I am currently in central France jettisoning, according to volume and mass, any and all objects that do not pertain to my immediate survival. Pants? I have two, I don’t need three… Why the hell did I bring this 101 tips to better water color book!? Items also on the list include one shirt with pockets ala “Indiana Jones meets Gary Larson entomologist”, and possibly all three pairs of shoes.
It has been five weeks since first arriving in Paris, and a lot has happened in that time, so I am going to make this blog-post a greatest hits of sorts.
Bordeaux: Meryl and I Attended the Ecole du Vin for a class on tasting wine. We educated our palates using fifty or so little bottles of purified aromatic chemicals – including those for fruits, spices, leathery tannins, etc- each of which is present to a greater or lesser degree in Bordeaux wines. This was a fascinating class, not only because it was informative and nose-opening, but also as an example of how taste is cultivated. There is definitely something interesting going on with neuroscience of taste-perception and the socio-economic implications of a school for wine tasting run by the industry itself (our teacher was a vineyard owner), but that will have to wait for a dissertation or two. We also had a guided tour of two vineyards in Blaye, on the east bank of the river Gironde. These were fun introduction to the area and I hope I get to go back to explore it a little more.
St.Emilion: This is a small town just outside of Bordeaux where Meryl and I rented bikes for the day and rode around the countryside stopping to talk with vintners and taste their wines. One winery even had soil samples on display from the several different vineyards they owned. This added a convincing visual element to the notion of Terroir which is so essential to the economic and sensorial qualities of Bordeaux wines. I left my card in hopes of returning for the harvest. Talking with an older vintner, I was surprised to hear him say that if he were young again, he would learn English.
Pau: At the foot of the Pyrenees, this town is a great starting point for exploring the ferments of the Basque region. Along with Biarritz and Bayonne, Pau is a major center for the history and commemoration of craft-produced chocolate in France, and there is even a Route du Fromage which highlights farms and fromageries producing a range of cheeses in the protected Ossau-Iraty region. However, at the time I was unaware of the significance of the town for chocolate and lacked a car (necessary to follow the route du fromage), so I went up into the mountains for a day and vowed to come back to this area better prepared.
I returned to Paris, and after saying goodbye to my girlfriend, I used up my last day of Eurail pass to travel to a small town in the Correze region. I have been living here for three weeks, practicing my French, reading up on the history of French ferments, and even visiting a Boulanger to bake bread with him for a day or two (my next post will go into this in more detail). I am leaving here in a few days, probably headed to Dijon, but we’ll see!