Bordeaux

I took the regional train to Bordeaux so I didn’t get there until late. I also couchsurfed in Bordeaux, staying with a young couple close to my age. When I got to Emilie and Mamo’s apartment they were watching the end of the France-Switzerland World Cup match with two of their friends. France won, to everyone’s immense happiness. I was thrown into an environment of all French really quickly and it was a little hard so I probably came off a little awkward especially because I was tired, but my first impression of my hosts was a good one.

On Saturday I woke up and ate breakfast with Emilie and Mamo and then we walked around their neighborhood a little. According to them, Bordeaux is basically divided between the really bourgeois “bobos” and everybody else. We walked around the neighborhood of “everybody else” and it was great. We went to the market to buy vegetables for tomorrow’s lunch and I was happy to see that, unlike in Paris, there was a large variety of fresh fruit and veggies for decent prices. That’s one of many things I will miss about Europe. After we came back to eat lunch and then two of their friends came over before we left to go to the fête de la musique.

Every year in France (it could be in other European countries too but I don’t know) there is one day full of music and the bigger cities like Bordeaux have a whole line up of free concerts on different stages throughout the city. It started at 4pm and ended after midnight. Today was without a doubt the best day I’ve had traveling so far. There were all types of music, from rap to big band to jazz to bagpipes. We wandered around the different stages, drinking nice cold beer to cool us down because it was hot hot hot. Mamo had to leave because he was working security so I spent the rest of the day with Emilie and various groups of her friends. It was absolutely amazing. I learned that all I really needed to be able to speak French was to be forced into it. I spent 90% of the day speaking French and it wasn’t horrible! I could be understood and understood enough to not be awkward and to get along really well with everyone. They were all really nice and made me feel comfortable, but didn’t treat me like I was dumb (like speaking overly slowly or loudly). Emilie is 23 so I really think that made a difference as far as couch surfing hosts go because we got along as friends and really connected. It was an incredible experience. Bordeaux came alive with music and especially as it got later it was just a ton of university students out on the street having a great time, like one giant party. At around 12:00 am it started to rain, effectively ending the planned concerts so a bunch of people decided to jump in the large fountain in one of Bordeaux’s main squares. It was spontaneous, beautiful, surely illegal, and over in about 10 minutes but during those 10 minutes, about 40 people with clothes to spare (so not me) just stripped and jumped right in. It was incredible to watch. After the streets were still full and the groups that still felt like playing (because you don’t need to be scheduled to play music on this day) were met with raucous drunken enthusiasm. Emilie and I headed home slowly and watched part of a movie trying to stay up and wait for mamo but ended up giving up around 4 am.

THIS is why couchsurfing is an incredible movement. I spent the day without entering a single church or museum and still managed to really see the city, meet and connect with the people, and have an incredible, incredible day. I can’t even emphasize how wonderful it was, and I’ll have great memories of Bordeaux because of it.

The next morning my hosts slept in but I made myself wake up around 10 to see some of the more touristy things before leaving as well as enjoy my last pain au chocolat (last day in France). I got back to their apartment in the afternoon and Emilie made lunch for everyone which was great and totally not required to be a host, she just likes cooking and every Sunday spends time making a more elaborate recipe than what she makes during the week. Around 4 I had to leave to catch a ride in Blablacar to San Sebastián. The driver and her friends were super nice and I got a few recommendations for San Sebastián as well as started to get used to speaking Spanish again (although I definitely said oui a few times over the next few days instead of sí…). If it wasn’t obvious by what I said earlier, I LOVED Bordeaux. The city itself was nice, but what really made it amazing was having incredibly fun hosts. If my negative couchsurfing experience (or lack thereof) in Nantes made me a little wary regarding the couchsurfing movement, Bordeaux completely restored my confidence. Amazing, amazing time.

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