A Day in Beaujolais

Yesterday, on 29 September, the UC EAP Lyon program planned a trip for all of the kids in my program to go to Beaujolais and meet a French family who makes bread and makes wine…in their home in Provence. Basically, the coolest thing ever. Beaujolais is about an hour away, so we all got onto this huge bus (with seatbelts?) and made the journey through the countryside. The drive there was obviously beautiful, but the sheer amazingness of the countryside wasn’t really recognized until we all stepped off the bus and were faced with this huge countryside home that we were going to spend the day at. The picture I took of the house is to the left, and so you can see how completely perfect it is. The house was complete with a wine cellar (which they call “the cave”), a wine making barn and an outside oven where they make bread. The door that is open in the picture leads to their dining room where we all sat down to eat our 6 course meal.

However, before we get to the meal, the first thing that we did after we got off the bus was meet the couple who live and work there and they took us to The Cave/wine cellar where they had 60 wine glasses out and four bottles of wine. After we all took our seats, the man began speaking about wine. Entirely in French.

I am not exactly sure what I was expecting, since we are in France and are going to a French person’s home, but when he only spoke French, I was really confused. Also, it is important to note that I am in a sub-section of the UC EAP program where the 10 of us have only taken one year of French, and there are about 50 other students who are taking classes at the French universities in Lyon with French students. My 10 person program goes to school at the Language Institute where we take grammar, listening, writing and comprehension classes for the French Language. Because of this, we generally have no idea what is going on around us because we don’t speak very much French. So, as this French man went on an on about wine, and how you can differentiate between different types of wine because of the color that the oxygen creates (or something?), my program sort of sat there in silence while the rest of the students nodded and laughed. It wasn’t that bad because with hand motions you can understand a great deal, but I think we were all a little thrown off by that.

The good thing was that we all were given a taste of the wine that they made there in their house, and got to hear a little bit about the man’s family and his history with making wine. The coolest thing we learned? His grandmother and grandfather bought the farm that we were on at that moment and began their wine making career there in the 1920s, and since then, his mother and father worked there all their lives and so has he!

After this wine lesson, we all headed inside and we started to get fed some authentic French food. Throughout the meal, we were given bottles of water and wine that by the end, the entire group had finished 20 bottles of wine (keep in mind there were 60+ people there)! We were also given bowls on bowls of freshly made bread, with my favorite being the rosemary bread. I may or may not have eaten three bowls of that myself… For our first course, we were given a salad with a vinaigrette (and special mustard sauce that the man’s mother had made) that was amazing. For our second course, we had some fantastic buttery potatoes, that were able to be cut so perfectly and easily; our table probably finished up the entire bowl we were given in one round of passing it down and up the table. Then we followed those potatoes with an onion quiche for the vegetarians and for the meat eaters, lamb with some sort of mustard sauce. The onion quiche was amazing and I literally ate it in four bites. After our main course, we moved onto the cheese plate which had three different types of cheese (two from cows, and one from goats). One thing I have learned while living here in France is that they really do love their cheese. Our table was not really enjoying the types we were given (mostly because we were about to burst from being so full), and so when the woman came to took it away from us, we gave us a disapproving look that we didn’t eat the entire thing. However, she came right back with not one but three types of desserts which we completely devoured.

After we finished dinner, we were given a little break to walk around and see the surrounding sites which were completely beautiful! They have a horse that was just hanging out by the house, and their son and daughter spent the entire time we were there cutting grapes off of their vines in their front yard. I added a picture of their “front yard” to the right of this paragraph so you can see that calling it a front yard is sort of an understatement. A bunch of the people in the program took a little bit of time to walk around through the fields of grapes and it was fantastic. We have all been here for about a month (for me, exactly a month tomorrow!), but it is still strange sometimes to think about how we are in France and not just in some weird fantasy world we people speak some random language we don’t understand. Going to Beaujolais made the experience that much more real, which was really, really, realllllllllllllllllllllllllly fun (and scary…but more on that later).

After everyone’s quick break and walk around the grounds, we were taken to the couple’s outdoor oven (which was built into the wall), where they showed us how they make bread. They brought out a bunch of uncooked dough and showed everyone how to cut it juuuust right so it would rise perfectly and then threw it into the oven. After this, we were taken to their barn where they store their wine and he explained to us how they cut the grapes off of the vine and then how they press the grapes. There were a lot of others things said to us about making wine as well, but I didn’t really catch all of that…so I don’t think I will be beginning my wine making career in France. However, apparently my host father does some sort of something with wine, so maybe I will somehow learn some tips and tricks from him. After the wine room, we went back to the bread area and we were all sent home with our very own freshly cooked bread! Obviously, this was my favorite part of the trip and even though I had already eaten probably more than in my entire lifetime combined that afternoon at lunch, I finished up that loaf within a few hours. You can enjoy the awkward picture of me to the right while I nommed down on the best bread I have ever had. I didn’t know until we were driving away, but we could have bought more loaves of bread from them that had come fresh out of the oven…but of well, there is plenty of bread in France that is completely fantastic.

After this, we were given another half hour to walk around and look at the sites some more and I was able to take this picture of myself (on the left), so you can all see how cool I am. Even though the day was kind of cloudy, the entire day was completely amazing because of all the things we got to see and learn in the French countryside. And we got to eat a BUNCH of amazing food. Even though this is only one of two programs that the UC EAP program has planned for us, it was really amazing and everyone completely loved it. I wish that the EAP people would plan some more stuff for us, but I know that money is an issue and blah blah blah but all of my Oregon friends get to go on cool things every week and they take random tours around the city and can sign up for a bunch of stuff. But, I guess I win in the end because after we get back from France, they have to go back to Oregon and I have the privilege to return to the best state in the US of A: California ;D

Okay, but earlier in the post I mentioned about how scary it is to be in France sometimes and I thought this would be a good place to put in a little story that happened later that night. Also, as a forewarning, this story isn’t that scary because I come out looking really cool. ANYWAY, what happened is that I missed my metro by 4 minutes (the most frustrating thing ever), and so I was forced to take a taxi home, and usually I just have the taxi drop me off at the metro station that is really close to my house because that is easier than explaining exactly where I live because there are a bunch of one way streets around and its confusing. So, I got into the taxi and told him the stop and he looked at me like I was an idiot and said “I DONT SPEAK ENGLISH” in perfect English and asked me my address. So I told him again, and he said that that address doesn’t exist, but keep in mind that he is still driving this whole time. So he messes around with his GPS as I tell him where I want to go and then he calls his boss and starts yelling about how the girl in his taxi doesn’t know how to speak French and what an idiot I am and how I am telling him a fake address, and saying a bunch of really rude things (all of which, I completely understand). So he pulls over and tells me my address doesn’t exist AGAIN, so I pull out a ten and say (in almost flawless French) “You don’t know where you are going and you think I am stupid, but I can understand French. You are charging me a lot of money and aren’t driving to my house, so I will take another taxi” and he completely freaks out and tells me that he knows where he is going, hangs up his phone and drives me EXACTLY where I wanted to go. Things like this don’t happen to me here, so that is why I thought this was so strange. I guess the French stereotype of a mean person who thinks Americans are stupid was going to pop up sometime, it just is lame that it had to happen when I was (literally) paying for it. Anyway, thought you would all like that story just because it is sort of funny and really weird…even though it has nothing to do with Beaujolais except for the fact that it happened on the same day!

I’ll have another post out later this week, but for now you can look at all of the pictures I took of this trip in this post and relive the experience with me by reading this over and over again (and sending the link to your friends, woohoo! Only sort of kidding, guys). A bientot!

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