Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 58

I’ve been putting off reading Harper Lee’s “new” book, Go Set a Watchman.  It’s sitting on my night-stand, but I haven’t turned a single page.

I’ve been looking forward to this book for months, but I made the mistake of reading the reviews.  And now, I’m just not sure I’m up to having my image of Atticus Finch forever tarnished (if you haven’t read Watchman or the reviews, I won’t spoil it for you beyond that). The last time I saw Atticus Finch, he was good and moral and just and kind.  He was sitting on a pedestal, right where I left him.  And that’s how I want to remember him.

Is Watchman going to send a wrecking ball through my pedestal?

I know, I know.  I need to stop listening to the herd and just read the book.  Make my own judgement. Because, like someone good and moral and just and kind once said, “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Maybe Go Set a Watchman is an opportunity to climb inside Atticus Finch’s skin and walk around for a while.  Deep down, I know he’s not perfect.  He’s flawed, just like the rest of us.
I guess he has to be.

While thinking about all that, I came across a note Nelle Harper Lee wrote in September of 2008, bemoaning the death of printed media (in favor of e-reader mania).  The final line of her note reads:

Guess-this-is-the-lastWine as a metaphor for printed books?  Man, she’s good.

With Lee’s increasing age and declining health, this is almost certainly the last of her wine.

Sniff.  Time to climb inside.  Go Set a Watchman, page 1 . . . 

Salud!
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Have you read Go Set a Watchman?  What did you think??

MWWC #18: Crisis in Metz*

MWWCI learned my 19th word of French last month . . . merde.

We’ve recently returned from a two-week European Family Vacation to Germany and France. We completed (and mostly successfully, I might add) a rather ambitious itinerary that included Bavaria (to visit Opa), Metz, Verdun, Paris, Normandy, Metz again, and finally, back to Bavaria.

We spent a lot of time in the car (learning the ins and outs of the French highway system, aka, the French National Toll Road), and I spent a lot of time counting.

1-2-3-4.

Mom, what are you doing?

Counting passports.  As long as we have our passports, we’re good.  Anything else, we can replace.

I must have counted our passports 432 times on this trip.  My kids (and my husband) rolled their eyeballs and dismissed me as paranoid, but my trip motto was, “paranoid gets us home”.

This was a family and history vacation, not a wine vacation.  And if you are at all familiar with the geography of France, you know our itinerary took us right through Champagne.  I know what you’re thinking (because it was exactly what I was thinking).  How could we drive through Champagne and not stop?!?

We couldn’t.  Well, I couldn’t.

We stopped.  In Epernay.  For a nano-second (or four hours).

It was a spontaneous stop (mostly), so I hadn’t made arrangements with any of the Champagne houses for a tasting or a tour.  We stopped in at Mercier, but good gawd, that place is a tourist trap.  Pass.  We asked the hostess at Mercier for a recommendation for a tasting bar (I was determined to have a glass of Champagne in Champagne), and she really came through for us.

She sent us over to C. Comme, where we had the most delightful Champagne tasting given by the most delightful hostess.  I could have sat there all afternoon, but we were tired, the teenagers were out of patience (aka food), and we needed to press on to Metz.

C. Comme offers tastings divided by grape variety.  So if you’re interested in tasting a Champagne that’s exclusively Pinot Meunier, you can do that.  They also offer a lot of grower Champagnes, which, I can already tell, are going to be my new wine obsession.

We estimated we had the luggage space (and weight allowance) for two bottles of Champagne. So I asked the hostess for a recommendation.  My only criteria was that I shouldn’t be able to buy them in the USA.  She came back with two bottles of Champagne (I wasn’t even sure what they were) and we left.

We wedged the Champagne into our clown rental car and headed down the road to Metz.

Our hotel in Metz was a 17th century building.  17th century buildings have tons of charm, but they do not have elevators.  They have four flights of creaky, 17th century stairs.  And naturally, our rooms were on the top floor.  Call me lazy, but I don’t enjoy lugging 4 suitcases across the cobblestone streets of Metz (17th century hotels don’t have parking, either), and up 4 flights of 17th century stairs, just for one night.

Having stayed at this same hotel on our way to Paris, we knew the drill.  Park in the garage down the street.  Unload the suitcases and take out just what we need for over-night, and throw it into our backpacks.  Reload the suitcases into the car.  Ignore the side-eye from the Metz-ians.  Head to the hotel like genius light-fighters.

Brilliant, right?  Well, it was until exactly 5:07am, when I woke up in a panic.  OMG.  I took the Champagne bag out of the car when we repacked, but did I put it back in the car?  I don’t remember putting it back in the car.  Maybe my husband put it in the car.  Maybe one of the kids put it in the car.  Oh, no.  No, no, no.

Houston, we have a crisis.  A crisis in Metz.

As soon I didn’t think he’d kill me for waking him up and sending him outside to a parking garage looking for a bag of Champagne, I woke my husband up and sent him outside to a parking garage looking for a bag of Champagne.  Was the Champagne still there?

Of course not.

Merde.

Merde.  Merde.  Merde.  Merde.  Merde.

For the record, I was very grown-up (mostly) about the loss.  I didn’t throw a tantrum or anything.  There may or may not have been some sulking.  Hey, I was bummed.  And not because it was expensive Champagne (it really wasn’t), but because it was I-can-only-get-this-Champagne-in-Champagne Champagne.  How could I be so scatter-brained?!?  There was a time in my life when I would never have forgotten to put the Champagne bag back in the car. Sigh.  Middle-age brain sucks.

And then this from my smart-assed peanut gallery . . .

Hey mom, you still have our passports, don’t you?

Merde.

P.S.  Rubbing salt into my slowly-healing wound, I found my receipt when we got home.  I’m thinking about having it framed.

Champagne
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*This is my entry into #MWWC18, the 18th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.  Our theme this month is:  Crisis.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol

An impromptu gift, created by my teenage daughter, in Normandy, France.

Our theme for the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is:  Symbol.
Our instructions:  This week, share a symbol with us, and tell us what it means to you.

We recently visited Normandy, France as part of our European Family Vacation.  Both my husband and my teenage son are avid students of military history, particularly World War II military history.  They were both in their element in Normandy.  So much so, that they didn’t want to leave their element.

One of our many stops in Normandy was a visit to Pointe du Hoc, an area between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, heavily fortified by the Germans in 1944.  It was the site of a bold assault by the US 2nd Ranger Battalion.  My boys wanted to check out all of the German casements and gun pits (and by all, I mean all).  Unless you’re an avid student of World War II military history, there are really only so many German casements and gun pits you can look at in a day.  I mean, I get it — the Germans were heavily fortified, with lots of guns, and they loved cement.

My teenage daughter and I (having had our fill of concrete bunkers), meandered around the memorial (71 years later, and the landscape at Pointe du Hoc still looks like the surface of the moon).  We came up and out of one of the craters, and my daughter started picking daisies. Literally, picking daisies.

She gathered a bouquet, and started carefully placing them into a worn and split fence post, wrapped in barbed wire.  And, I asked her about it.

Why are you picking daisies?

I’m bored.  And they’re pretty.

And you’re sticking them in this fence post . . . because?

I’m bored.  And they’re pretty.  

[So, it’s going to be an Occam’s Razor kind of a day.]

L-o-o-o-o-o-n-g pause.

And then she hit me with this:

It’s kind of nice that something so pretty grows in a place where so many men died.  So, I’m making them something.  

Gulp.  Sometimes, when teenagers talk, it’s best to just shut up and listen.  So I just nodded, Mmmm hmmm.  And then some furious scrambling for my camera, so I could get a shot of her creation.   And I waited.

She put the last daisy in the fence post and announced,

I’m bored.  Can we go now?  

OK, so she was all out of profound observations.  You take what you can get.  And sure, I could make up some bologna about her creation as a symbol of the dichotomy between war and peace (boy, that’s deep, isn’t it?), but it’s not.  Not to me, anyway.  To me, her creation represents one of those moments where our children allow us to peek in on the grown-up human beings they’re becoming.

And that day, I saw an insightful and thoughtful young woman.

DSCN7375-1

Nikon P510
ISO 100 | 8.9mm | f/4.5 | 1/1000 sec

Salud!

Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 57

Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.  ~Ernest Hemingway

Aaahh . . . one of my favorite Hemingway quotes.  You’ve probably heard it before.  Heck, I’ve written about it before.  But did you know those words were a reaction to a road trip Hemingway took with F. Scott Fitzgerald?

True story.

Scott (Hemingway called him Scott, so I think for the sake of consistency . . . ) had some, um, issues with alcohol.  The man was perpetually marinating in something.  And Scott was a notorious lightweight, which made him a frequent target for Hemingway and the other members of the Drink Heavy or Go Home Club Lost Generation in Paris.

Hemingway and Scott once took a road trip from Lyon, through the Côte d’Or, and back to Paris.  They left from Lyon in Scott’s Renault, which was somehow missing its top.  (Apparently, it was damaged on a previous trip and Scott’s wife, Zelda, had the top cut off . . . but never replaced).  So off they went in their topless car, fueled by several bottles of white Mâconnais. (Hem & Scott must have missed the Mothers-Against-Drunk-Driving PSA.)

Naturally, it started to rain.  And so they made a bunch of stops along the way.  And each time they stopped, they drank another bottle of the Mâconnais.  Several bottles of wine were nothing to Hemingway.  But to Scott?  Ooof.  Eventually, Scott became quite affected, and convinced himself he was dying of congestion of the lungs, which he insisted was “indigenous to Europe”.  Hemingway managed to convince him that Mâcon wine was “almost a specific against the disease”, and they drank another bottle.

The rain never let up, so they finally stopped at a hotel in Châlone-sur-Saône.  Scott took immediately to bed.  This irritated Hemingway, who snarled, “You haven’t any temperature. How the hell are you going to have congestion of the lungs without any temperature?”  So, Scott insisted Hemingway find a waiter to bring him a thermometer so he could prove he was dying.

At this point, Hemingway started thinking about how drinking wine was as healthy and normal as food . . . (insert quote from last week).  But, those words continue with this:

It-had-never-occurred-to

Hemingway went on to add, “I could not imagine that harming anyone driving in an open car in the rain.”  Right.  The open car and the rain were their problems.  The five bottles of Mâcon had nothing to do with it.

The thermometer finally arrived and . . . Scott had no fever.  And, just like that, he felt swell.  He got up, out of bed, and they were on the road back to Paris.  Defeated, Hemingway said, “You could not be angry with Scott any more than you could be angry with someone who was crazy.”

Or a raging alcoholic.  (Just a thought, Hem.)

After Hemingway finally deposited Scott back at his own apartment in Paris, Hemingway came home to his wife Hadley.  She asked if he’d learned anything at all on the trip.  His response? Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.

And there you have it.

Salud!

Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 56 (We are never, ever, ever driving in Paris again)

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”  ~Ernest Hemingway

Paris stays with you, alright.  We just returned from a two-week trip to Germany and France. We spent a few of our days in Paris (my very first time in Paris, btw).  And although I loved Paris, I’ll never be in love with Paris.  At least not the same way Hemingway was.  Paris will be forever tainted for me because of this:

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 12.01.14 PM
This is a screenshot I snapped of the Google traffic map as we drove into Paris.  Yep, we drove into Paris.  Ourselves.  During rush hour.  (Btw, this screenshot doesn’t show the traffic inside the Periphique (the Paris beltway).  I don’t think Google has a color for how bad that was!)

Driving in Paris is part naiveté, part dumbassery, and part bat-sheiße crazy.  Roads that are clearly meant for three lanes of traffic, have five (traffic lines are merely a suggestion).  And in-between all the cars, there are these kamikaze motorcyclists who weave in and out of traffic like teenagers who think they can just push the restart button if they crash.  Throw in a herd of caterpillar busses (who think nothing of shearing off the occasional side-view mirror of a car in their path), and voila . . . sheer madness!

But wait . . . there’s more.

Although we didn’t know it at the time, there was also taxi-cab strike going on (the cab drivers were protesting the presence of Uber in Paris).  The strike had every major artery into and out of the city intentionally blocked.  I’d say it was complete chaos, but calling it chaos doesn’t adequately describe the chaos.

It was terrifying.

We did finally arrive at the underground parking garage near our hotel, that I had so brilliantly reserved before we left home, and managed to squeeze our Volkswagen Golf station-wagon into a space clearly designed for Barbie’s Corvette.  And with that, we bid adieu to our car for a few days.

Now . . . we were ready to experience Paris.

Sidebar:  When we checked into our hotel, the front desk manager (Oliver, who might just be the original Parisian) found out we had driven a car into Paris and had this to say:  [Read in outrageous French accent] “You are by car?!?  Aaaaaahhhh!  You are very brave to drive in this madness!”  Yeah.  Brave.  Or really, really dumb.

Anyway.

I spent a good deal of our days in Paris chasing Hemingway’s ghost.  We stayed in St-Germain-des-Prés, on the Left Bank, sandwiched between the Luxembourg Gardens and the Latin Quarter — which is very near Hemingway’s old haunts.  And then we walked.  Everywhere.  We walked to see his apartments, the cafés where he wrote, and Shakespeare & Company, the bookstore formerly owned by Sylvia Plath.  You can imagine how thrilling this was for my teenagers.  Thank goodness for Nutella crepes, which served as both distraction and pacifier — they can’t complain if their mouths are full.

Shakespeare & Company was the literary hangout of the Lost Generation in 1920s Paris — Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce were all regulars.  The original store opened in 1919, but closed in 1940, during the German occupation of Paris.  It reopened in 1951 as Le Mistral, but changed its name back to Shakespeare & Company in 1964, to honor Plath’s original store.

I bought myself a copy of A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s memoir of his life in Paris in the 1920s.  I already own a copy, but not one with the coveted Shakespeare & Company stamp.


I read (and devoured) A Moveable Feast a many years ago.  But, now that I’ve been to Paris, I’m re-reading it.  And it’s even more meaningful now.  One of my favorite quotes from the book (and I have many — we may have a little Movable Feast binge on Wine, Words & Wednesday for the next couple of weeks) is this:

movable feast

(I copied the quote exactly as it appears in the book.  Apparently, Hemingway wasn’t very fond of the comma in Paris.)

Two things I learned in Paris (aside from never, ever, ever drive there):

  1. It’s OK to sit.  Grab a seat at a café, order a coffee, or a glass of wine, and just . . . sit.  You can sit all day if you want.  You don’t even have to order food.  You just sit, and watch the world go by.  No one is going to rush you out (in fact, if you want to leave, you have to hunt down your waiter to get your check, and then hunt him down again to pay your check).
  2. Wine is to Parisians what water is to the rest of civilization.  It’s nearly unthinkable to order a meal without wine.  Wine is life.  And two people should always order a full bottle of wine.  One evening, my husband and I had the audacity to order a 50cl carafe of red wine (which is apparently something you only do if you are alone or a child), and the waiter shot us a dose of side-eye and said, “Only 50cl?  For two of you?  Are you sure?”

We left Paris on a Monday morning.  After rush-hour.  And during a blissful lull in the Taxi-cab driver vs. Uber death match.  It was way easier getting out of Paris than getting in.  But not easy enough for me to ever try driving in Paris again.  If we do go back to Paris . . . it’ll be avec Hemingway, sans car.

Salud!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Door

A purple door at the Temple Neuf in Metz, France.

Our theme for the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is:  Door.
Our instructions: For this week’s challenge, publish a new post with a photo of a door (or multiple doors!).  Consider how color affects the image, but also think about size, shape, texture, and details — how might these elements add up to tell a story?

Door, you say?  Oh, happy day!!  I love to take pictures of doors.  And pieces of doors.
I probably have hundreds of door photos.  It’s bordering on obsession.  This challenge is right up my photo alley.

I took this particular photo on a stop in Metz, France, just last month.

These are a set of side-doors to the Temple Neuf, a Protestant church on the Island of Petit Saulcy on the Moselle River.  Temple Neuf was built between 1901 and 1905, (when Metz was part of the German Empire*) in the Neo-Romanesque style.  It’s a very German style of architecture, built as part of Kaiser Wilhlem II’s effort to re-design and “Germanify” the city.
A couple of World Wars later, it remains a unique reminder of German influence.

We weren’t able to get inside the Temple Neuf, so I don’t know what’s on the other side of that purple door.  Or why the door is purple, for that matter.  I was simply struck by the dramatic vibrance of the color, and its contrast with the bright green moss growing on the stone walls.

DSCN6911-1
Nikon P510
ISO 400 | 6.2mm | f/3.3 | 1/13sec

Salud!
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*Historical Footnote:  During the span of the last 144 years, the City of Metz has been in a geographic tug-of-war.  The German Empire annexed Metz after the Franco-Prussian War (1871).  The Treaty of Versailles returned Metz to France after World War I (1919).  The Third Reich re-annexed Metz after the fall of France (1940).  And, in 1944, the American 3rd Army (under George Patton) captured the City of Metz, and it returned to France after the war’s end.

Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 55

In vino veritas.

In wine there is truth.

Among the most famous wine words of all time, they are frequently quoted, and often commercialized.  Visit almost any winery tchochke shop, and you’ll find some version of that quote for sale — on a wine barrel stave, a t-shirt, wall art, etc.

In vino veritas is a Latin phrase, with roots in several ancient cultures.  The Babylonian Talmud contains a phrase that translates to, “Wine enters, secrets exit.”  Oooh, I like that.  There’s a version of the phrase in an ancient Greek poem by Alcaeus.  Pliny the Elder makes a similar observation in his extremely long, Naturalis history.  It also appears in Erasmus’ Adagia.  My point?  Pretty much everyone since the dawn of fermenting grapes has noticed that drinking wine produces a certain . . . candor.

One of my favorite versions is often attributed to Plato:

children

Right?!?  If you ever want brutal honesty (does this dress make me look fat?), ask a preschooler or a drunk guy.  You’ll get loads of truth.

The Internet attributes the quote to Plato’s Symposium,  c. 385–370 BC.  (A symposium was a big drinking party where guys sat around, drank wine, and discussed big ideas).  This particular symposium is Plato’s speech about love, and it’s supposed to be the origin of the concept of Platonic love.  I combed through two or three different translations of Symposium on Project Guttenburg (it’s not so much a page-turner, let me tell you), but couldn’t find that exact quote.  The closest I could find is:

There’s truth in wine when the slaves have left, and when they’re present, too.
There’s truth in wine whether with boys or without.

Um???  I’m sure the reason these quotes make approximately zero sense is that I’ve taken them out of context. 😉

To whomever took liberties with the original(s) . . . thank you!

Salud!