Friday, September 28, 2007

Champagne and Paris

This morning we awoke to a rainy, 12° C, 54 F day in one of the most beautiful areas of the world. The vineyards in the Champagne region fill every available bit of land, so precious is their crop (since we all know that only grapes from Champagne can be used to make this elixir of the gods). I await in the car outside the hotel, and it appears that for the first time on this trip our honeymooners are not all huggy-kissy. Alicia is not her usual joyous morning self, (not sure why, but being cooped up with Edward for so long probably goes a long way toward answering that question), but we will soon be on our way to drink some champagne instead of eating breakfast. How much better can it get?

Our drive to Moet & Chandon for the cellar tour was interesting. We entered Epernay and decided to drive along the river opposite the champagne house since we were so early. We ended up in a dead end with warehouses, however the views looking across the river to the city were worth the detour.

We all paid tribute to the good Dom (“I am drinking stars!”) on the way into Moet & Chandon. The reception room gives an indication of the corporate culture of the company that produces the most glamorous and famous wine in the world. We peeked into the meeting rooms where the mega-deals are made, admired the freshly cut flowers, and made sure to use the toilette to check for gold faucets.

The tour itself was excellent, our guide well versed in the history of the company and the minutia of the wine making process. She was quick with a smile, clearly engaged with the topic and us (perhaps because it was the first tour of the day and not the 15th). The walking tour takes you by thousands (millions?) of carefully stacked bottles, with some vintage bottles that have been there a long, long time.

In the gift shop we sampled (This is the real breakfast of champions!)and browsed and met an interesting couple (Brits); he converts barns to homes, and is into various other construction activities. She took a good shot at our dear president Bush, and I only wish I had been quick enough to remind her of their Neville “peace for our time” Chamberlain* (the guy with the scarlet A on his chest), and that if it wasn’t for us Yankees she would be speaking German now and not the King's English. Next time.

The drive to the Marriott at CDG was rainy so it was not great for sightseeing, however this region continues to astound by the natural beauty of the place, plus my favorite French architecture. We checked in, parked the car in the underground garage, and off we went via shuttle (navette) to the airport metro/train stop to the Gare de Nord, then on to St. Michel. We were on a mission to the Cluny museum and since the kids had no desire to travel back in time (mentally) to the middle ages headed off to explore on their own, agreeing to meet us later at Notre Dame. (I had a fleeting memory of the same deal we made with Kristin and Adam in Rome before spending a terrifying 3 hours trying to find them.)

The Cluny museum and specifically the six tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn were on our list of things to see on the last trip with Emily, but we never made it there. We were determined to see them this time, and so glad that we did. They are larger, more interesting and vivid than I had imagined, hanging side by side in a round, softly lit room. It was not crowded and you could get up close and personal with them. Having accomplished our mission we made a half-hearted attempt to be interested in the rest of the museum, but IMHO you can take just so much looking at Middle Age stuff, so we left ½ hour before it closed, and sloshed our way over to Notre Dame to meet the kids.

Thanks to Kat we had an umbrella, and when we met the kids (who were ½ hour early and not ignoring us from some sidewalk cafe) she provided a second umbrella to Edward and Alicia, convincing me once again that she is incredible. Our first real rainy day of the trip didn’t dampen our spirits however and off we walked to St. Michel for dinner. We ate at the equivalent of a Newport Creamery, French style. The Crêperie de Cluny complete with faux glass Lady and the Unicorn tapestry windows (our waitress wasn’t sure what the subject of the windows was ... this surprised us since we were about 500 meters from the very famous, real deal) met our expectations (I did manage to have an excellent omelet ).

It seemed very cold when we came out, so I gave Edward my over-shirt to wear, and decided (well three of us decided) that scarves would be just perfect to keep the chill off. We headed to our favorite souvenir shop (Quasimodo’s by Notre Dame, where else) and we all bought scarves and worked our way back to CDG and our Marriott. (Ed was extremely resistant when it came to buying and wearing a scarf. However he looked dapper in it, when tied properly, and I think in the end he enjoyed it).

What trip to France would be complete without encountering at least one strike (grève, we know that word by heart) by some transportation worker or another. It was on the train line to CDG, so we changed at Gare du Nord again, then did a Keystone Cop routine up, down, and around to find the location for the shuttle buses (navettes – level 5 upstairs for future reference) and took a slow, torturous ride back to Roissy and our hotel.

I bought an internet access card and used about 45 minutes reading about the Patriots and doing some e-mail. Kat and I decided to leave the next morning about 9:00 for Amsterdam, so we said goodnight to the kiddies, and Edward insisted that he would meet us for breakfast at 8:00 the next morning. After 10 days of non-stop activity they looked beat, and if I had to make a bet that the next time we saw them would be in the United States, I would have laid better than even odds.

*For the record: I know it's commonly quoted as "peace in our time" but I'm going with the transcript of the speech.

No comments: