Everyone has their own images of La France Profonde but reality does not always correspond precisely to the preconceptions. For example, the Tour de France is widely known and almost as widely admired, but few people give much thought to the infrastructure which gives rise to the hardy souls whose great ambition is apparently to burst their hearts while cycling unbelievably fast up mountains that would give pause to any averagely sane pedestrian or indeed mountain goat.

The truth is that throughout France there are innumerable cycling clubs, and that minor and even quite major roads are surprisingly often blocked for anything up to an hour, and sometimes more, as races are run. The equanimity with which most people greet these delays is an incontrovertible illustration of the truth that the pace of life in La France Profonde is slower. It has to be.

The perception of the Citroen 2CV as the quintessential vehicle of La France Profonde is however somewhat wide of the mark. I had always idly fancied one, despite the extraordinary push-pull gear lever, which is like fencing with the dashboard; the wallowing ride; the almost complete lack of security, thanks to a roof that is easily penetrated with a stout razor-blade;and a top speed that renders the idea of long journeys all but nugatory. Never mind, I thought: I can buy one for a pittance and run it as a second car. Wrong! They are now much sought after as vehicules de collection, and the Mehari, the improbable plastic-bodied version with even less security than the standard version, is even more expensive. So I'll just have to go on dreaming.

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