Story and Photos by ITN European Reporter Herve’ Rebollo.

Salut à toi American rider,

Since I own my brand new Road Glide I absolutely wanted to have pictures of its on the ghost circuit of Gueux, nearby Reims in Marne county. Remember this old race circuit, I wrote a post about it for ITN in November 2018: NOVEMBER RIDE TO THE GHOST CIRCUIT – Iron Trader News

Ok, let’s go discovering our nice villages, riding on tiny (difficult) roads, having fun in the wind and a good lunch, taking pictures and discovering my country … sounds good, no?!

Each time I spend time on this open old circuit it’s a kind of magic.

It gives you the feeling you are pilot ready for the next race … As we use to say, if I had to explain you wouldn’t understand …

And of course, when the shooting session is over, it’s time to go to the “Bistro du circuit”, the famous local restaurant. I don’t really remember if I’ve already give you the meaning of this word “Bistro” we use almost daily in France and that you could translate by “Bar”. The etymology is unclear. The word is dated from the 19th century term, bistro, “innkeeper”, and suggests that it may be linked to the word “bistraud” (little servant), or to “bistrouille” (cheap liquor). The word was used to describe a drinking establishment or small popular local restaurant where alcoholic beverages were served. A popular folk etymology, not attested, claims that the word originated among Russian troops who occupied Paris in 1814 following the Napoleonic Wars, who used to visit these tiny places to drink a coffee (or maybe something stronger?). They might have shouted bistro! bistro! (Russian: быстро, literally “quickly”’) when they wished to be served quickly. This etymology has been dismissed by some linguists, because there is no attestation to the occurrence of the term until the late 19th century.

But … anyway, it was clearly and simply time to have a nice cup of Champagne. No choice, the village of Gueux is located right in Champagne county, and here, you never order a glass of water! Personally I have absolutely none problem with this (great) local custom. Lucky me, I own a great adaptability.

The place has its own cool ambiance, the fooding is at the top and the owner is a charming person. What else!?!

And then, it was time to get back on the road. The idea was to come back home right after making a stop in the city of Fisme for a last coffee in another bistro were I use to go.

Fisme is not really well known in Fance, nevertheless it has an important place in the French History. After the French revolution, Napoleon came to Fismes in order to sign two important declarations. Following him, 30,000 Prussians arrived in Fismes and plundered the village. In the 19th century, France experienced the rapidly expanding industrial revolution. Sugar beet, porcelain of Fismes (which was rare and expensive), the foundry, the railway, hat making, tanneries and mills mark the advancements of the region and the economic history of this century. The 20th century began in worse conditions than the preceding finished. Fismes was greatly affected by the First World war. The Germans invaded the city, then remained on the Chemin des Dames (see my post in August 2020: JULY RIDE ON “THE LADIES’ PATH” – Iron Trader News ) before they completely demolished the city in 1918 (at the north of the village, you can cross the Memorial Bridge of the 28th US Infantery Division). Fismes attempted to reconstruct itself slowly. Unfortunately, due to its position as a railway town through which passed trains filled with deportees being sent to Germany, the city suffered during the course of the Second World War. 14 residents of Fismes, who were seized for acts of resistance, died in Nazi concentration camps.

As I was arriving in Fisme, totally by chance, at the entrance of the village, I pass in front of a brand new museum dedicated to the Second World War.

Waow!! I can’t resist, I absolutely must visit it, this place is made for me for sure!!!! U-turn.

Let’ go to the entrance. The museum is named MUSEE FRANCE 40 / VEHICLES. It claims to be here to our grandfathers, soldiers of the French Army during the WWII. These men are often mocked, even here in France.

Outside it’s a surprising mess of different equipments and military vehicles from different periods of the History…

…which permit to have fun taking great photo with my lovely Road Glide.

So, the museum is dedicated to this painful period of the French history : the Battle of France, (May 10–June 25, 1940), during WWII, the German invasion of the Low Countries and France. In just over six weeks, German Armed forces overran Belgium and and the Netherlands, drove the British Expeditionary Force from the Continent, captured Paris, and forced the surrender of the French government.

The museum claims: -“But as we say here, these men fought “Comme des lions” (like lions). They were not cowards and they never used any white flag. And this museum is consecrated to their memory”.

It’s an association which is behind the opening of this place of memory (in spring 2021). The association FRANCE 40 VEHICULES. The association worked for the duty of remembrance for years and this museum has been a long time dream.

The place currently is in fact still a prototype of the museum. Everything will evolve in the future and always get better.

And this museum is a private initiative, made with a private collection without any kind of grant. Which give you an idea of the determination of the association’s members.

And, once inside, you are totally amazed by the work of screenwriting of this private collection. Staging and set are top level! It’s simply unbelievable. It’s fantastic!

For motorcycle lovers, there ae some treasures to discover. Peugeot 250cc …

Gnome & Rhone Super major …

Gnome & Rhone sidecar…

Ariel … All these French motorcycle brands no longer exist and belong to history.

The museum gives you the opportunity to discover the details of daily life of French soldiers at the camp …

Or fighting …

You can admire too a great collection of uniforms …

.. of both side of enemies.

Sets are so realistic, you get the feeling to be in the heart of the action …

The association has for project to open soon a new section dedicated to the US Army. Work is in progress!

I spent less than two hours here but, it’s clear, I’ll come back soon. May you could come with me?

See ya soon on the road …who knows?!?!

Hervé your French biker friend.