When my friend Kari and I stopped in Saint Emilion we never thought that we’d be attending (to use the term loosely) the Bordeaux Society Wedding of the Century (or Decade) (last decade).
I happened upon a short story contest sponsored by the Bordeaux Wine Bureau while leafing through a food and wine magazine. The promotion launched the bureau’s Valentines Day ‘Seduction’ campaign. I submitted an entry, forgot about it, and won a trip for two to Bordeaux. My writing was lame,but my strategy was solid: I kissed up to the judges. I described my one-night seduction at the hands of a suave, sophisticated Frenchman (of course), consumated in the library of a Bordeaux (of course) chateau and facilitated by a bottle or two of Chateau Latour (a Bordeaux, of course).
Unfortunately the one-night seduction at the hands of a suave, sophisticated Frenchman was fictional, but I had stayed three nights at Chateau de la Bourdaisiere, a wonderfully creepy property nestled in the Loire Valley with a straight-out-of-an-Agatha-Christie-novel library. And I had drunk wine there (not Chateau Latour, mind you).
The prize included a private chateau tour, so Kari and I rented a car to visit the winery and then see the scenic, medieval village of Saint Emilion.
I was a little nervous about driving the rental car. I was too cheap back then to pay for automatic transmission even though I’ve never mastered gear-shifting (it’s so easy to mistake second gear for fourth when cruising down the Autoroute at 90 kms/hour). And I refused to pay for anything but the most compact of models. In fact, the last time that I rented a car in France I nearly killed my friend Bryna and myself and terrrorized the greater part of the inhabitants of the Cote d’Azur. Swerving and jerking (didn’t realize the parking brake was still on a little bit) our way through the Alpes d’Azur in our mini-mini-mobile, we looked like two Shriners in desperate search of a parade.
But this time, when Kari and I finally located our rental car we were amazed to find a brand-new, candy-apple-red Alfa Romeo sportscar in our space. We double-checked our contract against the license plates… … and yup, this was our vehicle. Someone screwed up! In our favor! HIGH. FIVES. I know now that bit of luck was foreshadowing of the day ahead.
Pulling into Saint Emilion, several policeman immediately directed us to a parking spot. Boy, there sure are a lot of policeman in Saint Emilion. We meandered a bit. There sure are a lot of serious-looking men in black suits talking into earpieces in Saint Emilion. We window-shopped and trudged up and down the limestone steps that transverse the village. There sure are a lot of distinguished-looking men in tuxedos and haughty-looking women in bright colors in Saint Emilion.
Then it dawned on us: Something Was Going On in Saint Emilion!