OK. I’m back in Italy, but yesterday a package I ordered a few days ago arrived from Amazon.fr: the French card game, Mille Bornes. The immediate effect of its arrival was that my memories zoomed back in time both one week and a few decades. My mother bought this game for my brother and me when we were young, and we used to play it while in the car—a surreal choice considering the card game is based on driving. (Kind of like being a house fly trapped in an airplane, but I digress.)
We loved the game, though in hindsight, I can’t really remember what was so exciting about it. It involves hazards (such as wrecks, flat tires, empty tanks), remedies, safeties and distances (expressed in kilometers, of course, in the French version). And it all moves toward the rather predictable objective of “who gets there first wins.” The road race is an imaginary 700 kilometers long, and the winner (the player who first arrives precisely at the finish line) has the option of extending the race to 1000 kilometers. Hmmm.
The game was invented in 1954 by Edmond Dujardin (original box above) and redesigned in 1960 by graphic designer Joseph Le Callennec. It is this design (also above) which you see on the cards today. In that same year, however, a special, limited edition (below) was designed that is more abstract and very beautiful. (We were born into well-designed times, were we not?)
All this and the desire to purchase a new set came to mind over Easter break when we were cruising around in our very own voiture in the region around Vézelay and the Parc du Morvan. We had just cruised through the picturesque town of Pierre-Perthuis and were continuing along Route 958, when this vista rose before us. Snap.
Studying the image when I got back, my eye fell not on the picture-postcard perfection of the view, but on the small milestone in the lower left hand corner. These mille bornes are all over the country roads and even along the sides of the canals in France. And often when I see them, I think of the card game I played with my brother so many years ago.
Thus the human brain works, going around in circles, connecting present day events to things in the past, bridging oceans and merging continents, muddying the 1970’s in Tennessee with a game invented in France in 1954—turning a rather innocuous and rather typical milestone on a French road into yet another personal marker that says, “Look where you are.” And in this game, the objective is not to finish, but just to keep driving and loving the trip.
Thank to the blog “Les Tasons” from which I borrowed the card game imagery and a fact or two.