Peugeot places its chips on black and red paint option
WALES is a land steeped in verse and versatility — the former coming in part from
WALES is a land steeped in verse and versatility — the former coming in part from the earthy pen of Dylan Thomas, the latter because it is possible to go there without once driving on a motorway.
To this end we have just enjoyed a motoring mini-break in the principality that began with the most beautiful drive through the Brecon Beacons national park into the heart of Wales itself.
We achieved this by eschewing any motorway access to Wales — probably the route recommended by just about every satnav system going — and sticking to major A-roads.
One A-road in particular, actually — the redoubtable A40, which when you look on a map (not Google online but an AA print version), you realise stretches all the way from the City of London to Fishguard on the west coast of Wales.
The A40 is a classic, well-worn, major route across Britain that can be easily picked up from Henley — or in our case from nearby Gloucester. My thinking here was that by disregarding motorways, we could enjoy some “old-fashioned-style” motorcar tourism in its most attractive form.
Travelling to Wales can be arduous if you go by motorway: the M4 seems to go on interminably, especially once you cross the border, and driving can become monotonous.
Not so on the good old A40. So near Gloucester we picked it up in this trip’s drive — a Peugeot 308 GTi Coupe Franche — and headed for the foothills of the Brecon Beacons.
Back in the day I used to travel to the Brecon Beacons every Boxing Day for an exhilarating walk up Pen y Fan, its 886-metre (2,907ft) peak the highest in South Wales.
Our destination some four decades later was a cottage in the village of Llangeler, some 13 miles from the seaside town of New Quay, where Welsh poet Dylan Thomas is said to have drawn inspiration for Under Milk Wood.
This 500-mile motoring mini-break will come to you in two parts. This week, the drive to Llangeler and our stay in a cottage there (and a bit about the car, of course!). Next week, the glories of motor tourism on the best coast road in Wales — the A487.
There was something special about this car: and, of course, as in my case — as an addicted Francophile — something attractive and very French.
It was indeed a Peugeot 308 GTi, but it was also what is known as a Coupe Franche.
I suppose we Brits would call this a “two-tone” car, but the Coupe Franche is something else. A “two-tone”, as I recall, was a car with one colour for its top half and another for its lower half.
The coupe franche is a variation of that two-tone idea. In cinematic terms, this is akin to the jump cut — a succession of shots, giving the sensation that the image “jumps”. As the car passes you, you see the two colours in quick succession.
The modern Coupe Franche paint option appeared at the 2014 Paris Motor Show as the livery on a 208 GTi, 30 years after the original 205 GTi first thrilled car fans.
This black and red mix — in the case of the test car — may not be to everyone’s taste, but I really loved the look when I spotted a similar model at a Peugeot car launch.
This paint option, which I believe is unique to Peugeot models, will grace the new 3008 launching at the Paris Motor Show.
Testament to the overall success of the new Peugeot 308 in all its forms is that in those 500 miles we never experienced any kind of back fatigue.
This may be due to the ingenious back massage button on the seat or the extensive padding in the leather trim. Whatever the reason, it was heartening to take a relatively long trip in a short time and not have aches and pains to show for it.
The holiday cottage industry in Wales, I am happy to report, is alive and well on the evidence of this visit.
We stayed three nights at the Old Vicarage, near Newcastle Emlyn, Pembrokeshire. The cottage is actually in the village of Llangeler (1.5 miles from Newcastle Emlyn).
The cottage had an air of that indefinable “Welshness” about it and apparently deliberately so — the owners told us that they wanted to retain its special Welsh cottage appeal.
They have certainly done this: the furnishings and fittings were in keeping with what I can only describe as an “old world perception” of what a cottage in Wales should look like: dark and solidly attractive.
On my forays into the Beacons many years before, I would have expected it to be cold during the winter holiday season.
Here, in this short autumn break, the cottage had available central heating and indeed, under-floor heating in the main lounge.
Comfortable evenings could be spent by a wood-burning stove when not out exploring. The cottage was clean and simply functional and comfortable for our short stay.
I like to cook and there is a tendency in cottages these days for self-caterers to almost be encouraged to eat out.
Most do, I’m sure. But if one likes to produce a hot evening meal then kitchens should be fully equipped and not too utilitarian.
Bathrooms, too, seem to need to be upgraded to a higher standard than in the past, simply because tourism in 2016 demands it.
But all in all, the Welsh cottage is a great place to base oneself for a touring holiday.
• Nigel Wigmore was a guest of Wales Cottage Holidays. Prices at the Old Vicarage, near Newcastle Emlyn, Pembrokeshire, range from £245 to £408 per week. For details, visit the website www. walescottageholidays.co.uk