The Great Champagne Disaster of 2010

June 25, 2010

Yesterday we arrived in Saumur early.  We walked to our hotel and left our bags then we headed into town.  We walked up to the chateau but found it was close for major renovations so the most we could see were the grounds.  We saw the grounds as well as an exhibit on pottery and another on horsemanship.  You have to wonder if they didn’t look long and hard for the dullest exhibits to have while the castle was closed.  The castle itself was very beautiful and looked rather like you would imagine one in a fairy tale would.

We got free tickets for a tour and wine tasting.  We wandered through the city in the heavy mid day heat until we found the vineyards.  They were called the  Caves Louis Du Grenelle.  We toured the underground galleries/ underground caves/ underground carved out tunnels left over from rock quarrying that they brewed the wine in.   The city was undercut with them.

It was very dark and cool and a nice change from the mid day heat.  The vineyard specialized in sparkling wine, which is essentially champagne just not from the Champagne region.  They make it with a special sort of yeast and mud.  We had the tasting and bought two bottles, a pink dry and a white dry.

We went back to the hostel for lunch and a rest and then spent the afternoon wandering the town.  We had dinner in the hostel and ate food from the supermarket.

The next day we got up around nine and had our coffee at a tobac and our pastries from a bakery.  We rented bikes and headed all the way to Montasoreau, which was a nice little town with a château.  On our way we passed through some troglodyte caves left over from the age when people cut into the rock to make caves for houses, wine cellars, stone and mushroom growing.

We befriended a nice older Dutch couple who were on holiday and bicycling as well.  They were very nice and kind to us.  We followed them part of the way, they had a better sense of direction then us.  They gave us cold coca colas when we got to the chateau.

We saw the chateau, which had some impressive sound, and light exhibits on the history of the castle and the Loire valley.  It was also wonderfully cooler then the outside.  The tufta stone which it was made off really kept the cool in and the heat out.

On the roof of the chateau we met the Dutch couple again who were having lunch.  We shared with them a glass from the bottle of sparking wine we bought at the vineyard near tours (essentially champagne just from a different region. we had brought.  After they left we ate lunch and I made the mistake of putting a wine cap on the bottle.  This was not the right thing to do with a carbonated wine.  When I turned it and tipped it over to check to see if it would not leak when I put it back in the bag I shook it too much.

The moment I set it up right the cap blew off with a foot high geyser of wine. We henceforth referred to this event as the champagne disaster of 2010. Though my parents made a sincere attempts to educate me in the proper drinking and treatment of alcohol, they never warned me about this sort of thing. The backpack, my shorts and my legs got mildly soaked.  We never found the cap,  although we made a thorough search of the chateau roof.  We think it might have landed in the Loire River.  Miraculously I don’t think we lost that much wine in the disaster.  Anna and I have resolved to buy special champagne cap if we ever intend to cap a bottle of sparkling wine again because an ordinary cap clearly cannot handle it.

We were left with a forth of a bottle of sparkling wine and no way to re-cap or transport it.  So we had no other choice but to finish it, which we did with much joy and giggling over the whole event.  We enjoyed the shade a while longer and drank a good deal of water to combat the heat and sun before we got back on our bikes to head to the abbey of Fontevraud.

We biked 5km in the heat of the day and began to suffer the first signs of heat exhaustion by the time we reached the abbey.  I felt sick and dizzy and queasy and could not cool down. I had to sit in the cool abbey church and drink water, and then I began to feel better and clearer headed.  I hadn’t yet gotten to the point where I was really in danger but I still felt bad and woozy until I cooled down.  I hadn’t though to worry about heat exhaustion or dehydration in France but it had become hot enough to be a concern.  I’ve suffered mild heat exhaustion in the past and know I’m vulnerable to it.

In the future on hot days I will avoid being out in the worst of it, take breaks, drink more water and not have wine with lunch on days when I’m bicycling.  After an hour in the cool of the abbey and a great deal of water I felt fine again.  We biked back the seventeen kilometers home.  We wanted to get the bikes back to the rental shop by 5pm since we had only rented half a day.

We made very good time and got back by 5:30.  It still took longer then we originally expected.  When we got to the bike shop we found it closed since the guy who owned it had an emergency and had to close up early.  There was a note, which said to leave the bikes at a nearby hotel, so we did.  We had not need to worry or hurry to get the bikes back.

We rested and then walked back into town and had a nice dinner at a restaurant.  After dinner we went back up to the Saumur chateau to take in the view and then walked back to the hotel after a long day


About Policy Chick

I'm a first year Global Policies Masters student at the Lyndon B. Johnson LBJ School of Public Affairs
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