This summer has been one of transition. One of questioning, of thinking of the future, past and present. I am of the strong belief that there is a point in everyone’s life where they wonder that they are on the right path; in life, work, and play. Sometimes, you can have more than one episode of questioning. Have you missed an opportunity, or is it just knocking a little further up the path you’re on? Are the things you rely on to function – your work, your hobbies, your time-fillers – merely a crutch, or do they truly make you happy? And if any of the former questions apply, what is the answer – what is your true course? Would the way you feel be different if you’d taken the other door five years ago? Or do you just need to wait?
These questions (and many, many more) have been plaguing my mind, which unfortunately has led to a real inability to focus on what’s in front of me – be it a glass of wine, food, or friend. Hence the relative drought of postings recently. A summer of acknowledging my decades-long mental health issues, being reminded that your impact can really be as strong as a fart in a storm, and being nervous about the next chapter will do that to you.
Fortunately, being able to pull things together to organise a trip abroad was not wholly out of reach. Swimming through the mire, I could barely even think of a tasting note. However, as long as I can breathe and write, I can make a list and make sure it gets actioned. I like having goals – I like being able to achieve things, and most importantly, being able to see that progress on a sheet of paper. Messiness is not my thing.
A month ago, after I resigned from my current job, my friend Divya happily agreed to go on holiday with me during my time between work. The broad location was easy – we wanted to drink wine with every meal, so it had to be France – but the specifics were scrunchier. We decided on Paris, for ease of the Eurostar, the presence of the Musee d’Orsay, and the fact that if you’re going to assess your ability to speak French, you need to go to the city that will just reply in English if they sniff you out as a rosbif.
An unfortunate food poisoning incident had meant that a previous trip to The Hoxton, Paris was cancelled, so as a fan of the Shoreditch outlet I was keen to experience what might have been. It really was quite impeccable – I’ve never been one to choose “a hotel” for a city, but this one will be mine. A perfect room, great service, and a surprisingly focused food offering. Most of the time, in a hotel you’ll find business travellers and guests too tired to be arsed moving as the only visitors to the restaurant in a hotel. This was a different story – breakfast meetings, afternoon coffees, or a 5pm wine was the purview of the locals here. It was a wonderful change, and completely unexpected being in the 2eme arrondisement.
The reception staff were also so welcoming – despite our room not being available after check-in, we had a free coffee on the terrace and returned to find that the room was still unavailable. However, we were immediately upgraded for the inconvenience to a beautiful “Cosy View” room, over the courtyard. Fortunately, after being reminded that the hotel had my credit card details, Divya didn’t steal the beautiful Roberts digital radio in the room, which we tuned to playing French classics every evening over our Monoprix bottles…
Our reason for choosing Paris was Divya’s long dream of visiting the Musee d’Orsay. We were fortunate enough to visit on the first Sunday of the month, meaning that it was free. Although, honestly I’d have paid double just to see the Impressionists floor. Divya was transfixed by the Van Gogh, which was only multiplied by having both a Comte baguette, a wonderfully recommended Roussillon rosé and pistachio macaron for lunch, then sitting by the Seine to hear a brass band playing hits. As almost mid-30 year old women, our main conversation was “oh, I know this… it’s….. that song”, but it didn’t detract from the atmosphere.
And what of the wine? Our French experience ranged from the cultural, to the supermarket, to the small wine bar on the street, to an Israeli restaurant in La Marais. The wines crossed France, from Bordeaux to Languedoc-Roussillon, back to the Rhone and up to St Emilion. My love of Monoprix was confirmed by the purchase of a Bordeaux Superieur for EUR 7.30, and a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2015 for EUR 13.40. A plummy, Merlot driven, spicy delight, it made me immediately look for real estate in France (as if I ever needed an excuse).
On our last afternoon in Paris, we entrusted Google Maps to find a place for “just more wine” after a simple yet delicious vegetarian lunch at Miznon, La Marais. It did not disappoint. Along rue Rambuteau, towards a corner of the Centre Pompadou, lies a small wine bar that we instantly fell in love with. Rio del Vin was not only supremely welcoming, but I espied the most acrobatic ability to enter a cave the size of a cupboard that I’d ever seen. A perfect recommendation of a Cote du Rhone – a blend of grenache, syrah and cinsault, was perfectly in tune with a grey-ish yet humid evening. Soft tannins, yet with the body you’d expected from a grenache-dominated wine, this biodynamic haven was just what we needed after almost 15 kilometres of walking. A planche of cheese, chorizo and pâté was just the icing on the cake (the picture above is the “petite” version). I’m pretty sure we drank the place dry of Cote du Rhone.
French skies wept as we left the capital for our home. But we’ll return. There is a plan, it just needs time.
We stayed: at the Hoxton, Paris, Rue de Sentier
We ate and drank: at Cafe Montorgueil, Miznon, Le Comptoir des Saints-Pères, Rio del Vin
We loved: The Musée d’Orsay, sitting by the Seine, Sacre-Coeur, La Marais