Sunday, April 03, 2011

Natty Wine and Nasty Cops: April in Paris

A short one day layover in Paris en route to Bordeaux for the annual En Primeurs pageant. In this case one day is enough. But more about that later.

After a very bumpy ride across the Atlantic, we finally arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, CDG. I had a short text from a couple of buddies, Master Sommeliers Drew Hendricks and James Tidwell, both from Texas. So I hauled my stuff over to their terminal for a little coffee clatch. Drew and James were on their way to Lebanon, ostensibly to spend time with the Musar bunch. We made short work of it in the time it took to drink two espressos and a tea. And then it was time for us to go our separate ways.

About 10 minutes after I left them, I felt a lightness in my bags. Before I got on the train into Paris I checked for my coat. It had gone missing. I thought I had probably left it in the cafe when I had reached in a pack to get a camera for the photo of James and Drew. So I sprinted back to see if it were still there. You've heard stories of the city and how people don't care (more about that later). In this case I was in luck, my warm and needed coat was right where I left it. On to Paris.

It was a beautiful postcard April day in Paris. A little bistro under the Eiffel Tower, Sancerre, supplied me with an omelet and a salad and of course some Sancerre. Crisp, biting acidity, it was one of those wines I love to slurp. And then an espresso and a little nap.

After a period of recalibrating, we were ready to hit Paris after dark. An email from friend Alice tipped me off to a wine bar in the center of town, Coinstot Vino, in one of those quaint little 'passages' , covered shopping spaces from the 19th century that predated today's sprawling malls. Alice emailed me that her friend, Lizzie was there by herself, just in from a UN mission in the Congo. We met up with her and shared a few bottles of uber-natural wine.

I will try just about anything and it seems we sampled many a wine this night of the vin naturel genre. When I went back into the subway, I was shook down, not by a gang or a petty criminal. But by a government employee. Seems her Gallic sense of superiority was dead set on making me believe I had thrown away my receipt. Threatening me with jail, as I didn't have my passport on me (what good that would have done I have no idea) she pressed me to pay her a fine disproportionate to the alleged offense. As soon as the transaction was over and her Jedi mind tricks subsided, I found my stub. But alas, it was too late. So much for that person's sense of fairness and hospitality to foreigners who might be sensitive to their culture. She didn't give a rat's ass, was just there to make her quota. I had been profiled, pure and simple. Maybe it was just one time, but the Gestapo tactics that this metro cop used were over the top - pure extortion.

So on that note, when I leave Paris I don't have any intention of taking a metro - cabs are cheaper when the metro cops are shaking down honest travelers, especially ones who represent French vineyards in America. This could have cost France 1000 fold, if I were as petty and senseless as that metro cop hustler thug. She was one for the books.

And there you have it. Some good stinky wines, a recovered coat, a nasty metro shakedown and a long walk home in Paris in the dark, on a cool Spring night in April. Ain't life grand?


Marco Malfrat said...

Some Parisians are sooo nice. How much was the fine? Take care, amico.

Mattie John Bamman said...

Nothing gets under my skin like over-zealous traffic cops. Sorry you got nabbed! We've all, sadly, been there.

Gail Boisclair said...

Very entertaining and I have been shaken down on the metro before as well :) Good advice for travellers !

Wine in Thyme said...

HOpe your travels continue to improve.

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