Sunday, 20 September 2009

Pick your own glass of champagne

It's harvest season in the vineyards which means it's one of the best times to make a trip to the Champagne region in north-eastern France. A mere 1 hour 15 minutes by train from Paris and you've arrived in Epernay, the home of the great Champagne houses including Moet & Chandon, Taittinger and Mumm. It's also a stunning region with lots of little surrounding villages, sloping vineyards and chateaux.

For the whole month of September and early October, several winegrowers organise grape picking days for guests. You'll start with a big breakfast, then head out to the vineyards to pick grapes, followed by a lunch at the chateau with all the grape pickers. In the afternoon, the owners will give you a tour of the cellars, introduce you to wine pressing and then you can finally indulge in a nice glass of champagne in the sun.

For more information, visit:

There are some gorgeous, relatively affordable chateaux in the area should you want to spend the night after a long day of picking and drinking.


Thursday, 3 September 2009

Swimming the length of the Amazon, on film

Short post but to share something that caught my imagination when reading about it at the time he did it.

Martin Strel from Slovenia in 2007 swam for 10 hours a day, to take himself from Peru, across Latin America and out of a Brazilian estuary to the Atlantic Ocean.

3,274 miles in 66 days... Say nothing of the current! Plenty of that the dark water hides. And wild swimming.

A truely remarkable achievement, which is by a number of accounts captured in a remarkable documentary. For those reading in London, showing throughout September at the Institute of Contemporary Art, just to name one place.


Reaching Morocco and slowmoves

Not sure what I expected out of Morocco but I was taken from the first step. A pace and energy fuller than that I have come to know in so much of Europe. This was Africa, and arriving by boat. Like a draw bridge coming down, a beeping lowering cargo door. An immediate and unceasing blur of sights, sounds and smells. Senses only dumbed by the heat.

Between the coastal Tangier and the culture capital Fez, in the heart of the county, the temperature went up with every stop train stop. 42oC, 43oC... Not wholly incoincidentally with the number of people onboard, at least in duxieme classe. My travelling partner Tommo, read of Gregory David Roberts in India: "through the sleepy night, and into the rose-petal dawn, the train rattled on. I watched and listened, literally rubbing shoulders with the people of the interior towns and villages. And I learned more, during those fourteen constricted and largely silent hours in the crowded economy-class section, communicating without language, than in a month of travelling first class." I related to that. Crossed words of fellow passengers intermittently broken by laughter, or sharing of water or pillows... Less so of seats.

Where to begin with an etiquette as foreign as any tongue. slowmoves.

10 days. Miles and miles. Tube to train to metro to sleeper to bus to boat to train to bus to camel to taxi to bus to taxi to bus to another bus, and back. slowmoves.

Overland and sea to Morocco stays recommended!