Seriously. Le fromage. More on that in a second. First let me catch you up to speed on my adventures.
I made it from Brussels to Paris with no problem and arrived to enjoy a café au lait and a few moments (hours) of panic where I didn’t have a working phone or computer, but my Aunt Josette finally found me. We drove an hour and a half to the Épernay area where my family lives in a small town (the heart of the Champagne region of France). My Aunt Josette (my uncle’s wife) is related to everyone here distantly, so I refer to them as “aunt” “uncle” etc but none of them are actually related to me — FYI. I enjoyed some good conversation and a meal with some family and crashed hard.
This morning I woke up on French time and helped my Aunt Joelle (whose house I’m staying at) label and box up some champagne for our trip to Belgium next week. Yes, I’m going back (this time on purpose). So let me just show you what I see as I walk from the house to the storehouse (literally 15 feet from the house I’m staying at):
And when I went into the storehouse (“le cave”) I found this (and about 8 billion times more):
After putting in a few hours with Aunt Josette helping Aunt Joelle out with the champagne, we took a break for lunch where, as usual, we ate amazing food. Seriously, everything tastes better here. I can’t say it as a generalization for the rest of France, but here the food is fresh, in season, and prepared with absolute love. And of course, every meal has champagne and cheese. I used to think of champagne as something for special events, but I’ve learned that it is viewed just like wine (let’s be honest, it is wine just prepared differently). It is totally normal here to open a bottle for lunch. We also had Marc de Champagne, which is a liquor that is a byproduct of the champagne process. Heaven.
After lunch we went to Metro, which is like a Costo but only for people in the food industry (my Aunt Catherine has a friend with a membership so we could get in) where, among many things, I found a wine tasting, a jar of Nutella as big as a bucket (SERIOUSLY), and this little beauty:
Happiness. Pure, indulgent happiness. After that outing, more food and a much-needed walk were involved, along with hanging out with my cousins Marie (17) and Pauline (14). My new French grandma is already trying to find me a boyfriend and my new life plan involves me moving to France to teach Spanish when she finds me a rich château owner. This is not entirely impossible because there is a castle literally across the river from the house here. I dream big.
About the cheese: if you’ve never had real French cheese, I highly suggest you go to a nice grocery store and buy a small amount (preferably goat cheese) and a good quality baguette and just enjoy it. Even if you think you’ve had brie, you probably haven’t had the REAL stuff. I swear the cheese is laced with crack here. Who cares that I don’t eat the meat at every meal? I make up the calories and protein in cheese (if only champagne had protein…)
Aside from the le fromage and champagne I’ve also never left a table feeling over stuffed or sick from eating too much. Also, I haven’t for one second been body conscious or worried about what other people were thinking of what I’m eating. The French culture of food really is so different from the US that it is utterly ridiculous to be concerned with calories, fat grams, carbs, etc. They eat a reasonable amount of what they want and they’re more active, on average, than Americans and it just works. This is, of course, the type of life I strive for, but I just seem to understand it better here. Perhaps the Nutella and wine give you clarity?
Off to sleep and wake up for an adventure at some local champagne houses! Bonne nuit!