« Chance Child - Part One: 79 - John Rescues A Child | Main | China Fifteen Years On »

Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: Chapter 78 - Peat Man

Gayle Woodward goes exploring in London and Paris, then travels on to Italy.

Our friends were away so we could make ourselves at home in their garden flat. I did laundry and we walked down the road to find a restaurant for dinner. The next morning I walked to the tube station with my London map at hand and arrived in the city for a tourist’s adventure. I did a tour of the city on a double decker bus, went to Madame Tussauds wax works and the Natural History Museum where I was astounded to find the remains of Peat Man. I found my way back to the flat exhausted.

The next day was a Saturday and we could explore together. I proudly showed off my new found skills navigating the Tube as we exited the train at the Tower of London. It was exciting to find the ravens we had only read about and to walk inside this most infamous castle. At one corner I turned into a room to find an actress sitting upon a wooden stool and weeping. She told me her mistress must die and therefore she must die with her, servant to the end. I know it was acted but I was affected deeply. We visited the Crown Jewels and the “commercial” Dungeons and I couldn’t wait to get back to this amazing city. For, the following day, we would depart for Paris travelling by rail, ferry and rail again.

Paris puzzled me and my two days alone there is now rather a blur. I fell in love with the intricate wrought iron railings and window shutters, with each building I could see from the hotel window having a different design. We had difficulty ordering food in cafes as my school girl French seemed inadequate here.

When Woody left next morning for the Thorn offices, I gathered my maps and French money and went out alone. I found the Eiffel Tower and first came upon beggar children there. I had been warned and just as well for the waifs tore at my soft heart strings. I was most disappointed to find New Zealand missing from the map pointers at the top. I think diplomatic problems connected with The Rainbow Warrior affair had something to do with the omission. I strolled along the Seine and around the city and absorbed the ambience of the city. That night, the Thorn manager in Paris, along with his very chic wife, took us to a restaurant where we sampled the best of French cuisine and wine. It was most helpful to have translators on hand to decipher the menu for us.

The next morning, we boarded the fastest train I have ever travelled in to visit the Belleville Thorn factory, south of Paris. We sped through town and country side I think, but can’t be sure of that, as we sped past so fast nothing was clear to view. The little town we came upon was in the Beaujolais district and when it was known that the two of us were interested in wine we were invited to visit a cellar, earth walls, stone floor and barrels and all.

We were given some wine to taste and I was astonished to find the French wine which I had thought of until then as the pinnacle of taste was not nearly as vibrant and fruit driven as that which we loved back at home. I could not make my feelings clear to the wine maker but he did manage to tell us that his Beaujolais should not be compared to the New World wines of the South Pacific.

Next morning, we boarded another train which would take us over the Alps to Bologna in Italy. The trip was picturesque and we were so interested in the hillsides planted in grapes as we neared the Italian border. At one stage we were alarmed to find men in dark clothing and big boots, with holsters at their waists, boarding the train. “Get the passports!” hissed Woody. I scrambled in the bags and found the documents just as one of these swarthy gentlemen reached us and said “Tickets please.”

As soon as we debarked from the train at the Bologna station it was very obvious this was Italy. There was not a single sign written in English. We were hungry but I could not recognise any of the sandwiches on offer. I found a ladies’ toilet and walked in to find an elderly woman squatting over a hole in the floor. She yelled at me and waved me off and was still screaming as I rushed back to where Woody was waiting, muttering that I was not going to use that kind of toilet arrangement, ever!


To read earlier chapters of Gayle's autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/life_is_too_short_to_drink_bad_wine/


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.