On the TGV: Headed back to ParisNote: I wrote most of this as I blasted across the French countryside on the TGV.

The TGV goes pretty fast. This is my first time on it. Since it’s work related (the train trip – not the blog) I’m able to sit in the fancy seats. Comfy. Quiet.
I wish you could see the clouds outside my window. A photograph wouldn’t capture the grandeur of the countryside and the clouds and suddenly a huge white windmill that comes out of nowhere. I’m monumentally sad to be heading to Paris to fly back (I mean who wouldn't be after a week of being wined and dined across France).

Sunset. Paris.
The View from the Pompidou CentreWe spent about twenty four hours in Paris. We walked around a lot and spent entirely too much money on caramels at a candy shop that looked more like a jewelry store. The concierge guy at the hotel recommended dinner at the restaurant at the top of the Pompidou Center. I totally assume that this is the same as eating at the South Street Seaport, but the restaurant is on top of the center and gives you stunning views of Paris. Having wilted greens in my salad was a small price to pay for the amazing view.

Mrs. Robot took a great photo outside of the Louvre.

The next morning we had a 70 EURO breakfast. Stupid hotel.

Work Related
So, the whole point of this trip was work related. Without going too much into actual work stuff, I was tasked with going to France to visit five properties in Champagne and another one in Cognac. These trips were all official work-arranged and once I said I goodbye to Mrs. Robot on Monday morning (she flew back) I was literally whisked away in fancy automobiles to waiting glasses of Champagne. No, really.

I’m not doing a good enough job of describing it all when I say that the whole trip was spectacular. Incredible. A few times breathtaking. Awesome.

Côte des Blancs
Champers #1
My first day was spent at Moet. I was there for two days and was accompanied by about 10 other people from around the globe. We did lots of learning things during the day, and in the evening there would be the dinners.
Dinner at the Residence de Trianon at MoetThe first night we had dinner in their chateau. Spectacular. Every friggin element. The room. The table settings. The wine (holy crap – the 1975 vintage they served). The food.
Hot scallops served in a cold pea soup/sauce. Foie gras and roasted eel in aspic. A cube of lamb wrapped in pastry.
Cheese course. Dessert. The chef came out and chatted. We then were served coffee in the other room and then on the way out, a nightclub came out of nowhere (liked popped up – for real) so we had to do that as it involved drinking Champagne.

A flight of Moet Grand Vintage at Trianon

Champers #2
Vineyard: Abbey at HautvillersThere are a lot of misconceptions about Dom Perignon the man. He didn’t really invent Champagne, but he did do a lot to develop Champagne into the lovely liquid it is now. You can go to the abbey in the town of Hautvilliers and see his grave (he’s entombed in the floor of the abbey). The view from the abbey is spectacular. Champagne isn’t a very large region, or at least the main growing areas, and you can easily see a lot of it from the abbey.

That evening we stayed at the Cheateau Saran – this is owned by Moet and serves as the hospitality wing for Dom Perignon (I think that is how it works).
(Sorry. That is crass and will get me banned by the AOL)

Chateau Saran

We all arrive at the chateau and the dopplegangers for the band Interpol/bell-hops are awaiting our arrival and scurry away with our luggage and we are greeted by the.. director (?) of the house. She calls our names and tells us which room we are in. My name is called and I follow Carlos from Interpol with my luggage up to my room. As I pass by her she mentions, “Oh, you have the largest room”.
Carlos from Interpol with my luggage takes me upstairs to my room. The door opens. I walk in. Tight little hallway, that is until you turn to your left and OMIGODS.
Stunningly gorgeous.
Even the bathroom: gorgeous.
My Room
OK. Guess who slept in the bed I slept in? The very bed I slept very well in. Guess. C’mon.
Scarlett Johansen was there. Leonardo DiCapprio was also there once.

Sun poured in the windows. Storm clouds loomed. The vines glowed in the sun.

Dinner was perfect

Risotto with saffron. Something. Something else. Glasses of Dom Perignon. Dom Perignon Rose’. Dom Perignon 1996.

The next morning I sat at my little table and ate my pastries and drank my coffee as the morning sun warmed up the vines. I could have moved in. Mrs. Robot surely would have packed our stuff.
Good Morning: Breakfast

Oh, it only got better
Krug Clos du MesnilWithout going into specifics, things just got nuttier. Many tours of cellars. One afternoon spent drinking a monumentally awesome Champagne with the super charming head of the house. He even brought out a secret new vintage. I’m pinching myself making sure that it happened to me and not to someone else.
Lunch at a fabulous little restaurant in Reims where I ran into people I knew (crazy).

Hennessy Cellars
Then there was the whole day in Cognac being driven around to look at vineyards and distilleries by the most charming fellow in Cognac. Lunch at their private Chateau that was just… I’m running out of words.
The first course was this amazing pea (?) soup with langostines (or crawfish (there was a debate)) and paired with an amazing white Burgundy. Then super tender duck with a lovely Bordeaux. A dessert of oranges, blood oranges, and sorbet.
After Lunch Tea at Château de BagnoletI didn’t take a photo. Just imagine sitting at a two-top table in the middle of a huge room in a chateau. F!
Then we had tea outside and enjoyed the view of the gardens.


I ate very well on this whole trip.

Remember our pal Serge and Irene from the previous part where we were in Brittany? He has a college-age son who was staying with his mom in Cognac and they came and picked up and took me home for dinner one night.
They live in a converted farmhouse (very handsome). His step-dad makes pate, grows grapes for Cognac, and makes Pineau (a fine fortified wine that we should drink more of).
There were rustic salamis. Fresh tomato and cucumber salad (delicious + simple). Beautiful grilled duck breasts. Crisp on the outside. Pink on the inside. Sliced thin. Accompanied by these delicious potato au-gratin little domes. Bordeaux wine.
Cheese course. Amazing strawberry dessert. Family fun. Charming children.
It was f’n heartwarming.
Tasting the Pineau

Last Note
My final evening in France was spent in the Sheraton at the airport. I was getting in late and leaving early so this made the most sense and I was a bit nervous about the hotel as airport hotels tend to be craptacular. This hotel was oddly… awesome. It’s at the airport. Literally. I watched planes taking off (very thick window) while eating my dinner and watching the Tour de France recap. Lovely and clean room.

Last Note Two
Totally unrelated: Do karaoke bars have Weezer’s “Why Bother” on their playlists?

See all the photos on FLICKR!

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