The only problem was the food: it was so good that the Mooniacs simply couldn't stop eating. This could be one description of this year's EMPOA trip to France with heading „South Southwest“. Four or five days with nice weather, friends, some excursion highlights combined with the renowned French cuisine: it was „life like God in France“.
But it seemed – once again - difficult at the beginning due to the weather conditions. At the start of the week, summer had suddenly arrived and central Europe was sweating at temperatures of 38°C. Heavy showers started to form in the middle of the week but Britta Hasskerl, Werner Wohlfahrt, David Kromka and N252CG managed to arrive on Wednesday evening in order to prepare everything for the Mooniacs' arrival on Thursday. The first Mooney to land was Bernhard Saneke around noon. One after the other the Mooniacs arrived although some were not able to take off due to heavy thundershowers on the route.
The Midi region boasted nice summer weather with blue skies and pleasant temperatures. The arriving crews enjoyed local wine and snacks and were able to exchange the latest stories, get to know each other and looked forward to the upcoming days. Since we were fewer people than expected we were able to invite some French friends for the dinner cruise on the Canal du Midi in the evening. The „pastry of water-mouse“ (Nutria – ragondin) was not to everybody's liking but those who tried this local specialty actually enjoyed it.
After cruising this UNESCO world heritage site we used our minibusses to get back to LFMZ where two more Mooneys had landed in the meantime. Of course we took the opportunity to open the hangar's doors again as well as some bottles of wine.
After breakfast on Friday morning the Mooniacs met again the hangar of Carol Brun where D-EXXM with Birgit and Rainer Hutz was expected to land. It was a cheerful „Bonjour“ and off we went direction to Minerve, a fortified village in the Minervois county. There were not only good photo opportunities along the river Cesse but also an adventurous tour along the cliffs on the „Vire“ secret path. A nice lunch on a shady terrace prepared us for the next stop, a wine tasting and visit to the vineyard of „Domaine Le Cazal“ close to La Caunette.
The red wines at this cellar are produced with especially old and knaggy vines and with always the same percentage of grape varieties. Only the selection of the individual qualities of the grapes makes up for the different levels in quality. Therefore winemaker Claude Derroja starts to eat the grapes in the different lots of his vineyard three weeks before the harvest. All qualities were ready to be tasted and many Mooniacs did use the opportunity to buy some stock for the cellar at home.
Our busses then brought us to Gruissan where Carol and Patrick had prepared their fishing boat for a little aperitif cruise. The Mooniacs proved that they can also have fun on the „other element“ whilst enjoying rosé wine and olive cake. Everybody liked the fantastic dinner at Maxim' where we were served a full four-course menu with local specialties. But some could of course not resist to another digestif back at the hangar.
Saturday morning did still show some clouds at our planned destination Lacave LF4623 but the forecast provided us a clear trend for blue skies later in the day. David Kromka held a thorough briefing for all crews; it's not every day that we approach a narrow 700 meter strip where one can land only in one direction. Touching down in Lacave, the private airport of the Lestrade family on the hills of the Dordogne valley, was definitely the pilot's highlight of this trip: all the Moonicas managed it without problems.
Directly after landing we organized our minibusses and some copilots were brought to the hotel. But the Mooniacs had to stay since it was time for the annual General meeting. Birgit and Rainer Hutz payed the rent for the room with local currency: a box of champagne. They gave an overview of last year's activities (see separate report). The evening was used for a good dinner at the Lacave Hotel, some Mooniacs even partied through the night at St. Sozy's „Music Festival“.
Sunday morning showed some rain but soon the first blue peaked through the clouds. There were no objections against going to Rocamadour and the drive to this old pilgrimage city and religious capital on the cliffs did not take long. The Mooniacs explored the narrow streets in small groups. Lunch was served at Cremoux, a kind of snack close to Lacave, but soon thereafter we had to head on to the Gouffre de Padirac.
This was a new experience for most pilots: not high up into the air but rather deep down into the earth. After descending down on foot or via elevator we ventured by canoe into this magical world of stalactites, stalagmites and huge saloons under the surface.
It was way to early that we had to wave good-bye to our new vice-president Philippe Coffinet who had to leave, but not without giving its tribute to Lacave with a nice and fast low-pass over the airfield. After a short break the other Mooniacs met at the rural restaurant of the Calvel family where a very local dinner was served on a long table. Everybody loved the tasty cuisine of the Southwest; but most agreed that you can't eat this every day.
All Mooneys departed on Monday morning into the different directions: some to their homebases, others to continue travelling. All arrived safe at their destinations and will certainly keep this „Tour de France“ in their memories. À la prochaine!