Rendez-vous in Paris

It’s an ordinary Sunday morning. Paris likes to sleep long on weekends, and before 10 o’clock it can be said to be practically deserted. In the unusually calm scenery of the metropolis, an attentive ear can’t help but hear a multitude of mechanical sounds, engine roars in the distance, moving from several directions and converging towards the city center.In the heart of Paris the sounds turn into apparitions of cars: there is no really identifiable theme, they are classic or modern, grand tourers, utility cars, super sports cars, sedans. There are rare and magnificent cars, such as Lamborghini Miura and Aston Martin One-77. There are unfailing all generations of Porsche 911. Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Triumph, Renault, Citroen… It’s almost a procession, not too quiet, that converges towards a very specific point.The rendezvous is at Place Vauban, a square in the 7th arrondissement. Although it is very close to the Eiffel Tower and right behind the golden dome of the Hôtel des Invalides, it is likely that you will not know it: it is not a classic destination for mass tourism that crowds Paris, but a purely residential area, a cobblestone esplanade with a large flowerbed in the center, surrounded by Haussmann-style buildings. Little traffic, with plenty of space. Perfect for a gathering.
And so, every Sunday, this square becomes the place-to-be for the petrolhead of the Parisian region, a kind of cars&coffee in its simplest and purest declination, the original one. Without too much ceremony you park your car, no matter if next to an old 500, an iconic Testarossa Monospecchio or a McLaren just out of the dealership. Then you join your friends in front of the only café present, and have breakfast (even with an espresso, which surprisingly is excellent even by demanding Italian standards, ed) observing and commenting on the cars arriving in droves. Then you take a walk among the cars around the square, chatting about engines with perfect strangers who share the same passion. Simple, spontaneous, genuine.The curious thing is that this meeting of enthusiasts was not born as a simple convivial get-together, but with a real protest demonstration, called by the Fédération française des Automobilistes Citoyens (FFAC) in response to the decisions of the municipality on the subject of anti-pollution, which actually prohibit the free circulation for historic cars, whether youngtimer or classic. It is July 2016 when the so-called Ronde de Bannies debuts in Place Vauban, without missing a Sunday until the first devastating lock-down due to Covid.At the first reopening, something happens: along with the historic cars, modern cars start showing up, more and more. The desire of the fans to meet again becomes stronger than the reasons for the protest, which inevitably becomes a little bit distorted (also because in the meantime the municipal resolutions have come into force …). So the FFAC withdrew from its role as promoter and the political demonstration became to all intents and purposes a spontaneous gathering… no longer authorized.
For this reason, since the end of 2021, police patrols have begun to operate more and more often, to prevent cars from stopping on the square (a space officially designated for tourist buses) and in fact to discourage the gathering, which has adapted by moving to the adjacent streets. Despite everything, Place Vauban is holding its own. Sure, it may have lost some of its polish, but it remains one of the coolest things about Parisian car culture. And if you’re passing through Paris and you still don’t have any plans on Sunday morning…. well, see you there!
Credits:EDITOR: Tommaso Bertotti
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