I’ll have what they’re having (guest Jen said)15 Jul 2012
There comes a time in every Washingtonian’s life when the work hours get to be too much, finding good quality food gets to be too expensive and getting people to laugh gets to be too exhausting. This is when having friends living on a canal boat in France, with extra space, comes in handy.
When Life Gives You Lemons, Book a Ticket to France.
After finding some decent airfare to Paris (and by “decent” I mean decent for Asia – or Paris in the summer), within weeks of my deciding to run away from DC I found myself on a Delta flight bound to Paris via Cincinnati. Relax, this blog won’t recount every minor detail of my trip but take note, this is actually an important lesson I learned: Don’t fly Delta to France, fly Air France! On Delta you get one TV for every 20 passengers and American customer service. On Air France you get your own TV, Champagne, Cognac and French service. While the service can balance itself out, the quality of alcohol and entertainment cannot. Don’t make the same mistake I did – thankfully only one way.
Meeting up with team Heather and Kent (HK) took a little work, but it was quite easy. Flight to Paris > bus to train station (Air France’s Les Cars to Gare de Lyon) > train to Dijon > transfer > train to Montbard, Burgundy. Using their sixth sense, HK were able to greet me before I even stepped off the train. Better yet? Their boat was only a 5 minute walk where they greeted me with a delightful bottle of sparkling rosé.
Author’s note: this blog post perhaps should come with its own movie-like rating system. Let’s make it NC 17-65. Mom, Dad; I promise you my liver is just fine and I do not have “a problem.”
One bottle of sparkling wine inevitably leads to another and just like that, we were fully in happy hour mode. While opening bottle #2, it hit me – or rather a bird’s sh*t hit me – smack on the arm. As my close friends know, I’m a magnet for confused birds, and their poo. Like the cute old lady who sold Diane Lane the old house in Under the Tuscan Sun, I decided it was a sign – “Un sueno!”- of good times to come.
Montbard proved to be a lovely town complete with a fresh market, a mobile store to fix HK’s internet problem, a gorgeous church as seen from the exterior (come to think of it, I never got to see the inside of any church while I was there…perhaps the heavens/fates knew better and deemed me unworthy) and most importantly, a pizza joint that was playing the Germany vs. Italy game. Delirious from jetlag, I forced myself to stay awake to watch Germany get beat by Italy for the semi-final EuroCup game (booo!). Deciding I must have imagined this horrible defeat, it was time for bed.
The previous night’s event seemed to haunt me in day 2 where we visited the “Buffon Parc” and “Buffon Museum”. Coincidentally, “Buffon” is the name of Italy’s goal keeper who blocked my beloved Germany’s every attempt on goal the night before. France’s “Buffon” was a naturalist (nature, not nudity) and a scientist who really wanted to study butterflies and squirrels but France decided his skills were best spent building and mining iron. I don’t get the French. Regardless, the grounds of the Buffon Forges were impressive but instead of all the “engineering feats” I was supposed to be awing, I couldn’t help but think – this space would make for an amazing party venue.
After a few more minutes (hours? Who can really tell when you’re floating down the canals of Burgundy), we tied up to where we’d stay the night and fell into the usual routine of canal-life; happy hour on the deck, take turns showering and cleaning up for dinner, take turns making dinner or continuing happy hour, eat dinner on the deck with a bottle of amazing wine found at [insert delicious French winery] HK were at in this beautiful town of [insert name of beautiful French town], followed up with an after-dinner drink of Muscat, Armagnac, Port, or some sort of rubbing alcohol that Kent tried to get me to drink. Normally it was just one glass of the after dinner drink. Sometimes it was…more than that.
As it should be all year round, the sun in France doesn’t set until about 10:30pm and rises at about… 6:00am? I have no idea, I’m not going to lie to you. Later sunsets allowed for longer evenings and plenty of time for a proper happy hour(s), extended dinners, and late night strolls/mini pilgrimages to see to see “what’s on the other side of the bridge?” before bed. Mornings greeted me with fresh pastries or a baguette from the boulangerie (that’s French for the best store in town) with Nutella on it. Ahhh, Nutella. That creamy smooth chocolate and hazelnut goodness that I somehow avoided during my studies in Italy (quite likely because my roommate “Lynn” wanted it all for herself). Heather made the silly assumption that the remnants in their current jar would be enough for my week’s stay. An honest mistake I quickly corrected by buying another jar on my second day which I do believe was polished off by my last day.
Aside from Nutella, baguettes, wine, CHEESE (how have I not mentioned the cheese yet?!), salads, cookies, and chocolate, our days were filled with visiting quaint locks (elevators for boats), meandering down the canals and seeing nothing but gorgeous rolling hills of wheat or grapes, and visiting château. As you’ve seen from Kent’s previous post, the Château are incredible – as are the stories they house. Stories like “this is the dining room, where the lady of the house ‘accidentally’ burned herself to death in front of her guests” (how exactly does one accidentally burn oneself to death in front of a crowd of people?) and “this childhood toy proved most useful for women when their men were away at war” (see image at right – use your imagination) and the secret room in Château de Tanlay where there’s a fresco of mythical gods and goddesses painted with the faces of their 16th century contemporaries (how modest)! This is why I have an art history undergraduate degree; the only things my mind seems to retain are the ridiculous stories.
Sex, scandal, and death aren’t the only topics I learned about on this trip – I also learned about cheese! Heather graciously (and perhaps mistakenly) allowed me to read her iPad version of The Cheese Lover’s Companion: The Ultimate A to Z Cheese Guide. Did you know that you should never re- wrap cheese in its original wrapping? That most cheese should be left out at room temperature for an hour before consumption? That aged blue cheese is phenomenal with a drizzle of honey on top? And that you should never, under any circumstance, cross-contaminate cheeses by using one knife for multiple cheeses. HK know this, now. And I made it my personal duty to ensure that the laws of cheese were followed on Après Ski.
I could easily turn this blog post into a (wannabe) Oprah best-selling novel but I’ll wrap it up and say that in all, my time cruising the French canals with HK was one of the best trips I’ve ever experienced. Some people may think they’ve lost their minds to drop out of society for months at a time – but I think that’s what makes them brilliant. Life on the boat is simpler. Not in the same vein that camping is “simpler” either. The closest I felt to “roughing it” was drinking French wine that came from a box – and admitting it was GOOD! It’s more that the pace was simpler, food was fresher, work was shorter, and people we met were more eager to laugh. Or maybe they just thought I was funny.
My visit by the numbers:
- Château visited: 4
- New cheeses discovered: 9
- Pastries eaten: 11
- Bottles of wine consumed: 187*
(*I’m kidding. Bottles of wine, like calories, should never be counted while on vacation)