Last weekend, for three nights in a row I was simultaneously fully dressed in real clothing (pants without an elastic waistband), nowhere near a computer and outside the confines of the housette, likely a new French record for me. My bon weekend wasn’t all about art and books but it was all about fine living. Sunday night we made the long trek across the street to chez Jean-Claude for an apéritif.
I’m telling you the people we meet here are endlessly fascinating. We sat in a large room connected to his office and I struggle with how to describe it. Let’s just call it a collector’s paradise. Pistols by the dozen, antique rifles from Afghanistan and Switzerland. Ancient knives, daggers and swords. Animal skins, fossilized shark teeth, giant African masks and statues carved by hand from huge trunks of ebony wood. Asian chests and armoires, jade figurines and antique pocket watches.
We met Jean-Claude’s lovely wife of over 40 years and she brought plates of beautiful nibbles to complement what we would be drinking. Which brings me to his other collection. He brought us down a small set of stairs to a medieval wooden door on which hangs a giant metal padlock from the 15th century. And behind that door was a cave full of wine. A lot of wine. Enough wine to keep a Newfoundland wake going for at least 24 hours.
He had bottles from as far back as 1915 and for us he chose a white wine from 1990, fruity and delicious, then an ice cold champagne, the best I’ve ever tasted. I feel quite out of sorts with all this wine finesse. I’m no expert. As far as I’m concerned a good bottle is any one that’s open. As for bouquet, as long as it doesn’t smell like a wet hockey sock, I’m in. Neil pretends he knows what he’s doing but I’m not buying it. How can a man who is oblivious to the effect of teriyaki on his own gastrointestinal system possibly detect a soupçon of blackcurrants in a glass of fermented grape juice? But I digress.
We chatted about their life and adventures. As the hours slipped by in his exotic chamber room, I became more and more convinced that he is actually Ernest Hemingway. It could’ve been the beard and the hoard of African guns, of course it was more likely the wine that led to this line of thinking.
As we were leaving this unbelievably kind man handed us a CD of a popular French folk band, signed personally by one of the musicians, “To Neil and Bobbi, Amitiés.” Honestly, how sweet is that? I decided not to ask to take pictures of his collections. Somehow it seemed disrespectful, vulgar even, to ask to splatter his travel treasures all over the internet. But I did manage to get out with this one. Is this guy great or what?