Thursday, 12 July 2012

Whte Vin Men and monsters

5th June.    The French countryside is splashed with the colour of wildflowers at this time of year.  These poppies and cornflowers were in the fields near Tours sur Marne..
We were now in deep into Champagne region, but it was only now that I began to ride through vineyards on the south-facing slopes of the Montagne de Reims to the north of the Marne...
 We meet our first monster of the day ....
  Zorbee is amazingly good with traffic, but even I thought this might be a vine sprayer too far for him.  But to give him credit, he hardly batted an eyelid.  This incredible machine has enormous wheels which track between two rows of vines, and insect-like spraying arms which can be lowered  between four rows.
All the champagne grape growers were out tending to their vines, a white van being the vehicle of choice - they can be seen dotted all over the countryside. White vin men in their white vans ....
 On the old roman way (part of GR141) through the Foret de la Montagne de Reims.... 
It took several hours to cross the forest via this sylvan way and the GRP de l'Adre which follows the Ardre valley.   The forest is part of the Montagne de Reims Regional Natural Park, designated a protected area in 1976.
Another monstrous sight met us at the entrance to the park in Pourcy  ..
 This incredible 'vegetable sculpture' was created by land artist Caroline Valetta. The four heads of the guardian 'chimera of the four winds' point to the four cardinal points.  Caroline grew and moulded the living sculpture from existing vegetation, which included willow, ash, chestnut, lilac, clematis and lianas,
Riding into Chaumuzy where we stopped overnight, I knocked on the door of the Salmon Champagne house to see if they would sell or donate a single bottle of champagne to celebrate my imminent crossing of Eurasia. The champagne houses deal in crates rather than single bottles and the woman who came to the door peered at the distinctly scruffy individual in front of her as if she was looking at some sort of insect. I never even got to try the line that I had ridden all the way from China to try their wonderful bubbly.  So no champagne in Champagne for me!

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