„Eets no problem, eets no problem“ said Turgot with a huge smile. He was our covoiturage (ride-share) driver from the chaos of Spain into the relative sanity that is France. Headed to Bordeaux, we were apologizing for our terrible French skills, having had them scrambled from our recent escapades with the Spanish language. Little more than 10 minutes into our drive, he asked us if we’d like to stay with him instead of paying for a hostel we had already booked. Making a gut decision, heavily based on his happy-go-lucky vibe and the fact that all my past experiences with Cameroonians have been wonderful, we decided to take his offer!
That night we initiated him into CouchSurfing by cooking him dinner before making a round of “the blonde city” by night. Bordeaux’s train station has a beautiful front, but behind it is where the prostitutes work, waiting in parking lots in vans, often with the lights on to read by. He told us he wanted to show us both sides of the city, and that was exactly what we got. The place de la bourse and the accompanying reflection pool was the perfect spot to sit by the riverside and share a bottle of Cava.
Bordeaux by day was aesthetically pleasing to be sure, but it didn’t seem like the city had much to offer besides photo opps and countless dégustations, which we decided to skip in favor of sipping a few local reds on our own time. Turgot surprised us by cooking a fantastic meal, and we spent more time frolicking in the water on the place.
Moving from one very hospitable host to another, we found ourselves in La Rochelle, the last stop on our journey together. (Michael will continue traveling until September, so if you’d like a slightly different perspective on a trip through Europe, take a minute to read his journey on Transnational Considerations).
You might remember Kyra, another Fulbrighter in Gießen? Her brother Alex took us in for a few wonderful days in the city that has been his hometown for the past eight years. A scathingly funny writer (author of The La Rochelle Times, a blog inspired by The Onion) I’m very grateful to have met Alex as he was not only a fabulous conversationalist, but as an expat who taught English for a year in France and never left, he also gave me hope for the future…
Bordeaux was the blonde city, La Rochelle was the white city. We didn’t run into any knights of Gondor, but the Knights Templar had left their own marks on the town. If I had to pick a favorite place from the trip, the decision would teeter between Valencia and La Rochelle. Coastal cities seem to have a hold on me…La Rochelle caught me with its ocean air, bike-friendly streets, fresh and inexpensive seafood and a quiet hum of people/sounds/smells that floated pleasantly in the background. The fact that Ryanair has a conveniently located airport there means I’ll be back someday soon. Perhaps my pictures can convince you to take a trip…
I’ve come to terms with the realization that if Germany and Spain were somehow geographically and culturally merged (besides the utter havoc it would create…can you imagine a well-oiled, workaholic machine of a society working well with the concept of siesta?), it might just create my ideal living conditions. Take the two climates, average them, stick a beach in there somewhere and I’ll call it home without hesitation.
Then again, I always seem to breathe a huge sigh of relief when I’m back in France…hmm.