Who is not ready to get out and start traveling? I know I am itching to go somewhere. This is the longest I’ve not been on a plane in I don’t even know how many years. I think about travel, dream about travel almost every day. I miss the craziness of being in an airport, being on a plane, hearing the loudspeaker say, be prepared for take off. I find myself surfing through my favorite country travel sites on Instagram and Facebook or watching travel related cooking shows. I also find myself reminiscing a lot about where I’ve traveled to and with whom. I can’t believe I’m writing that it’s been 3 years since my mom’s passing. Time does travel, sometimes all too fast. I wanted to share a story about a trip she and I took to France many years ago. It was a gift of my dad’s to us, so that we could spend some quality time together in France; a place he and I had spent time in when I was a teenager — that’s for a whole other story! Dad was himself very sick at this time and mom and I were hesitant about going but he insisted and we knew that our going would make him happy. That’s how he was, he never wanted anything big for himself, he got the most pleasure in giving. He knew we needed a break, and for those of you who’ve been through it, being a caretaker is very hard. So mom and I went on our first long mother – daughter trip to Paris, the City of Light, Art, Beauty and Wine & Food!
I set the itinerary and we would hit all the great sites in Paris, go to Versailles and make a special visit to Champagne Pol Roger, since I worked with them for many years while at my previous company. I’m pretty organized with trip itineraries, ask anyone who’s been on one with me and this was no different! I do a lot of research so that a trip comes together seamlessly to make it easy for all. Not having stayed in Paris for eons, I asked a friend for a recommendation for a hotel. I have to admit, I’m pretty picky about my hotels and don’t usually take recommendations for small boutique hotels, but I did this time. Lovely place in the 7th, seriously quaint, but as we all know, quaint doesn’t just mean cute, it also can mean small. And this place sadly was small. A double room as I learned meant just a room for 2, not a room with double beds. This one had one queen size bed in a room where we could pretty much touch the walls. So I freaked out a bit, talked my way out of the reservation and moved us to the Radisson Blu just outside the main part of the city. Now before you scoff at the American hotel chains, remember they are so much more grand when you get out of the US, almost like you’re not in a chain hotel. We were now comfortable, a little remote but it fit the budget and made us happy. Now we were set to conquer the city. I had been to Paris many times so I was super happy to be showing this to mom who had never been. I loved seeing how she loved the city. She was in good form and was able to do a lot of walking thank goodness, since Paris is truly, like New York or London, a walking city, best seen on foot.
Of course we went to the Louvre, Montmatre, Montparnasse etc… and to Versailles. We ate and ate and ate more. Dad allowed me to splurge on some amazing meals and I took her to 2 of my favorite places, one’s I had been to with dad when he was here — Taillavent and La Tour d’Argent. Walking into Taillavent with her was an experience. You stand a litle straighter, immediately feel elegant, and special. The food was extraordinary, the service was beyond reproach, your every wish is anticipated, you never feel surrounded by service, you just enjoy the moment. I also took her to the famous Tour d’Argent for their famed Canard a Presse, their pressed duck. Overlooking the Seine, it’s like you’ve stepped into a museum of food and wine. Their wine collection is fabled, but it’s the duck we were there for! Here’s an image of the famed Presse a Canard, the duck press, I will spare you the details, but you get the idea. If you want to look up how it’s used go ahead, it looks like a medieval torture device, but at the end of the day the duck was incredible.
We sipped coffee at Les Deux Magots, went to Fauchon where I think mom could have moved in, but one of our most memorable meals was at a Moroccan Restaurant called Al Mounia. We wanted to do something that wasn’t heavy french food, we wanted something that Paris was known for and Moroccan food was it. We went in and it felt like you were stepping into Morocco. I can still smell the spices today and remember vividly the Pastilla that we shared. A chicken pie that’s not just a chicken pie but a blend of warm spices enveloping chicken surrounded by a flaky pastry and topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Sweet, savory, warm and just oh so amazing. But it was the mint tea at the end, that I can still taste and smell just by remembering. I had never tasted anything like it, mint steeped in sweet water, it was truly delicious.
Other than Versailles, our only other excursion out of the city was to Epernay, for a visit with Christian and Danielle Pol Roger of Champagne Pol Roger. I hadn’t been back to that area of Champagne in many years. When I was in High School I spent a summer in Reims when I worked as a tour guide at Mumm, so I was eager to go back and bring mom. Christian Pol Roger was a gentleman in the truest sense. Elegant yet approachable, just like his Champagne, sums him up perfectly. Christian and his wife Danielle, could not have been more welcoming. Danielle took pride in showing mom her rose garden, where she had recently had a rose named for her. After our tour of the caves, we went back to their house and had a lovely lunch. I can still remember the fish pie she served us, it was the first time I had had one and it was delicious. I think it was accompanied by a Chablis from Moreau. At the end of the visit, Christian presented Mom with a bottle that he autographed and said that she and dad should share it for their upcoming anniversary. I recently heard that Christian passed away, and I can say that this is a loss for the world of wine, and Champagne in particular. At my old company, we had this wonderful winemaker tour called the Grand Tour, Christian was a cornerstone of this group of legends in wine. One day he and Olivier Leflaive turned around and started calling me “La Farine Francine”, which I took as a term of endearment. For those of you who don’t know, it’s also a brand of flour in France.
Anyway back to mom. Here’s a picture of her with Danielle and Christian in Danielle’s garden.
Time travel, time to travel, or time travels. Three years have gone by, so much has changed but the memories remain. We are lucky to be able to travel in time through our memories. Sometimes it’s a picture, a song, a place even a glass of wine, or a food that jogs our memory and allows us to travel back in time. For now I celebrate mom by traveling back in time to remember. I think I’ll open up a bottle of Pol Roger Champagne, toast her and travel a bit more in time.