Time to Return Home from the Vineyard

Time to head back to the UK for a brief stop before flying back down to Austria to do a spot of dog sitting.

So why we hear you ask, as you’re already in the South of France, are you not just simply continuing through to Austria rather than a trip back to the UK 1st. Just two simple reasons.

1. We don’t have winter tyres, a legal requirement for Germany and Austria from 1st November.

2. Life intended us to enjoy a few other treats on our homeward journey.

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We head off Monday morning from the vineyard Le Baou d’Enfer after a quick rearrange of the car to ensure we could squeeze our rather large oak wine barrel souvenir in the boot and just a few boxes of wine to share with our friends back home.

First stop is a small village Le Peage de Roussillon, just 10 miles from Lyon in the Rhone Valley. This was a great little find, the village was nothing special but the place we stayed was.

La Port du Sud was run by a lovely lady, Aude, who greeted us with a warm log fire and an amuse bouche. (A small selection of appetisers) The rooms were lovely and there was a large kitchen, dining room and lounge for guests. We were offered dinner but declined as we had eaten but after seeing what the other guests got we wish we had said yes 🙄. There was even complementary wine and beer! Aude makes us a great breakfast in the morning. Everything from local baked apples and local cheeses to a homemade caramel yogurt that Steve really enjoyed and he even had seconds….

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Day two’s stop was in Beaune, we stayed in an average place outside of town, if we did it again we would stay in the centre as the town was lovely. Whilst here, we thought it would be rude not to eat Beef Bourguignon, drink a glass of burgundy and have a wander around loads of lovely wine shops and perhaps buy just a couple more bottles for the wine rack.

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Day three saw us back in Champagne in a different area to last time. We turn up at Domaine Ployez – Jacquemart to be met by Charles, he explained we are the only ones staying in the champagne house that night and he was leaving about 19:00 and would not be back until the morning. He locked up and gave us the codes and said the place is all yours so if you want to turn the music up and have a party feel free! We have a nose around and open all the doors to peek inside. The place was amazing and the table set up ready for the morning with just two place settings, the honesty bar was a fridge full of champagne. It was so cool to have the place to ourselves. In the morning Charles took us down into the cellar under the house. Unknown to us we were sleeping on about 500,000 bottles of bubbles, right under the house, going down three levels. In the war it became a hiding place for the British service men.

Day four, we stopped near the port of Dunkirk for our crossing the next day. We spent the day ticking another place off the list. The war trenches of Bayernwald, a really thought provoking place, before heading to Au Coeur des Hotes in Steenvoorde. Gem of a place, anything you think you need at a B &B this place has it. The rooms are so well appointed and the beds so, so comfortable you don’t want to get up.

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But it’s time to go home and start sorting out the next part of the adventure,  travel vaccinations here we come!

bye

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

 

Life in a Vineyard

What’s it like to live and work on a vineyard during harvest?

We have been so fortunate to have such great hosts, Nicki and Colin at Le Baou d’Enfer.

We can honestly say that we have never met a man so dedicated and passionate about his trade. There doesn’t appear to be any question about wine and vines that he doesn’t know the answer to. By the time we leave we will have learnt a lot, not just about the process but about the effects of the environment on your bottle of wine, never will we look at wine in the same way again.

Nicki has an amazing talent for cooking, what takes others ages to prepare, she can simply throw something together without a thought and it looks and tastes so good. Deb has learnt some new recipes and has had to practice whipping up a little something when impromptu guests arrive and Nicki is not around.

Mornings are early and lucky for us, being in the south of France also warm. Colin and Nicki really made us feel at home and extended their welcome to meeting their friends and customers. The people that we have met have been lovely and friendly and we have had invitations to some of their homes. We really have to say that the experience has changed our perspective on french people as we are sad to say that until this point previously french hosts from Northern France really didn’t make you feel anywhere near as welcome as those in the South of France. We are sure that we just had a couple of unfortunate meetings but it is something that sticks with you.

Picking and Portering has been great fun, you use muscles you didn’t use sitting at a desk in an office. Deb worked out that 3hrs of picking is like doing an exercise class of super squats! Your back will ache a bit to start but then you get used to it.

Steve has got used to the bugs in the vineyard, spiders, grasshoppers that bite and praying mantis. He has also found a friend or two.. Little green tree frogs and geckos .. You have to watch them, they love to hide in the washing on the line. Frogs in your knickers are not a good thing. Then there are the “Sanglia” the Wild Boar. If you leave the gate open they will sneak in and nibble at the grapes all over the place, they can munch their way through so many given the chance.

Deb, being photo mad, could be seen spending many an hour laying on the ground in the vineyard practicing new angles and manual focus, either in the vineyard we were working in or the neighboring one.

Soil now means so much more and as soon as the Autumn arrives and the leaves change colour you then really start to see the difference in each variety of grape vine. You get to taste the grapes at different stages and begin to understand why you wait and pick at the right time.

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We have been very wet, very warm, appear to have drunk our own body weight in wine and been part of a team that has picked around 20 tons of grapes.
When you consider that we have all been living in a static mobile home together for 4 weeks, things have gone so well and there has been much laughter, more smiles than you could ever imagine and a few tears when it became time to leave..

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Steve is still mastering the art of making a lemon meringue pie and Debs will continue to take way too many pictures.

After seeing ourselves in the local St Tropez paper, fame at last! Time for a little exercise, detox and diet before we are brave enough to stand on the scales and see extra pounds.

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Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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Lets Try Again..Pressed Publish Blog Before I Had Finshed!! All Good Now :)

Off we go to explore our surrounding towns and villages of the vineyard Le Baou d’Enfer in Le Mole Valley.

You won’t find every place below that we visited just the highlights.

Nice –Although a good location to fly into and get around and about, we really wouldn’t say it’s the place to go. Sadly due to the terror attack on the promenade, you will currently find the army patrolling the seafront. The beach is a pebble beach and very busy even on a September day, goodness knows what it’s like on a summers day. If you are short of time, give it a miss and go elsewhere.

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Bormes les Mimosas – Beautiful little village on a hill over looking the coastline. There’s not a lot there but a great village to wander around the small local arty shops and stop for lunch and admire the views.

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Le Lavendou – Super seafront village with a huge market every week, you will find Colin from Le Baou d’Enfer selling his wine here and the market prices are good. If you have been to St Tropez market you will see the same sellers but prices will be marked up! Le Lavendou has a bit of everything you need for a lovely holiday.. Sand, sea front restaurants, shops, a marina, ice-cream shops all at reasonable prices.

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St Tropez – The vineyard was only a few miles from here so the 1st place we explored. We turned up here with Alan, on our 1st week of our workaway. Not sure what we were expecting but it didn’t seem to measure up to our expectations. St Tropez is a lot smaller than we were expecting, where was the beach and the beautiful people? Turns out that the St Tropez beach isn’t actually in the village, it’s about 5 km away and called Pampelonne Beach.. Perhaps it was because the sun wasn’t shining, we weren’t feeling it? We wander off into the backstreets with 2 hungry men wanting to be fed breakfast. It’s pricey here, we find a little cafe and still end up paying €12.50 each.. More than in Monaco!

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The good thing about St Tropez is there is a lot going on event wise and these are generally free to attend. (Maybe because to park in the village, you are looking around €14.00 for 5 hours) Try to get the bus in if you are looking to save your cash. We happened to be there for the 23rd Porsche meet, only about 500 cars to look at 🚘🚘🚘 and for the Les Voiles de St. Tropez, the local sailing regatta. Gorgeous 19th century sailing boats all wooden and brass and also new sailing yachts. Can’t help but laugh at the Wally Class sailing boats, a whole bunch of crew with Wally written on all their polo shirts.

Pampelonne Beach – 5 miles of white sand and a whole load of bars and restaurants. These include the famous Club 55 and Nikki Beach, where the rich people pretending to be rich pose around, stupidly over paying for the privilege of being seen. E. G. Fancy a piece of melon? €28.00 please! 😲 Come on who really pays this if you have half a sense of intelligence. 🤔 €1000.00 just to spray a bottle of champagne over your friends.. Should this sound a bargain to you, please just forward the money to Debs bank account and she will spend it wisely on some travel adventure and spend the money benefiting the local communities.
Don’t get me wrong, It’s not all bad, the beach is great, the sea is clean and blue and the views great. €4.50 for a days parking, toilets and changing room. You can get yourself settled in, bring your own lunch and people/super yacht watch to your hearts content. If you’re into celebrities, who knows you may even spot some of these too…

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Ramatuelle – Built up in the hills, it faces out on a fabulous view of the Bay of Pampelonne. If you’re a foodie type there are many restaurants and it has a bit of a glamorous feel about it and has drawn many famous people to buy there holiday homes here. Rumour has it that one Brigitte Bardot once owned a home there.

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Port Grimaud – Well Deb and Steve found this the very best place. It’s like a little mini Venice, there are loads of small canals and bridges and some stunning houses all with moorings. The houses are all painted in bright colours, there are boat trips to take you around and have a look or you can be super lucky and meet some guests at the vineyard who are having a tasting who invite you to go out on their boat for a look around the port and then zip off over the bay to St Tropez harbour 😍 and then off for a cheeky glass of wine.

Must start spending a bit more time looking at where we should go in the Philippines.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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Le Baou d’Enfer – Artisan Wine

We have reached our second week in the vineyard and have now mastered the art of the morning picking.

Steve is a porter and Deb is a picker, team Porter and Picker at your service!

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The 5 hectare boutique vineyard we are working on is situated in the Mole Valley in the Var region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in South Eastern France, close to St Tropez and Le Lavendou. Le Baou d’Enfer is a small family business owned and run by Colin Clement who has nearly 2 decades of experience as a grower and producer, although his vineyard is not an AOC he is passionate about delivering a great quality wine to all his customers. He works a very traditional process where the harvest is done manually and all steps are personally overseen by him to ensure the wines are of very high quality.

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You will not see his wines outside of France unless you happen to buy them and take them home and you will often see him selling his wine at markets throughout the region.

So what wine does the vineyard create?

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Le Baou d’Enfer makes 5 different wines.

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  • Le Baou d’Enfer – La Cachette – Red

La Cachette is the heart of the vintage, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in oak barrels. It has a dry, medium smoked oak taste with an undertone of vanilla, blackcurrant and cherry and compliments red meat, game dishes and strong cheeses.

  •  Le Baou d’Enfer – La Cachette – Rose

Grenache and Cinsault produce a lovely summer wine. With aromas of red berries, strawberry, raspberry and hints of red cherry with a fresh dry mineral taste. Perfect for Summer BBQ’s, grilled foods, fish and white meats.

  • Le Baou d’Enfer – Red 

Lighter than La Cachette, it is a distinctive blend of Syrah and Grenache. Aromas of black cherry and hints of pepper and spices. The taste is dry and rich bodied with silky tannin’s that easily compliments any pork, chicken, lamb or lightly spiced dish.

  • Le Baou d’Enfer – Rose

A light, dry, fresh wine for lunch or aperitif. This is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache with fruit aromas of peach, apricot and nectarine, ideal for a light meal or evening drinks.

  •  Le Baou d’Enfer – White

Ugni blanc grapes handpicked from 30 year old vines help produce a fine, dry, balanced wine. Aromas of citrus fruits, grapefruit and hints of pineapple. Excellent compliment for asparagus, seafood, fish and fresh goats cheese.

The vineyard sells to local restaurants too, this is where we 1st saw the lovely town of Cavalaire-sur-Mer whist helping drop off a delivery. It’s a lovely village with a bit of everything, beach, marina, some lovely looking restaurants and the usual shops and all at reasonable prices for the South of France.

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We just happened to be lucky enough of arrive on the day of the jet ski competition. We had never seen so many jet skis race off together from the beach and race around the bay. 1st were the adults and then on to the children’s races, then time for some amazing free style tricks and stunts before we headed back off to the vineyard.

We also need to mention a great evening we had this week, we were invited for aperitifs at the home of a french couple who helped during the picking.

We arrived at a beautiful open-plan house with a gorgeous garden and pool and were met by our hosts with an array of fabulous finger foods and got to sample a typical french drink called Floc de Gascogne, a fortified sweet wine made of 1/3 of armagnac and 2/3 of fresh grape juice both from the wine area Armagnac / Cote de Gascogne, with hints of almond, jasmine, honey, black fruit and rather nice. Then we go on to taste some very special Kirsh that was hand made by our hosts Grandfather that was around 50 years old. Super strong stuff, shame Steve was driving, so just a little taster for him!

The evening was lovely and went so fast and before we know it it’s 22:00 and we really have to go. We felt like teenagers creeping back into our room and trying not to wake anyone from our newly adopted vineyard family.

Only a few more days picking and then we are off to Monaco for a couple of days, super yachts and super cars here we come!

Live Happy

Debs And Steve

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So Here we are, Our Very 1st Workaway.

We’ve arrived!

So here we are, our 1st workaway.

This is where you work in exchange for board, lodging, learning new things and experiencing the local way of life.

Yes, we may be older than the usual gap year kids but midlife gap year people do have a lot to give. We have a lot more wealth of skills and experiences and we seem to have a lot more stamina than the young ones.

We turn up earlier than our estimated time and are greeted by a couple who appear really happy to see us.. Colin and Nicki. Another workaway had also just arrived, he was called Alan from Hamburg, he was staying a couple of weeks to help too. We quickly get settled into our room in a static mobile house situated on the 3 hectare vineyard and before you know it we are drinking wine to celebrate our arrival with another couple of friends of Colin and Nicki’s.

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It’s so quiet and peaceful, apart from all of us chatting and laughing, then off to bed as it’s a 07:00 start to start the picking.

Suddenly the alarm goes off and it’s time to start our 1st day. Think you call that a good nights sleep!

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Off we go down to meet the team, we find ourselves meeting another workaway called Kelcie, a sommelier from Canada, she is with the owner from a different vineyard up in the mountains who comes to help us. Grape picking is a community affair, everyone mucks in, the guests from last night arrive to help too.

Next day, once we have finished down in our vineyard, it’s off up in the hills in a 4×4 to go and help the vineyard who helped us. The 2nd day turned out to be a long hot one but we were rewarded with beer, wine and a huge lunch.

Deb just had to do it again, she loses her designer prescription glasses somewhere in the vineyard. Luckily she remembers when she could see and when she couldn’t. After a quick look we couldn’t find them. The locals are really kind and mark the line of vines with a stone and we continue the picking as you don’t want the grapes to get too hot. Once we are all finished and before lunch, everyone walks up the vineyard in search of my lunettes, (Deb learns a new French word for glasses) Deb is super lucky and Kelcie gets the biggest hug for finding them.

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Lesson learnt. When you are picking grapes, don’t wear your best glasses and take your jewellery off! You can’t all be as lucky as Debs was. AND always remember your hat in case you are out in the sun longer than you plan to be…
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At the end of the day Debs and Steve are flagging. Deb ends up in bed fighting off a migraine, too much sun and no hat! Meanwhile, Steve tucks into and over fills his belly with Nicki’s homemade meatballs and pasta to the point that he is going to burst and some of Colins wine from the vineyard.

Debs is much better the next day and up early for the usual coffee and croissant before the pick starts. Sometimes we have some of the customers from the vineyard come to help, amazing that their ages varied so much. Oldest was a lady of 83, men in their 70’s and a lovely couple who were 69¾. So inspirational, they are so fit and healthy and do so much, must be all that good living in the South of France.

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Each day after the morning pick was complete and the equipment washed down we would all join on the terrace for nibbles and wine. It’s traditional you know! We even got to taste someones homemade Pastis.

Some days a man comes and tests the juice in the back of his car so the vineyard knows the alcohol content and other levels required to make good quality wine.

We could write away forever on what we are learning but time to have a shower and clean up so we can go off and start exploring this area.

In our next installment we will tell you all about the wines produced at the vineyard Le Baou d’Enfer.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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It’s Been a While… We are Still Alive

It’s been a while since we updated our blog due to the wonders of modern technology.

We have been struggling with the internet and WiFi connections in France and have been unable to upload our blog and photos on a secure connection, so we will send out a few updates in close succession so we catch back up with ourselves.

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Although it feels so long ago we were in Troyes it is in fact only 5 weeks ago. We stopped here for lunch and a walk around before our onward journey to Beaujolais.It’s a very nice medieval town with some lovely houses, with narrow, cobbled streets and colourful half-timbered houses, dating from the 16th century.

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We turn up at our next stop and have the most amazing view. Our bed and breakfast is in a vineyard owned by a single lady who does an amazing job of running the vineyard, museum and the Auberge Les Hauts de Chénas, whilst also looking after her young daughter, Séléné, who is a very lucky girl who even has a wine named after her!

She produces 5 different wines in total.

  • Chénas – Cuvée Tradition
  • Chénas – Cuvée Prestige
  • Chénas – Cuvée Coccinelle
  • Chénas – Cuvée Séléné
  • Macon Villages Vieilles Vignes

The vineyard had been passed down from her Grandfather and has an amazing museum next to the Cave with many of the items coming from the families past generations, more tastevins than Deb had ever seen and they even had an old Hail Cannon. We had never heard of one of these but now we have and so have you now 😉 It creates a shock wave that is used to disrupt the formation of hailstones in their growing phase and protects the flowers and grapes from damage.

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After our one night stop, cheese and bread bedroom picnic and of course not forgetting our wine tasting, off we head to our additional stops due to the harvest being delayed. This means we get to stop off in 2 extra areas to have a look around, Pont-en-Royans and Gordes.

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Pont-en-Royans is a medieval village from around the sixteenth century and is famous for its colorful houses that sit on the edge of the rocks and is situated in a gorge near to the Parc Naturel Regional du Vercors. There is a water museum and a water bar containing over 900 bottles of water. This was our base for a couple of nights. The hotel we stayed in was in a great location for exploring although we can’t say much more than it was “ok” , as for the water bar, the staff really need to have lessons in customer service. Deb did try her best French but as soon as the staff realised Deb was English, (which was quite soon after she said her 1st words!) The women said “I’m French END OF!” waved her hands and walked off. So this was the end of our water bar experience… Knew there was a reason why we like wine more 🙂 Next day we went on a paddle boat up the Isère river. The scenery is beautiful in this area.

So where were we today?

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No, we are still in France! A crazy postman from 19th century , Dinand Cheval, he spent thirty-three years of his life building Le Palais ideal in Hauterives, he collected stones whilst on his post round and built an amazing building based on all the postcards he had seen. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Next day and a few hours later we were at our final stop before the grape picking work away.

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This time we found ourselves in Gordes which is listed as one of  “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” (The Most Beautiful Villages in France) we didn’t realise this when we booked as Deb just did a “Google it” of the area we were going through to find a nice place to stay and indeed she did! The B&B was called Au Alenti du Lierre and was lovely, just opposite was a super little local restaurant too called La Fleur De Sel. The hosts were really nice and rarely got people from the UK, we found the same in Pont en Royan. Seems people from the UK really aren’t great explorers. Just happened that in talking to our hosts they once owned a vineyard in Sancerre.

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Now it’s time to head off to the vineyard to meet our hosts and start our workaway as Vendangeurs ( Grape Pickers)

Speak to you again soon to tell you what it’s like to be a grape picker in the South of France.

Live Happy!

Debs and Steve

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