Champagne

Continuing our journey we passed by Geneva before heading across to join the now familiar route from Dijon to Troyes and then on to a tiny village called Ay just south of Reims. 

Fields of Champagne
We decided to stop in nearby Epernay and discovered gold as it turned out to be the home of the major champagne houses. 

The Avenue du Champagne was the ultimate in Champagne name dropping as we drove past Laurent Perrier, Pol Roger and Moët et Chandon before heading to Ay to the home of Bollinger and more.

Epernay


We discovered the only bar in Ay which housed the most entertaining locals possible and having enjoyed an aperitif, we spent a very pleasant evening having a picnic outside Bollinger having bought a very nice bottle of Pol Roger as a celebration. Hopefully no one noticed the label!

As our whistle-stop tour of Champagne continued, it turned out that Reims was pronounced Rance (like rancid), our next stop as we whizzed north to Calais…
 

Mont Blanc

After the experience in Turin, things could only get better. 


We set off early, mainly to get out of Turin and headed up into the Alps towards Geneva. Up we went until we were surrounded by snow-covered peaks. 

Mont Blanc it would seem. We hadn’t exactly planned it but what a fantastic surprise!

With blue skies, hot sun and snow-covered peaks, it was stunning, some of the most beautiful scenery we’d seen and we’d love to come back in the winter.
Snow-covered peaks
We drove through the outrageously expensive Mont Blanc tunnel (€44 one way) from Italy to France and emerged on the other side as we continued our journey back towards the UK. 
Agnes at Mont Blanc
The little dog from Dudley has certainly had some adventures.
Next stop, Champagne!

Italian cooking gone bad

We found a lovely square near to where we were staying. There were tables set up and umbrellas, candles and rustic charm. It looked perfect. 

We have had the best and worst experiences with Italian cooking. I struggled in Florence and in Venice we had the forever memorable dog sick on polenta. And yet in Portofino and San Remo, the best food in the world. 
Sadly this was to be dog sick on polenta part two as we were served some of the worst food either of us had ever eaten.
Linguini with pink rubbery squid which tasted far too fishy for my liking followed by uncleaned prawns, horrible brown juice running from the giant heads. I swore I would have food poisoning but it was Big T who yet again scored a large plate of white rectangles of potenta with a fish stew which looked identical to dog sick. Lightening apparently can strike twice. 
We should have complained, we should have refused to pay or we should have done a runner as that food shouldn’t have been served to dogs let alone humans, but we paid the exorbitant bill and left outraged. 
Luckily just around the corner we found a lovely place with an excellent wine list and a fantastic cheese plate which helped restore our humour. 
Dog sick part two!

Ripping off the shroud

We set off from Valbonne and headed to Italy as petrol was readily available and we had decided to stop in Turin for the night. 

It was a three and a half hour drive through northern Italy and by the time we arrived, we were tired from the day’s events and ready for a celebration. 
We parked and found our Airbnb for the night. Our host was a woman called Cristina who, along with her pet bunny and a menagerie of birds was a complete nutter. We escaped as soon as possible having been given a map and suggestions of what to do.
Sadly the flat wasn’t a flat, just a bedroom and bathroom and had been described as luxurious. Perhaps in another universe broken table legs and table lamps are considered the height of luxury, then again perhaps not. 
Still, we were centrally located so off we went to see a little of Torino and find a nice place for dinner. 
Things went downhill as we started with a glass of prosecco to seal the deal of the house. A large bowl of raw vegetables appeared and we were charged twenty four euros. What?
It turned out we were being sold a large tray of really crap appetizers including hard boiled eggs and unshelled peanuts. A gourmet selection indeed. 
We explained we didn’t want the crappetizers and so spent ten euros on two drinks and a cabbage. 
Not so much harm done, we set off to find the next place for dinner while taking in the sights of Turin albeit covered in graffiti…

The next adventure

It’s been four years since I first came to Valbonne, for Big T ten years or more. 

We spent our first weekend here and we were married here. We have many happy memories of the Little House Above the Boulangerie as we renovated and furnished it to create a lovely home. 
We’ve eaten a lot of picnics and drunk a lot of rosé, we’ve swum in the Med, driven to the Matterhorn and toured Corsica. We’ve certainly made the most of the Little House. 
And yet every time we wished we had a garden, even a pool to cool off in in the hottest summer months or a cosy winter home to spend Christmas and ski in the mountains. Something was missing and four flights of stairs were a bit of a challenge, vertically. 
It’s taken two years to sell the house and while we’re sad to say goodbye, we’re excited at the prospect of a new base in the South of France. 
And so with the paperwork signed and the keys handed over, hopefully it won’t be long before we’re back!
À bientot Valbonne.

On strike!

Timing things perfectly, France appears to have run out of petrol. 

We have a full tank which will get us part of the way but it looks as though we’ll be heading up through Italy to avoid the worst of the petrol strike in France.
Still, it could all be over by tomorrow.
So French!

Removed

After two hours of hard graft, everything was packed in a large van and taken off to storage. 

The challenge of moving in a medieval pedestrian only village meant that everything had to be carried box by box, chair by chair. 
Luckily we were leaving the beds and sofa so the really heavy stuff stayed in the house. 
And so with almost everything gone, the house feels very minimal and tidy and we’re ready to sign the papers on Friday to complete the sale. 
Au revoir Little House Above the Boulangerie!