As a gamer, much of my free time is spent exploring fantastical worlds from a 3rd person perspective. However for the past month I have taken up the wanderer’s mantle, venturing beyond the far flung boundaries of my home town: Eastbourne, and into the outer world.
Me talking about travelling
Travelling Europe alone is incredibly tough. You are responsible for keeping yourself fed, accommodated, and most scarily: entertained. There’s no one to watch your back, to guard your belongings or to ask for advice. But on the flip-side, there is no one to dictate your path. You can go wherever you want, whenever you want, and do whatever you fancy completely on your own whim. Its only when you learn to harness this newfound freedom that you become susceptible to catching the ‘travel bug’.
My travels took me from the paradisaical Croatian islands, to the historical and cultural hubs of Rome and Vienna; and from the dizzying heights of the Swisse Alps – south to the tectonically active Aeolian islands of Sicily. However the stars of the show, and the highlights of my experience are undoubtedly the people I met along the way. For me, a place can only be experienced properly when it is shared. An emotion or an opinion can be nurtured in your head, but can only come into fruition when expressed or discussed. This was most evident in Avignon (Provence), in my final week of travelling. The place aesthetically was beautiful and quaint: a walled city steeped in history and full of medieval monuments and attractive restaurants. Alas though, the city was small: explorable in a day, and there was little else to do besides just that.
Although Avignon itself had little going on, I met people there I can happily call friends, and my time there fast became one of my best experiences of the entire month. We even splashed out and went on a wine tasting tour around the vineyards of Chateauneauf du Pope!
Chateaunerf du Geralt
“But Tom, isn’t this a gaming blog?” – I hear you cry, do I sense a touch of disappointment? Well worry not, because this is where I can begin to draw parallels! For whilst travelling trumped any gaming experience 10 fold, it often did feel like I was a video game character without ties or woes. And much like in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, its the people that really make the exploration fun. You never know who you will meet, and you sure as hell can’t know what crazy/amazing stories they have to tell.
I have to admit; I almost stayed in Provence longer with my newfound friends, but with money running dry and unemployment weighing on my soul somewhat, I decided to return home. Instead I purchased The Blood and Wine DLC for The Witcher 3, a brand new map clearly inspired by the wine regions of Bordeaux and Provence.
This is how I came to stay in Provence for longer than a mere 3 days! Whilst I was essentially stuck in Avignon IRL (in real life) being constrained by public transport capabilities, here I had Roach (my horse) on which I was able to properly traverse the lush, brightly coloured, fictional land of Toussant, regrettably in 3rd person… Those who do too much Facebook scrolling will know I’ve written a piece ‘reviewing’ the Blood and Wine DLC, so I’ll link it down below so as not to repeat myself. However I cannot stress properly how much CD Projekt Red absolutely nailed this expansion. The French feel of the villages and vineyards is combined with the chivalrous pomp of ‘gallant’ Knights of Toussant to make a fairytale like medieval setting. But we all know how twisted fairytales can get, and Geralt quickly discovers (through your dialogue choices) that outward appearances are not quite representative of the social state in Toussant. Knights are often greedy or airheaded, vineyard owners are sabotaging one another’s crops, and the squeaky clean Duchess has a persona which changes in a heartbeat. Oh, and everyone is putting on dreadful French accents! All this is conveyed and packaged in an expansion as rich in wit and sarcasm as it is in content (its huge by the way).
My favourite part about the Blood and Wine expansion wasn’t the boss fights or even the quests themselves – it was the way wine culture and the French wine region have been portrayed. Since I was there only recently, the comparisons are hilarious to make in this over-the-top nod to medieval Provence. Although my travels lasted only a month, I am confident that my Xbox will keep the explorer in me going until my next escapade into the real world.
Blood and Wine review: