Monday, April 30, 2007

Sunny Climes

The north east of France has been hit by the unseasonally warm weather. For nearly three weeks now we've had days that have hit upwards of 28°C in the afternoon and no rain. Whilst I'm happy to sport my tanned d├ęcolletage, now that our income depends on something more fundamental than the whims of a consumer's shopping habits, you start to watch the weather a little closer.

Despite all the technological advances of recent years, the results of the harvest will come down to the pure force of nature. The lack of rain isn't a concern for the moment, given that the previous months were wetter than usual. However, the vines are now a month ahead of themselves in growth and drought or a change in the temperature bringing a late frost is still a worry. The chance of frost isn't discounted until mid-May.

I don't remember the technical term (and Frog left the photo in the village otherwise I'd have shown you) but the very young grape forms have already appeared on the vines. Similarly, the cherries in the garden have also shot out in the form of little green balls. At this rate they'll be harvesting the grapes in August.

Because of the long dry spell, the treatment of the vines had been postponed until after the first rains. The village did have a brief shower on Saturday which meant that Frog spent part of his Sunday preparing the tanks so that the workers could go straight out to the vines at 8am on Monday (today). Tomorrow is a holiday so it was a race against time to treat as many vines as possible before the end of the day. Father Frog is on holiday and this is the first time Frog has had to to this - I think it's been a busy day - learning on the job as the tractor broke down and a neighbour's had to be begged/borrowed for the afternoon. Luckily, they have a good relationship with other vinegrowers in the village and a young, experienced worker, Benoit, who's eager to do things well.

Tomorrow will be a break from all things viticole as we're escaping to the city (yes, there's an irony in the Parisians escaping to the country this weekend!) for a trip to Paris. We're going to be tourists for the day, you'll spot us waving from the bateau mouche!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Asperges

I spent last week in a three day, heatwave, whirlwind trip around three German places: from the far north of Hamburg to the south west Frankfurt and Karlsruhe. I'm afraid that, other than the building complex I had a meeting in, the only thing I could note about Karlsruhe is that it's twinned with Nottingham and Nancy. But the sun shone and whilst I waited for another colleague to finish inside my assistant and I had a sunny sandwich and impromptu status meeting on a bench.

Hamburg is my German base and a lovely city. I hope that when I go there for one week (in two weeks time) that the weather is as beautiful and I can enjoy the Alster lakes properly.
An overnight trip to Frankfurt was my first time in the city. Actually (as is often the case) I didn't make it to the city centre but was based in a dorf just outside where our agency's offices are. We stayed in a very eccentric B&B and after a full day of meetings were invited out to dinner by the agency team. There were six of us, all women, including one colleague from the international team that I first met in 2000 and despite my moves from London, New York, Paris and Reims and hers from London to Copenhagen, we've always kept in touch. In fact she was the person to give me my first freelance project last year.

We headed towards what I was told was a typical Frankfurt restaurant. I'll admit my prejudices conjured up some dark, smokey restaurant and I wasn't over optimistic about the cuisine. Once we had made it past Gerty, a sprightly 85 year old woman in charge of the parking spaces, we headed into a large garden area packed with locals and decorated with twinkling lights as dusk fell. Our orders were taken by a middle aged, mustachioed man who was more interested in giving us his opinion rather than taking any orders. I have to say it was the best meal I've enjoyed in a while. We were served local apfelwein and the seasonal speciality asparagus. Here in Frankfurt, as in the Champagne Ardennes, the asparagus is the large, thick, juicy white variety that I had never tasted until I came to Reims. The asparagus (or spargel) was the centre piece of the dish with the schnitzel, new potatoes and hollandaise sauce served as sides. Dessert was what I can only describe as what tiramisu would be if it's main ingredient was apple.

So that was my list of firsts - Frankfurt, asparagus of the season and my first al fresco dinner of the year.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring

Yes, I know, I know.

No excuses.

I promise I will write more in the next couple of weeks. Honestly.

What can I say? It's hot. The experts in the region say that the vines are about three weeks ahead of themselves in terms of development. So Frog is hoping that there's no frost and rain in the next couple of weeks that would prove a deadly combination.



The cherry trees that we snapped in blossom one week ago are now all green leaved.



We've been out and about visiting local sites over Easter with my family (back when coats were still necessary), you can probably just make out the sails of the Mumm windmill at Verzenay in the background.



In other news on a more 'serious' front...
I'm gainfully employed at the moment - a fixed freelance role for the next year. The upside is that I'm earning some cash and am occupied doing what I'm good at - which keeps my mind off other more emotional stuff that happened over the last year. The downside is that it's in Germany! So, I'm doing three days a week work and spending every other week in Hamburg but also increasing my previous knowledge of the country through meetings in Berlin, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf! It's the kind of situation where I get really into the projects when I'm there and think it's great to be working again. And then I come home, look around and think, 'why would I want to leave this again?'


Frog says he's happy for me to do this as it keeps me happier (read easier to live with?) than I was before when I was kicking around at home with less projects happening and generally less occupied. It also can't be a bad thing when your other half realises he can't take dinner on the table every evening for granted!


I guess I should look at this as the perfect situation ... for now.


As I said, more news soon ....