The one about how we came to France, ran a marathon, drank a lot of wine, then drank some more wine. Oh, and then we drank some more wine

This was written between September 10 and September 12, but I haven’t had access to an Internet connection long enough to post it until today. I have to post it fast, so that’s all the explanation you get!

the bunny gang at the startIt’s been a busy week, but one with no Internet access, so now that I’m sitting on a train for the next three hours, I’ll take the opportunity to do some catch up. We arrived in Paris a week ago Thursday, and took a train from there to Bordeaux where we rented a car and drove to Castelnau de Medoc and the Chateau du Foulon, where we have been staying since.

We flew over on Air France, which is a very nice airline. Our coach seats all had individual TV screens, and we could choose from about ten movies and a variety of other programming throughout the flight. They also served us a very nice meal that was served with – get this! – real silverware! The flight was non-stop – I still like that option best even though it does make for a very long flight. The good news was that there was no way luggage could get lost or we could miss connecting flights.

The Chateau du Foulon, where we stayed, was a real deal chateau, built in 1840. The main house had four rooms that could be rented, then there was an apartment attached to the house that had a separate entrance (two, to be precise – a front door and a back door) and slept two to five people. It had a bedroom with a double bed and a twin bed, and foldout double bed in the living room. It also had a kitchen with stove, refrigerator, and washing machine. We stayed there with our friend Meagan. Our other friends slept in the other small cabins on the property. These smaller cabins slept one or two people, but also had kitchens and bathrooms. Our apartment was by far the most charming and also had the world’s worst water pressure. We never knew what we’d get – but we could bet on it being scalded or frozen. Over the course of six days I had one shower where I had adequate water and the temperature was okay. The price included a continental breakfast that was an unvarying menu of juice, coffee, and a croissant. So it goes.

Marathon festivities began the day after we arrived. First there was the expo where we picked up numbers and t-shirts and did some wine tasting. Then that evening there was the Mille Pates dinner – the dinner of a thousand noodles. Every course, including dessert, included pasta, and all of it was good. The wine just kept flowing – when one bottle ran pout another replaced it. Not too far into dinner, a live band began playing and people took to the dance floor. The dancing and drinking continued until about 11pm, at which time we drove back to the chateau, finally getting to bed about midnight. We were up by 6:30am, getting ready for the marathon. We all wore playboy bunny costumes, which included pink bunny ears, white tail, cuffs, collar and bow tie (also pink), black tank tops and black fitness shorts. We looked pretty tame, to be honest. A lot of folks had pretty outrageous costumes and many had vehicles (all powered by foot pedals), like a Viking ship or an ice cream truck. The wine stops started sooner than I expected. There was one at one kilometer, another at two kilometers and a third at three kilometers. At that rate I figured I would be unconscious by mile 5, but after the third kilometer there weren’t any more wine stops until after the halfway point.

The actual marathon did not go as I had expected or hoped. Our friend Meagan, who came over as our translator, decided at the last minute to run, and her knee gave out at about 4 kilometers. We had to get to kilometer 13 for a pick up to the finish, and our pace was so slow that by the time we got her squared away, they were closing and sweeping the course, so we only made it to between kilometer 19 and 20 on the actual course, and by the time we got there all of the bands and wine stations had already packed up and/or closed down. We ran back to the finish line (we were never more than about 3 miles from the finish as the entire marathon course snaked through all of the vineyards and chateaux in the area around Pouillac). Once at the finish we started backtracking and made it to kilometer 36 looking for our fellow bunnies. We never did find them – they were all out on the course drinking wine and dancing. So we ran back and crossed the finish so we could get our free bottles of wine (which means we maybe did about 19 or 20 miles of the actual 26.2 mile course). So after all the bother of getting to Medoc, I missed the actual marathon hoopla. And for the first time in nearly 30 years of running, this was the first race I didn’t actually complete.

The next day started with a morning “recuperation” walk of about four miles through several vineyards, then a lunch with more wine and more dancing. It was also our friend Mary’s birthday so we made a sash for her to wear that said “Happy Birthday, Mary” on her back, and “Miss September” on her front. As we had anticipated, people kept coming up to her and wishing her a happy birthday, and several times she got kisses as well! We went to dinner that night at a local restaurant that turned out to be quite nice (it was supposedly a pizzeria, but was far nicer than that with much better food). Our group started to go their separate ways after that – Mary and Gerry headed for Toulouse, and Jill and Sumalee headed for points north. We stayed for another two days, spending one day in St. Emilion, a very cool old town in Bordeaux that is also a wine-producing area of Bordeaux, and another day driving along the Medoc peninsula.

We left the chateau this morning and drove back to Bordeaux, dropped off the rental car, and are now on the TGV (ultra-fast train) back to Paris where we will then catch a night train to Florence to start the Italian leg of our trip. I think the place we are staying in Tuscany (about 15 minutes outside Siena) is a bit more up-to-date than the chateau, so hopefully it won’t be a week before I can post photos and blog. Chuck and I are enjoying our first trip to Europe together, and have learned a lot about what we’d do different the next time. Medoc is pretty, but neither of us would rush back. It turns out that France has several marathons in their various wine regions so you could come here a lot and never repeat yourself. We are both definitely ready to move on to new adventures.