So I decided to keep track of the number of glasses of champagne I’ve consumed thus far, and let’s just say the number is pretty embarrassing/impressive (depending on your point of view). We have to remember that a glass of champagne is much smaller than a glass of wine, and I’m counting each time the glass is topped off, not just when it is empty and refilled. But still. I’ll reveal the number at the end of my trip and you can all send me to rehab.
I have hardly had any free time, so I apologize to those who have been waiting for an update! But I have some time now before bed so I figured I’d get it up now because tomorrow is super busy.
When I last left you, I was loving the cheese. Well let’s just say all the fuss I made about dairy a short while ago was totally right because I was up ALL night on Thursday/Friday morning with stomach issues. I refuse to give it up, so I’m sticking to mostly goat cheese (easier to digest) and cutting back. My Aunt Josette pointed out that Americans don’t really eat the same amount of cheese and not nearly as often as the French, so that had a lot to do with it.
But a little lactose intolerance won’t stop us from tasting champagne! Since we’re staying with our family in the heart of Champagne Country, we went from our little ville to Épernay, 2 towns over. Épernay is where most of the big champagne houses are located. Note: a champagne house is like the “headquarters” for the big guns… think of the big vineyards in California. My cousins Marie and Jason go to school like a block from all the champagne houses, it is kind of magical when you think about it. But we made a reservation to tour Moët & Chandon, which you’ve probably heard of (Moët is pretty mainstream in American and they also make Dom Perignon).
La Rue de Champagne is so beautiful!!!
The beginnings of a very good morning
Climbing the statue of Dom Perignon... no big deal.
We did the "Imperial Tasting" -- a Brut Traditional and a Rosé from the Imperial selection
Before the tasting, we walked around town and took a tour of the cellars at Moët & Chandon, so that constitutes exercise, right? Don’t answer that. It was really interesting, actually. Apparently Napoleon Bonaparte was best buds with one of the Moët’s and there is a private tasting room there that has been kept to look the same and underground we saw a huge cask of his personal store. No one has drank that champagne since Napoleon, so you can imagine how old it is! We saw a bottle of Dom Perignon Grande Reservé from 1896. Yeah. As champagne gets older, it tastes like licorice, actually. But the general concensus, and in the expert opinion of my Uncle Benoit and Uncle Bruno (who both own small champagne houses) champagne is best in the first 10 years after bottling. It isn’t the kind of thing you lie down and let it mature, like a red wine. When you buy real champagne (ie, not sparkling wine but the legit stuff actually made in this region), you can let it rest 1-2 years but if it is on the shelf, it is ready to drink!
Later Friday afternoon we worked to help my Aunt Joelle do an order of champagne. She has a client that wanted customized bottle labels and they don’t fit in the labeling machine so we hand-labeled and boxed 118 bottles of champagne. After all the meals and work, we went to town to see my cousin Pauline’s dance recital! She’s a really great dancer and just got en pointe in ballet, so it was really exciting to see her dance! The venue was 100 billion degrees (Celsius, naturally) and my cousin Marie and I kept saying that we were melting.
We got home super late and then I woke up super early today (Saturday) so I could go to school with Marie. Yes, school on Saturday. Apparently that is normal here (high school only). She came to a class with me when I was in college, and since its the end of the school year here it is very relaxed so I went to meet her friends and see what high school is like in France! She only has 2 classes so we were there from 8-noon and then came home where I turned right back around and walked down the road to have a traditional, big Saturday lunch with my “French Grandparents”, Anne-Marie and Michel.
Michel, moi, et Anne-Marie
They’re actually the parents of my Uncles Benoit and Bruno (and Aunt Astrid who I met today) and the grandparents of all the cousins I’ve been hanging out with. Papi Michel likes to refill my champagne glass when I’m not looking and telling me it “hurts him” when I say I don’t want any more and Mami Anne-Ma is that cliché grandmother that keeps offering you food and making you feel guilty if you refuse. Lunch was super filling and delicious, and clearly I had a good time. We couldn’t get Papi Michel to take a normal picture, so that is the best I’ve got!
After an afternoon digesting, falling asleep in the car, and hanging out with more cousins, I finally squeezed in a 1 hour nap before going out to dinner and bowling with my cousins. We grabbed sandwiches at a sandwich shop and ate them on benches in a plaza. Heaven. I had a baguette panini of veg and goat cheese. Amazeballs. Then Paul (20), Marie (17), Jason (17), and Thomas (16) and I went bowling! The USA-England match was on tv as we played so I payed too much attention to that and bowled like crap. But it was still fun!!
I haven’t taken pictures of my food because, while it has been amazing, it is awkward to pull out my camera at intimate 5 course meals! The food culture is so different here that it would really detract from the family time if I did it. And honestly how many pictures of cheese do you want to look at? However, tomorrow is my cousin Clement’s First Communion so Aunt Catherine is throwing a big party for 40 people at her house afterwards (complete with her husband/Uncle Bruno’s champagne) so I’ll definitely snap some shots of that. I’ve never been to a French dinner party. Have you?