get out of town: at a COVID breaking point.

2020 has been quite a year so far:  devastating wildfires, injured koalas, global pandemic, bee killing beetles, US politics, lusty locusts, wine tariffs, droughts, renewed interest in systemic racism, blocked travel abroad, genius US presidents, and emergent Arctic warming. plus more? it hasn’t been easy… for anyone.  

since the sommelier is a wine importer, and restaurants are limited due to health/space/budget restraints, we have definitely felt the brunt of this year.  and we aren’t the only ones: so many are out of work, the highest since the Great Depression.  we understand we are lucky; society is on fire, and we are still treading water.    

and so it was in July that we found ourselves steeped in a COVID haze, mindlessly working through each day, each week, each month condemned to the walls that enclosed us.  after cancelling our summer plans and zooming company calls for what seems like years, we made a decision to adventure out for a much needed family vacation.  

a few weeks later we climbed into the car at 6 am and started driving.  hurricane hanna made an unexpected appearance far south the night before, and in turn the air was thick with cotton candy humidity made of caramelized sugar and gummy raindrops. rainbows appeared in turn.  

the skies opened with the highways as we passed rice fields and missions and began the topsy turvy entrance into the hill country.  

the last time I was this far in true West Texas was when I was younger than sommkid.  

we couldn’t look away from the beauty of our rugged state. 

a few stops and turns south and we meandered our way into the very tip of the West Texas Border: Big Bend.

our arrival was timed perfectly with amazing evening blues.  

and sunset hues.  

adventure awaits.  

trains, trains, and more trains: Geneva to Beaune.

the little girl squeals with excitement as she enters the train platform, her face jubilant as her scan reveals the train is mostly empty. follwoing her is a smartly dressed man in business trousers, motioning to the seats at the front of the train. they promptly sit.

my stomach pangs again with emptiness, the roaring growl felt deep in my abdomen. I take off my felt hat and lay it across the seat beside me. three long, meditative breaths later, I am jolted by the excitement coming from the front row.

blonde waves frame her face, her hands flying in conversation form a an innocent bubble around her. she dons a green Brooklyn t-shirt, an aerospace rip-sack flies from her back. her French is intoxicating. mundane words in English curl into calligraphy mid-air, dusting the reflective windows of the stagnant coach.

the train begins to move, revealing the gray sky of the city of mountains and lakes. we pass centuries old city buildings with wrought iron verandas and gargoyles. a scene from Zagreb enters my mind: rich tapestries, gothic turned renaissance type buildings, an Eastern European flair.

the seasons have begun to change, yet the leaves have not yet turned. only a small cap of snow lines the ridge in the near distance. shades of greens engross the valleys and forests we pass on our way to Lausanne. I try to take a photo but all I see is a mirror.

the graying father quizzes his daughter: capitals of countries, continents, animals, names, dances… and even the spice girls? I need to learn more French. his engagement is soft and loving, her reaction when she does not know an answer quizzical. a mix of English, German, and French escape the father’s lips. there are no devices involved, just strips of paper, hand motions, and conversation. a sweet moment that neither probably realize so rare and pure. she can’t be more than eight.

across the aisle the lake appears in the window, revealing a breathtaking view of the mountains. I wish I would have sat on the other side of the train.

as soon as I boarded the flight from London to Geneva, the ambiance and mood shifted.  it was as if I emerged from a bright, high end mall to a gray, cold cathedral. Geneva airport was even dull, the only highlight a flower shop and bakery on the route to the trains.

at Swiss immigration a struggling British rock band loudly entered the void. carrying guitars and cymbals and other padded equipment, their cockney accents and barely audible English filled the space. no one guessed what they were thinking, reminding me again of what a mentor and friend recently told me. “Give them a chance to earn your story. Revel in the beauty of what is not said.” my brain laughed.

after 45 minutes of the father daughter duo, I finally realized he was teaching her English. our culture needs more of this, y’all.

we reached Lausanne, a bramble of tracks and trains extending through small towns and cities as far as the eye could see. with only an hour to wait, I decided to engulf the train culture and drink beers by the tracks… no celiac judgement allowed.

another 2 hours train ride to Dijon and I was close to the home stretch. Swiss made Gamay in tow, I was almost free. rain pellets struck the sides of the carriage as the steel snake meandered through the mountains.  

I arrived in Beaune late, bathed in cold, and walked to the house on Rue Richard.  the villa was full of life, smiles, and empty bottles.  

my #sommwifevacay has begun.