I leave France in less than 2 weeks to move back to Birmingham, AL. There I finally wrote something down.
Writing has been nearly impossible for me because I don’t want to think about how little time I have left in Bordeaux. The folks at Fulbright warned me this might happen. My friends who have had similar experiences told me that at the end you either are really ready to leave or not at all ready to leave. I have gotten wonderful advice from colleagues back in the States and here in France. People have told me the best is yet to come and that Bordeaux will always be a part of me. Plus I have my mother’s words always in my head “if you are sad to go when you have to leave, you didn’t overstay your welcome and will always want to visit again”. Still I have had a very hard time considering the fact that I am leaving.
My ability to process my thoughts has been further limited by the intense amount of activity we have experienced for the past several weeks. My sister moved to London in May. So we all met up in Normandy for a little beach and D-day adventure. We took the long way to London to visit via Calais so we could take a ferry across The English Channel for a lovely welcoming to England by the white cliffs of Dover. When we said good-bye in London, I was not only saying good-by to my sister, nieces, nephew and brother-in-law but also to my mother and father who were ending their lovely 7 weeks in France.
On top of all of the family excitement, Bordeaux has been full of activity. The wine festival was this past weekend and it was absolutely incredible. The city of Bordeaux blocks off my beautiful multi purpose quai (riverside park, farmers market, jogging trail, athletic jungle gym, meditative walking retreat, etc) for 5 full days devoted to the celebration of the vine. As if Bordeaux needed a reason to celebrate the vine. All of the different appellations of wine are available with tasting booths. For 21 euros, you get 12 different tastes and a souvenir wine glass. Luckily for me, there was a good mix of crements (sparkling wines) in addition to the more traditional wines.
Scattered throughout the mile long array of Bordeaux’s best wines were dancers (my son got to see a professional break dancer bust out the floss mid routine), musicians, kids games, wine barrel racing, and beautiful masted ships from years past docked all along the quai. The ships (20 or so of them) are open to the public to explore for dining, dancing, and of course wine tasting. They remind people of Bordeaux’s history when these new world (as they call America in Europe) exploring vessels, like the Santa Maria, also had a huge role in the global wine trade.
Each night the geniuses at the festival orchestrated a fireworks demonstration set to the sounds of live orchestra. Did I mention the fireworks came from small boats that were in the middle of the river zipping around each other at a rapid clip? Did I also mention the boat in the center of the display was a 10 foot tall, firework breathing dragon? They put on this demonstration of pyrotechnics every night for 4 nights and it was breathtaking. We found a lovely perch on a bridge and could see the whole thing.
To close the festival in grand French style, the great masted ships all sail underneath one of Bordeaux’s amazing bridges with an escort from the Patrouille de France, similar to the US Air Force Thunderbirds. The Patrouille de France have signature red, white, and blue contrails that leave an image of the French flag in the sky after they have flown over ahead. Awe is the only word I have have for the whole experience. My absolute annoyance at not having access to the quai was replaced by my serious love of a good festival.
The wine festival also gave me the chance to find some words again. It reminded me of all of the amazing things I have experienced during my time in Bordeaux and helped pull me out of my refusal to put words to the screen. I am still sad, anxious, confused, and generally lacking desire to go back to Birmingham. But it gave me something to write about that got me out of my own head. I do believe as my colleague in Birmingham said that the best is yet to come and as my colleague in Bordeaux said that Bordeaux will always feel like home. And now I think I am finally ready to accept that change is coming.
The feelings I am experiencing moving back to Birmingham are the opposite of those I felt when moving to Bordeaux (well that’s not true, I had anxiety both times). Joy has been replaced by sadness, excitement with dread, pulling towards converted to pushing away from the future...etc. But I accept this moment and know that as tough as it feels, this too shall pass. Plus whenever I really find myself overly pensive, Ben Platt and Lin-Manuel Miranda help me find my optimism as they remind me it’s only a matter of time. There are truly some things that can never be taken away and this time in Bordeaux is one of those.