Late last fall, what first seemed as a rather innocuous email turned into a press trip to both a region I had never visited (Beaujolais) and an event of near mythic proportions (Hospices de Beaune). I took the opportunity to also spend some time visiting some dear friends in Paris before turning southward.
My trip to France came on the heels of the Wine Bloggers Conference where I got very little sleep, and coupled with a sleepless overnight flight, I was at best on fumes. My greatest fear–being ill during two rather important wine-centric events–was a distinct possibility.
When Christophe dropped me back off at my rented apartment in Beaune, I had a full 32 hours ahead of me with nothing to do but sleep and recover. Surely, my sleep-deprived body would not let me down.
I went to bed with a sore throat, several cases worth of exhaustion, and one singular hope: that when the Hospices de Beaune festivities would start, I would be a healthy, happy, and well-rested participant.
Later that night, I woke swimming in a pool of sweat, with a temperature that had to be on par with the surface of one of the two planets closest to the sun. No longer than two minutes awake, I began to start coughing incessantly and sneezing when I was not coughing. The rest of the night was spent in much of the same manner with brief stints of sweltering sleep sandwiched between violent episodes of my body trying to reject the foreign invaders.
It seems as though the payoff for my Faustian Bargain had come due.
It is difficult to say when I “woke” the following morning as I wafted from semi-consciousness to delirium most of the night (is one actually “awake” when delirious?), but at some point after 8 a.m. when I found it possible to stand, I ventured out. Those that have fallen ill in France know what I was seeking: the magical green cross that signifies a pharmacy.
The last time I was sick in France (about two decades prior), a kind pharmacist gave me a long since forgotten remedy that cleared up what ailed me in about 24 hours. Thus, I was looking for such magic again.
I entered the shop, which was but a few short blocks away and tried to describe my symptoms. I imagined that the pharmacist would react with some level of horror either at my condition or appearance (I had not even bothered to so much as look at myself in the mirror–much less comb my hair or wash my face before heading out–as I was frightened as to what I might see).
Somewhat surprisingly, she was not shocked or awed. In fact, I was a bit disappointed since, given my competitive nature, I wanted to “win” at being sick, too.
She asked me a series of questions about my condition: sore throat? Nod. Cough? Cough. Sneezing? Oui. Aches? Moan. She proceeded to ask another dozen or so, and I just said yes to all of them without even paying attention–I just wanted as many drugs as possible. And I got a basket full.
After a solid 24 hours of medicating, I hoped that I would be ready for the first big event: the trade show tasting of all the prominent producers in the Côte d’Or the following morning.
At some point, I ventured out, figuring I should probably eat something (although thus likely rendering the morning after pill less effective), and I stumbled into this guy:
The following morning, I still felt like a human speed bump, but it was “go-time.” I was time for the largest tasting of strictly Burgundy wines–at least that I had ever attended–and I needed to be able to smell and taste.
But I couldn’t. Not a thing.
I was tempted to try to provoke a skunk to see if I could smell that, but there were no skunks to be seen.
Nonetheless I went to the tasting and tasted through a fair number of wines. Well, I put nose in the glass and subsequently the wine in my mouth, but there was no literal tasting going on.
Some of the greatest wines in the world at my disposal, poured freely and openly, and I might as well have had colored water in my glass. Sure, there were differences in texture, weight, mouthfeel, and I could have focused on that, but I was too damned depressed.
I was the living embodiment of a Jean-Paul Sartre novel.