Wine and me are like long lost friends. We have a love/hate relationship. I adore wine so much that I must have at least a glass or two each and every night. Yet sometimes I adore it too much and find myself creeping up to three or four or five glasses and then ouch….the next day sucks!
I’ve often heard it is part of the so-called Mediterranean diet. That the French, Italians and Greeks consume wine with passion and vigor as part of their healthy lifestyles and diets. Whether or not this is fully medically proven I do not know or quite frankly, even care (I am sure there is much debate as there seems to be an awful lot of debate about anything these days related to health and diet!) . Basically, I love wine. Period.
Of course I didn’t grow up on wine like the French or Italians do. It was an acquired taste that took time, maturity and well, taste! I first began drinking wine for occasional family meals during my college years, normally for special occasions like birthdays, holidays or dining out. However, I really learned and grew to love wine during my eight months living abroad in France back in my twenties.
Being a student living off my parents and having relatively no extra money, my good amie and I went for the down and dirty stuff. The infamous Côtes du Rhône….the cheapest wine you could buy for 5 francs a bottle (about US$1 at the time). It was nasty, thick, acidic stuff that literally slide down your throat but did the job. An instantaneous buzz would arise after sucking down two or three glasses.
Mon amie and I even got so hooked on it (we were silly, immature and cheap) that we would fill an empty Evian water bottle with cheap, red Côtes du Rhône and bring it as a “roadie”. Our Evian bottle filled with cheap wine followed us all over Paris at night where we drank it sitting beneath the Tour Eiffel, Le Sacre Coeur and la Seine. We were cheap, pathetic and young. But it was so much fun and still remains to be one of my fondest memories of life as a student in Paris. Drinking cheap Côtes du Rhône in an Evian bottle under the Parisian stars! What could be better than that?
Fast forward the years to my trip to Australia in 2003, and I was still as much as ever in love with wine. My passion for wine has always been attended to while traveling, especially in countries that produce brilliant wines such as Australia. Thus, it made perfect sense that we spent our last day in Australia touring the lovely Yarra Valley, located 40 miles/61 km east of Melbourne. In my opinion, there was no better way to leave a fabulous vacation in a truly wonderful country than by visiting its nearby vineyards. Of course, I was not disappointed!
We took a tour (there was no way we were going to drive!) leaving Melbourne in the morning and spent the day tasting at four idyllic vineyards in the Yarra Valley. There were only a few of us on the small van which was perfect. There is nothing I detest more than being stuck on a huge obnoxious tour bus loaded with drunk wine tasters!
The Yarra Valley is a beautiful, peaceful setting that hosts over 70 award-winning vineyards as well as picturesque villages, gardens and shops along the way. The Yarra Valley is famous for their Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and Cabernet Sauvignons, which flourish in the valley’s cool climate. We were fortunate to try many delicious, savory wines thus breezed lightly through the day, enjoying ourselves immensely.
Here are some photos along the way….
It was the perfect way to end a wonderful trip. Thankfully we had some time to “sleep it off” before catching our insanely long flight back to the United States the following morning.
Unfortunately, the flight home ended up being perhaps the craziest flight of my life as we made an emergency landing at two in the morning at the Honolulu airport in Hawaii. There was no warning, no information or comments to the passengers about what was going on. All we knew was that the lights suddenly went on, the pilot said “Flight attendants, prepare for landing” and our Qantas 747 plunged down faster than my stomach could handle.
Still left in the dark, we landed at a previously unopened airport to police lights and ambulances. Only after the police apparently boarded the plane (we were sitting at the total end of the bus so couldn’t see or hear what was going on) and left, did the captain come on to announce to the passengers what had happened.
Apparently a mad man/presumed terrorist (I have doubts) was on board making irrational comments about 9/11 and bringing the plane down. (Remember this trip was made in 2003….after 9/11 and the crazy heightened security that has made traveling never the same). Some fellow passengers tackled the guy down, and he was hand-cuffed and sedated while we were in the middle of no where out in the ocean. Honolulu was the closest place we could land.
Ok, I was pretty freaked out at that point wondering what in the hell just happened. It took two hours to unload every single piece of luggage from our 747 jumbo jet and them more time for the police to find this crazy guy’s baggage. We were not allowed to get off the plane and were all extremely tired and stressed out by that point.
Two hours later, we took off again making our landing in LA late. I raced through security, sweating bullets and caught my connecting four-hour flight within five minutes before departure. It was a crazy way to end a trip, that’s for sure! But it is certainly one I’ll never forget.
Stay tuned…next post I’m headed back to Argentina where I visited San Carlos de Bariloche and Buenos Aires a few years back.