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Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my birthday - only two more years to the big 40! I remember when I was little thinking that forty was so old. It does not seem that way now. Stef had bought me a great card, very appropriate for our current nomadic state and a small teddy bear on a key ring. She has been christened Nancy (she has a big N on her tummy) and Stef assures me she is a good listener for when things between us are a bit tense. I missed calls from my family except later in the day one from my oldest sister Caroline who was staying with friends and was celebrating my birthday in style. She suffered for it the next day!

Today we headed back to the eastern townships having first made sure that we had somewhere to stay. We joined back on to the Route des Vins at Farnham but this time cut across to Brigham rather than doing the Southern loop. Again it was beautiful countryside - green rolling hills, forest and always the feeling that you are close to water. Just beyond Brigham we stopped off at another vineyard. Here was the customary shop but the owner also gave a tour. It was in French so I understood bits but not all. Stef added with bits of translation when he was listening to what was being said but I am sure I have left with not much knowledge. At this vineyard they grow three different types of grape. The soil conditions are poor and dry which is good for grape growing. In these conditions the plants go into self preservation mode and produce lots of fruit. If the soil is very fertile, the plants grow but they do not need to reproduce and do not have much fruit. The vines are planted about three metres apart and are trailed along vertical supports, a bit like rambling roses. This reduces humidity around the roots and also ensures they get maximum exposure to the sun.

It is a small vineyard only producing twenty thousand bottles a year, most of which they sell in the on site shop. At harvest time they take on six young people to help pick the grapes. The grapes are crushed on site in a wooden press and are then fermented and bottled. We both had the feeling that the people owning and running the vineyard did so as more of a hobby than their main livelihood.

The tour was on an open sided truck pulled by a tractor. The extended family of the owner were paying a visit so it was a very lively tour. After seeing the vines we then saw their other attraction - their own mini zoo. It was started in 1987, when the vineyard opened, by the owner's brother. Initially they just had  wild boar (pretty ferocious looking things). Each year they added a new animal to the collection and they now have emu, yaks, pigs and different species of deer. The animals know that when the truck comes round food is on board and they run through their enclosures following the truck until it stops. From the pig pen, some of the piglets escaped (seems to be a common thing) and followed us round. As well as selling wine they also sell some meat products and we bought some wild boar pate for lunch. We tasted their wines, most were not great but we bought a bottle of the best.

After the vinyard we headed on to Knowlton on the shore of Lac Brome and checked in to our hotel, the Auberge Knowlton. We had stopped at a bakery on the way to buy some bread to go with our pate for lunch and, armed with water we headed for the lake. Most of the shore is privately owned but there is a harbour and a beach with public access. The harbour was tiny, just one of two wooden pontoons with about ten dinghies moored up. There was no beach here for us to access and the people were not at al welcoming. As such we turned around and headed for the other beach.

It was after 5:00pm when we got there so we did not have to pay! The beach was tiny, only about twenty metres wide and a few metres deep. There was a grassy area between the car park and the beach with picnic tables in the shade. At the beach an area had been marked off for people to swim and there was a lifeguard keeping watch. There was also a first aid station and changing rooms - hence the need to pay.

We set watching the world go by, munching our boar pate and marveling at the size of a guy in front of us. Our plan to go for an amble by the lake was quashed as there is no right of access. It was pretty busy with families out enjoying an afternoon by the lake, picnic hampers and cool boxes (on wheels!) and fold up chairs galore.

It was still really hot and after an hour or so we headed back to our hotel to freshen up and cool down. We had booked a table on the terrace for dinner where there was a lovely cooling breeze. Our room had had the sun on it all day and was like an oven, despite the fan. Stef went in search of water and cold beer. The shops were all shut and the hotel charged us $20, $6 of which was for a bottle of water - rip off! My birthday dinner was really tasty and I had the best goats cheese salad ever - the dressing had walnuts and maple syrup in it and was delicious. From being packed out on Saturday, by 10:00 on Sunday all was quiet and we headed to bed.