Saturday, September 6, 2014
The Age of Aerobatics
In the 1990s I lived with my family in Chateaufort-en-Yvelines, near Paris.
Three things you didn't know about Chateaufort:
- On 19 August 1913 Adolphe Pegoud parachuted out of a plane from the Chateaufort airstrip. While descending, as he said, 'comfortably', he noticed his empty plane performing weird arabesques in the sky before crashing. This gave him the idea to fly a plane upside down, which he then did, thus inventing aerobatics.
- Chateaufort has a little hill, which, though nothing like l'Alpe d'Huez, is still celebrated, as the last hill on the Tour de France. We watched the Tour there in 1994. Arriving an hour before the riders were due, we waited three hours for their arrival, during which two storms passed over. After an inexorable parade of cars, they flew by, bunched, in a confusing flash. I looked for the yellow jersey - there were five of them. In 1989 they erected a bronze stele at the top of the hill for Jacques Anquetil, the first cyclist to win the Tour five times. It was quickly stolen, presumably for the metal, and replaced with a less valuable version.
- Chateaufort has a restaurant called La Belle Epoque, which was one of the snootiest in the region when we lived there. When my ex-advisor, Martin Karplus at Harvard, asked where I lived, I replied that it was very small and he wouldn't have heard of it. He persisted, and when I told him he said "Wait a minute! Doesn't that have a nice restaurant?"