Posts Tagged ‘wine’

Last week I had a George moment, which is rare for me.  Aside from the fact that I prefer to think of myself as more of an Elaine, I also tend to be more of a Friends girl than a Seinfeld one.  Though I watched both shows religiously, I must admit that no tears were shed when the cell door slammed shut on Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer.  In contrast, the night that Rachel ditched her flight to Paris and showed up at Ross’s door, in an absolutely perfect culmination of ten years of relationship angst, was a sob-fest at my house.  On a sorrow-scale of one to ten; one being sniffling over a Hallmark commercial (hey – it happens, the lonely old lady whose face lights up after reading a card from her neighbor kills me every time) and ten being the time I cried so hard while watching Finding Neverland that I vomited (in my defense I was about six months pregnant and teeming with crazy hormones and weird morning/all-day-long sickness), the Friends finale was a solid eight.  Even now, almost seven years later, I have one to two Friends flashbacks a week.  When I come down with a cold, the first thing I do is sing “Sticky Shoes” in my best sultry Phoebe voice, and I often end arguments by saying “It’s a moo point.  It’s a cow’s opinion.  It’s moo.”  (If there had been a debate team at my high school, I would not have been on it.)  Last week, while window shopping in Geneva I saw what looked a lot like an apothecary table from the days of yore, and every single time I move a large piece of furniture through a narrow stairwell/hallway I am consumed with the urge to scream “PIVOT!” at the top of my lungs, and nine times out of ten I succumb to the urge.  (This scenario played itself out recently when trying to haul our large Thule roof box up our teeny, tiny European staircase.)

Enough with the Friends memories, this is all about the George in me.  It happened on the way home from a well deserved night out with some friends.  We met in Geneva to forage for fondue in the big city, celebrate a belated birthday, and luxuriate in a meal without crayons, crackers, and be-wheeled toys careening across the table.  Mission accomplished.  We shared some delicious fondue, even more delicious wine, and lots of laughs.  The only wrinkle in the night came after we left the restaurant and located our car, which, due to insane amounts of traffic we had parked in the bowels of a hotel parking garage.  Apparently the very same night we were enjoying our simple ladies dinner, the Genevois Glitterati (including Gwyneth, hot off her SNL gig, who I was on the lookout for all night long) were out on the town for a ritzy watch convention.  First of all, I really think Gwynnie would have had a much better time kicking it mom’s night out style with a cheese laden fondue stick in one hand and wine glass in the other than hobnobbing with a bunch of snooty Swiss watchmakers, and second of all, I had no idea that watch conventions drew such large crowds.  The parking garage was packed to the gills, like a showroom crammed with shiny, high-priced automobiles.  We were thrilled to find a spot that was large enough to fit our car, and we didn’t think much of the fact that we had been forced to park so close to a concrete wall that my friend had to slide out the passenger side.  At least we weren’t in danger of dinging any Jaguars.

When we returned to the car after dinner, I thought it had to be a joke.  Some moron with a tiny, little Euro car had squeezed himself into the space (and I use that term loosely) next to ours.  I actually looked around for a hidden camera.  The cars were so close together that none of the doors would open.  We could get the driver’s door cracked just wide enough to slip our purses through.  No one, not even Gwynnie (who let’s face it, with those vegan tendencies would never join me in a cheese eating extravaganza) could have squeezed into the front seat of that car.  And the jerk who parked next to us?  There is no way that he was able to exit his auto in a dignified manner.  You can bet that he had to slink out of his tailgate.  Staring at our car sandwiched up against the diminutive hatchback, I could feel the warm, blissful glow that comes from spending time away from my children start to wither and die.  It was replaced by blind Costanza-like rage for the offensive driver who callously squished his car into a too-small space, much like the way I try to squeeze myself into my pre-pregnancy jeans.  Well, you know what dude?  I know better than to leave the house with my circa 2006 jeans on, and you should have known better than to park in two tired mamas who were just trying to enjoy a night out on the town.

In true George fashion (and fueled by a nice Swiss Chasselas) I stomped my feet, shook my fists, and whined at the unfairness of our situation.  What kind of person would park like this?  How were we ever going to get home?  Would we be stuck in the parking garage until the jerk who parked us in deigned to return to his car?  Luckily, my much calmer, Jerry-like friend, assessed the situation and noticed that we could wedge the door to the back seat open just wide enough for even a non-Gwynnie-sized person to squeeze through.  So lamenting the fact that I had taken those extra swipes of fondue, I made myself as flat as possible and shimmied my way into the car.  In all honesty, the path to freedom was not as tight as I thought it was going to be, but this did not quell my anger.  I demanded that we leave the imbecile a note.  I could not imagine exiting the garage without unleashing my fury in witty, piercing prose.  I procured a pen and an old receipt and readied myself to write the most cleverly insulting note in my literary history.  But, in that moment, with emotions running high, I pulled a George.  When faced with grave malfeasance and a chance to right a wrong, I choked.  Like George in the meeting room at Yankee Stadium, who when insulted by a colleague is struck dumb and unable to muster a comeback, I was left mute in the parking garage.

I finally mustered up a half-hearted note, the contents of which I cannot really remember, but definitely included the words “How rude!” (which is way more Stephanie Tanner than Costanza) and “Learn how to park!” and stuck it under the offending driver’s windshield wiper.  The note was a weak, awkward expression of my true feelings, and I shudder with embarrassment every time I think about it.  In  homage to George I should have at least written “The parking store called and they want their spot back,” which I admit makes no sense, but here I am, two weeks later, still searching for the perfect comeback.


The perfect comeback.


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We all have our reasons for loving our new home in the French country side.  For Jim and Emma it is the close proximity to castles of all shapes, sizes, and historical significance.  Maggie is thrilled by the abundance of farm life that seems to follow us wherever we go.  (Honestly, I think that Ikea may be the one and only place we have visited where there was not a cow, chicken, or horse within smelling/petting distance.)  I (and I may have mentioned this before) love the wine (and cheese, and chocolate, but for today I will focus on the wine).  Yesterday we spent the day celebrating the hard work, craftsmanship, and talent of local Swiss wine makers.  The canton of Geneva held its 23rd annual Caves Ouvertes, an ingenious festival where independent wine growers open their doors to the public to honor and taste the 2009 vintage.  If exploring dank, dark, dungeons is Emma’s idea of the perfect day, then roaming the green, sloping hills of the Swiss countryside in search of crisp, cool, glasses of local Chasselas is my version of heaven.

We parked our car in the town of Satigny, just across the hillside from where we live in Thoiry, got out the strollers and headed up the hill to our first open cave.  There we purchased our 5CHF wine glasses and began the tasting extravaganza.  I am not a wine connoisseur, and will not pretend to know much about grapes or the differences between good and bad wine.  I am, however, a lover of delicious spirits, and my cup was overrun with red, white, and bubbly goodness all day long.

We wandered along winding roads, and stopped for lunch at a crowded winery where a full band serenaded us with the theme song from The Blues Brothers, and the girls took turns swinging on a tree swing.  Heralded by their Trader Joe’s bag, we stopped to talk with an American couple from Tennessee.  They were Caves Ouvertes enthusiasts and directed us to nearby wineries and shared their knowledge of local grapes.  (They also told me where to find organic peanut butter in this peanut-less land, but warned that it was as expensive as sticky, nutty, spreadable gold.)  After our picnic, we headed up the road with a bottle of Pinot Noir for the grown-ups and two pink My Little Ponies for the girls.  (A vineyard owner’s daughter with an entrepreneurial spirit had set up a used toy booth that kept the girls entertained while we sipped.  We thanked her for her patience with Sticky Fingers Maggie by paying 1CHF for two tiny ponies that, judging from their closely cropped manes and tails, had seen better days.)

We took a long walk, following the winding road into small towns, past hills lined with row upon row of twisted grape vines.  We had no idea where we were going, but the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, our bellies were full of bread, cheese, and wine, and the girls were peacefully asleep in their strollers, so we continued on.  We wandered down country lanes, and up farm roads until we rambled into the hilltop town of Choully.  Choully is a quaint, sleepy Swiss village, but yesterday it was alive with people of all ages, walking cheerfully through the streets with wine glasses in hand.  We found a winery with an inviting patch of green grass and a  cobblestone courtyard that was perfect for romping children.  Emma and Maggie attempted to join some older boys in a game of football, but settled for chasing after the players, who skillfully dribbled the ball in and out of the crowds.  I went in search of a restroom and discovered that the wine makers were opening more than their caves to the public, but their homes, as well.  Feeling unsure of myself, I opened the door (which was labeled WC) to a beautiful home, crept down a sparkling tile hallway lined with water-color paintings and fresh flowers, and into a small bathroom that was clearly not normally for the public.

We ran into a group of Jim’s CERN colleagues in Choully and shared a bottle of crisp, refreshing Chasselas with the jovial, childless (lucky physicists!) crew.  On the streets of Choully, Emma and I found the car of our dreams, a bright pink Peugeot, and seriously considered stealing it and taking it for a joyride.  After tearing ourselves away from the shiny candy colored vehicle (I am pretty sure we were both stroking the hood and saying “Please, Daddy, can we have one?”) we headed back down the hill to find our car in Satigny.  Luckily, there were a few more vineyards to visit on the walk home.

In the town of Peissy we found a lively winery that was crowded with revelers drinking and dancing to a brass band.  Being no strangers to the dance floor the girls vaulted out of their strollers and joined the crowd.  They were soon joined by a mischievous little boy who I recognized as one of the football players from the previous winery, we will call him Electro Boy (because that is what it said on his t-shirt, which was really more like a half-shirt).  He seemed to remember the girls and wasted no time breaking into their sisterly dance circle.  I think Electro Boy liked Emma and Maggie, but it was difficult to tell as his primary form of communication was parading around like a monster and growling in their faces (which they enjoyed immensely).  Electro Boy was very brazen and was sweet on Emma.  He chased after her, at one point grabbing her hand, and planting a big, fat, kiss on her cheek!  Ahhh, those passionate European men, they learn their tricks at an early age.  The band finally wrapped up their playing a little before six.  Maggie and I accidentally offended the crowd by zealously dancing to the final song, which I am pretty sure was the Swiss National Anthem.  In our defense, I have never heard the Swiss National Anthem before, nobody was saluting a flag or anything, and it was quite a peppy tune.

Burning up the dance floor.

Sisters busting a move.

Electro Boy...on the prowl.

Emma's first kiss, caught on film.

Yesterday was an incredibly perfect day.  The sun shone down on us, but a cool breeze kept us all from overheating.  The atmosphere of Caves Ouvertes was simply spectacular.  I felt like a part of a gigantic, loving, wine sipping community.  The girls found playmates (sometimes cheeky ones, we’re keeping an eye out for you, Electro Boy) at every winery we visited.  For the most part people walked or rode bikes from cave to cave so the roads were quiet and it was comfortable and relaxing to explore the countryside on foot.  Everywhere you looked there were people picnicking, lounging between roadside grape vines, and noshing on local cheese and bread.  It was like a giant neighborhood block party, except the “block” was a large area of hillside vineyards.  I ♥ Caves Ouvertes, I wish it could be every weekend.  Alas, I will have to settle for the memory of sun drenched hills and crisp white wine when I descend into another castle dungeon next weekend.

Pink is the new Hirschauer mobile (we just need to get one more Hirschauer on board with the idea.)

Frolicking in the vineyards.

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