Two, three or four men in a boat

The sun was just rising and it was the busiest beach I ever saw. I was about an hour’s drive south of Hoi An in Vietnam on an excursion with the photographer Etienne Bossot.

The activity was all about fishermen and their catch. Their boats were lying on the roadstead and the men used basket-shaped tiny boats to bring their catch ashore, where deals were swiftly made with the numerous buyers around. What seemed chaotic was in fact very well structured, rehearsed on thousands and thousands of similar mornings.

Slightly overwhelmed by all impressions and by the speed at which everything happened, I left my shoes somewhere in the middle of it all and tried to follow the action, or parts of it rather, in the water, on the shore, pointing the camera the camera to where the most interesting things seemed to happen.

It wasn’t easy. I never took so many bad photos in such a short period of time ever before, in spite of Etienne’s excellent advice and tips. I seemed always to be just a little too late, or too close, or too far away, or looking in the wrong direction.

And sometimes I forgot for a second that this was a photography excursion and just stood there in awe, admiring all these people who didn’t let themselves be disturbed in the slightest by someone running around with a camera. They had work to do and just got on with it.

“Would you like to stay a little longer or should we go for some breakfast?”, Etienne asked. Stay longer, obviously! In the end we had to move on of course, to breakfast, to visit the market and to stroll through the fishing village but hang on, I need my shoes!

I was relieved to see that they were still exactly where I had left them.

‘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.