One of the things that I have enjoyed about France over the years that I have travelled this country is the diversity of places to simply stop and enjoy the view.
It seems that each village has a national grant to supply a place where the traveller can pause, where he can sit with a sturdy table and where he can dispose of the wrappings of his BBQ or picnic with ease.
In summer the exploration of places like this are especially interesting for those of us who enjoy Nature. There are places on mountainsides, next to rivers or lakes and even in forests.
I have observed that the French do not use these facilities as much as voyagers and tourists do. In fact the French, it seems, are not all that keen to use their gardens in summer, although most of their gardens are equipped with outdoor furniture and awnings. I find it sad when touring on a sunny summer’s day to find that all the French people are indoors, away from their neighbours prying eyes, while they savour their standard six hour Sunday lunch.
The benefit of course is that those of us who like the outdoors are left with an almost deserted countryside to enjoy. This is very noticeable in the Côte d'Or, which they say is named the inland “Gold Coast” because of the colours of the autumn leaves on the vines.
I make a point of having a barbecue in the autumn above the Burgundy Village of Pommard where the view of the vines is a favourite of mine as they clad the hills with gold around the grey stone village houses. My reason is to celebrate the end of the Vendange, or grape picking, and we do it as a sort of homage to the many generations of people who have worked these hills, all for the enjoyment of wine.
This year was no exception. The vendange was good in quality, but seriously depleted in volume due to shattering hailstorms which in some cases obliterated the entire crop, but with the vagaries of weather left some of the “parcels” free of damage.
There is something rather special in being able to enjoy the wine that comes from a line of grapes that is only twenty metres away.
Chris Higginson is the author of “French Bread”, the story of a baker lady who sells poisoned bread to selected customers, soon available on Kindle.