound up to peak arm with the hydropneumatic suspension in that compact sedan left little wonder in my mind why the GS was named car of the year when it was introduced in Europe in 1970. It’s pure joy to drive on twisty roads, but it also let’s you cruise in comfort at 130 km/hr on the highway.
I actually got a double dose of enjoyment in the GS because on the way to New York City I decided to take two days to get there. I came down by Watertown, NY, but just south of there took backroads all the way south to Hancock, NY at the Pennsylvania border. I stayed in Hancock overnight and then took the scenic route on 97 along the north side of the Delaware River to Port Jervis, then meandered over to Hackensack, NJ to stay there on the Saturday night before heading into New York City for the Bastille Day Rally on Sunday.
All in all, a fantastic drive there and back and a very hospitable day in New York City courtesy of Howie and as he likes to call them; “The Pit Crew”.