Monday, October 31, 2011

La Vacance d'Octobre!

So, I've been a little bad at keeping up on my blog lately but I'm going to make it all up to you now! Today is the 8th day of my October break and I've been loving it! I gotta give the French credit for their random 10-day vacations from school because it doesn't exist at home, although it should. So let me rewind a little to the first weekend of my vacation...
We went to an international horse race! It was called the Mondial du Lion and I guess it's an annual event but this year it was here in Angers. It was an extremely long course with riders from all over the world. It seemed like this entire region of France had turned out because there were a lot of people but it was over such a huge expanse that you could still the see the action up close. Guillaume and I toured the whole course with Gabe, who we happened to run into at the food stand (I told you everyone was there!) so we got to see all the different obstacles. There were jumps and pools and gates and sand dunes....

 These are just some of the countries represented... Who knew the Portugese like to ride competitively??


 The obstacles were half art, half jumps: this one was a big wooden catamaran thing with the two side wings being jumps for the horses.


 This is one with a pair of dragons at the top of a small hill so the rider goes up a hill, then over a big jump and immediately back down the hill. Those horses are tough!

 Region Pays de la Loire, represent! There were also a lot of pumpkins everywhere as this Mondial du Lion was very fall-themed.

 This was by far the coolest, and probably hardest jump. Just before the massive owl there is another jump, a downhill section, the owl you see here and then after another downhill section covered in sand. One rider clipped the owl going through and almost wiped out in the sand but the horse caught itself.


 A mid-air jump picture, of course. Couldn't go to a horse race and not take a mid-air jump picture!

So even though Halloween isn't really celebrated here (the little kids might tour the neighborhood for candy but it's nothing like America's holiday craze!), we still did a little pumpkin-carving with une citrouille we picked up at the horse race. Aurelien and me made a pretty awesome Jack-o-Lantern...


Then, this past weekend we went to the coast and stayed at the grandparent's apartment. Although the ocean wasn't too great at this time of the year (everything was closed and windy and cold), we strolled the boardwalk and played around on the beach. We also went to something called an accro-branche, which is a series of obstacles, ziplines, rope ladders and tarzan swings suspended in-between the trees. I know these exist in the US too, but I never know what they're called. When I was Quebec last year we almost went on one but it closed right after we got there. Anyway, I loved stuff like this (I got to a kayaking summer camp every year that also has a lot of ropes courses like this) and the one here was great! There were a bunch of different levels; blanche, orange, rouge, violet, noir et extreme noir, each one progressively difficult. We did all of them, right up to extreme noir, which actually wasn't too hard. Anyway, I've made you guys a video, because that's how much I care. It's not too good because iMovie is even MORE complicated in French than in English, if that's possible. Enjoy!

video

I guess I'll also stick some photos in, for good measure. 
(The pictures are a little dark because it wasn't very sunny...)



 This thing was a log rigged out with a saddle that you rode across a pretty big gap. It was awesome and needless to say, I rode it like a real cowboy: YEEHAHHHHH!!!!

 This one was a snowbaordboard that you rode across a gap! A little scarier but a little more awesome too!

 This was the start of the extreme noir course: first a ladder missing the first 3 or 4 rungs, followed by a very hard rock wall, then a series ropes, without knots or anything, just little loops at the bottoms that were too small to fit you foot in, pictured below.


 Then, at the end of the course, a free-falling rope ladder. It was connected only at the top, and it was pretty long, so every-time you stepped down a rung it swung around like crazy.
 Guillaume and I, after successfully traversing the extreme noir!

 This is a 250 km zipline: you couldn't see the end from the start (it just disappeared into the forest) and while you were going down it you got going really really fast!!

 I'm not sure what I was doing, or if I was upside-down or not, but I think it's a pretty cool picture!

 Guillaume, Aurelien, me and some random kid who wasn't supposed to be on the platform.

This was like a wire bridge with metal v-intersection every now and then.

A net bridge: at one point I fell through with both legs and had to pull myself up by the rope over my head.
We also had a very traditional northern-French meal: moulles et frites, or mussels and fries. It was the first time I'd had a combination of those two particular items but it was really good! The mussels here in France aren't very big, like small Maine mussels, but they're very tasty, especially when boiled in a garlic-butter broth.... Mmmmm.... Woah, I just had a weird moment where I forgot how the word "butter" was spelled and had to reverse-check it on WordReference... Woohoo, I'm forgetting English! Anyway, so my vacation here has been pretty good! It's been getting a lot colder and wintery and the leaves are starting to change. In a way, it's a lot like autumn at home but French-style: I get a lot of déja vu, like when you walk outside and you can almost smell the snow in the crisp, fall air. I do miss Maine at this time of the year but I also feel very at-home here. Okay well I'm going to go have lunch and then start in on my research project about the mathematical coding occurence in biology.
Au revoir pour maintenant!
Benji

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