I got a message from the delight that is @thekatiepix asking me if I like wine. Er. Yes. I love a glass of Sauv Blanc Ned. I like wine. I love a spritzer with lemonade. Classy. Katie came back and told me about a press trip to the South of France to learn about the wine of the Languedoc region.
Let me think about this. South of France. Luxury accomodation. Learn about wine. I ran to pack.
France was on the tail end of a heatwave when we arrived. I had to pull my own suitcase and be in charge of stuff. This is not my usual life. I have Mr INPO. I pick my feminist moments and travelling is not one of them. Or the bins.
The car picked me up at 4.30am and we flew from London Gatwick to Toulouse. All that worry about who the other people on the trip were disappeared in seconds. I felt like I was travelling with three gorgeous fun daughters and not because I felt old. Far from it. Just because they were fabulous company and reminded me of my girls. Victoria the PR, Charlotte the wine expert and Katie the foodie. We were joined by Irene, a travel journalist. Then me. Someone who likes Ned with a bit of lemonade!
First stop Les Vignobles Foncalieu in the beautiful city of Carcassonne where we had a very formal wine tasting. I felt out of place but I went to the toilet and googled “wine words.” Quite literally it was that or cry. I was very much out of my depth and felt a bit of a knob. ‘Woody and Crisp.’ Ok. All I can be is me. No point hiding the fact I was clueless, I may as well just try and learn along the way.
Moving on to La Maison du Rire for food and wine pairing. This is possibly where I started to get it. This wine lark. You have to taste wine with food. Then it makes sense. The earlier tasting was lost on me. Emma taught me how the end of my tongue will tell me instantly if a wine is dry or sweet. Due to my pitiful attempts at spitting I decided to swallow during the tasting. Big mistake.
The next stop was our hotel for the evening. Exhuasted we pulled up at the beautifully renovated Chateau L’Hospitalet. Oh how I would have loved a bowl of French fries to eat by the pool. Maybe with a G&T? Instead we had 30 minutes to shower and get ready for dinner which our hosts were telling us was at the best restaurant outside of Paris. So I facetimed Mr INPO to let him know I was ok whilst trying to get dressed. Not quite the strip tease he was after and when I held my boobs up in front of the air con he politely said he had to go and drain the peas. Sexy talk.
I went for my best dress and I have to admit I felt a swishy vision of fabulousness and I wanted an applause for getting my shit together so quickly and keeping a menopausal hot flush at bay.
The girls all looked absolutely glorious so imagine the look on our faces when we get dropped off by Jean-Luc our taxi driver/entertainment at what appeared to be the local swimming pool on an industrial estate. We just left the most beautiful hotel in our finest threads. Hmmmmm. Best restaurant outside of Paris?
With the strong scent of chlorine we are greeted by the very regal doors of Les Grands Buffet. You could almost, almost, forget you were indeed at the local pool. I could not understand it. The food was absolutely sensational. Every single food you could ever possibly want. Eat as much as you like and boy people do. Maybe I was exhausted from my 4am alarm call but although I could see the beauty I also felt like I was at some sort of vulgar feast. It was busy as hoards of people piled their plates with food glorious food. My mind was blown so I just went straight for deserts. If in doubt, have pudding. My moto in life.
Of course there was more wine. Not sure my tongue would have tasted the difference and I was probably singing the praises of a Chardonnay by now.
Bed by midnight. Me and my trusty Spacemask were ready because I was sure I would not be able to sleep….zzzzzzzz
8.00am breakfast and its a scorcher again. Breakfast at the hotel was a dream with Katie and I getting ridiculously excited at the orange press. I fill up on pastries. I do not care if anyone is counting. I have to admit the first day was exhausting and I was slightly dreading a repeat. I needed time to rest, to think, to digest. Literally. Travelling and a non stop itinery had me messaging Mr INPO and telling him press trips are not for me. I love the idea of them but seriously I had not had time to poo! Not once!
Then the morning of Day 2 happened and I was totally sold on Press Trips. Look.
We got to travel in Olive and Poppy, Vintage 2CVs. As we were driven through vineyards and villages I was quite honestly having the time of my life. One of those I could cry I am so happy moments.
This region of France is simply breathtaking. How we have never been on holiday here I will never know!! We were then driven to the most beautiful spot for a picnic. Oh yes these press trips are completely my thing now. Thoroughly spoilt. I am sold!
Another vineyard and more wine tasting. I found it hard to create any content. I think this press trip was set up old school style. For journalists who absorb every detail and then return home to write up an article. Instagram does not work like that. The beauty of Instagram is you can create content to share immediately. Yet with no wifi on location and then literally no time it was increasingly difficult.
Maybe it was the heat. Maybe at 44 I need a little rest now and then but I found it all really exhausting. I kept having a word with myself. You are so lucky to be here INPO (I do not actually call myself that IRL) but it does not matter how amazing something is, if you are knackered, you are knackered. What happens when you are tired? You get emotional. So then I missed my family. FFS! I wanted them to share it all with me. I honestly cannot wait to take them back to the area next year! Already know where we will be staying. Here. At some beautiful gites owned by someone I have met through Instagram. I kind of do not want to tell you about it Maison de la Roche. Do not tell a soul about this place!!! We need to keep it a secret for ourselves!
Back to the hotel and 15 minutes to change out of our sweaty clothes and ready for a tour of the vineyard and winery at the hotel. Thankfully after a hike to get a cracking view we were back inside with the glory be that is AIR CONDITIONING.
This is where it happened. The spit. I had been watching and trying to learn along the way. The Spit is done with force and a lot of belief. So when Katie suggested we do a spitting boomerang – this was my moment! Disaster. I spat with such force we got what can only be classed as splashback. My spit in both our faces. Wine in my eye. Now unless you have ever managed to spit your own wine into your eye you will not know the pain. We could not stop giggling. My eye would not stop watering. Oh the pain. It is quite clear I am not made for this posh wine life. Stick to the spritzer INPO. Again, in IRL or in my head I tend to say Bitch instead of INPO but I am trying to pretend I am posh.
Anyway you get the drift. Its endless wonderous visits to taste wine in various stunning venues. We then moved on to stay at another gorgeous venue Mas Neuf feeling thoroughly spoilt living a life that wasn’t quite my own. We were served dinner in a beautiful courtyard setting and better still there were Haribo!
I have completely lost track of days. Somewhere along the way there was a boat trip and more wine tasting but I am just not sure when that happened.
On our final day we visited Domaine Tarbouriech which is basically the most beautiful French Soho Farmhouse style Hotel and Spa. I cannot express to you how beautiful this place was. Look at the design! I will stay here one day! Hint Hint Mr INPO we have been married 20 years next September!! Just saying! MAKE IT HAPPEN!
The Tarbouriech family own the hotel and the Oyster Farm we visited next. That was an unforgettable experience. We took a boat out to see the Oyster tables and I have no idea how I thought Oysters were farmed but this blew my mind and when we returned to shore for some reason I felt I had to try one. To be polite. To live for the moment. Nothing polite about me trying desperately hard to swallow a giant slimy bogie and not spit/choke/throw up. My gag reflex is mighty strong but eventually with much wine I did it. Thankfully the wine was my favourite on the trip so I drowned that Oyster. The trip ended in a frantic race to the Airport as Victoria the PR questioned the journey time to the airport. Our hosts had somehow mistaken our flight time so we all crammed into a Clio and luckily Jean-Luc our main man arrived with our luggage just in the nick of time!
So in short. I am no wine expert. I will never be a wine expert. I know a little bit more of what I like and what I do not like. I do not like Oysters. I will be back to the Languedoc region with Team Neave. I did five poos upon my return! FIVE! In one day. Press trips are incredible but if they are all this full on I think one a year is enough for me! Maybe after this blog post I will never get invited on another!!
PS I will go through my notes (I have no notes) and list the wines I loved asap.