It’s been a year since my husband and I took our magical trip to France for our Vinomoon (ahem, our HONEYmoon). This week I happened to be doing a little spring cleaning in our apartment and found a notebook we kept throughout the trip, a compilation of the best and worst of our experiences (because we knew we’d forget them later.) So the timing couldn’t have been better for us to open the notes and relive aloud our spectacular journey to Paris, Champagne, and Bordeaux.
Before taking the deep dive down the notebook’s memory lane, we (obviously!) decided to pop open a special bottle that we lugged back with us from France: an Emmanuel Brochet 1er cru Extra Brut. (P.S. if you plan on buying wine on a trip…bring this or this lifesaving apparatus.)
The bubbly was just as we remembered it (though in France we did get to enjoy it alongside the most delicious, melty triple-creme brie cheese I’ve ever tasted). This time, we paired it with a Petit Marin breakfast cheese, which didn’t have quite the same effect. (Side note: I still consumed the 7/8ths of the wheel.) Despite our lack of gooey cheese, the Brut showed all the character that made us love it the first time, with its nose of vanilla, butterscotch, and toffee. It’s quite rich for being extra dry (with only 4 grams sugar per litre), and full-bodied without feeling over indulgent. Flavors of brioche, pear, and – with the cheese – I got baked apple cheesecake (Is that a thing? If not, it should be). It was low in acid, yet lively and fresh, with a superbly clean finish.
Whilst sipping our delicious bubbly, we ambled through the “Vinomoon” notebook, chortling and reminiscing about the trip. The most magical part of the little notebook was discovering the “interview” we gave each other on the plane back home to California.
So here it is, in all it’s glory: our fake Vanity Fair interview on the “highlights and lowlights” of our Vinomoon:
BEST/WORST TAXI EXPERIENCE:
HUSBAND: We were in the Champagne region in Reims and we missed the last train to Epernay (that sounds like a movie title.) No Ubers. No Lyfts. So we took a taxi home. Which cost a whopping 80 euro!
LEXY: BUT…it ended up being the best cab ride EVER! I got a free French lesson from a true Frenchman. (Well, I guess it wasn’t free, it was 80 euro. But, STILL!) I was crabby to have missed out train, but our Cabbie’s sweet musings about his Petite Chien (or was it his Petite Girlfriend? I’ll never know) turned my red glasses blue. It could have been the bubbly at dinner, but Cabbie and Moi really connected over the ride home.
I speak incredible French after a glass (or two) of wine.
L: Moi. What?!? I’m owning it!
PERSON WHO GOT SICK THE MOST:
L: Moi. I’m owning this too! TWO separate colds, 1 stomach bug, and 1 ear infection. I couldn’t hear out of my left ear for 16 of the 17 days. SEE??? THERE WAS A REASON I WAS THE CRABBIEST PERSON!
H: I got sick one time. I re-infected Lexy for her 2nd cold. Sorry, Lex!
L: What? I can’t hear you.
ON FOREIGN COUNTRY DRIVING:
H: I only stalled one rental car once. I also got a parking ticket and didn’t even know! It was mailed to California. How did they find me?
L: OMG did you ever pay that? We can never go back to France unless you pay it! PAY IT! Anyway, I was very impressed by Husband’s stick shift driving, but my resting heart rate in the car during the many round-a-bouts was close to 150. (Is that bad?)
H: Lexy forced me to pull over about 7,000 times to take pictures. This cow was pretty cute, though.
L: Gosh, it happened SO many times. But the biggie was we were unable to find the entrance to Y’quem (if you don’t know of it, Y’quem is the one of the most famous wineries in Bordeaux, and somehow I had managed to procure us a tour.) So I was having full on panic attack that we might miss our coveted appointment. Thanks to our trusty GPS guide (who I deemed “Claire Voyant”) we finally entered the vicinity of Y’quem, but ended up circling inside the vineyard for about 5 minutes till we found our way. No signs. No one spoke English. “This can’t be right” I kept repeating, over and over as our car was turning the middle of a vineyard. Heart rate: 180.
H: Lexy’s an awesome back seat driver.
L: Is that a compliment?
FAVORITE CHAMPANGE TASTING:
BOTH: Tarlant! With Micheline!
H: She was the sweetest older lady – the mother of the current winemaker – and it was the longest and most personal tasting we had. They are like 13 generations deep!
L: Our other favorite was at Moussé et Fils with Cedric. It was a gorgeous facility, and he really took the time to endure our (many) questions.
WEIRDEST DINING EXPERIENCE:
L: Epernay. We were sitting studying the menu at a completely EMPTY VERY LONG bar. A tipsy frenchman entered and plopped down RIGHT next to us.
H: We had asked if it was okay to eat at the bar. They had said “non.” So while we waited for a table, the drunk man was served food immediately. AT THE BAR. Before they even managed to get us a glass of wine.
L: The drunk man proceeded to ask my husband if he wanted to taste his “pig insides” and when he politely refused, Drunky forcefully shoved pig insides in my husband’s face, and continually asked us why we didn’t want to taste them. Mon dieu!
H: We were (finally) moved to a table, and asked the waiter why the Drunkard was allowed to eat at the bar while we weren’t. The waiter said: he was “an exception.”
L: Then his shoe fell off and he broke a glass. l’exception, indeed.
STINKY CHEESE MISHAPS:
H: We went to the most incredible farmer’s market in Epernay, right before leaving for Bordeaux. We bought a few things to eat on the train, one being an easy peasy normal Camembert. About half way to Bordeaux…Lexy (who has a ridiculously amazing sense of smell) got a whiff of…TRASH.
L: Something was rotten…and it was in the state of our train compartment. We started sniffing around…feet? No. My purse? No. The Frenchman across from us? No.
H: Food bag? OUI! Meat? no. Artichokes? No. Olives? No. Moldy Chevre? Like the kind that is actually covered in mold? No! Lexy’s right armpit?
L: (It’s a notoriously stinky armpit.)
H: NO! Ah HA! The “mild” camembert?
L: OUI! Nightmare New York City Subway Garbage Cheese Camembert. Even the Frenchman across from us looked faintly ill.
BEST CHARCUTERIE (AND ACTUALLY, PERHAPS BEST OVERALL EXPERIENCE COMPLETE WITH CHAMPAGNE WINEMAKER ‘CELEBRITY’ SIGHTING).
B: Au Bon Manger in Reims!
L: Everything about this little shop was magical…the hard-to-procure Champagnes lining the walls, the perfect Charcuterie plates, the people…and in waltzed Emmanuel Brochet. (Remember the bubbly I described in the beginning? That was his!) We had seen his picture in our “Grower Champagne” book (he’s very handsome!) so we recognized him immediately. He hadn’t responded to our pleas to come visit his winery…so we asked him in the shop. While he was “way way way too busy” that week, I still managed to procure his email for our next visit!
H: I was too nervous to speak so just sat there grinning like a fool. But at least I didn’t ask to have my photo taken with him like the folks at the other table did. We had just bought some of his wine so I pointed at it and gave a thumbs up. There you go! Ha.
MOST FRUSTRATING HOUSING:
L: Epernay: our Airbnb smelled like chocolate poop. When we arrived (on a Sunday) there was no TP or soap…and all the stores were closed since it was…Sunday.
H: Bordeaux: our Airbnb was up at least 10 flights of the tiniest castle stairs you could possibly imagine. Guess who carried our SIX bags (one of which was a full case of Champagne).
L: They were missing a WINE OPENER (this is BORDEAUX, people!), paper towels, dish soap, and hand soap, and the sponge was so mildew encrusted we had to buy another one. I was so mad about it I took all the items we had to buy back to California with us (out of principle!). Anyone want a used sponge and a roll of paper towels?
But omg: the view from our little apartment balcony!
MOST PLEASANT SUPRISE:
L: Underground wine museum in Paris (that Husband thought would be “too touristy”).
H: General availability of rotisserie chicken.
MOST ROMANTIC MOMENT:
L: Ugh! So many.
H: Paris, in general. The restaurant Le Soufflé. Locking our love lock on the Pont Des Arts Bridge>
L: Every time it rained. (I love rain!) So, definitely the picnic we had in Ay after visiting Pierre Gimmonet. We were on the grass next to a river in Ay with our picnic and a split. All of a sudden it looked like they sky was about to open up, so we bolted to the car just in time, and enjoyed the rest of lunch safely ensconced during a thunderstorm. I thought it was romantic! Scientific Fact: French rain is definitely more romantic than American rain.
H: Mine was when bought an (overpriced) bottle of Billecart Salmon Brut Rosé, walked to the base of the Eiffel tower, found a fountain with some rocks to sit on, and toasted each other as the tower lights flashed away.
L: It rained that night too! Sigh. Also, If you want to know how to pronounce Billecart Salmon, just ask me. I have a recording of our tour guide. So it’s official. Side note: like those in the know, you can just say “Billie.” Pronounced: Billy. As in Billy Baldwin.
H: That’s so weird, Lex.
BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED:
H: Trust Lexy’s gut.
L: Trust my gut.