Every January, the French classic-car scene wakes up with the bang of a poorly set carburator. And Parisians, accustomed to hybrid buses, electric rental cars, and scooters zooming around, have to face the invasion of 800 smelly, noisy, weird-looking vehicles roaming through the streets of the most beautiful city in the world. It's Traversée time!
The best way to cross Paris
It truly is the best way to forget about the heresy that is the car meet off-season, or to take your mind off the strikes that have been happening here recently (and by recently I mean every week since the dawn of time).
If you are an avid reader of this tribe (I'd like to think those views come from other people than my grandma hitting F5 like there's no tomorrow), you will remember I covered this event repeatedly in the past few years. So I thought for 2020 I'd give you a quick (although I've already been rambling for three paragraphs) run through all the things that make the Traversée de Paris truly unique.
It's in January
Predators lurking in the dark
Look, I know the idea of going out at 7 am on a Sunday morning when it's 5°C outside does sound more like a con than a pro. But the Traversée is such the perfect remedy to long months with no car action that I wouldn't have it any other month. Plus, it means you get to shoot cars at night and through sunrise, with lovely colors. And most cars don't have A/C, some are prone to overheating. It's an absolute win, when you think about it.
And if you don't, there's an other one every July!
It's in Paris
As someone living and working in Paris, I can tell you that this city does not like cars. Everything is made so that driving in it is as painful as possible, from reckless drivers to prohibitive measures (some of which I have to reluctantly agree with). So you never do it, and especially to go see the best gems of the most visited city in the world, like the Eiffel Tower, les Invalides, Concordes, Arc de Triomphe, Montmartre... Yet this Traversée took us through all of those, and more!
This is opposite the Eiffel Tower. Weird juxtaposition, but it works!
Because it's in the morning, the only traffic jam you'll be stuck in is the one you and your smelly friends are creating. Truly the best way to visit!
It's got the best car diversity ever
The 500 could probably fit in the Roller's glovebox
Take this for size: 2CVs and Porsches (of course), but also a Chevy SSR, a 300SL, a first-gen Toyota Celica, a Mercedes 600 Grosser, US cop cars, pre-war buses, tractors, bikes... And a bunch of stuff so obscure I've never heard of them.
Yup, an SSR. And behind that? A PGO Cevennes. Talk about rare oddballs...
Here's the rundown: 824 vehicles, among which 641 cars, 84 bikes, 27 tractors, 69 bicycles and 3 buses. And those are the official numbers from people who registered; who knows how many we were in total. True madness.
Size matters, it seems. Gratuitous Eiffel Tower backdrop, too
Frankly, I've never seen this level of diversity. Not in a museum, not in Rétromobile, not from what I heard of Goodwood or Pebble Beach. It's truly special.
My kind of traffic jam
Parisians are smiling!
Well granted, not in this picture. But you get the jist of it
If you've ever lived or visited Paris, you'll know this is a rare feat. Especially because it is done with the one thing the true Parisian abhorrs: the car. Non-car people were massing at Concorde, les Invalides... Everywhere we stopped, dozens of random people were nodding, pointing, and, yes, smiling.
The ultimate proof that everyone loves cars, no matter how much they like the pretend the opposite.
All of the above
The Traversée is truly better than the sum of its parts. Even if those parts amazing! You get the feel of a local Vehicles & Beverage, the scope of a massive event, and a selection of cars that puts to shame the best car shows on the planet. Oh, and it's in beautiful Paris.
How to be French, the official starter pack
There's nothing else like it. If you're ever in town for it, be it in January or July, do make the effort to wake up and brave the strikes to come see it. Saying it'd be worth it is the understatement of the year, and it's only just begun.
Top 10 things I didn't expect to see in Paris...
Anyway, on to the next one, which should be Rétromobile! In the meantime, I'll be posting my favorite shots from the Traversée this week. You can also, of course, follow me on Instagram if you'd like to see more: