2000-07 (JULY, 2000)

Wine Tour - Burgundy, France

Day One: Taxi at 04:00, via Robert's house, to Clapham. Departed from The Pavement, Clapham at 04:30. Travelled by luxury coach via the Channel Tunnel to Champagne. Arrived at the Royal Champagne Hotel 'Bellevue' at 11:30. Had our first tasting on the balcony overlooking the Marne Valley, followed by a six course luncheon in our private dining room, each course accompanied by different fine champagnes from Autreau de Champillon.

Departed at 14:00 to continue our journey to Beaune. Our base for the rest of the week was a groovy three star hotel (Hotel Panorama) that overlooked the Pommard Vineyards and was about 2 km from the centre of Beaune. Jennifer, Eric, Robert, Andy and myself dined at a wee pizza place on the outskirts of Beaune and retired early(ish).

Day Two: Departed the hotel at 11:00 and proceeded to Bouchard Aine et Fils in Beaune. Here we had an extensive tour of the ancient cellars, including a 'Sensory Trail', and the wine museum. We ate a delicious five course lunch (again, each course accompanied by a different wine) in a huge refurbished wine cellar that was lit entirely with candles.

At 15:30 we received a guided tour of the famous Hospices Civils de Beaune.

Andy and I skipped dinner that night.

Day Three: Departed the hotel at 08:00 and took in the disappointing Gourmet Market in the centre of Beaune. At 10:30 we proceeded to Reine Pedauque (one of the six Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy) in Aloxe-Corton. Tour of their cellars (including a detailed walk through of their production methods by their head viticulturist) and tasting en route to the restaurant where we enjoyed the offerings of one of France's Gourmet Prodigee and some fabulous wines. We lingered long over lunch and returned late afternoon to Beaune to shop and sip coffee. Dined on Croque Madam at a wee café in the town centre.

Day Four: Departed the hotel at 10:00 and headed out to the newly refurbished 'farm house' style Vencent Sauvestre vineyard in Meursault. We tasted an extensive collection of their wines and were treated to a gourmet lunch in their main homestead as guests of the owners. Another long lunch and then a trip to the supermarket to stock up on French food stuffs.

Dinner commenced at the hotel at 19:00 where we were guests of our wine course director, Mr Kenneth Harry Putt. He plied us with fine wine and regaled us with stories, including insights into his wine and food industry apprenticeship which included a post as Winston Churchill's personal valet on the his private train during the 1940's.

Day Five: Departed the hotel at 09:00. Arrived at Domaine Laroche, Chablis at 11:30. Another extensive tour of their cellars (which included entry to see a huge wooden wine press that was built by monks in the thirteenth century and is still used to do one special pressing each year) and a tutored wine tasting. Lunch was served at Michel Vignaud's Michelin Star Restaurant in the Hostellerie des Clos, Chablis. Refreshments included the last few magnums of Domaine Laroche Chablis '97.

Departed for a slower-than-expected return journey to London. Arrived back at The Pavement, Clapham at 00:30 and were home and in bed by 01:30.

During the five days, our purchase list comprised: 1 x Bouchard Aine et Fils 'Clos De Vougeot' Grand Cru, 1996; 3 x Bouchard Aine et Fils 'Clos Rousseau' Santenay Premier Cru, 1996; 2 x Maison Paul Dumay Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, 1995; 2 x Reine Pedauque Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, 1998; 1 x Reine Pedauque Domain des Dolmettes Pouilly-Fuisse, 1997; 6 x Reine Pedauque Meursault Reserve du Jubile, 1997; 3 x Domaine Laroche 'Les Fourchaumes' Chablis Premier Cru, 1998; 3 x Domaine Laroche 'Les Vaudevey' Chablis Premier Cru, 1999.

Learning To Sail - Brighton, England

This was actually two weekends, one either side of our trip to France. During the first weekend Andrea and I participated in the RYA Level One course at the Hove Lagoon Sailing Club. We were sailing in Laser Picos, which are tiny, fast and fun. I had a great time but Andy didn't really enjoy it, so she didn't participate in the second day of the course. We stayed at Mark's house in Brighton on the Saturday night (he was away camping).

The second weekend Mark (who had done his RYA Level One some time ago) and I did the RYA Level Two course, also at the Hove Lagoon Sailing Club. This time we were out on Topper Breezes, 24 foot keel boats that are sailed with two or more crew. The wind was much greater than the first weekend and we had an excellent time blatting around heeled over at 30° and holding on for dear life. Our instructor broke the rudder off one of our boats at the end of the first day, so we had all five course participants in one boat on the second day. The instructor had to make do with following us around in the rescue boat. Having five on the one boat was crowded, but great in the Force 4 - 5 conditions as we could have everyone hiked out the side. Again, I stayed at Mark's house for the weekend, and we went out on the Saturday night to a friend's house for a wee gathering.