With balmy temperatures followed by windy tempests I have come down with a lovely angina. The joys of Autumn in France; they love a good extreme climate here in Reims. Around this time of year we can lose or gain ten degrees in the space of a week.
Not so good for the immune system! So instead of a nice relaxing weekend eating good food and drinking luscious red wine I spent the weekend asleep on various belle-famille’s couches. After drinking no wine due to antibiotics and tasting not very much due to a very blocked nose! C’est la vie…
However I did get the chance earlier in the week to photograph the last vestiges of Autumn before she is clutched from my grasp by the cold hands of Winter.
So I went back to Ireland recently and for the first time with the Frenchman in tow. We had a lovely time, where I drank a lot of Bulmer’sIrish cider and wore a coat I hadn’t worn for some time in France!! He went fishing and got windburn. Voilà.
Here is the coat. I’m sitting in these bizarre stone hand structures installed in my hometown of Ennis. I’m laughing rather rambunctiously because at that moment I was remembering how much fun we used to have sitting in the hands of Ennis after exiting the Queens nightclub. Back when I was a young sprig!!
After the last month of rain, rain and more rain, yesterday we were graced with sunshine and temperatures stretching into the mid-20s. We had already decided to visit a whiskey distillery (my first visit to one despite my being Irish …errr). The Guillon distillery is located in the montagne de Reims and it’s only about a half hour drive away from the centre of Reims. We were given a short introduction to the process of what goes on at a whiskey distillery (all in French of course, I managed to understand almost everything) and following that, were “treated” to a degustation (tasting). Yum! I really don’t like the taste of whiskey so it wasn’t particularly enjoyable, not wanting to be a spoil sport I tasted each shot along with the rest of the group. A lot of drinks need to be adjusted to in order to enjoy them; I try and I try with whiskey but for me it still tastes of petrol – no matter the maturation, different notes, cost-level – from £20 to £750 it tastes like nail varnish remover!
Of course I wanted to keep this to myself, but when I tried to pass off my first tasting to French boy he went on to tell the guy working there that “elle aime pas trop bien du whiskey” (she doesn’t like whiskey too much) ! Ah well, merci! Whenever I swallow whiskey my face makes this involuntary spasm of disgust which I cannot hide or control. I felt his eyes on me for all seven or eight tastings (I lost count). At least everyone found it hilarious that I adore red wine and the French boy has a (great) taste for whiskey. Will stereotypes ever end?
Just down the road from the distillery is le Forêt Dominiale de Verzy – where the world’s largest collection of malformed beech trees grow. This is an unexplained phenomena and botanist’s have taken specimen from these trees and put them somewhere else, only for them to grow normally there! Despite the fact the soil in the area has been tested and seems to be normal.
From The Lonely Planet – France:
“No one knows why the forests near the village of Verzy are home to 800-odd bizarrely malformed beech trees, but their presence has been documented since at least the 6th century. Scientists have determined that the phenomenon is genetic, but hardly explains why so many of these so-called faux are to be found in the same small area (similar mutants sometimes grow elsewhere in ones and twos) – or why the vertically challenged beeches have as neighbours two dwarf-mutant oaks.”
They are a little like the Whomping Willow in Harry Potter, the trees in the Lord of the Rings or weird little mushrooms when they have leaves. Either way this is one for the dendrophiles!