Saturday, 23 September 2017

Bordeaux, je t'aime

The one constant in my life is my love of France. I am lucky to live very near to France and can hop over quite easily. And so once again I ventured off solo with one suitcase and one piece of hand luggage in case my suitcase got lost. I normally drive but this time decided to fly.

I had spent many happy years as a student at university in Bordeaux. This time I was going to tour vineyards and take a couple of wine courses. And I should add, meet old friends who I was at university with thirty + years ago.

Suffice it to say that my trip was the best holiday of my life and one which I could probably write a book about. We're older but we're the same and how we feel will never change- that was the lesson we learned seeing each other after thirty years.

I walked the entire length and breadth of the center of Bordeaux- 65 kilometres in five days. Have comfortable shoes and the world is truly one's oyster. As a single woman, walking holidays in safe places are the most important part of my holiday and I can say that I never felt threatened in Bordeaux. I walked everywhere by myself and gladly have lived to tell the tale. Bordeaux is breathtakingly beautiful, easy to navigate on foot and very close to the best vineyards in the world.

On one of my wine courses in St Emilion I met a French Canadian who told me he was retracing the steps of his youth before he died. That is the conundrum of what it is to be human, my dear friend.

 Learning to distinguish between Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

Some of the 750,000 bottles in the underground cellars of CHATEAU DE LA RIVIERE.

Moi with a few bottles for lunch. CHATEAU DE PORTETS.


Some of the 22 kms of underground cellars at CHATEAU DE LA RIVIERE.

All photos copyright SvD.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Why The Past Is A Foreign Country

I recently returned to Bordeaux where I had spent many happy years, the best of my life, as a student. I graduated in 1987 and this year is 30 years exactly since I left university. I combined my desire to retrace my steps with winetasting tours to St Emilion and Medoc vineyards and revisiting old friends.
Photo copyright SvD.

I used to love spending the day in St. Emilion wandering around the cobbled streets of this ancient village some parts of which date to 767 AD. Thirty years ago I could walk through the whole village and maybe see a dozen people. Today the village receives 1.5 million tourists annually.
St. Emilion. Photo copyright SvD.

Bordeaux is now the second most visited town in France after Paris.
Ripening  grapes, St. Emilion. Photo copyright SvD.

I recognised nothing during my trip of how things used to be. In fact, I felt acutely aware of how I had aged and my memories were balancing off a precipice soon to be shunted into oblivion. The world has changed and seems intent on being bigger, more dynamic, more relevant and in my view, more false. There was a time where the quiet stillness of my soul could be found munching 'macarons' and sitting with my feet in the pools of spring water of the ancient communal stone laundry in St. Emilion which this time 'round, I couldn't find.

How the world has changed! I learned on this vist to retrace my steps that we can't recreate the journey we had to embark on in order to learn and to be what we needed to become.

One of these bottles is the year I was born. Photo copyright SvD.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Mushroom season

If I was a vegetarian, I would be spending hours every day foraging for mushrooms. The best mushrooms appear in late September as the weather just begins to turn cold. This year we have lost a month as everything is in advance: sloes are already ripe as are blackberries and apples- that usually happens in October. I came upon these field mushrooms this weekend in the woods- very edible and delicious friend in butter with garlic, salt and parsley. When I find mushrooms, it means the land is still naturally fertile and the delicate balance of nature has not yet been tipped over the edge. Note the circular formation of how mushrooms grow.

Photos copyright SvD.

Making do

I am the queen of making do, of carrying on, of the stiff upper lip, of being Ms Sensible in a crisis (only because I have no choice) as always. In the woods I found this bird feeder that looks a lot like me and it made me smile.

Photo copyright SvD.

How did the slow caterpillar cross the road unscathed?

On my walk yesterday along a winding country road where cars whistled past at furious speed and the odd cyclist in bright speedos would appear suddenly beside me and shout 'Hullo!'. I love this bit of road, it stretches for around ten miles and although the drivers take advantage of the lack of traffic and pretend they're Lewis Hamilton, I nonetheless manage to gather my thoughts and enjoy the scenery of endless fields, huge skies and even something much smaller.

Mr Caterpillar caught my eye as he crossed the road very, very slowly. He didn't seemed concerned that at any minute he could be fossilised into the asphalt but continued as if he had all the time in the world. My heart started beating rapidly with the anxiety of having to watch an imminent murder most foul. I didn't dare pick up the caterpillar knowing from experience that his spikes would hurt like hell. A car approached at break neck speed but luckily on the other side of the road. Mr Caterpillar had been lucky but I knew his luck wouldn't last. A cyclist appeared out of nowhere as usual and zoomed past missing Mr C by millimeters. Deciding I had to do something, I stood in the middle of the road, not exactly planning to commit suicide but to force cars and cyclists to slow down just so Mr C would make it safely to the other side. I counted to 78 and.....finally! Mr C arrived at the end of his voyage all the while having been completely oblivious to my self-induced angst for his well being. Isn't life funny like that? Mr C wasn't lucky. He was just crossing the road.

Photo copyright SvD.