Posted by: Flannery | February 27, 2011

“Do you find French wine…sexy?”

Hey everyone! Sorry for the long break between posts, but this post should get you all caught up on what’s been going on!

Last weekend I got up on Saturday morning (Feb 19th) and went to the Eiffel Tower with my program. It turned out to be sort of a non-event, because it was super rainy and foggy…I couldn’t even see the top of the tower because of the clouds! But it was fun to go up into the tower, since I never had before, and even though we didn’t go to the very top we still had a pretty great view from the second floor. Brad and I are waiting to go the very top until Brian gets here, (even though we haven’t confirmed that with him yet, but, we’re doing it haha) so that should be fun! So that was my Saturday morning, and then I went over to Brad’s apartment with crepes in hand from the little street vendor just outside the metro stop. We ate lunch, then headed off to Musée Carnavalet where there is currently an exhibit of vintage Louis Vuitton trunks and other types of luggage from waaaaay back when the brand first started. It was SO cool, and there was a lot more than just the basic trunk! There were little toiletry trunks that had teeny drawers for anything you could imagine, and even some that were specifically for every little dish of a tea set! It was all super cute, I really enjoyed it. And we went at a great time too, because the exhibit closes on February 28th, so we got to see it before it closed. So yes, yay, good touristy Saturday, very fun 🙂

Then Sunday morning (Feb 20th) I got up and went to Versailles with my program! Again, almost a non-event, because I’ve been there before and also the weather was gross. And since it’s February, the gardens weren’t really looking their best. But despite all that, we had a fun guided tour so I learned some new things, and it was fun to hang out with everyone from the program! After touring the palace, we took an obligatory spin through a small part of the gardens, took a few group pictures, and then headed back to the bus. We drove back toward Paris and got in about 2:00, so it was quite a morning!

Then Monday I had class, which was quite mentally exhausting (not really hahaha I only have one class on Mondays) after which Brad and I had a chill afternoon and then made a really authentic French dinner of……drumroll……..BURGERS. In a pan. On the stove. THEY WERE DELICIOUS. It was really a taste of home haha, we had burgers with cheese (I suppose some would call those “cheeseburgers”) and chips, and it was wonderful. We’re really getting the hang of cooking here, and even though we haven’t really ventured into anything super complicated, we’re keeping ourselves well fed and most of it tastes pretty good too! Anyway so yes, burgers on Monday night, success.

Tuesday I had class again, and I also had my first “conférence” which is basically a lecture type class on a specific subject of French culture. The one I started on Tuesday was called “Géographie culturelle et sociale de la France,” and it was a total mess!! The teacher wasn’t there, so there were 4 other random people who just made announcements and talked about other classes and, like, pointed at maps. It was weird, but hopefully when our real teacher is there it will be a little more coherent. After class I met Brad at the metro stop Denfert-Rochereau and we headed off to find the Chanel store 🙂 We ended up in a really lovely part of town, walking along the Jardin des Tuileries and popping into some really nice clothing stores. We saw one of the Chanel stores (we found out later we STILL hadn’t actually been to the main store, but alas, we’ll get there one day haha) and we also peeked in the windows of Dior and some others. After we had our fill of window-shopping, we stopped in a little café for hot chocolate and coffee. It was a wonderful and relaxing Parisian afternoon!

On Wednesday, I had class again, and another conférence. This one was called “Poésie et chanson” which means “Poetry and song.” This class was a bit more cohesive than the one on Tuesday, because the real teacher was there, but it was still a little confusing and I felt really intimidated at the idea of listening to them speak such fast French every week, with no outline or anything to follow, and then having to take an exam on whatever it was they said all semester! But I tried not to worry too much, and after I left class I got a ham and cheese baguette sandwich and met Brad at the metro again, this time to head to the Louvre. Brad had never been before! So we moseyed over to the Louvre, waited in line forever to get our free student tickets, and then started to explore the museum. Naturally, we started with the wing that houses the Mona Lisa (“La Joconde” in French) and we also saw the statues of Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. I had fun showing Brad around, because I had a guided tour of the Louvre as part of my orientation activities, so I remembered lots of fun facts to tell him while we were looking around. So, we hit the high spots of the museum and then we left, because we figured we’re going to be back with Brian and Maddie and David, so we shouldn’t see it all in our first trip!

Then Thursday we didn’t do anything super exciting, after I got out of class (which was MUCH better on Thursday, and made me much more optimistic about the rest of the semester class-wise) I got a sandwich and then Brad and I headed to this store called FNAC, which is sort of like French Best Buy. We were searching for a Rick Steves guide book, because we’re starting to plan our spring break to Rome!!!! But we ended up not being able to find it, so we just ordered it off Amazon later lol.

Then Friday was really fun! I only had one class and then I brought home some lunch for Brad and me. We hung out during the afternoon, and then at around 9:00 we headed over to the dorms where most of the people in my program live (I’m one of only like 6 people who live in an apartment). So we went to the dorms and hung out with everyone from my program, they had all just ordered pizzas so we all sat around and talked and ate for a while. Then we went out!! Brad and I were really excited, because we before that night we had yet to venture out into Parisian night life together! So we ended up in the 5th arrondissement at a place called The Fifth Bar (original haha) and had a great time with everyone from my program!! Eventually it was getting pretty late, and since the metro stops at 2:00 in the morning and doesn’t start again until 5:30, we decided to leave. Brad and I got a Nutella and banana crepe at a crepe stand that was still open, and then called it a night.

Then Saturday was our wine and cheese tasting!!!! We booked it last week with a company called O Chateau, and Saturday was the day. The first portion of the day was spent at the O Chateau wine store/bar location, which was really snazzy! And it turns out, they just opened that location about a week ago. Since it was so new, there was a cameraman and a reporter from some local French TV station wanting to do a story! Our sommelier, Olivier, asked Brad and me if we would mind answering a few questions for them, since they wanted the story to specifically focus on wine and how it’s perceived by young people (French or American, they didn’t seem to care). So of course we said yes, and the reporter lady proceeded to ask us questions about our relationship with wine (almost non-existent until yesterday) and if young people in America were interested in wine (…no). She also asked us what might be my favorite question I’ve ever gotten thus far in my life: “Do you find French wine…sexy? Do you zink ze French wine ees, for young people, sexy?” It was hilarious, because Brad and I were like “Umm…yeah?” Hahahaha it was great. So then she thanked us, took our names and ages, and later she asked us those questions again downstairs during the actual wine tasting, and this time in front of the camera! It was pretty hilarious, and so random! Anyway, by the time we were done talking to her, it was 12:00 and time to head downstairs to start the tasting. More people had arrived, and we all settled around a big table that was set with plates, forks and knives, and three wine glasses each. Our sommelier introduced himself, and then asked us all to go around the table and do the same. We had a really international table! There was a British couple (who were actually celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary that day, so cute!!!), that couple’s oldest son, then their French son-in-law, then two Norwegian women who work in Paris, their Scottish friend who had come to visit for the weekend, then another Norwegian couple, then Brad and me, then a lady from Australia who’s currently living in London, and then an Irish couple! It was really cool to be around people from so many different areas, and everyone was so nice!! After we introduced ourselves, Olivier poured us champagne to start out with. It was called Monmarthe (not to be confused with Montmartre, which is an area of Paris), and it was SO good. We learned that champagne is traditionally made of three types of grapes: Chardonnay grapes, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The first champagne we tried was a little heavier on the Chardonnay grapes, and it was really delicious. Then we tried two white wines, the first of which was fruity and the second was more nutty. Olivier taught us what all you can learn about a wine before you even taste it—you can swirl it around and look at the legs, (the little drippies down the side of the glass), and depending on how fast/thick the legs are, you can tell the sugar and alcohol content of the wine. For example, slow legs means less sugar, thus a drier wine. Then we talked about clarity of the wine, and he showed us how you can look at the meniscus by tilting the glass and putting your hand behind it. So at some point during all this information, people set the table with bread and cheese and meat, which we all proceeded to devour. We tried 5 cheeses, but he didn’t talk about them very much. They were all delicious though, and my favorites were the goat cheese and a really mild Camembert. Then we tried two red wines, which I didn’t like as much as the whites. They were a lot more flavorful and seemed a little heavy…they would probably have worked better with a full dinner or something, but with the cheese and bread I liked the white wines better. Anyway, so then Olivier talked about the different wine regions of France while we all polished off the cheese and the rest of our glasses. Eventually we were done, and we ended up getting about 45 more minutes than we were supposed to—it should have ended at 1:30 but we didn’t leave until about 2:15! So that was really nice, it was such a relaxed afternoon. So then we had free time until the second part (the “Champagne Crusie”) started at 6, when we went down to the Seine right near the Eiffel Tower and got on a boat. Since we had our special O Chateau tickets, we got to sit in this little private room at the front of the boat. There was only one other couple there, and the sommelier, Remi. There was also one random lady by herself, sitting in the very back of that section of the boat. It turns out, that lady was Remi’s wife! She came along because they were going to go out afterwards to watch the France-England rugby game with some friends haha. So anyway, it was essentially just us three couples! The other couple was living in London, but the lady was originally from Dublin and the man was from Scotland. Oh, and Remi’s wife was originally from Australia, which is where she met Remi, and she moved here to Paris to be with him!! So cute. Anyway so we had another very international group, and since it was smaller this time we had a lot of good conversation with them! It was so much fun. And of course, since it was a champagne cruise, we tasted 3 champagnes while floating down the Seine. The first we tasted was the same champagne we had at lunch, the Monmarthe, but I was happy to have another glass because it was quite tasty! Then the second we tried was a champagne with a more even balance of grapes. The Monmarthe had more Chardonnay grapes in it, but the second one had an equal balance of all three. It was still very good, but I didn’t like it as much as the first one. Then the third we tried was a rosé champagne, which I didn’t even know was an option! Apparently all you have to do to make a rosé is just soak the white juice with the red grape skins, but only for a few hours so it takes in a little bit of the color, thus turning out pink. (To make a red wine, they soak the juice with the skins for several days so it takes on a lot of the color.) Anyway so after tasting those three champagnes, having some lovely conversation (with native English speakers lol!), and seeing the Eiffel Tower glitter at 7:00, our big wine day was over. It was such a great experience, and we learned a lot too!! We headed home to have a casual dinner (a chicken and cheese crepe for me, a Subway sandwich for Brad haha) and that was our awesome Saturday!!

Then today we had brunch at a cafeteria called Bullier, and then took a leisurely stroll around the Luxembourg gardens. It was really lovely! The grass is really green and there are some flowers planted even though most of the flowerbeds are empty right now. And of course, since it’s a park, there were lots of tiny kids and several puppies all running around having fun despite the chilly temperatures, so that was cute to see. And there were tons of joggers!! I didn’t think Parisians ran outside, but apparently they do because there were joggers everywhere in the park today! So that’s exciting, I’m sure you all know that I can’t wait to get out there jogging hahaha. Then we took a bus home (the bus between Gare du Nord and Porte d’Orleans is bus line #38) and here we are! I’ve been typing this post ever since. It’s taken me hours. I hope you all enjoyed it J

So yeah, there was my week!! I hope everybody back home (Nashville, Charleston, Winston-Salem, everywhere!) is doing great, Brad and I miss you all!!!

Thanks for reading!

~Flan

P.S. Get excited for the next few posts, because Brad and I are about to take trips with our programs! On Thursday and Friday, Brad will be in Brussels, Belgium. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I will be in Provence, France!!

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Responses

  1. I’m loving your posts. Your energy and enthusiasm and excitement shine through them all. Thanks for the detailed accounts.

    My love to you both,
    Becky


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