Isn’t she done yammering about her trip to France??
Yeah – I can hear you out there… And no, I’m not done.
One more post. And it may not be what you expect.
AGMA loved every town/chateau/winery we visited on our trip, but I was REALLY looking forward to our next to the last stop.
Reims. Champagne central. Bubbles, bubbles and more bubbles.
AGMA’s promised land!
I’ve been wanted to visit the champagne region ever since I found out there was such a thing as champagne. Probably even before. I’m pretty sure my mom drank champagne when she was pregnant with me. Or Schlitz.
Hey – it was the 50’s and they did stuff like that back then.
The champagne region did not disappoint. It was as fan-tabulous as AGMA had hoped. Glasses of the mystical, mahvelous, bubbly elixer were as inexpensive as a regular ol’ glass of wine and were sold EVERYWHERE! A bottle of non-vintage champagne – good champagne from small local producers – was between 15 to 25 Euros. On our one full day there, I had 8 – count ‘em – 8 glasses. Yeah – that’s right.
AGMA was home!
The champagne vineyards were beautiful – there was a tinge of fall on the grape vines. And the Reims Cathedral was spectacular. Of the “Big 3” medieval cathedrals in France (Notre Dame, Chartres and Reims), Reims wins the prize. It was a marvel.
Yet despite the beauty of the area and the wonderful, delectable, delicious champagne, our enjoyment was tempered with sadness.
We booked an AirB&B studio apartment in Reims only a few blocks from the Catherdral. When you book an entire flat, you rarely meet the owner. They usually have a lockbox that gives guests access to the keys. I messaged our host about a week before we were supposed to arrive to get the skinny on the check in process. And from the AirB&B reviews, I also knew that Patrick, our host, owned his own champagne house – the PERFECT host right? – and wanted to know if we could visit his cellars and do a “tasting”.
Patrick sent me a lovely message with incredibly detailed instructions regarding access to the flat. He said that he was going to be traveling during our visit and regretted not being able to meet us especially since his wife “knows Georgia and loves it so much.” However, we were more than welcome to email his staff to set up a time to visit and taste.
Then on Wednesday, two days before our visit to Reims, I received a message from Patrick’s wife.
It was short and stunning.
She said, “Hello I’m Patrick’s wife. Just to tell you that you can’t come to the cellar this weekend. I’ve lost my husband on Monday so there will be no tasting or anything else. But no problem with the flat.”
I stared at my phone in disbelief. She couldn’t mean what I think she means…
Patrick died on Monday, three days after sending me that lovely message.
According to some articles I found on the Internet, he was working of a piece of agricultural equipment used in his vineyard when something went terribly wrong. A bucket dropped, hit him in the head and killed him.
He was 55 years old.
When Patrick awakened that Monday morning, I’m sure his whole week was planned. His whole year was probably planned. He was a successful champagne producer and had some business to take care of, but first on his list that Monday was working on some of the grape harvesting machinery. Clearly, he wasn’t above getting his hands dirty with the day to day operations of his business.
He was a leader in the champagne producing community being the past president (at a very young age) of one of their important producer associations. His champagne house was a family affair and he was mentoring his son into the business.
He bought the flat in Reims to try out this AirB&B thing and it was doing pretty well. It had good reviews and was rented for the weekend to a couple from Georgia. But he wasn’t going to be able to meet them because he was going out of town with his wife.
In the blink of an eye, that all changed.
His business cards were in the flat along with an order form for champagne from his champagne house, Le Brun-Servenay in Avize. I felt sad every time I looked at them.
I never met Patrick. I only messaged back and forth with him via AirB&B. But though that and reading about him on the Internet via Chrome’s translation function, it seemed like he was an lovely, gifted man, devoted to his profession and family. Somebody I’d like to hang out with and have of glass of his champagne with. Maybe a couple glasses.
So AGMA has decided. I’ll be going back to Reims and the champagne region in the not too distant future.
And I’ll be traveling down to Avize in the “Cote Des Blancs” to visit the Le Brun-Servenay Champagne House for a tasting. And will probably buy a bottle or two. Or three.
I’ll raise a glass to Patrick, who reminds me to live and love fully in the present moment, and to never take even one minute of living and breathing for granted.
Live big. Live large. Drink champagne. Often.
Because it can all change in the blink of an eye.