Valley Overseas: Lessons From The Vineyard

Welcome to Valley Overseas. We’ll hear from students exploring new lands full of strange customs, seemingly impenetrable language barriers, and Euro-trash. They’ll dish out the good, bad and the ugly of living in a home-stay, and the tales of discount airlines. From mixed-up vocab to drool-worthy people in fantastic fashions, let us show you the experiences of a lifetime.

Today, I said “merci” when a French man handed me an unopened bottle of red wine. “Here,” he said. “Drink this in 2017.”

That sounds sketch. But my host dad and I had spent hours working on his vineyard. This was his repayment.

Apparently, that’s a thing here. You spend your morning crouching in the mud and yanking grapes off the vine, and then the owners of said mud-and-grapes give you a bottle and a hearty French meal in return.

Should I even be surprised? This is France, after all, and I pass about five vineyards every morning on my way to class.

The day before, I had an excursion to some local castles. Honestly, the amount of medieval villages in France is sickening—it was to the point where I wasn’t even excited for my chateau visit (#firstworldproblems, I know, I know).

But as soon as I hiked up to the top of hilltop castle no. 1, I realized my mistake. I spent the rest of the day exploring medieval ruins and gazing out over the Pyrenees.

Oh, and then my host family took me to a wine bar that night.

All this goes to show that you can have fun without a wallet full of cash. In this column, I’ve made no secret about it: I traipse around Europe a lot. On break last week, I visited four different countries. I’m lucky; I have the means. But this weekend was one of my best—and I didn’t even leave Southern France.

Here’s one final tidbit I learned today: the ugliest grapes make for the sweetest
wine. If that’s not a metaphor for life or something, then I don’t know what is.

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