Thursday, 23 September 2010

The end of things...

My 52nd and last day dawned beautiful and sunny. I took a taxi to St. Charles railway station in Marseille to catch my very first TGV, which whisked me to Paris (Gare du Lyon) in just over 3 hours... and arriving exactly on time! France wished me a cheery good-bye all smiles and sunshine right the way up the whole length of the country - I saw vineyards, pretty villages, the autoroute, the odd château... it was almost as though France wanted to show me a whirlwind of everything she had offered me over the past seven and a half weeks and bathed it in sunshine to leave me with the glow of a dream realised.
A short taxi ride across Paris - 15 minutes in which I was so glad that I hadn't had to drive round this city! Attractive, interesting and alluring as it might be - the drivers are insane!
Gare du Nord for the Eurostar and the discovery that some of the French sensibility had rubbed off on me... I sniffed at a very loud group of English men guffawing and generally being obnoxious... and then realised that my reaction was a mirror of many of the French standing near me... And then worse, a very pushy French woman tried to push her way through the queue and as I was travelling with 2 heavy cases, a laptop and a little backpack, I was not hugely manoeuvrable. So when she stopped to have a little rant at my not moving out of her way (this was out of sheer inability, not out of obstinance), I shrugged... Yes, I did the french shrug, pursed up my lips and exhaled. It was a joy!
So, almost two and a half hours later, I arrived at St. Pancras. I took a deep breath, heaved my bags to the Victoria tube line and journeyed the 5 stops (and 15 minutes of hell) to Victoria, before catching the train to Lewes, my bed for the night... And the very end of my journey.

A note of thanks:

This journey has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life; I had always wanted to take a 'road trip', I had always wanted to learn about wine and I think over the past few years I had lost sight of what the desires of Zoё's heart were.
And while I thank God for the blessing of being able to take this time out, to renew my mind, body and spirit and for His constant protection and grace, I must also acknowledge the kindness, generosity and open hearts of so many people...

So, in no particular order (and apologies if I have missed anyone - this is due to my forgetfulness, not a lack of appreciation for your help!)...

The Ladies Fellowship of St. Margaret Lothbury, who encouraged me, covered me in prayer and from a practical perspective provided me with the Michelin Vert Guide to the vineyard regions which supplied many of my stops for the night;
Vicky and Paul Richards, who trusted me with the 'little boat', aka the silver Barchetta, aka my partner in the adventure - the trip wouldn't have been the same without the sights and sounds provided by an open-top car in the sunshine of France; (they're also storing 18 souvenirs (bottles of wine to you and me), until I can get them back to the UK!;
Diane Wooldridge, for getting me to France (with all my luggage);
Ruth Long, for making sure all my luggage didn't exceed BA's quota and more importantly was stylish, co-ordinated and ultimately versatile (I only have one dress and cardigan unworn, which were there for a special occasion, which didn't arise!) and for providing me with a calm and serene environment to depart from;
Mags and Alistair Burton, for putting me up... and putting up with me when I was knocked off kilter from the car needing MOT'd and all that entailed. They and their friends smoothed what could have been a very difficult situation and made it easy... and they also introduced me to my favourite mountain, Ventoux;
Those of you who read my blog, sent me emails and generally kept me company while I travelled - it was wonderful to have your cheery greetings, your insights and your support;
And finally to the wonderful, friendly, helpful, passionate, enthusiastic wine-makers of France - Thank-you for a delicious, inspiring and educational journey through your stunningly beautiful country.


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