Packed and ready to go to France. For all our skills as experienced global travellers hah hah!, we had not foreseen that our trip to Paris was on the first day of the British Summer holidays! As we snaked for the second time in the multiple lanes of Eurostar passengers at London St Pancras (we found out we queued too early and had to leave the queue and go to the back again) we had concerns that we would not make our train to Paris.  We should not have worried: while the initial organisation was confusing, the processing moved forward at a pace, although my nine and a half year old UK passport again failed to work with the passport reading technology.  Have I really aged that much? I guess the technology is saying yes! I do now have a French stamp in my UK passport curtesy of BREXIT, no more whisking through the EU members channel. The French immigration officer was observant and while perusing my passport asked where I lived, probably due to all the South and Central American entry and exit stamps from our first RTW journey.

A short walk between Gare de Nord and Gare de l’Est allowed Anne to indulge in that great French tradition of coffee and a plate of anchovies in olive oil, really? Not my kind of snack but everyone to their own.

A quick snack of anchovies and bread at a Paris Café

After a short delay to replace our broken train, we are off snaking our way out of Paris. While travelling through France by train, I am struck by the dearth of locomotive hauled trains.  As we pass rail yards, the occasional tired looking diesel or electric loco, BB and CC classes, sit forlornly amongst the weeds. I missed the demise of the steam locomotive era due to youth, but this must be similar with newer Diesel multiple units (DMUs) and Electrical multiple units (EMUs) replacing locomotive hauled trains.  I always enjoyed seeing a locomotive being attached to its rake of coaches in a station and considered it a part of the journey. Another era is passing.

Modern French trains at Gare du L’est.

Reims is in the heart of champagne country where we have gone to spend time with our niece Marion.  We arrive at 6:30pm and the sun is still  high in the sky. We are treated by Marion on arrival to Champagne from the Co-operative where she works.

An excellent bottle of chilled Prestige Des Sacres Champagne

As we walk to a nearby local favourite restaurant of Marion’s, people are eating, talking and laughing outside, music is playing and it reminds me how much I enjoy the long summer evenings that are absent back in Brisbane. Oh for daylight saving… 

Anne and Marion

Marion facilitated a tour of the countryside finishing where she works for a Champagne co-operative. This Co-operative was founded in the early 1960’s by René Lamblot and other winegrowers from road Janvry who wished to promote champagne produced from the western slopes of the Montagne de Reims. They have successfully done so since that time.

Marions workplace near Janvry

Surrounded by grape vines we enjoy being out in the countryside which seems so quiet and peaceful, which will change as soon as the harvest starts in a few weeks, earlier than usual due to the recent heatwave.

A view across the Champagne vineyards near Hautvillers

Driving back towards Reims I was surprised to see dilapidated and abandoned motor racing pits on one side of the road and a similar looking grandstand on the other. Had we inadvertently driven onto a race track?  In a sense we had.  We were on the start finish straight of the Reims-Gueux road circuit that hosted the French Grand Prix during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  The circuit had some of the longest straights in Europe in its time. 

I noticed that the front of the pits had a long continuous wall separating the track from the mechanics areas. Could this be were the term “Pit wall” came from?  Today in modern circuits no such barrier exists.  Was it for safety?  Anne remembers the racing car makers and petrol brands, long past, from her childhood.

Anne walking on the old track at Reims- Gueux
Time Keepers Building at Reims-Gueux racetrack.

As we try to imagine how it must have been when races were run here, a rumbling behind me makes me turn to see a black Porsche coming up to us.  I have to give it a starting flag flourish, and it accelerates away, obviously keeping to the speed limit, and we get a little taste of what must have been. Ah nostalgia.  

All too quickly, our time here has past and we are waved off by Marion as we depart Reims. Thank you Marion for your wonderful hospitality, till next time “au revoir”.

As I write this, Anne is furiously adding photos and commentary on facebook which makes me wonder if my tapping away on my ipad to craft this muse is adding any value, apart from having a long term record of our travels.  Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook amongst others provide a much faster and more succinct way of communicating.  Will the blog eventually fade for use? But for now it is my way of communicating so onward we will go.

– Anthony