Am I not welcome in Bordeaux? Or maybe someone more divine than my publisher or all the wine producers in region doesn't want me to taste Bordeaux's newest vintage?
The thought crossed my mind about two hours ago, when I arrived at Bordeaux airport from England and I was held for about 10 minutes as the immigration officer decided whether I would be allowed to enter "la belle France."
"You have no more pages in your passport for me to stamp," she said in French. "Without a stamp, I can't let you into France."
I did not lose my cool, which I have a habit of doing under the circumstances (although I am learning not to). I told her in French that I was very sorry, but I was sure there was just enough space on page 22 where she could squeeze in the stamp.
"No, there is already a stamp there from Great Britain," she said. "I am very sorry."
I was starting to sweat a little. My tasting team, Jo Cooke and Rosanne Quagliata, had spent a little more than a month organizing a grueling tasting schedule for me, from now until Monday. It would all go to waste, if I couldn't finesse things. Besides, I was not going to get back on Easy Jet to Luton and freeze my ass over in England again!
Unfortunately, Jo Cooke was already marooned in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris after taking off late from Bologna. So he couldn't help get me in anyway. I wasn't even sure if he would make it to Bordeaux until Wednesday at the rate he was going.
"Could you please speak to your supervisor, and see if you could stamp my passport for me?" I asked in French, with the smile of a 10-year-old boy with a halo around his head.
It worked. She smiled and left the immigration booth. The remaining 90 passengers or so were not pleased, as they couldn't pass immigration until she returned. I felt like a shoplifter caught at the entrance of a department store.
I saw her coming back and she had a pleasant smile, so I knew I would be okay. It was a done deal. I beamed at her like she was the most beautiful woman on earth.
"I am going to stamp it here, but you have to go to the American embassy in Paris and get a new page or you are not going to be able to leave France," she said as she slammed the inked stamp on page 22 of my passport.
"Thank you again," I said, as I slid past the opening of her booth.
I felt like a cast member from Prison Break or something. But my program was just starting as I walked out the doors of the airport and grabbed a taxi to the Sofitel Hotel in the Bordeaux Lac. In fact, I just tasted my first dozen barrel samples of 2007 Sauternes and there are some fantastic stickies. Let's hope I make it through the rest of the week without mishap.
John Freeborn — CA Huntington Beach — March 25, 2008 4:15pm ET
Michael Mohammadi — Baltimore, MD — March 25, 2008 4:53pm ET
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Anacleto Ludovic — paris france — March 25, 2008 6:28pm ET
Doug Adlam — Canada — March 25, 2008 7:22pm ET
Brian — costa mesa, ca — March 25, 2008 7:38pm ET
Michael Mohammadi — Baltimore, MD — March 25, 2008 11:55pm ET
Juan Vazquez-abarca — Tijuana, Mexico — March 26, 2008 1:49am ET
James Suckling — — March 26, 2008 2:40am ET
James Suckling — — March 26, 2008 3:11am ET
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Vandendriessche Bernard — Ostend, Belgium — March 26, 2008 9:12am ET
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Daniel Moritz — New York, NY — March 26, 2008 10:32am ET
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