Thursday, November 26, 2015

Our French Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, the holiday celebrated in America by eating too much turkey and stuffing, with sweet potatoes and whatever else you got. To the French, it means nothing.

There are many many Americans in Paris; there have been since there was an America. So, there are, no doubt, many celebrations of Thanksgiving going on, some of which are available to the public. But Paula and I chose to celebrate this day in a decidedly French fashion: by attending the Salon des Vins des Vignerons Ind├ępendants, a trade show of independent wine producers. We had no idea what to expect, except that there would be 1000 small independent wine producers there.

The event took place at a massive exhibition hall at the Porte de Versailles in the south of Paris. While there were several events occurring at the same time, this one was held in a hall the size of the LA Colosseum. And sure enough, there were a thousand (ok, I didn’t actually count them, but really really a lot) of tables set up, each with room behind it for two people, a refrigerator, and dozens of cases of wine.

We entered, paid out 6 Euros (just over $6US), and got our tasting glass (only the general public paid, though; most of the attendees were wine and restaurant professionals, and they got in free). And there we were, with a thousand vendors (more or less), each one anxious to have us taste their three or four best wines. Overall, it was more than overwhelming!

The Salon des Vins des Vignerons Independants. Colors represent wine growing regions in France.
Paula suggested we focus on wines from the Languedoc-Roussion region, since we will be there for almost three months next year. Turns out France has a round dozen recognized wine-growing regions, and the Salon was organized around them, with each exhibitor station color coded as to region. We had some great conversations – and some great wine – from several exhibitors. Then it was time for the wine tasting lesson. Offered by Ecole du Vin, a wine school in France, the lesson was, of course, in French, and I only caught a few words here and there. Still, we did get to sample five very fine wines, with the instructor commenting on the color, bouquet, and aftertaste of each one.

After that, and a quick break for a sandwich, it was back to the serious business of learning about wines from France’s south-eastern region. We collected a good dozen addresses that we may very well visit next Spring!

On the way out we stopped to have our picture taken, to make our own wine label…

Our souvenir from the Salon des Vins -- this and the wine glasses we kept!
 Heading home, we figured we’d take a bus. The Metro is fantastic, but it’s underground, dark and featureless. The city bus system is touring-friendly, although somewhat harder to figure out. But the bus that stopped near the convention center went by the Eiffel Tower (and eventually to someplace where we could take another bus that went somewhere near where we lived, just in case we decided to skip the Tower), so we climbed on board.

Eiffel's iron lacework

We ultimately had a nice sunset walk through the Champs de Mars, under the Tower, and across the bridge to the Trocadero fountains. But there was this incident on the bus. Paula commented on a very bad smell; apparently some of the other passengers noticed it, too. Eventually this, ah, homeless woman appeared, muttering rude curses and kicking at another lady on the bus. Some passengers got off to avoid her. Eventually she left, and the rest of us looked at one another and shook our heads. Whew! Life in the big city…

After the Eiffel Tower walk it was dark and cold, so we hopped on the Metro to get home. Yeah, us and about a thousand other people. It was packed! Ah, the Metro at rush hour! And so we stood, patiently, crammed in, as the train stopped at another station. But it was a rude landing, and we ended up a few feet short of the proper spot. So we waited, staring wistfully out the windows at the well-lit platform while the PA announced in very generic terms that everything would be OK real soon.

Eventually we moved the last few feet, the doors opened, some people left and some got on, and we continued on our way, still pressed tightly together. But we were moving.

And now we’re home and tired in a good way, going over our day and planning our next adventure. And, while we certainly miss our family and friends, this is one Thanksgiving we will not forget!

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