Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bordeaux or Bust

Welcome to the French Desert!

We arrived in Bordeaux via the TGV train from Paris and disembarked into 36 degree weather.

Most folks on vacation would welcome such sweltering, sweat provoking temperatures...

But heat like that tends to make marathoners blanche at the very idea of transversing 42 kilometres in such conditions.

There is not a cloud in the sky and on the Medoc Marathon course; there is little or no shade as you run through the vineyards and through the countryside. There are rumours that it may cool off, and even that it may rain, but we have heard differing weather forecasts from everyone we have spoken to!

We are being billeted in a wonderfully weathered French farm house, stone and brick and plaster, much of it more than a hundred years old. In any situation when you travel with a group, and certainly when you try to make accomodation arrangements in another language there are certain to be a few "minor" miscommunications and the odd misunderstanding... As it turns out, the house we arranged to stay in through the Medoc Marathon stills has its rightful occupents, Sophie and her four daughters, aged four through fourteen. But having a Host like Sophie is the best of all possible situations, meaning that we get the inside scoop on all the local comings and goings. And someone to provide coffee and croissants in the morning!

And when I say farm house, I am not exagerating. I was forced to wear ear-plugs to drown out the crowing of the roosters at five this morning. And across the street are a herd of cows, and goats, donkeys and other assorted livestock pop up around every corner. The sights, sounds and smells are a powerful reminder on my part of a childhood spent growing up on a farm, to the extent that I milked a cow by hand every morning and afternoon. A skill I had not thought would come in handy any time soon, but who knows?

Last evening the owners of the local Chateaux invited us all over for a tour of the winery, followed by a fabulous feast. Every cousre, soup, entre, cheese and desert was accompanied by an exquisite sampling of the wares of the Chateaux, the exception being the wine served with dessert, for which we had an amazing 1996 "Gertz" (I won't even hazard attempting to spell it in full)...

Fortunately, our French hosts mistook my usual gluttony for the enthusiasm of a true Gourmand. Our Hosts - Claudine and Christian - took great delight in the gusto with which I consumed their fare and took special care to make sure my plate was never bare and more importantly, that my wine glass was never empty!

I was of course able to say that I was merely in serious training for the Medoc Marathon! And even in the French countryside, when they quizzed our party about our racing histories and our marathon track records, they were suitably impressed that a man of my present girth and appetite had run the Boston Marathon less than a year ago...

That's it. There are peasants in the background screaming at me that it is time to go to the market...


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