Friday, November 16, 2012

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé

Yes, folks, it's that time of year, the time to drink wine and celebrate. How is this different than any other time? Because it's Nov. 15th, of course, or because, as a Frenchie may say, "le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!" (or in other words, the wine, Beaujoulais (bo- zho-lay) nouveau (nu-vo), has arrived.....or more or less has been released in stores in restaurants, a thing that apparently only happens once a year) And people celebrate as if this is the one time wine is available to the world! I remember seeing glimpse of the hype last year, but didn't think much about it. Last night, the night of the release, Adam and I met up with a friend, totally forgetting this magical holiday. We wandered around looking for a place to grab a drink and stumbled upon a random restaurant full of people, balloons, wine, and a live band attempting to play American music. I think we heard everything from the Beatles and Pearl Jam, to REM and Oasis with that slight bit of 'off-ness' you may get from any foreigner trying to sing English word-for-word. Power to them, but despite the liveliness, the whole atmosphere was certainly an odd mix.

Our friend is American who knows a tad more of the French culture, but even she claimed (along with the French she's asked) that no one really knows why this thing is so hyped. I've never tried the wine myself, so I thought maybe this is something similar to ice wine, something where the grapes have to be harvested at a certain time, say, after a first frost, to produce a super sweet drink or something just as memorable? But she said, no, it's not really like that. It's kinda like, uh, wine? We three shared a bottle, and it was good, but nothing crazy memorable (well, NOW it is after all the balloons and REM associated with it), but this had me really curious; why all the hype?

Looking into the subject a bit, I learned that Beaujolais Nouveau is a type of Beaujolais wine which is bottled only 6-8 weeks after harvest, making it a very simple, tasty, fruity young wine. Law enforces that the grapes be picked by hand and fermented in a way that restricts the bitter tannins from the skins to infiltrate the brew, so it really is a nice light red. Storing it for long periods of time won't enhance it's flavor, so when it arrives, it should be drank immediately!  ha

The creation of this form of Beaujolais' younger sibling had originally been celebrated on a more local level signifying the end of harvest in that region, but after WWII, some had the idea to market the stuff to clear our lots of ordinary wine at a profit and increase cash flow around harvest time. Vintners came racing to the big cities to hype up their creation and by the 70s it became a national holiday of sorts. The release date was then officially set to the third Thursday of November, and slowly creeped out to neighboring Europe, North America and, and now Asia.

This works well for us in the states as Beaujolais Nouveau has been cited as the Thanksgiving wine of choice. Coincidence?  I think not. I think the global marketing team knew exactly what they were doing.

November 15th is also my Grandpa's birthday. Talking to him yesterday, I asked if he was doing anything special, and he said, "...well, not much. I think your aunt might be coming over for a glass of wine." That sounds nice, I said, not yet connecting the two events, and I told him we'd be sure to have a glass for him as well that evening. Well cheers to you grandpa, not only did we have a glass, but the rest of the world was celebrating as well....Especially all these guys below....

Shanghai got it right!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Fun of Being Immigrants

The entrance to hell
Ok, we've been really bad about writing the past couple of weeks, but we're going to blame it on the French and their tendency to throw in vacations all year. Yes, it was the fall break, so we got a chance to pack our bags and do a little traveling ourselves. More to come on that later, but for today's episode, we're going to reflect on the annoyances of being the immigrant.

For the most part, our US passport is gold, GOLD to the rest of the world. It really is amazing how easy access is for us to go place to place without question. That is, though, until you start living in that other place. And looking back on all the country hopping we've done, it's only been the UK and American Airlines who's seems throw a fit. My god, there wasn't even people working the border control in Greece. Greece of all places?! Anyways, going home last spring, Adam and I were questioned to death about our visa from AA. We're thinking, seriously? We're American, why do you care so much? We're going home. Then, I had the worst heckling of my life trying to hop the train from Paris to London to go meet my parents for a few days (no, Adam could not make this trip). It felt like eternity as I was asked a million questions at border control about my stay, intentions, when I'm returning... trying to avoid having to pull out my expired visa (my problem? not at all. When making my appointment two months before the expiration, the earliest the french could get me in was about 3 months AFTER it had expired. Super) And btw, no one except AA has EVER asked about my visa...The conversation went a bit like this:

Purpose of trip?
 - Vacation
How Long?
 - 4 days
Then where are you going?
 - To Marseille
Do you have that documentation?
 - No, my parents have the reservation for that trip
How long will you be in Marseille?
 - We'll be traveling in Provence for a week
And then?
 - I come back to Paris
When did you actually arrive in Europe?
 - Uhh, mid September
So this is actually NOT the beginning of your holiday then, is it?
 - Well, yes?
But it's been a month after you've arrived.
 - Yes
Do you know how long you are allowed to stay in the Schengen zone?
 - Yes, 3 months
And do you have you plans to go back to the states?
 - No, not yet
Really....pause pause
- I do live here, did you want to see my visa?
Ah ha, there we go now, of course
- (shit...shuffling to find the damn receipt for my renewal appointment, which btw, isn't even the 'legal' piece of info you're supposed to have to use in a situation like this. What the french want you to so is take that receipt, then make another appointment, so they can give you a similar piece of paper saying you actually have an appointment. wtf, right?)


Ok, so Mr. UK was fine with all that and I explained to him that yes, this technically was the start of my holiday (didn't think it was appropriate to say that I've actually been on holiday from life the past year... details) And then, I was through. Wow, I could never be one of those people sneaking across borders with a false identity, I'd just blow it.

Coming back into France made me just as nervous because THEY are the people who are supposed to care. And as luck would have it, the French do what they do best, they don't give a shit. STAMP, right on through, mercie. No questions, no cares, no nothing. Sometimes I hate the French for being so French, and other times I love it.

Now, Adam's STILL waiting to get a visa, as here I am about to renew mine. We have another trip to the UK for Thanksgiving, and at first we thought this would be no big deal, we'll just play the American tourists. After the incident I just endured, though, I sent Adam a shaky text about what had happened and that we better check up on his visa soon.

And again, ANOTHER 'fun' trip to the Prefecture (or police station). Luckily the wait wasn't as horrendous as we'd expected, but we had to laugh at the waiting room 'art' (or color copies) of random pics they had of Paris on the wall....some pretty buildings, the Seine, and the Prefecture. Why the hell do they think we want to be reminded we're here? God... (mind you, this was probably the 4th trip to the station on top of my horrible visit to the OFII office, sheesh). When Adam told the gal he's been waiting for 11 months for a response (and by the way, that's 11 months after we realized last winter that the Chicago office had actually given him the wrong kind of temporary visa, and he had to reapply all over again) she looked at him like, what, are you serious? She asked what he was applying for, and honestly he didn't exactly know considering it was a special-case visa (not a simple work visa), and no one had actually confirmed with Adam exactly what it was (since after the mix-up, the school started doing all the communicating with the visa office). So that made us look a little foolish, but luckily they did have his file, and the boss came out almost apologizing and mumbled something like they had been waiting for another office of labor to confirm something about his file before it could be processed.....or in other words, it wasn't their problem, so they weren't going to do their jobs. Supposedly now they are going to push it through so Adam can get his titre de sejour (residents card) AND get him his récépissé (that document I dreaded not having at the UK border control) so that we can all travel and live happily ever after.

And knowing how it goes, we'll probably have no questions about visas after having jumped through yet more hoops just to be legal. We shall see in two weeks.....