The theme I’ve asked guest-bloggers to write about is a travel moment or experience when they felt starry-eyed, to capture the spirit of the site. So I thought I’d kick off proceedings with a starry-eyed moment of my own.
I went through to Fiona’s room, straighteners in hand, still hot. As she plugged them in and moved in front of the mirror, I sat on the bed and scrolled through her itunes, looking for some appropriate going-out music. I forget the exact song now, but knowing Fiona’s playlist, it was probably some 80s rock. David Bowie, maybe.
Fiona finished doing her hair and left the room. She returned a few minutes later with two wine glasses and a bottle of a local red.
“Wine?” she asked, with a mischevious glint in her eye.
“As if I’d say no!”
She filled the glasses and passed one to me. We sat on the broad windowsill and pushed the windows open further, leaning out. It was October, but here the temperatures were still balmy and the evening air was pleasantly refreshing on my skin. I looked out across the rooftops, staggered sets of terracotta tiles. Some had the green tendrils of some climbing plant or other clinging to chimney pots, reaching towards the sky. The shoe which had inexplicably been on one roof for several days was still there. The sky was turning a velvelty blue, still tinged with the pinks and yellows of the setting sun.
We sipped the wine, looking at each other and giggling as we swirled it around the glass and affected an air of wine snobbery. The wine was smooth and the taste brought back memories of the cave viticole hidden away in the Corbières mountains, which we had visited a few days previously. We had seen the vineyards first – dusky red grapes hiding beneath swathes of leaves. Then the wine-making process, which happened in a large shed. Inside the main area, metal pipes, containers and presses loomed out of the darkness. I remember I could almost taste the tangy smell of wood, metal and the fruity in-between state of grapes to wine. From there, we had been taken to the next room, where barrels sat squat and patient as the wine fermented inside.
We had tasted various wines at the cave, but this particular bottle was from the local supermarket, just around the corner from our house. As we finished our glasses of wine, the music was stull playing in the background and the echo of banging doors and multilingual chatter came from the floors below. Above us, Jean-Claude was shouting at his cat again.
I gazed out and realised with a jolt that this all felt normal. Here I was, in the South of France, living this dreamy life where I could drink a glass of good-quality wine made from grapes growing just a few miles away and sit on a windowsill, soaking up the Mediterranean evening while listening to David Bowie with my best friend. We had a night out ahead of us and tomorrow – another adventure perhaps. It was the start of a year abroad and at that precise moment, it felt like anything was possible and that all was right with the world. I finally understood the true meaning of the French words: joie de vivre.