Monday, July 19, 2010

Back to Languedoc!

Michèle and I are off to Languedoc again, but this time it’s different: we’re bringing our 7-year old niece with us. Our 4-week trip last autumn was all about visiting wineries, playing golf, and catching up with Bob and Natalie (Michèle’s brother and his girlfriend), who live in Montpellier. Our niece, M², is not into golf or wine (not yet anyway, but I’m optimistic). So this trip will be all about days at the beach on the Mediterranean or at the pool at Bob’s place, maybe some horseback riding, and, I fear, much shopping.

We took Air France again this year. Hard to believe that it’s the same airline that we took just 9 months ago. The flight is almost an hour late leaving, no explanation, no apology. But it’s the first flight for M² so her anticipation and excitement erases all the drabness and aggravation of modern air travel. We’re a little worried about how she’ll react to the flight. Turns out that, once on board, she loves it, every minute of it: the acceleration down the runway, the G-force as the plane lifts off, the gradually-shrinking view of the buildings until we get above the clouds, the video screen in the seat back with movies and cartoons, the sunset quickly followed by sunrise high over the Atlantic as we head for Paris. She’s definitely not impressed with her kid’s meal: chicken nuggets and potato patties. Yikes, this is her first taste of French cuisine?! But, otherwise, she’s hooked on air travel. No sleep for us on this red-eye.

We land at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris at 6 am and, wow, another big shift downwards. In Paris, there are 3 customs agents for 1000 incoming tourists. I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world, including to many developing countries with god-awful infrastructure, but I’ve never been through something this disorganized. Are the French having trouble handling the boom in tourism? After all, tourists have only been coming to France for, what, a hundred years? Maybe this is a sign of the French government’s austerity? Easily the worst customs-clearing experience I’ve ever had (except for US Customs at Pearson, which is now in my Hall of Fame for consistently bad travel experiences...even before 9-11). We barely make our connection to Montpellier, despite a 90-minute layover. M² grabs the window seat…it may take a while to get her noseprints off the glass.

We pick-up our rental car at Montpellier Airport. The car rental agency tries to give us an upgrade to a much larger car. They’re stunned when we turn it down. But having a large car in a European city is a definite no, especially when we already know how small the parking space is at the apartment that we’re renting (the same one as last year).

Montpellier is very familiar to us now. We get well-settled into the apartment; then we have a quick snooze, a little lunch, some grocery shopping.

Bob and Natalie come over for a welcome apéro that evening. I open up a bottle of that wonderful white wine, Picpoul de Pinet, from only 50 kilometres down the road from Montpellier:
La Font Française Picpoul de Pinet Blanc des Blancs 2009, AC Languedoc; Cave de l’Ormarine; 12.5% ABV
Aromas of lemon-lime, minerality, and white blossoms. The flavours of lemon-lime and minerality come through, matched by wonderfully fresh, crisp acidity with a touch of bitterness at the end. It’s the perfect beverage for a warm summer evening.

It’s good to be back!

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