Home is where the yarn is. Also, the third set of 4mm circular knitting needles, just in case a freak tidal wave washes away the other two sets. (We’re 50 miles from the sea, but it’s not a risk that I’m willing to take.) Home is also the last known location of the Stoic Spouse’s secret chocolate stash, but he keeps moving it and I’m struggling to figure out its latest hiding place.
I mention home because we’ve just returned there after a week’s holiday in the champagne region of France.
It was the twinnage’s first trip abroad. You could tell they were wary, until they realized that abroad is somewhat like home, but with better food and a temporary relaxation of the bedtime regulations that the Stoic Spouse and I normally attempt to impose. What’s not to like?
We took the ferry over to France, or at least we tried to, but crazy-force gales meant that ferry captains were sensibly noping-out at the prospect of navigating 40 000 tons of wind-tossed steel in or out of the entrance to Dover harbour.
So it was six hours later than scheduled before things calmed down to the extent that we could leave. This photo does not do justice to the degree of choppiness:-
It was late when we reached the coast of France, and there was still a long drive ahead. The owners of the old cottage we’d rented said it would be too late to disturb them by the time we got there, so whilst I drove south (muttering REMEMBER TO DRIVE ON THE RIGHT to myself all the way), the Stoic Spouse hit the internet hard, in search of a hotel that wouldn’t mind a bunch of scruffy Anglais pitching up way after midnight.
Say what you will about the general peskiness of my children (it’s nothing I haven’t said myself), but they took the sixteen-hour journey in their stride. That said, I never, ever, ever, want to play another game of I-Spy. Ever. At one point, they resorted to playing hide-and-seek with each other, which was a curious choice for people firmly strapped into car seats beside each other. One sensed that they were running dangerously close to the end of their list of Stuff To Do In The Car.
The Stoic Spouse came up trumps with a hotel room, I parked the car, and feet were at last properly placed on French tarmac. The twinnage expressed surprise at such culture-shocks as the fact that French light switches are larger than ours. Quelle horreur! No wonder our two nations once fought the notorious hundred-years war.*
But lets skip ahead to the pretty/fun/cool stuff. The old stone-built gîte that we’d rented turned out to be picturesque, and filled with beautiful antiques (which I inexplicably didn’t photograph). It was also obvious that somebody had been busy with a crochet hook:-
The owners lived next door and despite their first-night curfew, they turned out to be the most lovely and warm-hearted people you could imagine. They didn’t speak English, so our rusty French got a brutally thorough workout.
But the biggest love-affair of the week was between the twinnage and the owners’ dog, a border collie named Willow. (No, I don’t know why a French dog had an English name.)
The mutual delight, and the hours of throwing sticks for the eager dog, melted even my cold old heart. (When we left, one of my sons wept at being parted from Willow.)
I found a bench on which to sit and knit, from which to watch the goings-on. I could have sat there all week.
But the Stoic Spouse is definitely a go-out-and-see-stuff-all-day-every-day person and to be fair, this bit of eastern France is rather beautiful. We hiked through forests, we watched a falconry display in a chateau, and since we were in champagne country, we of course visited a champagne house (Mercier). This barrel? It holds 200 000 bottles-worth of the stuff.
Want to see the cellars? (Click on each of the images below to see them in full.)
I’ll spare you the lengthy slide-show of all the other places we visited because I know you’re far too polite to openly nod off half way through. That said, will you look at Reims Cathedral?!
It’s home to a stained-glass window designed by Chagall:-
But for a wildlife-lover, some of the best treats were to be found back at the gîte. The twinnage loved the lizards, woodpeckers, as well the tiny smooth-snake that paid the briefest of visits.
And if you follow my Instagram, you’ll have seen the hummingbird hawkmoth that spent its days making circuits of the garden.
Just look at this beauty!
Truth be told, I didn’t get much knitting or crochet done whilst we were away. But I did spend time noticing colours and textures and patterns, using the week as thinking-time for planning future designs. So it was sort-of productive, right?
But now we’re home, and I am still having zero success in finding the Stoic Spouse’s chocolate stash. Any ideas?
* Albeit rather a long time before light switches were invented.