Chamonix

We woke up early to make the drive…the night before, we stopped to fill the car at one of the few ethanol filling stations near where we live. (The car is a little Volkswagen Ventra and she smells like vodka when she’s running. But ethanol is soooo much cheaper than gas, so we’re happy to have it.) The filling station is near the Mediterranean, so we ran into the cold water and had a quick swim to cool down before heading home.

From the sea on Sunday, to a glacier just a few days later…France is so beautiful. We took a nap in the hotel when we arrived with the window thrown wide open and the mass of Mont Blanc and Aiguilles du Midi filling the sky.

.aiguille-du-midi-massif-du-mont-blanc

It looks like this.

Impressive. Stunning. On the other side of this mountain is Italy, and Switzerland is right up the road too. The buildings all have sharply pitched roofs and a sort of Swiss architectural thing…tons of flower boxes and clean light wood. There are backpackers everywhere, from all over the world…and a cable car that goes right to the top of Aiguilles du Midi, you can see the top of the cable car in the foreground of the picture.

So, we’re here to do a wine festival. We set up a little booth and have wine samples and glasses and we’re in a sort of gymnasium about 8k from Chamonix center. There’s cheese and chocolate and sausages and TONS of really good wine and brandy from all over the region. The guy opposite us take chantrelles and boletes and truffles and makes incredible sauces and creams with them. There was someone selling smoked swordfish and then the wine, oh my god. I had something like a Sauturne with pineapple and honey and vanilla flavors, and a sparkling rose…and something else with this incredible smell, like blackberries and leather.

This is a video about Clos d’Elle. That’s the name of the family vineyard and winery…

So part of doing wine is promotions because making wine is a kind of art-making…which means a lot of people are making it, and not a lot of people are buying it, and so you have to spend a lot of your time showing people what you do to make them care about it. Wine tastings are really fun though…you meet a lot of other producers and makers, and Mathieu says it’s nice to talk to the public about something that you’ve made, that you care really deeply about.

Working for the Museum was a lot like that for me too.

I hit saturation with the language around five and headed back to the hotel….feeling a little sad and a lot isolated. It’s hard not to be able to express myself the way I want and although I understand a little more every day, it’s not enough to talk to anyone really.My two French conversations:  I was able to go to the grocery store and ask for bags of ice, and I had a bizarre interaction with an old man outside the bathrooms (which were unlabeled) about which was the men’s and which the women’s. I had made the mistake of walking into the one with the urinals earlier, so I was trying to explain where they were…but this is the problem with learning French. You might be able to ask for the bill at a restaurant or for more bread at the dinner table, you may know how to ask someone how they are, but you find all the time you need words you never thought you’d need. Like “urinal”. And my usual fall-back – gesturing – was NOT going to work in the situation. (Think about the gestures you’d have to make to describe the concept of “urinal”, and you can understand why this was the kind of situation that you might not want to spring on an old French man with a cane. Right??)

It’s “urinoir”, by the way. MAsculine, of course, so “le urinoir”. You’re welcome.

urinoir-elvis

I know it’ll get better. I just don’t see it yet. At least sometimes it’s funny.

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