Monday, October 07, 2013


I wonder if anyone else out there recalls the Winona Ryder flick from "way back when" - 1994, actually - Reality Bites. This post has nothing to do with that film. Which is just as well. Although I am pretty certain I saw it at the time, I can remember not very much about it. Young people, I think, Gen-Xers and such. Not in my league, really - even if I knew what league I am in.

But reality is biting this week. We got back from France a week ago, dead-tired after a long flight - seven hours - on an Airbus, and then a wild and hairy drive to get out of the parking lot at the Montreal Airport. The airport, btw, is named for one of our better-known Prime Ministers, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The road system around the airport resembles a plate of cold spaghetti. It is a nightmare. At one point Suzanne, who was driving, and who is from Montreal originally, actually screamed in her frustration. Eventually we did make it, of course. If we hadn't, this post would be coming from Montreal. Or a rest home in the vicinity.

I don't usually bring home souvenirs or gifts from a trip, but I did bring home a souvenir from Paris. A rotten cold, and it lingers, as colds often will.

OK, I did bring back small gifts for my two daughters. Meredith had requested I get her some "Kusmi Tea" from Paris, and Suzanne found some on one of her shopping expeditions. I had never even heard of the stuff. For anyone who's interested, here's the skinny on Kusmi Tea, from Wikipedia:

Kusmi Tea (or Kusmi-Tea) is a brand of tea with headquarters in Paris, France. The company, which produces Russian-style teas and tea blends, was established by Pavel Michailovitch Kousmichoff (Павел Михайлович Кузьмичёв, 1840-1908) in 1867 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Upon the onset of the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Kousmichoff company relocated to France. The company has changed hands several times since then. The company sells and markets a wide variety of blended and flavoured teas.

So, now you know. And if you want to know more, go here:

My other daughter, Kristina, didn't ask for anything. For all I know, she's never heard of Kusmi Tea, although she's pretty keen on English Breakfast Tea, especially the one produced by Twinings. Instead of tea, she will have to make do with a bottle of what I hope is a really nice Bourgogne Blanc that I picked up at the Paris airport - which as just about everyone knows is named for Charles de Gaulle; and codenamed CDG.

On the whole, the rotten cold notwithstanding, the France trip went really well. I had hoped to be inspired to write, to photograph locations, and make notes about them, but I didn't. What I did do was eat and drink far too much. It's hard to resist. Everywhere one goes, one is surrounded by good food and good wine. They almost speak to you as you walk down any street. And who was I to resist?

The odd thing about France and the plenitude of food and wine, is that almost no one there seems overweight. It's the tourists, North Americans mostly, who have the pot bellies and the chubby cheeks. A friend of mine says it's the garlic that makes the difference. Maybe he's right. I don't know. It's a mystery, really.

A high point of the trip? Dinner on the Bateau Mouche, motoring down the Seine, just like Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in Charade. It was really good. ( We will hope to have the tab paid off sometime before Christmas.) If you've seen the film, you might remember that the boat's crew shone a spotlight on the river's banks as the boat moved past, catching lovers in warm and close embraces. In fact, the banks of the Seine are densely populated on warm nights. Couples and groups were there in large numbers, picnicking in the moonlight. It really was very nice. And very romantic.

Low point of the trip? Versailles. It was, for us, a big disappointment. The grounds are beautiful, and expansive, but the buildings themselves, and the furnishings? We were not impressed. By the time we had staggered through it all, we had to agree that The Terror was probably not such a bad idea. Three cheers for Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, we say. Good man. Well done.!

Not serious about that, of course. Tongue in cheek, and all that. The Terror really was a terror. And this gentle soul opposes capital punishment - well, mostly. (There are some exceptions to my rule, but I won't list them. It would take too long.)

Most fun part of the trip? Piloting a mid-sized Citroen Clio around the narrow roads near Avignon, whipping through a roundabout every few minutes. (Not sure if roundabouts are found in the U.S. of A., but they are making headway here in the Ottawa area.) And we didn't dent a fender or scrape a mudguard.

But there was some disappointment even in that part of the trip. One day we drove to Chateauneuf du Pape, one of the most famous wine-growing areas in a country famous for its vineyards. We had expected to see row upon row, and hectare upon hectare, of orderly vineyards, the vines lush with grapes, begging to be made into wine. What we found, though, were vineyards badly overgrown with weeds. That really surprised us. We tried to put a good face on it by concluding that they growers did not use, or did not excessively use, chemical herbicides. But that, I think was a rather desperate rationalisation.

Days later, on the TGV from Avignon to Paris, in the Burgundy region, we passed hectare after hectare of neat, orderly and mostly weed-free vines, lush and heavy with very healthy-looking grapes. With that, we were indeed impressed.

So, now it really is back to reality, however one defines it. And, yes, we are dieting. And we are not (currently) drinking alcohol in any formulation. The cells of my liver, and what's left of my neural connections, are thanking me. I may even start writing again soon.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

Tom, an Englishman who used to come to Western Writers (Robin May) told me once that he was shocked by the weight of the people he saw in America. He said in England a lot of people were "stout" but not as flat-out obese as here.