I heard it through the grapevine


“How about autumn?” Walking through the forests of the Loire region I think of a sketch by a Dutch comedian in which he questions the intelligence of wearing green in the army. It is now November and the leaves on the trees are loosing their youthful colours and exchange the green for fiery red, yellow and orange. How different it is for the aging human being, whose pale and shrivelling skin is not exactly something to marvel at. Wouldn’t it be a happy ending indeed, if the homes for the elderly were filled with youth, coming to pay homage to the beauty of old age? No leaf in the forest dies of lack of attention!

Coming from Blois I walk to Tours and somewhere halfway, the farmlands between the forests change. Instead of bare fields and ploughed earth I am all of a sudden surrounded by gnarly little trees that reach no higher than my waist, stretching their branches toward the sky. No grapes are hanging on these vines and if not naked, these old boys have put on their autumn suit of red, yellow and orange. No more than a metre apart from one another, they stand perfectly in line, row after row. In summertime an army of grape suppliers, they now look more like the graveyards of the Somme region. Only, in this case the poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye can be taken literally: “Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die”. Next year these soldiers will rise like Lazarus, and produce again the noble grapes that bring forth the Vouvray wines.

A good taste of what Vouvray has to offer I get from my host in Auzouer-en-Touraine. Before pouring the wine Jean-Francois explains that the producer may be more important to the end result of the winemaking process than the region or grape variety. Without taking a sip I now know that I will be served something special and I am right. The accompanying foie gras combines perfectly with the distinctive not quite sweet yet honey-ish, gingery flavour of the Vouvray.

Actually, my host of this evening is May, the twenty-year old daughter of Jean-Francois and Mireille. She lived in Australia and New-Zealand for a year and her English is without a trace of French. Even her sense of humour seems English, but as I find out later at the diner table, that is a family feat. I am invited to stay until Sunday (I arrived on Thursday). May will turn twenty-one on Saturday and there are people coming over to celebrate. I am tempted, especially since I now know Mireille’s cooking and Jean-Francois’ choice of wine, but I have to move on. I stay two nights until Saturday.

All of my hosts up till now have been wonderful. I consider myself really lucky with the people I meet. Unfortunately I can’t elaborate on all of my encounters here, because I simply don’t have the time to include every one. I can say that there is an ounce of sadness in each of the goodbyes. It is the paradox I also describe in my Song for K: meeting wonderful people makes this journey special, but it means the continual parting with those wonderful people. They also remind me of the great friends I have back home and the warmth of my family. I cherish this ounce of sadness, because only happy memories can accomplish it. We’ll meet again!


Wijnand Boon