..... we drank Veuve Clicquot on Valentine's Day.
A long time ago when I bought my flat, having read about Veuve Clicquot in Cosmopolitan (my bible of those days!), I decided to treat myself and put a bottle in my new fridge. My fridge, my flat and my champagne... boy did I feel like a proper grown up! From that day on, if I had an occasion to drink champagne and a choice of which one, the stylish, vivid orange label won every time.
The day before my 34th birthday Other Half ordered me to pack a bag, include some smart clothes and bundled me into the car, informing me that he had arranged with my boss for me to have a couple of days off. Cue much childish excitement and prodding questions from me that no doubt included "Where are we going?", "How will I know when we're there?" and "Are we there yet?"
Whilst texting friends about the magical mystery tour I was on I managed to miss all the channel tunnel signs and so our arrival there was the first surprise. After a three hour drive on the other side that included me also missing a Welcome To The Champagne Region sign, the next surprise was our arrival at the beautiful Chateau d'Etoges. This was it... the most fantastic birthday surprise ever...or so I thought.
The next day we set off to the town of Epernay to look at the famous champagne houses and I was agog as we strolled past Moet Et Chandon, Perrier Jouet and Pol Roger to name but a few. This was followed by a picnic above some vineyards where Other Half informed me that we had an "appointment" at 3.00! I don't know if it was the excitement brought about by the imparting of this information or the liquid consumed with lunch but I suddenly had the very unromantic urge to pee! Seeing as we were lacking the necessary facilities, our sophisticated day took a temporary downturn as I did the deed behind the makeshift curtain of the picnic blanket. I'm not sure whose land we were on at the time but it is entirely possible that 2003 may not be a good vintage for a particular brand!
After another much shorter mystery trip you can imagine the over excitement in the car as I spotted the orange flags blowing in the breeze... a surprise tour of the champagne caves of Veuve Clicquot!
For a reason still unbeknown to me at that point, as the other tourists were taken off in groups, we ended up with our own private guide who led us down what felt like hundreds of steps under ground. We walked past walls, carved out by hand, where rack upon rack of bottles languished, waiting their turn to unleash the bubbles that would mark an occasion for someone somewhere. The informative tour twisted and turned until we rounded a corner where the biggest surprise of all was waiting.
A candlelit table for two, deep underground, upon which a bottle of 1985 vintage and two orange tissue paper wrapped presents waited. The guide opened the bottle, poured two glasses, wrapped her orange shawl around my shoulders and said she would return to collect us later. I sat down quite unable to take in this latest surprise, laughing and questioning my wonderful boyfriend about how on earth he had managed to lay this on for my birthday.
And then it happened.... the moment that I'd only daydreamed about, wondering how and when it might take place, but never in all those wildest imaginings ever thinking that it would be as incredible as this. He got up, walked around the table, got down on one knee, said Marry Me and presented me with the most beautiful ring.
I cried, he cried and a couple of passing tourists who accidentally stumbled upon our secret location pointed and took photos! It turned out he had rung ahead some weeks before, booked a tour and asked if there was somewhere at the end that he could propose to his girlfriend who happened to love Veuve Clicquot! The rest they had organised, including the presents of a necklace and pair of cuff links.... and all for the price of the tour tickets, five euros each!
So now you know why I love that orange label so much and why it will be the only thing I drink on my 40th birthday!