A Sip of Wine, A Sip of France

I was tipsy. It was barely even 1 p.m.

Before I left for France, everyone from my best friend to my middle-aged uncle told me to enjoy my trip, and more specifically, to enjoy the wine. I laughed it off and promised I would, but I never expected I would take their advice within an hour of arriving.

Back in America, daytime drinking is saved for special occasions— music festivals, football games, weddings. Tipping the bottle before 5 p.m. on just an ordinary day is considered a problem we call alcoholism.

So when I went to a wine sampling station for a scavenger hunt of the city on my first sunny day in Perpignan, I expected to just glance at the wine shop, scribble down the information we needed to get, and then move on. But when my group arrived and we were each handed a cup of white, a cup of red and a cup of rosé to try, I was shocked.

Here I was, 20 years old and openly drinking alcohol, albeit very small amounts, in the early afternoon. And it wasn't trashy. Passersby weren't casting judgmental looks in my direction, and they probably weren't thinking, "Why is that girl who looks like she should be in middle school drinking?"

My journey to Perpignan was long and tiring, filled with delays and missed flights. Thanks to little sleep and little food, save for a miniature croissant, the wine hit me rather quickly. As everything became slightly fuzzy, I realized I should have considered my empty stomach and my exhaustion before imbibing what would typically be a harmless amount.

But I attempted to emulate the refined French, only occasionally stifling a giggle as I thought about how exciting this all was. How I was actually in France, a country I've admired for years thanks to "Beauty and the Beast" and "Madeline" and most importantly, the France Pavilion at Disney World. How the French can drink wine anytime they want and they can do it with poise because, well, they are the French.

This wine tasting gave me more than just a lighthearted experience to balance out my frustrating travels. It gave me a look at life in France. Maybe it's taboo to drink before the evening in America because the way we drink isn't sophisticated, isn't dignified. We chug and we binge and we shout and we stumble. They sip and they chat and they quietly go on with their day, maybe a little more carefree.

For the first time since I left the Chicago airport, I felt like I was in the right place. It was barely after 1 p.m.

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About the Program

Fifteen college students came from North America to Perpignan, France, in June 2011 to produce these videos and stories. To find out more, read a welcome letter from program director Rachele Kanigel, meet the program faculty and explore the 2010 website.