On one Christmas evening, I wandered around our village; a tiny pittoresque Provencal town, sheltered by mountains all around. That night, we were surrounded by thick, soft white fog, clouds hanging so low that the mountains were hidden. There wasn’t a soul in the village, everything was closed. I wandered around the narrow cobblestone streets and enjoyed the total silence, the fog covering me like a blanket.
I was all alone but in that moment, not lonely.
Then I saw warm Christmas lights blinking in the only shop that was open, late at night on Christmas Eve. It was Bacchus, the tiny wine shop of Bagnols. An elderly gentleman, the owner, greeted me as I passed by, and wished me happy Christmas. Why was he working on Christmas Eve, I asked.
But this is not work, it’s my passion, he answered earnestly. Such a great answer.
A warm and charming person full of anecdotes, he invited me for a wine tasting. There was a white wine nicknamed the Ferrari (there was something fastsharpred about it!) to go with oysters, and yet another white characterized as a Rolls Royce (taking it luxuriously slowly), to go with gambas. The Ferrari to be served icy cold, whereas the other should be no less than 9 degrees… How do the French do it, I ask myself, they turn every meal, every event into an artform.
Mais Madame, he explained, vividly speaking with his hands, you could never wear taupe eye shadow with orange lipstick! Wrong temperatures, wrong dry white wines, mixed with the wrong type of seafood would lead to désastre of similar proportions.
He joined me for a tasting. À la vie – to life! – he toasted. AND explained that when you toast to life, you must look at each other in the eyes. Otherwise, it’s bad luck.
Oh well, that explains quite a few things.
Suddenly, we were surrounded by what felt like half the village, everybody gravitating towards the only place open, lit up, lively.
À la vie, we declared together.
A heartfelt toast, a heartfelt moment, strangers coming together at Christmas. Looking each other in the eyes.