Day 72 – 3/26/2019

Decided that we couldn’t wait for the weekend to begin travels and hopped on a train up to Paris on Wednesday morning. Almost missed the train because apparently shuttles here don’t run until 8:30, love socialism. With some creative logistics and a taxi cab driver that could win the Indi 500 we made it to the station and boarded our train. It was especially important that we made it as the stakes were high. In Paris, we were meeting some girls from back home, whom I shall refer to as the Floco girls. The 6 Floco girls were on spring break and decided they couldn’t go the whole semester without us, hence their trip to Paris. Not sure that’s the whole truth, but oh well, it makes me feel better putting it that way. It was an easy trip for me and Andrew, as the girl had done most of the planning for us. We simply got to tag along, with the only requirement being that we be fun and funny, as per usual. Our early Wednesday train gave us basically the entire day to explore Paris with them. The first stop of the day was Sacre Coeur, an old church perched on a hill above the city. We must have been feeling the need for some spiritual healing as our next stop was yet another church, Notre Dame. After our enlightenment we walked along the river a little way and found ourselves at the famous Louvre museum. We decided to go into the house of the Mona Lisa, not because of our appreciation for the art, instead we needed to appreciate modern plumbing. A short stroll through the park later and we found ourselves at the Champs- Elysee’s. We walked the street that leads up to the Arc de Triumph. We made two pit-stops along the way. First was at footlocker so two of the girls could get some fashionable shoes that didn’t make them want to amputate their feet. The next stop was the infamous Laduree, for the colorful macaroons. They each got one and said it was well worth the arm and leg they paid for them. After some group photos by the arc we made our way back to the Airbnb to begin the night. We had all bought tickets to see a band called BLOW at a venue just a stones throw away from the Airbnb. After consuming responsibly in preparation for the concert, we made our way there. It was not quite the crowd we were expecting, however we got there early and grabbed some drinks at the bar. Apparently European people don’t dance but that didn’t stop us from doing it. I would say if my parents heard the music they would call it techno, personally id call it electric indie. The concert had a great light show that would have induced a stroke on anyone over 40. We loved it. After the concert we made our way back to the Airbnb and continued the fun there. Andrew unfortunately had to leave early the next morning to Barcelona to see his family and couldn’t join us for the day’s adventures. We all awoke seemingly early considering the beverages we had the night before. But rise we did, as we had to get to the Eiffel tower before most of the girls had to leave the city. The Eiffel tower was great and after a photo shoot in front of it  we went and got breakfast before we all had to head our separate ways. We returned to the Airbnb to grab our bags, then 5 of the girls left for the train station. This left me and Abby, as we are heading to Bordeaux for the weekend. Currently we sit on a train leaving the big city on our way to an area where wine is more plentiful than water. We have a wine tour planned for today and are excited to explore the region and of course the wine.

Friday and Saturday, I was in wine country of France, Bordeaux. By I, this post is Erik, sorry Andrews family / friends. After everyone went their separate ways in Paris, me and my friend Abby were the only ones left and decided to make our way to the world of wines. We got in to Bordeaux mid-day Friday and just hung around until our wine tour that started at 1. The tour included 4 tastings at two different chateaus. The first vineyard we visited was owned by an older man who got bored with his printing company and bought up a few vineyards around the world. This one was his favorite and home. It rest on 24 acres, which for all of you pickup driving farmers may seem small but is actually 3x the average size of a vineyard in the area. They are often small because of how labor intensive the work is, as all the grapes are still harvested by hand, almost no machinery is used in the cultivating. We got to tour the fields a little and learned about the type of grapes they grow. We also got to see where the wine is made and their cellar where they keep it. In Bordeaux they are only allowed to grow 6 different types of grapes, most farmers only grow the three most popular. Don’t ask me what they are called, between the thick accent of the tour guide and their unique names I forgot. Almost all the wine made in Bordeaux is a blend of different wines from those 6 grapes they can grow, this vineyard was no exception. Their wine was mostly Merlot, giving it a “sweet, black fruit flavor and aroma”. The wines at this vineyard were very good, the first one we tried was meant to be easy to drink so it can be consumed on its own, the second was more “complex” and meant to go with a red meat dinner. I liked both a whole lot more than the 2 Euro bottles I have been used to drinking. After we drank our glasses dry we made our way into a little village surrounded by vineyards. It was a town of no more than 2,000 and is visited by over a million tourist a year. There we got a short tour of a church and then had some free time to explore on our own. We took advantage of the time by getting a meat and cheese plate and white wine to accompany it. Our next stop was the second vineyard, a family owned estate that sat on 7 acres. Here again they had a mostly Merlot blend but with an added less used grape to give it a different flavor. The wine here had much more complexity to it. By that I mean it’s not something you would drink on its own. Thankfully than had appetizers that they served with it, to “accompany” the flavors. I think they meant neutralize as this was a strong wine, with a black pepper taste and kick to it. Here again, we got to tour the vineyard and the facilities, which were smaller than the first. The tour guide here new her stuff and was more than happy to give us a science lesson on the process. This was the end to our tour and we all hoped back in the van and headed back to the city. Saturday was spent mostly exploring the city and avoiding the protest. The city itself is larger than I had expected but was a nice, typical French city. All the buildings that lined the river had slate roofs on the front and clay on the back. There were markets all over the place and plenty of French people city outside restaurants enjoying drinks, food, and conversation. We both had to leave early the next morning as Abby had to catch a 7:30 train and me a 8:30. I had a interesting travel day. I was supposed to have a 4-hour train ride home and be back in Montpellier by 12:40. That’s not how the day went, as an hour and a half into my ride the train stopped on the tracks with a dead engine. After and added 6 and a half hours with my only meal being a canned tuna and pasta salad, generously provided by the railway. Finally, I got back to Montpellier around 7pm. Oh well, it was out of my control and made it back in one piece. Hard to be to upset about it. All in all it was a great weekend for the Rue 16 boys, as always Cheers!

(Andrew) The classic abroad experience that consists of living off 5 euros or less per day and washing clothes after they fail the smell test was put on hold the past week with my family being here. Having them here was better that I could have imagined and not just because I got free food and my clothes washed. I was able to show my family the life I’ve been living for the past couple months and explore with another level of freedom because we had a car! Our first day together was tough because they were very jetlagged, so we called it a day very early and were well rested for the next day. When we woke up, we got in the car and drove to Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert, which I previously wrote about, so I could show them what I had seen a couple weeks before. Everyone was impressed with the tiny French homes, cobblestone streets, crystal clear water, and desert mountains in the background. After lunch and a hike, we piled back in the car to head back to Montpellier and call it a day. The next day, our hiking continued as we decided to hike a mountain close to Montpellier called Pic Saint Loup. From a distance, the mountain doesn’t look too daunting but as soon as we arrived at the base, we found that looks can be deceiving. The hike up was nothing but loose rocks that slipped out from under your feet almost every step. Although it was tougher than expected, we made it to the top for some awesome views. We could see the city of Montpellier with the Mediterranean in the background to one side, and the start of French Alps on the other. Pictures were taken and snacks were eaten before we decided to head down the mountain and back to town. My family left the next day for San Sebastian, Spain while I had class for a couple days. I met back up with them on Thursday in Barcelona where we spent our first day walking around the city. Day two brought us to Parc Guell, The Bunkers that overlook the entire city of Barcelona, and Sagrada Familia which I personally believe will never, ever be finished. Our last day we decided to take it easy, sleep in, and head to the beach for a couple hours to get some sun. It was so nice seeing the fam for two weekends and it was much harder saying goodbye. But knowing I get to see them again in less than 6 weeks is great. Cheers!


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