Bordeaux: Family and Sand dunes

Trip Start Sep 04, 2007
Trip End Dec 03, 2007

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Flag of France  ,
Wednesday, September 26, 2007

After our longest travel day yet, 7 am to 7pm, we were once again anything but disappointed by another gracious reception from a Servas host.  This is honestly the greatest organization i have ever heard of and participated  in. We have Joelle, the mother, who made us feel right at home from start, Francis, the father, who loves a good glass of red wine, Leo, whom is 17 years old and surfs, skateboards, and snowboards, and Medy, who is 19 and bikes. They all speak pretty good English with a heavy french accent and we have had the pleasure to widen their vocabulary. We were spoiled spoiled spoiled these last couple days. We were greeted with uttermost affection and hydrated with Belgian beer. And then came Mami and  Papi. Grandma and Grandpa. Not a word of english. Mami is an 85 year old woman who is full of life.Papi was a chef back in the day and it showed in the meals we had. But more about that later. Mami came down and greeted us as if we were family with the traditional kiss on both cheeks. We communicated with hand gestures and our smiles throughout our stay. Everyone was having a good laugh and enjoying themselves when my stomach began to rumble. I had not eaten since that morning and all we had was some bread. My greatest fear of the day crept in on me: "have they already had their evening meal?" I thought to myself. This was quickly quelled by a shooing motion by Mami to go upstairs and we were met with the aroma of a home cooked meal permeating through the air. And what ensued was a great big French family dinner that consisted of no less than: soup, bread, wine, fish in a crumbled cream sauce, more bread, a corn tortilla potato dish, more bread cheese, more  wine, and all topped of with a thin apple pie for dessert. The wine was made in none other, Bordeaux, from a good year (so i was told) 2000 (jealous mom? : ) ). And the following night the we had the exact same courses with a different variation of Ratatouille (which we had in Paris) for the main course. Did I mention the fact we had three solid meals today? The first time this trip I believe. Man I love food. But other things did occur in our stay don't think otherwise. We learned that in France they have high schools that teach to what profession you aspire to do. We also learned that it is very hard for someone to get a job anywhere if they are under the age of 18. That is why the family was so surprised when we told them we made our own money to fund our trip. One last interesting anecdote, in France, and all of Europe I presume, they have never really heard of the term "retirement home." Thank you red wine. Or, if they are not in good enough shape to take care of themselves; the family does.
    Today, yet again, I had one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. To show us a good time, Leo and Medy decide to drive 70kilometers to the ocean, where looming 500 meters above us was an enormous sand dune! The ocean gives you this feeling of awe every time I look at it. But our attention was incredibly drawn elsewhere and I think you can tell from the pictures why. We all knew what we came there to do. So without much exchanging of words, Leo, Robby and I took off our shirts and shoes and prepared for what was going to be the most fun downhill experience of my life. We stared at the great expanse of trees beyond the dune and without further delay took off like it was the start of a 100 meter dash. What was the closest thing to a free fall that i have ever done ( the incline had to be 60 degrees) turned into a flailing mess of sand and appendages. I have never hit the ground so hard and not felt pain. Front flips, belly flops, somersaults, and face plants were just a few ways my body twisted and turned. And when we reached the bottom and i was done laughing form pure joy and adrenaline, we climbed up as fast as we could only to go tumbling down again. The forest i was talking about, is actually a man lade forest put into place by none other, Napoleon. There used to be a great wetland there but the trees that were planted soaked up all of the water. Sand dunes are always moving and this was visible from the sand seeping through the edge of the tree line.
    So all in all this was definitely one of my favorite, if not my favorite host. Tomorrow we spend our day in the town center of Bordeaux and take 8 hour night train to Madrid. Alas we will be in a country where we can communicate without solely hand gestures.
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