My first excursion with the USAC program was great!
I woke up at 5:30 am Saturday morning to take care of some homework before leaving to meet at the school at 8 am. I managed to almost miss the bus and had to sprint halfway to the stop. Then the bus driver took his sweet time and I had to run from my stop at the school to the building where my charter bus was and almost missed that too! I can’t handle these buses – I’m late so often! Its gotten to the point where I tend to take my asthma medicine every morning just as a precaution.
The buses were surprisingly nice and we drove about an hour and a half through the French countryside before we stopped in a small town to get Chocolatines (AKA Pain au chocolat). It was another hour drive after that to the winery on the top of a beautiful hill. It was gorgeous and we sampled 4 different wined and had a buffet lunch. I only drank 3 of the four because the last was an awful red that I just couldn’t stand. The “tastes” they give in Europe
are generous glasses at Januik winery and I was feeling quite well after my 3rd “taste”. At the end of lunch I bought a bottle of a special wine only made in Bordeaux and rarely sold in the US to take home with me.
Fun fact: Wine has been produced in this region since the 8th century!
Above: Vanessa and I exploring the Chateau’s property after lunch
Below: Owner, named Katie, sitting on the barrels (each one costs 600 euro!)
After the winery, it was about a half hour drive to the city of Bordeaux. Bordeaux is one of the richest cities in Europe, because of it’s great location for trade. The name comes from “au bord de l’eau” or “along the water” and during the 17th century the city became a major trade center with the Dutch leading into the age d’hor (or golden age) of the 18th century.
I could probably tell you more about the history if I had gone with my program on the tour, but I opted to explore the city on my own (well, actually with Kim, Vanessa and Elly). Every building in Bordeaux is beautiful and we had a great time walking around. One thing that surprised me was the filth outside the famous Cathedral, St. Michel. I walked into the square and thought, “Welcome to the most beautiful city in France. Here’s some garbage, homeless people, dog crap and clothing on the ground to add to the magnificence of this church”
It smelled awful and there were some things so gross in that square I won’t even write about them, but the inside of the church was gorgeous and very clean in comparison.
After Bordeaux I went directly to Vanessa’s house, where Helene was having her birthday party. I tried to drink my new wine, but had eaten so much sugar that day I just couldn’t stand the sweetness. I tried to speak with as many of the people there as I could and met a girl who lives near Lourdes that said I could stay with her if I go visit. I don’t know if she was sincere in her offer, but I’m definitely going to text her to meet up for lunch or coffee when I make my way to the city.
At about 2:30 am we went out to a discotheque, which was okay. Not worth the 10 euro entrance fee though. We left at about 4 am and walked all the way back to Vanessa’s which took an hour! We had Helene’s friend Fabrice with us, but the streets were pretty quiet, well lit and seemingly safe. I almost walked the rest of the way home on my own, but decided I should just be safe and crash at Vanessa’s home.
I went to bed at 5:30 am, exhausted from a 24 hour day, but still somehow woke up at 9 am. I borrowed Vanessa’s map and it took me about 40 minutes to walk the rest of the way to my house. When I got home my host mom was eating breakfast so I joined her and then went back to bed. I’m now trying to fight off a bad cold and missed school today to stay home and sleep. Tonight won’t be exciting at all, seeing as I desperately need to work on a scholarship and a 10 minute speech I have to give IN FRENCH Wednesday.
Hope you are all doing well in WA!