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French Wine Travel, Wine Travel

european scribbles: je ne parle pas francais.

To be in France without a grasp of their language is bad. To be in France and keep forgetting how to even say ‘I don’t speak French’ is ten times worse. Waving my hands like a mimer and saying ‘no Francais’ just makes me look like a loser American who can’t even take the time to learn one lousy line. But the problem is, I have rehearsed it again and again. Under pressure, it’s gone. Luckily, the French have anticipated people like me since the days of Versailles when Ambassadors like John Adams came from the newly formed America, meeting us more than halfway with their well-rehearsed English. It never ceases to amaze (and shame) me how even the gas station clerk on the interstate in the middle of Languedoc (equivalent of, I don’t know…Fargo?) can offer me a line or two in my language that I can understand.

As I write this, I am glancing up at the bartender, hoping she will read my mind and bring me water. I know it is something to the effect of pourraix-je avoir un verre d’eau, s’il vous plait (thanks to google), but I only mildly know how to pronounce it. And I get so self-conscious because every time I try, they look at me like I just shamelessly wet my pants. Finally I am resigned to mime a glass and point to the faucet. Why can’t it be simple: Yo necessito agua. Por favor.

Or, I guess I could just say, ‘could I please have water’ in a Pepe Le Pew accent. That seems to work better than actual French.

The last couple days have been a whirlwind of sights, sounds and experiences. Upon landing, I ventured to a Dolce Hotel in the heart of Chantilly, just north of Paris, about 40 minutes from De Gaulle airport. This time of year is truly breathtaking. I had no idea it could be so green and youthful, rubbing its eyes and sleepily waking up. Everything is budding or in full bloom. A lazy fog hangs near the ground for hours each morning until the warm 70 degree sun sips away at its entirety by noon.

I am staying at a French version of a convention center with team Garmin Cervello in a most rural, pastoral piece of France. The hills roll, the Chantilly forest surrounds, and there are well-groomed walking trails everywhere. It actually reminds me very much of Wisconsin in the spring. Wet earth and leaves rise to meet my nose, making me crave Chateauneuf du Pape or Chablis. I realize now that smells of my childhood may very well have dictated my taste in terroir-driven wine…

The first day was spent biding time until my boyfriend could meet me in the evening. I had a day to explore, so it began with a hike. The theme song to Sound of Music may have continued to completion in my head if it hadn’t been rudely interrupted by a wild boar and her young only ten feet from me. I am telling you, I was freaked out! All I could think was how wild pigs are the only animal that are capable of eating humans whole–bone and all. Leaving no evidence. Plus, her baby was next to her. I held my breath and stared at her wide-eyed until she ran the other way. Over the excitement, I returned to the hotel to restore my shaken nerves.

I then ventured out once more and headed towards the town center. Holding it together at its core was the famous Chateau de Chantilly. This castle was in the Orgemont family since the late 1300s all the way until the late 1800s. It is surrounded by elaborate gardens (jardins. The Chateau is close to the Prince’s horse stable and grand racehorse track. Shops lined the sidewalk with very quaint signage reading everything one would ever need in a small French town (any town, really, to my standards): Fromagerie (cheese), Cave a Vin (wine), Couture (seamstress), Brasserie (food), Le Paniere (Bread)…

I saw an elderly man holding the hand of his young 70ish year old mate, stop her in the street and plant a big one on her cheek. She giggled like a school girl and they teased eachother down the path. I sadly don’t think I have ever witnessed that. Were they dating? Or really still that in love?

God, I’m jaded.

By the time my date came to meet me back at the hotel, it was dinner–a grand buffet with the team and staff. Jetlag took over and it was not long after that bed called me for a solid eight hours.

Friday: Champagne. A blog in and of itself.


About mistralwine1982

Originally from Wisconsin, I moved to Colorado in 2005 in order to get closer to the mountains and rock climb. When it occurred to me that I would never make money with that hobby, I went to grad school. I received a masters in English and American Literature from New York University in May of 2009. I have since then opted not to pursue a PhD, for studying and writing about wine is far more fascinating (well, perhaps not moreso than Virginia Woolf, but still… for the long haul?). My favorite wines come from the old world, especially the Rhone, Burgundy, Rioja, Piedmont, and Tuscany. I am also smitten with roses, Italian hard-to-pronounce white varietals, and dessert wines from around the world. By day I run a wine shop. By nite, I sip and tell. It’s rough… but someone must do this.


One thought on “european scribbles: je ne parle pas francais.

  1. A toast to fine wines and Team Garmin Cervello! We look forward to your return.

    Posted by Scott Sala | 04/09/2011, 8:49 am

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