Ten years ago on Valentine’s Day 2003, my husband, Andy, and I were living in Guadalajara, México. To celebrate the day of love, his idea was to make me homemade salsa. It was a sweet gesture interrupted by one tiny detail, parsley. When he was at the grocery store, he didn’t realize the Spanish word for cilantro was the same as the English word and instead purchased perejil (translation parsley.) This mistake, one neither of us will make again, created a large vat of salsa that tasted muy mal.

Ever since that day, Andy has put an extra effort into giving me something unique and special for Valentine’s Day. This year, Valentine’s Day 2013, he gave me a gift that was as thoughtful as it was surprising. He knows how excited I am for our upcoming July trip to France to witness the 100th riding of the Tour de France (I am a huge cycling fan!) Before we watch 150-pound guys ride up a large alp in spandex, we plan to spend a couple of days tasting wine in the nearby Rhône Valley.

This is where the present comes in. Andy spent time with one of the knowledgeable employees at our local Co-op Wine Shop talking about the region we will be traveling to and picking out wines from vineyards we can visit on our trip.

When it was time to exchange gifts, he pulled out two bottles of wine from the Rhône Valley and shared what he had learned about them. He explained how many of the bottles of wine coming from the Rhône Valley bear a coat of arms on their neck and how Châteauneuf du Pape roughly translates to “The Pope’s New Castle” which stems from the period of 1309 to 1376 when the Papacy was temporarily moved from Rome to Avignon, France. [1] [2] It was amazing how much we both learned about the area before we’ve even begun to pack for our trip.

Not only will I enjoy the wine from the region we will visit, but doing research makes me anticipate the trip even more. The knowledge we both learned will enable us to be more informed tourists, something I hear the French appreciate, and get more out of our short time abroad.

From now on, I plan to put more time into researching an area before I visit. And if purchasing wine will further my learning, sign me up!

[1]. Retrieved February 17, 2013, from Wikipedia
[2] Avignon Papacy. Retrieved February 17, 2013, from Wikipedia