Once upon a time when our Maman was just a girl of 15, she made a magical trip to France with the Emmett Belknap Junior Highschool French Club.
It was her first time away from home on a holiday, that being Easter Sunday. And after a crack of dawn mass at Notre Dame de Nice where we kept getting woken up by the dripping of candle wax on her hands and being driven throughout the south of France in bus listening to the narration of a tour guide who NEVER ceased filling our stupid little upstate New York brains with facts we finally headed to dinner.
Those of us who’s parent had signed the additional permission slip were allowed to drink wine with our dinners. I was one of those students. Alas at the end of the meal, I was feeling a little extra melancholy.
After dinner, the students from my school met with our teachers. Now that year, there were four students on the trip and two teachers. One of the teachers spoke no French. Only German and was there for the pure joy of being in France. She was the music teacher at our school and according to my mother, something of a floozy. Well, whatever…
Anyway, we met after dinner and our teachers, noticing that we were a bit down suggested that we go out for a while before heading back to our spectacular rooms at the Hotel Terminus (I kid you not on the name). Their idea? Well, what else do you suggest with a pick of 15 year olds? We went out for drinks.
As we approached the bar, Mme. Berger explained that at many drinking establishments in France there was differential pricing based on where you sat. Those sitting out on the patio payed the highest price. The lowest prices were paid by those sitting at the bar. When asked where we wanted to sit, being young and stupid we sat on the patio. Why? Well, it was April in France, the bar was across the promenade from the Mediterannean and the moon was shining on the shimmering water.
When the waitress asked what we wanted to drink, Randy, Gina and Gwen (yes, we had a Gretchen, Gwen and Gina all on the same trip) able to order what they pleased, all ordered Screwdrivers. Which, naturalement are not called Screwdrivers in France but just plain Vodka and jus d’orange. Our teachers order beers. But me? Champagne. Moet & Chandon White Star.
I had two glasses then we went walking in the moonlit surf. It is a beautiful story, n’est ce pas?
Well sure. White Star has been my favorite Champagne ever since. Oh, the next day. I wanted to be dead. I was so hung over. And I was bruised. Why? Well, the beaches in Nice are rocks, not sand. Ouch.
Marguerite, knowing me for the last 24 years, knows this story.
And that is why she gave me White Star for my birthday.