Water and vine

My last post was about the enormous water masses at Victoria Falls. Well, the little river Eygues that flows near my village Mirabel-aux-Baronnies in southern France can’t really compete with the mighty Zambezi. There is no water fall, for instance.

The name Eygues (you can also spell it Aygues, Aigues or Aigue if you like) means “water”, by the way. Not a very innovative name for a river, but of course it is descriptive.

What is nice is that you can go for a walk along the river, there are six parts totalling some 30 km or so. It starts – or ends – in St Maurice-sur-Eygues, where you will be immersed in the vineyards and can easily, if you are a wine lover, start dreaming about the end product of the grapes.

Don’t you agree that the grass looks like a signposting saying “Look this way”?

I actually did look the way indicated by the grass, and discovered some photogenic leaves:

If  you would like to immerse yourself in the river after the strenuous (no, only joking, it is rather the opposite of strenuous) vineyard immersion, I’m sorry to disappoint you: at least around St Maurice it is not allowed, nor is it particularly inviting with all the shrubs and thorny branches you would have to pass through:

 

‘Welcome to Namibia’, said my phone as I entered Zimbabwe

I thought my phone had gone completely mad: within a minute or possibly two I got the following messages: ‘Welcome to Zambia’, ‘Welcome to Angola’, ‘Welcome to Zimbabwe’ and ‘Welcome to Namibia’.

The thing was that I wasn’t in any of these countries – I was in Botswana. In fact I had already been in Botswana for a few days, without any welcoming messages at all from my phone. But now I was in the north, on my way from Chobe National Park near Kasane to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

A look on the map explains the total network provider confusion: Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana converge in Kasane, and Angola certainly isn’t far away (but still a bit too far to be welcomed into, in my opinion).

But I was on my way to fulfil a dream. Victoria Falls had been a mythical destination for me since I was a child and now I was on my way there. People talk about bucket lists these days. I don’t like to tick boxes on a list, unless it is a shopping list or similar; I like to have dreams and see some of them come true. What is life without dreams?

And magical it was. And fun, especially the helicopter ride I decided to take.

This was in January, so the water level wasn’t at all at its highest, but oh did I get splashed! Normally I’m terrified of heights, but for some obscure reason here I wasn’t. I stepped out as far as it was allowed to look down at the falling water masses.

On the way back to the lodge in Chobe the same messages were repeated. ‘Welcome to Zambia’, ‘Welcome to Zimbabwe’ (which I had just left), ‘Welcome to Namibia’, ‘Welcome to Angola’. But this time the correct one also appeared: ‘Welcome to Botswana’.

A ladder to heaven

If you drive to southern France from Brussels the most common and shortest route leads you through Luxembourg. If you have the time and want to explore northern France or the Champagne region there are many more options.

Which places spring to mind if you think of Champagne? Reims, Épernay, perhaps Aÿ, maybe if you are a keen champagne drinker some smaller villages such as Verzenay. But how many of you would immediately think of Rouvres-les-Vignes? Or Colombey-les-Deux-Églises? Wait a minute, didn’t I get that wrong? Isn’t that village known just because Charles de Gaulle was born there (and is buried there)? No, I can assure you that you can find interesting champagne indeed in both these villages, and others, in the area, the Côte des Bar, to the east of Troyes in the south-east corner of the Champagne region.

Take small roads to get there and you may find a ladder to heaven your way.

This particular one is to be found in Châtillon-sur-Broué, in the Église Notre-Dame, built in the early 1500s.

There are more quaint villages to visit, more picturesque wooden churches to admire, but maybe you would like to move on, now that you have less than an hour to drive to Rouvres-les-Vignes or Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. If you choose to go to Rouvres, I recommend a stop at Champagne Claude Perrard to discover their produce. Jean-Pierre Perrard explains the philosophy of the small family business with enthusiasm and conviction. And a glass of champagne after a long drive on a warm day tastes just soooo good.