A Visit to La Tour Saint-Martin, 2016

Barrelling down the N151 I knew I was either going to be late for my appointment with Bertrand Minchin at La Tour Saint-Martin, or possibly not arrive at all.

I had realised I was going to be late because my trusty sat-nav, rarely wrong, predicted it. Aware of this, I was trying to make up as much time as possible, and I had even foregone pulling in at a filling station in the charming town of La Charité-sur-Loire because I knew it had a rather convoluted entry route which would have wasted at least one or maybe even two minutes. I figured I would simply fill up later, after all, there was bound to be another filling station somewhere along the way, wasn’t there?

Of course, I was now beginning to regret that decision. The needle in the fuel gauge hovered perilously over red, wilfully toying with my anxieties. I eased off the accelerator, trying to balance as swift an arrival as possible with the minimum possible consumption of fuel. This is, of course, easier said than done. At least my trusty sat-nav would get me there using the shortest possible route, I thought to myself. Taking a left as instructed I soon found myself on a quiet country road; so quiet, in fact, that there were blades of grass peeping up from the many cracks in the faded, fractured tarmac. But I have become accustomed on my various wine trips to being directed down some unorthodox routes, everything from a gravel track slicing through the vineyards of Château Lagrange (some directions you just grit your teeth and follow) to footbridges barely a metre wide, clearly intended solely for pedestrian use, in Madeira (and some you don’t).

La Tour Saint-Martin

In this instance I decided to forge onwards, and I continued to do so until I came to a gate, and I realised I wasn’t going to go any further down this road. It wasn’t just the height of this gate, an impressive four metres, nor the adjacent fence, nor the razor wire running along the top that convinced me it would have been a bad idea to try. It was the two soldiers glowering at me from the other side, their weighty automatic rifles clearly ready for action. I was momentarily tempted to hop out and ask for a selfie (what is the French for ‘selfie’, I asked myself), but the sign – Terrain Militaire : Photographie Interdite – suggested that might be a bad idea. Smiling as sweetly as possible, I popped the car into reverse, and executed the quickest three-point turn in French military history.

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