Vespa World Days St Tropez | RETRO RALLERY
Who: Vespista from around the world
What: Vespa World Days, France
Where: Port Grinaud, St. Tropez
When: 2nd-5th June
Why: Nice excuse for a ride out
Vespa World Days is a huge annual event hosted by a different national club each year. This year was the turn of the French. They chose a pretty little place, Port Grinaud, located on an ample campsite just outside St. Tropez. The site had everything needed for a successful Euro rally; plenty of space, an outside bar and entertainment arena, plus enough accommodation for most of the people attending the event.
Over 200 Brits made the journey south. Our group of six travellers opted for a Spanish tour before ending up at the rally (more about the trip itself in a separate feature later). We were treated to stunning roads, lovely scenery and thousands of Vespas to greet us once we arrived at the rally… Perfect.
For the British contingent a few drinks were high on the agenda after a long ride, for many who chose the route through France it was a very wet one as well, some had 950-miles of solid rain. Thankfully our route there was just over 1000 mostly sunny miles, others used the rally as an excuse to do a bit of country ticking and sightseeing along the way.
The main hub of the event and the extensive Vespa Village was on our campsite, which was handy. It was very well set up, rows of exhibition stands with the likes of Pinasco, SIP and lesser-known names showing their wares. An abundance of parts, spares and services for Vespa models from the last 70 years. Although two friends who needed a replacement GTS exhaust gasket couldn’t get sorted so had to visit a Piaggio dealer in another town. Just like an English rally, everything available apart from the spares you need to get you home.
The bar and live music/DJ area was kept busy as the 5,000 Vespa fans mingled and chatted. Language barriers were broken, ice melted, beer drunk, stickers swapped. A Vespa Club cog sticker bartered for a badge, traded up for a legshield banner and becoming more sought after as time rolled on. Our limited edition ‘SLUK Tropez’ stickers became a great international currency, worth more than the Euro in many surreptitious deals. It was interesting to find that even the Italians have an auto/geared barrier and a Vespa/Lambretta one as well. One group of lively Italians we befriended mocked our ‘Ahh, plastica’ GTS mode of transport. It was all lighthearted banter though and they were just as dismissive about my Lambrettas back home. For me riding is riding and covering almost 2,500 miles in a couple of weeks was much less stressful on the modern Vespa.
The weekend passed quickly. Scooterists got drunker, friendships were sealed, new ones forged and fun was had. Usually at VWD everybody (or most people) attends the huge gala dinner on Saturday evening but for Vespa Club of Britain members it was slightly different this year. Unable to obtain full tickets for all of the 200-odd who applied it was decided that we’d all just have ‘lite’ tickets and do our own thing. The VCB organised a barbie at a lovely bar overlooking a marina. The quality and quantity of the food was perfect and a lovely evening was had by all, although it meant we missed the international vibe on site and kept us away from the inter-country sticker swapping fest, which was a shame really. We can get to know British Vespa fans back home. We still had a good night though and after ignoring last orders we were eventually evicted from the BBQ venue. The bar staff dropped subtle hints like turning the lights off, removing the cushions (even if they were being sat upon), locking the doors and eventually resorting to reverse psychology. We finally took the hint, although trying to get out was harder than planned, the glass doors were locked, although after a minute or so we realised one of them wasn’t even closed. The imaginary barrier was broken and we tentatively tested the doorway like some silent mime sketch before daring to walk through the scary looking hole. We were free to walk out and limbo through the car park barrier.
Sunday morning and the humongous ride-out took place; thousands of scooters lined up behind their countries respective flags ready for the off. Lead away by the host nation, France and followed by the rest of the world in alphabetical order. Snaking our way through the countryside in a never-ending procession of World Vespisti before ending up at the port of St. Tropez to marvel at the floating displays of wealth, success measured in metres, portholes and opulence.
For us the rally may have been over but the adventure still went on. We left St Tropez, scooters loaded to the hilt as we headed westwards through France to Paddy Smith’s Sun Run (we’ll feature that soon). Others headed home, or were off on other adventures, some going via Spain, others Italy and Switzerland. Wherever they went they’ll have their own stories to tell. Each one will know just how much fun, how versatile and how many good times can be had on two wheels, no matter what you ride.
30-odd years ago when I first noticed the charm of a scooter and realised there might be some fun to be had I never imagined how far that passion would take me, nor how many friendships and memories would be made as a result. Teachers hated our school blazers covered in mod and scooter badges. Parents despaired at our gang mentality, obsessive compulsion and love of everything to do with our chosen ‘hobby’ but little did they know of the life experiences and good times they’d bring once we were fully-immersed. All these years later even my own mother is envious of our lifestyle and friendships. The ‘fad’ has outlasted all expectations and it ain’t over yet.