A Winelover’s Tour de France

I now turn to the matter of adventure.

Today’s post is taken from Chapter 1 of my eBook ” A Winelover’s Tour de France ” published in April, 2014, through http://www.ebookit.com in the USA. It is a novella in the travel / adventure genre. It tells of a lone traveller, Bede Jamieson, who makes a long cycle journey of 3,000 kilometres in the spring of 1989, through the main wine regions of France – involving sightseeing, vineyard and winery visits, and other encounters along the way.It has been reviewed by Katrina Sardis of Sydney, Australia, and rated at 4.5 / 5. ” A Definite Must Read ”

The published book is also available in digital format through Amazon Kindle Books at $3.74 US.

To get away from one’s working environment is, in a sense, to get
away from one’s self; and this is often the chief advantage of
travel and change. (Charles Horton Cooley)

It was in late 1988 when Bede Jamieson was informed by his then law
partners that it would be his turn to take two months’ extended leave,
euphemistically called ‘sabbatical’, the following year. It was left to
him to decide at what time of the year he would be away and his
actual destination. With a background in French language studies, a
recently discovered joy for road cycling and a well-established love of
fine wines, his thoughts were that he should undertake a cycling tour
of the main wine regions of France – a tour des vignobles, pour ainsi
dire ( a tour of the vineyards, so to speak). Bede also had it in mind
that should too much cycling prove a hardship, France was a country
likely to offer compensations.
At the time he was caught up in the grind of corporate client work in a
busy office environment. No matter how hard he worked – and the
law is a demanding mistress – he always seemed to be only just
staying afloat, both emotionally and professionally. Bede needed an
extended period of time out, a change of scene and a bit of adventure.
This was his main motivation, coupled with the desire to more fully
acquaint himself with things French: the people, the language, the
countryside, the food and, of course, the wine.
Back then, Bede could be described as being of medium height and
wiry build, he has dark hair, an olive complexion and hazel eyes. He
is in his early forties. He has a reputation for his sporting skills,
particularly tennis and squash. A man for challenges and not given to
failure, Bede is keen to test himself in every sense as a lone traveller
in a country he perceives to be both romantic and culturally
He set about planning his intended journey by reading up on the main
wine regions of France and poring over Michelin maps. He drew
inspiration from reading a book written by Michael Busselle, The
Wine Lover’s Guide to France, published in 1986. Busselle had spent
some five months in the two years to 1986, driving almost 50,000
kilometres in and through the vineyards of France, taking photographs
and collecting information for his book. Bede wanted to follow at
least some of Busselle’s footsteps, though his preferred mode of
transport was a bicycle rather than a car. He had recently become
actively involved in road cycling and was full of enthusiasm for it. He
saw cycling as a great way of maintaining general fitness while
allowing him to range far and wide. Travelling by bicycle also had the
advantage of considerable cost savings compared with hiring a car for
such a journey.
Bede sought the advice of a bicycle retailer as to how best he could
set up his 12-speed yellow framed ‘ Greg LeMond ‘ racing bike, fitted
with Italian Campagnolo componentry, for such a long and potentially
punishing journey. It was decided that he would not carry a backpack
when cycling, and that his possessions and gear would be stored in
two panniers attached to a lightweight metal carrier fitted over the
rear wheel. He had already decided to take his own bicycle rather than
buy one in France. It was light but strong, and his correct frame size.
It was, and still is, a familiar and reliable friend.
To transport his bike, Bede purchased a sac à vélo ( cycle bag ) made
of lightweight synthetic fabric measuring some 1.2 metres by 0.9
metres and with shoulder straps. By releasing the front wheel and
removing one pedal shaft he would be able to pack the complete
bicycle in the carry bag and take it as accompanying baggage when
the time came to take to the skies.
He also compiled a list of clothing and equipment he would need on
such a journey and that could be squeezed into two panniers. In the
end this list came down to the following items:
• Michelin maps
• Michael Busselle’s The Wine Lover’s Guide to France
• the Berlitz French for Travellers (a phrase book)
• a Swiss pocketknife
• a lightweight shower-proof windjacket (K-Way)
• a cycling top, pants and shoes
• one pair of casual-wear shoes
• one pair of cotton, long-legged trousers
• one casual, cotton, long-sleeved shirt
• T-shirts (assorted)
• socks and underwear
• a woollen jersey
• toiletries, including a battery-operated shaver
• Carrera sunglasses
• a first aid kit
• two replacement tubeless tyres
• a cycle security lock
• a Collins pocket diary.
As well as gathering together his belongings, he had a weekly session
with his French tutor to help prepare him linguistically for the
Bede flew Singapore Airlines on Monday 1 May 1989 bound for
Paris. His partner, Jane, had given her ‘little darkie’ an affectionate
send-off, overlaid with expressions such as ‘bonne chance’ and ‘bon
voyage’ as he proceeded to international departures and the first of
many customs and security checks along the way. His air travels were
to take him to Singapore for a brief stopover at Changi Airport, to
Dubai in the Arab Emirates, then to Rome and Paris. He eventually
touched down at Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport in Paris at 9.45 am
local time on 2 May, after 30 hours’ flying time. The airport was
crowded and noisy at that time of day, but the passengers were
processed through the immigration counters efficiently and then left
to find their own way through the milling crowds of similarly
bewildered tourists and travellers spread out over a number of levels
of the airport facilities. Many had friends or contacts waiting for
them, who could be seen holding up cards with names written on
them to attract their attention. The mood was one of unrestrained
excitement and activity – with shouted welcomes and joyful
Bede was to put the locals’ goodwill towards les étrangers
( foreigners ) to the test within minutes of his arrival when he had
difficulty finding his way out of the airport buildings and getting to
the metro connection to the city. A Monsieur Salot, who worked as a
security officer at the airport and who had finished his shift for the
day, came to his aid and accompanied Bede to his hotel in the Rue de
Chabrol, close to the Gare de l’Est. This trip took him out of his way
and left Bede with a very positive feeling towards the French people
from the outset.
This positive feeling was further enhanced when Bede checked in to
the Hôtel Parisiana and receiving the warmest of welcomes from
Veronique, la réceptionniste. Before he could finish saying “Je
m’appelle Bede Jamieson, j’ai réservé pour deux nuits”, Veronique
was summoning a porter to help him with his baggage and giving him
directions to his room on the second floor overlooking the street. He
was to spend two days and nights in this somewhat jaded but
hospitable place. Veronique was petite and slight of build. Her
appearance was that of a well-groomed, smartly dressed young
woman. Her manner was quiet and serene. Veronique was able to
provide much good advice about getting around Paris and the
attractions of the 10th arrondissement, in which the hotel is located.
Bede’s first impressions of Paris were of a place full of life and
dynamism. The crowded footpaths and roadways busy with vehicles
provided a sea of constant movement, colour and sound. For Bede,
the most immediate and obvious symbols of Paris’ peculiar brand of
dynamism were to be found in the buildings. Even the rooftops, many
fashioned in the characteristic double-pitched mansard style, had a
special charm and appeal of their own.
His second night in Paris was spent eating out at L’Enchotte, a café in
the Rue de Chabrol. He enjoyed a simple but well-prepared meal
consisting of a noisette of beef fillet, fired in butter and served with
Anna potatoes, artichoke hearts and French green beans, washed
down with a pichet ( jug ) of red wine. Bede was in bed early and jet
lag was not a problem after that.
He woke at 5.00 am the next morning, excited and ready for the
journey proper to begin. He had to hold himself in check until petit
déjeuner at 7.00 am. This consisted of the usual light, fluffy croissant,
jam, and a large cup of café noir. By 8.00 am Bede was on the road
cycling his way through the quiet streets of Paris towards the Gare
d’Austerlitz. It was a bank holiday.
As he neared the Gare d’Austerlitz he came upon an area of heavily
cobbled roadway. It was at this point that one of the panniers fell off.
There he was, stranded in the middle of the road with cars racing
around him as he scrambled to recover the fallen bag and his
composure. In the process his bicycle, which was by now unbalanced
and awkward to manoeuvre, reared up, with the result that the
chainwheel gouged into his right calf, causing a nasty flesh wound.
He eventually managed to retrieve the situation and limped to the side
of the road. Throughout this whole episode a gendarme had been
quietly observing the incident but without making any effort to
intervene or come to his aid. When he initiated conversation with the
gendarme in his best French and lightly spoke of being on a tour des
vignobles and a lover of rugby, the gendarme lightened up a little,
uncrossed his arms from across his chest and wished Bede a bonne
journée. Clearly not the same interest in his welfare as shown by M.
Salot, but not unexpected given the face of the French enforcement
What a way to start. There he was not even out of Paris, yet already
injured and somewhat chastened by the whole experience. The wound
to his right leg was not to completely heal and disappear for about
eight days, by which time he had completed his tour of the Loire


BARRY JOHNS  ( a.k.a. Le Vigneron )


One thought on “A Winelover’s Tour de France

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