Summer is definitely tourist season in Paris, unless – apparently – you’re living here, in which case all your friends and family prefer to come in the fall. For the first six months, we had exactly two houseguests: (1) my mom, who works in an elementary school and thus can only get away during the summer; and (2) Colin’s best friend who lives two hours away in London. The rest of our friends and family eventually called us up and delivered the news: “Hey, so you know that summer trip we were planning? We’re thinking of coming in the fall instead…”
After this happened three or four times, we began wondering whether this was just a “the check is in the mail” sort of thing and no one was going to come. The day before my mom arrived, I turned to Colin and said, “I’m 99 percent sure my mom will visit us because she’s literally on a plane right now, but she might be the only one.”
Well, we didn’t need to worry. From the beginning of September through the end of November, we have FIVE groups of visitors coming.
Now, we love all our visitors dearly, but you can only go to the Louvre so many times before you feel like giving everyone a big old Mona Lisa side-eye. Colin and I have therefore started gently persuading our loved ones that what they really want to do is… whatever’s on our own To Do list. You thought you wanted to see the Louvre? How about the Picasso Museum instead? You want to sip wine at a café along the Seine? How about a glass of champagne in Champagne?
That last one really wasn’t a hard sell, particularly after NPR came out with this story. So last Friday Colin and I took my dad to Épernay (one of the two main towns in the Champagne region) and treated ourselves to a tour of a small family-owned winery, Domi-Moreau. The guide Nathalie was super bubbly (pun intended) and, thankfully for us, spoke perfect English. We had the tour to ourselves so we didn’t feel bad overwhelming her with questions. She first drove us from Épernay into the countryside to see her family’s vines, then back to their workshop and wine cellar in nearby Mancy for a tasting.
I learned so incredibly much. First, that it’s possible to drink four glasses of champagne in one day and not feel any worse for the wear. Second, that when a good bottle costs only 15€, you should buy as many as you can carry. Oh, and I also learned a lot about harvest and production, like that each town sets an “earliest allowable” harvest date, before which it’s illegal to pick grapes; that the quantity of champagne is tightly regulated (just like OPEC!), so in boom years like this one, excess grapes rot on the vines with no commercially-viable secondary use; and that it’s possible – like magic! – to uncap champagne bottles to drain fermentation sediment without losing the carbonation.
And now I feel much better prepared for the chaos of Second Tourist Season, since I have four bottles of good champagne just waiting to be drunk. If anyone suggests a visit to the Louvre, you’ll find me waiting for you at home, sipping a cool glass of bubbly.