THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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In Champagne

In the old days, my late wife and I used to fly home from Poland or Russia, pick up her mum and drive to the South of France for a holiday. Our daughters were not keen on road trips with music selected by 'the elderly' so would fly down and meet us there. The ladies liked the Cote d'Azur. I liked the drive. Everyone was happy. The half-way point between Chester (where our house in England used to be) and Cannes was roughly in Epernay and so that was where we broke our journey.

On the second such trip we discovered my hotel for tonight by accident. Since then it has become more popular with British motorists. This is good for the owners, but a bit irritating for me. Still at least one of my countrymen tonight has both the good taste to own an Aston Martin and the good sense to drive it places and get it dirty. Maybe he's not an aparatchik?

I made it here from Turin in just over seven hours. That did not leave much time for sightseeing or photography en route. Indeed, it rained heavily most of the way. The Alps looked better (I convinced myself) with mist on them, but I could have done without spray thrown up into my face by the mommy-vans and Chelsea Tractors that that French now all seem to drive.

I took a brief break for a picnic of artigianale chocolate at an aire. Feeling the sun on my face again I decided to risk putting the roof down. This was not my best move. Within 10km the rain had returned and I discovered that the windscreen wipers deliver heavy rain directly onto my shirt. I preferred this to it reaching Speranza's fine Italian leatherwork of course.

Once I was able to pull over and raise the roof, I drove for 100km with the heater on and all vents directed at me. This worked surprisingly well and I arrived in good enough shape that a splash of water on my face, a quick brush of my teeth and the donning of a jacket over said shirt has me ready for what I know from long experience will be a splendid dinner.

My companions in Tuscany were all enthusiasts (as am I for everyday purposes) of Italian food. I defer to no-one however in my enthusiasm for French cuisine. I hope just as sincerely that my last meal will be French haute cuisine washed down with Gevrey Chambertin as that tonight's (though it will meet the specification) is not that meal.

My trip photos are here and here's my updated map of the tour.