Posts Tagged ‘Wine’

Wine Problems

No, seriously, I meant wine problems, like in the mathematical sense.

Sometimes, I help the girls with their homework. I say sometimes, because I am not always sure how much of a help I am.  One time the eldest forgot her grammar workbook at school so I was handed the phone as a mother somewhere in the Latin quarter dictated 2 pages of complex text with the adjectives left out so that the students could add tem in the gender appropriate manner.  When I finished, dripping sweat, my 10 year old slave driver scrutinized my pages of much practiced cursive and sighed, then requested I recopy it, using a ruler to make the blanks neater.

But math, I can do.  I think the world problems that elementary students do are very indicative of their society.  The other day the oldest girl was working on the following word problem:

Three friends go to a restaurant. The all get the same menu (a set price for a 2 or three course meal), order a bottle of wine, and two of them finish with an espresso. The bill is 72 Euros.  The bottle of wine being 14 Euros, and the espressos each costing 2 Euros, what was the menu price?

Don’t get me wrong – this is an exceedingly practical word problem for a child growing up in the center of Paris.  But what had me laughing was the wine.  Maybe I am wrong, but I am pretty certain that alcohol is nonexistent in the workbooks of American elementary school children.  I told this to my 10 year old Parisian, and she shrugged her shoulders and then leaned forward and said conspiratorially, “Les français sont fous pour le vin” (“The French are crazy for wine.”).  She then showed me how about one in every eight or so word problems dealt with wine, calculating the number of bottles in a shipment, the glasses in each bottle, how many bottles to have for a dinner party, etc. At first, my sense of propriety and age level sensitivity was shocked. But then again, she is French. I guess there is something to be said for applicable school assignments.


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For the second week of my spring vacation, I headed south to Bordeaux.  My brother Zach came over from England because he not so secretly wishes he spoke French and lived in France.  Who, after living through an English winter and then seeing southern France, could think otherwise?  We decided to stay in Bordeaux, spending one full day and evenings there and then taking some day trips.  I like to think that we saw a lot of Bordeaux but that would be misleading.  We stayed near the old city section whose tiny cobblestone streets and sun drenched churches reminded me of Italy, and we didn’t venture far outside.  In fact, other than the mesmerizing reflection pool along the waterfront, we spent virtually our entire time in Bordeaux in the same plaza.  I don’t even really remember the name, but an old church offered one side and the remaining sides contained quant restaurants with outdoor seating shaded by leafy trees, wide umbrellas, and twinkling lanterns.  All of our meals out in Bordeaux were eating in this plaza.  To be more specific, all of our dinners were eaten in the same restaurant, La Taverne Saint-Pierre.  Stones have fierce loyalty.  Our initial good dinner prompted us to boldly decide that this was the best restaurant in Bordeaux, or at least our favorite.  Zach’s French is rather limited to the enthusiastic “Très Bien!” and so every time the server/owner/ sous chef asked how anything was, Zach would just make appreciative faces and pronounce it “Trrrrrrèèèsss bien!” But then again, it was.

If I thought the pace of life was deliciously slow in Paris, it is nothing compared to southern France.  The trams piddled along at a pace only slightly faster than walking, our hotel casually gave me the key without demanding any form of payment or ID, and our meals lasted late into the night.  I think it is something about the sun that just makes you want to slow down and bask.  One day we took the train to the town of Arcachon to spend the day at the beach.  Expecting all sorts of street side vendors, we instead found ourselves a little pressed to find sandwiches to buy.  But that did mean it was an afternoon of reading and relaxation that one is hard pressed to find at say, Virginia Beach.  Yes, for one afternoon at the beach, we had to bring 2 books a piece because Stones live in fear of finishing a book and not having another to start.

But by far our favorite part of the trip was our day spent in the tiny medieval town of Saint-Émilion, from which come all of these pictures.  Nestled in the heart of Bordeaux’s wine country, Saint-Émilion is a perfect gem of steep stone streets, hidden alleys overhung in flowers, and horizons covered in endless vineyards.  After exploring the village, we rented bikes to cycle through country.  One of my friends in Paris has family who run a vineyard nearby so we peddled over for a visit.  My friend had told me that when she is at Michotte, you seem to step out of time, and nothing could have been closer to the truth.  We had cake and tea in a bright kitchen with the windows open and listened to a brief spring rainstorm before having a tour of the premises.  I was a little sad to hear that people no longer stomp the grapes, but at least at Michotte they are still picked by hand.

I left Michotte and Saint-Émilion thinking that the whole process of winemaking is very reminiscent of the area it comes from.  It is a process, a life that cannot be rushed, that develops its greatest savor after being allowed to rest for a while.  It is a lesson in patience, but more over a lesson in the benefit of doing things slowly, of stepping outside of time so as to best use it.

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