It took longer than hoped, but I finally settled all my affairs in England, pending the sale of the house, and Monday the 1st of June I left Old Blighty for France. Spent the evening with a friend in Paris – the most hospitable couch I have ever slept on, many thanks to these friends who have helped me on my way to and from Burgundy so often – and Tuesday got myself down to Beaune. Even in my severely sleep-deprived state it was a pleasure simply to wander the town and the ramparts that afternoon, Beaune is very charming. Spent the week on logistics, gratified I was able to comprehend enough French, and be sufficiently comprehensible myself, to secure and move into lodgings and open a bank account. Or at least, I think that’s what I’ve done…
Friday I completed and turned in my application to the CFPPA – Centre de Formation Professionnelle et de Promotion Agricole. This is the school that prepares people for various aspects of the wine trade – there are courses for potential sommeliers, cask-maskers, those interested in the more commercial aspects, such as retail and negociant businesses, and then there is the course on viticulture et oenologie, required for all wine makers in Burgundy, which is the one I hope to be accepted to for September. One good sign – I received a notice summoning me for an interview the 25th June.
I am staying in the dormitory at the CFPPA – they let the rooms to non-students if there is space. Very basic, but I’m content. The school is situated in a park on the west side of the centre ville, so it is quiet – my window looks out into a tree, as a rule all I hear is birdsong, or during the day, some hammering or sawing from the tonnellerie (the workshop for the cask making). Ten minutes walk to the west takes me into vineyards.
No luck yet as far as finding work – no reply to an email to one vigneron, I visited Anne Gros and she has nothing right now – shame I wasn’t here a week earlier, she could have used me in the Minervois, at her other domaine, alas. I left my number in case. I have a few more contacts to try, so… we’ll see.
The other night I was lying awake in the wee hours and calculating that I could actually live on what money I have through August, even without work. The trouble is, I need to have been working in Burgundy during the six months immediately prior to starting my course to qualify for a grant to pay the tuition. If I haven’t found work, I can’t qualify for the grant, no grant, I have to come up with €8,000 for tuition and something more to live on, and if the house hasn’t sold by then… I simply don’t know. Before I left England someone referred to my five year plan. Eeek! Right now all I have is a rough sense of what I hope to accomplish in the next year, still hoping to find work this summer in vineyards, being accepted to and succeeding in the CFPPA course, and then I will take my bearings again next spring and decide what next. I am taking one thing at a time, and simply responding to events and deciding each next step as I go. It is both unsettling and liberating to be living like this, after the past fifteen years as a project manager (some said project dominatrix – was I that controlling? please forgive me…) who was trying to meticulously plan and manage events months or a year in advance.
Last week was relentlessly sunny and warm, and when I visited Anne she commented on how dry it has been. It rained over the weekend, and there was a good orage (thunderstorm) Monday afternoon – I know, I was out in it – so it feels cooler this week, though the sun is out again.
Monday I rented a bicycle and went about 40 kilometres or so, from Beaune as far as Morey St. Denis and back. The vines are very fresh and lush, the blossom seems mostly over, and it seems most vines have already been trimmed down once to the level of the upper wires and begun to grow back again. Coming back, cycling south of Nuits St. Georges through the vineyards and other crops east of the route nationale 74 around Premeux Prissey, Comblachien and Corgolin, I could distinctly smell toasted wheat – literally, there were fields of wheat or some other grain which were very ripe and toasting in the sun. As was I. Until the orage came up, or rather, down. I got soaked to the skin, but actually it was warm enough it wasn’t so bad, though it’s tough to cycle in wet jeans. And I’m getting used to all the thunder and lightning now. When I got back to the rental shop in Beaune the sun had come out again, it looked as if maybe the storm had missed them, but I stood there, the bicycle and myself dripping puddles on the floor of the shop and told him, j’avais lavé le velo pour vous, monsieur… he cracked a smile.
Photo du jour – vineyards west of Beaune (ten minutes’ walk from where I am staying), taken Saturday morning 6th June, I am guessing from my map those are villages vineyards in the foreground and premiers crus Les Bas des Tuerons and Les Grèves on the hillside, all vin rouge. Must get to know these vineyards better, I really only know the Côte de Nuits north of Nuits St. Georges.