One month in or is it one month out?

It’s been a month to the day since I sashayed my way down London Bridge for the last time in my corporate work life with Candi Staton’s You’ve Got the Love blaring through my headphones (SATC fans will get the reference!)

Safe to say that since I’ve been in France I’ve not given any thought whatsoever to my future work – well apart from the wine tasting of course! However it did take me quite some time to unwind – took a few days into my arrival in Tours before I could stop fidgeting, feeling guilty for doing nothing and always feeling like there was something I had to do.

But since then I’ve managed it admirably! There have been days when I have done absolutely nothing apart from take Rex out for a walk; I’ve become addicted to Downtown Abbey and have binge watched my way through to the third series in a matter of days – it’s fabulous.

Although having said that I have actually done quite a lot. Before I left for France I signed up to do a French Wine Scholar course and exam when I get back. The kind folks at the West London Wine School sent me my work book before I left and I’m using that to base a lot of my trips on. So far I’ve tasted wine from Chinon, Saumur, Vouvray, Touraine and Azay le Rideau. It’s a variety of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc for the whites and Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc for the reds. I’ve been really impressed, the sweet wine from Vouvray is to die for! Driving to them all also helps me geographically which I need to know for the course. I’ve also paid visits to the troglodyte caves a unique element to Loire wine. Most of the Loire Valley wine is aged and stored in these incredible huge caves and my visit to Maison Bredif was a highlight – there’s hundreds of thousands of bottles in there with a number still hand turned every day.

Maison Bredif caves

In addition the book also talks to the right foods to go with these great wines and it turns out the Loire Valley is famed for its goats cheese and oh my it is gorgeous – not like the stuff you pick up in Sainsburys! One style called Valencay is in the shape of a pyramid with the point cut off. Apparently when Napoleon failed in his attempt to take over Egypt he returned and used his sword to swipe off the top of the cheese pyramid and it remained like that ever since – FACT. The markets here are fantastic albeit I think me and my pal Sue got ripped off for 16 Euros worth of cheese – thank heavens it was gorgeous – I’m still eating the slab of it now!

And as I’ve been visiting these lovely vineyards and wineries I’ve also taken in a number of the splendid Loire Chateau. Some are simply spectacular Renaissance style such as Chenonceau, others like Saumur are more fortress like and others are smaller and privately owned such as Chateau de L’Islette owned by a Paris banker – as I said in a Facebook message I never seemed to find one of those in Broadgate Circle!

Rex is doing well. The heat takes it out of him (it has taken it out of us all) but he’s been joining me on my trips and as always gets lot of attention. He meets lots of other dogs, he’s been sniffing wine barrels and getting involved with the cheese action. As I also found out today he has a love of Brioche after helping himself quite happily out of my shopping bag!

I have another 10 days or so in and around Tours before setting off to Sancerre and the rest of my travels. I’ve got another four or five AOCs to travel to before then – which also means another four or five days of totally chilling out.

My Mum asked me the other day whether I was missing working in the City and I can categorically say no although I do miss the people and the daily interaction – my team, my pals across the business, my boss, my CEO – but I know we’ll all stay in touch.

Mum reminded me of something I said to her a few years ago – about retiring early and then going back to work when you’ve done what you want to do. Well… I’m definitely on the path to doing what I want to do – I still plan to follow the wine book, I’ve applied to be a judge at the People’s Choice Wine Awards, I’ve booked a number of tastings for when I’m back, I still plan to network and I’ve also been asked to run an evening at a wine club – but this middle aged semi-retirement lark (even for just six – eight months) is pretty awesome.