Friday, September 7, 2012



On our return to Paris we pack in preparation for tomorrow's drive south to the Charente. 

One last ride on the metro and train to Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) to pick up our vehicle for the next leg of our journey through France. But first, in order to find the location of Peugeot Open Europe at CDG we carefully read, re-read, and read again, the agent's "Instructions for Dummies" (my words) on exactly how to get there. We think we have the directions dialled, but nope. They were obfuscating: as clear as mud!

The Peugeot Partner-Teepee is a great vehicle for 4 people with luggage. We drive it away all new and shiny with only 5 km on the odometer and enough fuel in the tank to drive another 5!  Fortunately, the closest gas station 1 km away. We fill up with gazole (diesel fuel). 

Anticipating a tricky drive back into Paris,  we plan a route on the GPS that will take us right to our door in the Marais. It is as easy as melting butter with a hot poker. We could have parked on the street right in front our door for hours because as luck would have it, August 15 is a national holiday in France and few people are driving today. 

Our drive out of Paris is just as easy. I must say, it is a strange feeling driving through the streets that we had walked along so many times during our two weeks in Paris. What a different perspective one gets of the city from a car.

We have a reservation for two nights at Chez Thomas, a Gite in Segonzac where we had stayed in 2009. Segonzac is in the cognac region of the Charente, a half-day drive south of Paris on the Autoroute toll highway, and about 20 minutes by car from the city of Cognac.

An  uneventful trip except for one rather dumb, then hilarious faut pas. I choose not to try to read the car manual which is, of course, in French. Who reads manuals anyways?

I am trying to set the cruise control on the steering column and can't figure it out. Everyone who has driven a French car knows them to be "different" than any other car, so I persist. 

I have been travelling for quite a while at the posted speed of 130 kph then I am locked in at 105 for about half an hour and the car just will not go any faster.

"Maybe it's got some kind of automatic governor in the software to break in the new motor," I suggest to Joanne.

"Maybe a sensor
is restricting my speed so I don't abuse the break-in period. I wonder for how long? It's going to take us forever to get to Segonzac. Have you noticed that all the trucks and Smart Cars are passing us." 

"Weren't you playing with the cruise control? Did you set something?" my partner asks.

Duh! I had "locked" the speed at 105 kph and even with the pedal on the floor driving downhill I could not drive faster. I switch off the control and wow, I am back up to 130 and then some.

We are passing everyone. Trees are flying by. Joanne says, "I feel pinned to the back of my seat!"

"Ya, and look at my hair blowing straight back at this speed."

We break into laughter. I've never heard of a cruise control with a speed lock. Must be a French thing. 

We make new friends at Chez Thomas this year,  eating and drinking well, sharing stories and once again touring Raymond Desse's cognac distillery.

Dave, Barbara, Susan and Wilson from Nottingham, England; Daniel and Francoise from Lille;  Raymond and Marie from Segonzac; and of course, Theresa and Tommy, the proprietors ... and the chicken if you look real close

Somehow, in a rather communal moment we seem to have dubbed ourselves "The Marigold Group". We'd all recently seen and loved The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

On our second day here we all join together for a long slow lunch in the Chez Thomas garden. A wonderful French feast with food and drink du pays.

Raymond Desse gives our group a personal tour of his distillery and his cellars. He produces cognac for Remy Martin and for his own label. He also produces spectacular Pineau de Charente.

We are on a mission to stock up on Pineau and Cognac for some friends and for the long days ahead of us in France.

The reader may want to take a look at a short 6 minute video I produced while in Segonzac and Cognac. For those who are interested in Eau e Vie - that splendid drink that is cognac, my video provides a brief lesson on how it is made.


Our final stop before leaving Segonzac is Tommy's favourite local winery where we stock up on some Vin Rouge, Vin Blanc, and Rosé. The former is a 10 litre bag-in-a-box for 29 Euros. That's about $2.75 Canadian per bottle! And this is much better than just plain table wine, which, incidentally, I can get pumped into my empty water bottles at most local Caves (Cooperative Cellars) for about $1.20 per litre.

Regarding the prices of wine in France, I should add that we are also buying good bottles of wine for around $5.00, and excellent wines for close to $10 that we would pay up to $25 for back home in B.C.


2012 is my year of shutters.

While in Segonzac, I began photographing window shutters for my photo and video project titled, Shutters of France. The project includes more than 120 shutters from around the country. The 3 minute video may be seen by clicking in the image below. 

For more travel photography with local information visit my website.

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