Friday, 16 August 2013

Gondrin & Condom, France: HelpX & Wine de la Bowser

Once I arrived in Bordeaux I decided just to walk into the centre of town. On my way I saw a sign that symbolises Youth Hostel in France. I made a detour, dumped my bags in front of the desk and asked if they had any beds available... No! I bent down to gather my bags when I hear "Wait, we have one left". Two more guys walked in shortly after me and received bad news... I was a lucky man. What I saw of Bordeaux was big and beautiful. However, I had to leave early the next morning so Bordeaux remains a city I want to discover.

I met a Belgian guy in my dorm, following a bit of small talk and me mentioning Couchsurfing I was asked a question that actually pops up quite a bit. Is Couchsurfing good to pick up girls? The short answer: if you're asking that question then no. Of course it happens but if someone is a creepy guy that is unsuccessful with women normally then CS is not going to change that. So stay away. The same goes for all you female sexual predators out there ;) It's the same as work and mixed sport, we've all been there but it's not why we do it.

While waiting for the train  I sat down near the large piano, a feature of many large French train stations. The commuters that actually play while waiting for a train are amazing. Each time some one finished a song I would start off the clap. My 2 hours of waiting flew by... take note Aussie train stations.

Once I arrived at Agen I had to find the bus (aka van) to CONDOM that only leaves twice a day. I knew there was going to be an Aussie girl on the bus going to the same host. There were only 4 people on the bus including me so Kristy was easy to spot. I had to adjust to speaking fast non-basic English. In Condom we were collected by Debbs. We stopped in at nice wine and armagnac store on the way to Gondrin, carrying our own empty plastic bottles. The back of this store can only be described as a wine petrol station. Wine straight from the bowser! Condom is also where the writer of The 3 Muskerteers hails from.

Upon arriving we met our other host Keith and soon we were joned by another HelpXer, Elis from Wales. HelpX is work in exchange for food and accommodation. Our destination "Au Cler" was an old stone cottage just outside the tiny town of Gondrin. The neighbours were vineyards and sunflower fields. The hosts Keith and Debbs an English couple. The deal 30 hours work a week for a bed, unlimited access to beer and wine after work, and a feast size lunch and dinner provided each day. Lucky for us Keith was a chef in his former life. The meals were restaurant quality and we visited a different country every night.

Sunflowers starting to be sad


The next day I met "The Dudes", Mark and Bill, two older long term HelpXers that lived up the back in a caravan and took care of their own meals. Very skilled builders and nice guys, although they had interesting pasts. Mark's arms would shake like crazy all day until he had his first beer in the afternoon. It was actually funny watching him drink coffee.

I asked for the hardest work they had to get rid of my beer gut before hitting the beach. My work at Au Cler involved smashing holes in walls for plumbing, digging a veggie patch in rock hard clay using a pick axe, rotorvating the vineyards and using a hand held jackhammer to smash the cement render from the wall of the cottage.

The result from 3 days of Jackhammering
Other memories getting "Duded" one night and going to bed with no memory of eating or going to bed, learning to dance "La Madison" at a local fete, playing boules, the siren going off in Gondrin at noon everyday signalling the whole town was on lunch until 2:30 (remind you of school?), the big family meals with wine, plucking a rooster and walking the the dogs including lampshade. The best was riding home with Elis after the fete using a torch as a light, taking a wrong turn down a hill, seeing a sharp corner come out of no where and watching Elis go flying over the handlebars. After establishing that he was alright we couldn't stop laughing then a light came on. There was a house less than 10 metres away. Worried a French farmer had come out with a gun and us not being able to speak French to explain what happened we took off still laughing.

Kristy, Elis, two roosters and two dogs


The Fete

Dancing La Madison

The dudes and Keith

A game of boules/petanque

Next stop hitchhiking to La Feria de Dax!

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