When I went to France, I had every intention of bringing back a ‘few’ bottles. After all, when in the land of good wine at a fraction of the cost, why not? Now, I’m not a wine connoisseur, nor do I have a vast wine cellar (unless you consider a wine fridge and the cold dark reaches of my closet a cellar). Getting wine from France to the US is snarled in paperwork and ridiculousness, so finding anyone set up to ship to the US is like finding the golden goose. I found a grand total of two golden geese, one in Burgundy and the other in Bordeaux. You would think that should have satisfied me.
Of course not.
It became a game to see how many bottles I could get home. I already fully intended on shipping home any clothes and shoes not used for ballast in the luggage, so I was already armed with the appropriate shipping information. La Poste and I became quite intimate over the course of the six weeks. By the time I was done, I had mastered the French necessary, and swaggered through the door knowing exactly what to ask for, and how many. Now if anyone wishes to copy this foolhardy approach, you will want to ask for the XL prepaid box. They charge a flat rate, around fifty bucks, and you can stuff 7 kilos, though I found they didn’t blink an eye at overweight boxes.
To be an effective wine mule takes a lot of preplanning. I researched weight restrictions, cost of overages, and the cost of additional luggage, before ever leaving the country. Most airlines allow for two checked bags per person, and since there were two of us, it meant I could load up four bags. I’m ready. Queue the Mission Impossible music.
Before I get to my success and failures, I will say: I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. Ever. Not even under duress. You can never plan anything perfectly and there will always be losses. The combined stress of hauling my bootie around France, and the hoops of checking the luggage, have convinced me of my stupidity.
With that said, I was able to La Poste quite a bit of merchandise. Yeah, never again, it was like box fight club. The boxes arrived so mangled that several had to be reboxed, and one even body bagged by the postal service. Bagged. Nothing gets your blood pressure up like a ‘bag’ being delivered with the tattered remains of its contents reeking of spilt wine. I’m still chagrined about the fleur de sel that burst and created a salt crust on the contents.
It wasn’t until after we acquired two cheap pieces of luggage, and I was tallying and packing them, that I realized the flaw in my otherwise brilliant plan. If I had been smart, I would have only traveled with carryon. You cannot possibly pack bottles with appropriate ballast, and keep it under the 50 pound weight limit. Impossible. I have a doctorate in packing, honed from years of time wasted playing Tetris, so I know what I am talking about. And when I pulled the first bag off the carousel and sniffed the telltale scent of broken wine, I shuddered. How much had survived? Are all our clothes ruined? Am I daft? Insane? Dumb? All of the above. Like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun.
The final results:
Golden Goose = 48
Luggage = 46
Breakage = 5
Stolen = 1
Yes, stolen. Damn baggage handlers. Somewhere between JFK and Atlanta, a bottle was ruthlessly snatched. In my mind’s eye, I have to wonder how that goes down. Grab a bottle of Chablis and stuff it down your pants? Sorry, buddy, no one is going to believe that one.
For those intrepid travelers who wish to follow in my footsteps I wish you the best of luck.
My career as a wine mule is over. I jumped the shark.