So yeah, as I'm sure pretty much everyone reading this knows, I was in France last week. It was for the Downing College Boat Club training camp, which was in Soustons, sort of vaguely in between Toulouse and Bordeaux. Overall, I had a pretty awesome time, and considering a fair bit of the expenses were subsidised, it was a really decent holiday for the cost.
We left the college at around 3am on Monday morning. I'd come down on the Sunday, dropped all my stuff off in Alex's room and basically just hung around for 15 hours or so waiting for us to leave. We tried getting some sleep, but it was a pretty futile effort, and my sleep cycle wasn't geared towards my going to sleep before 3am anyway. Slept most of the way to the airport and got a bit of sleep here and there.
We flew to Toulouse, which is like a three hour coach journey from where we were actually staying, but it was the only airport where the flights worked out without being hideously expensive, so can't really complain too much about that. Where we were staying was OK. The rooms were pretty decent for the cost, though the food we were given was pretty shitty. I'd expect that from being in France though. The stuff about French food being amazing only remotely applies if you're paying through your nose for it. Anything else is just processed shit, and usually only has any taste because they've put a fuckload of salt in it. That said, I didn't have that much problem with the food, or at least not as much as some people seemed to. Some of it was fucking weird, granted, but on the most part it tasted all right.
My only proper complaint of the trip was that there was no fucking nightlife in the time whatsoever. It was ridiculous. There'd only ever be like one bar open on any one night. I think they actually had some sort of cartel thing going where all the local bars had arranged it so only one of them would be open on a single evening. There was so little business I doubt it'd be worth them all being open every night because there only seemed to be like four or five other people out in the evenings aside from the DCBC peeps. Even when the bars were open, they were expensive as fuck. I don't feel I'm being odd in thinking that €4.50 for a pint of lager is fucking ridiculous. It doesn't surprise me that the bars were pretty quiet when the drinks were that pricey, especially given the stuff in the local 8 à Huit was pretty decent value.
The rowing itself was pretty good fun. Some entertaining races, and generally the whole squad atmosphere was really nice. On the last day there were some fun-races, where basically the coxes and some of the rowers swapped around. I had my first go rowing ever, and to be thrown straight into a IV to race with about two minutes to warm up and get used to stuff was fucking scary. We got through the quarter-finals, with a joke crew and Craig Sawyer coxing (funny because he's absolutely huge) and then we got serious for the semi-finals and the final and put Craig in the crew and had Sarah MP coxing. Things were going OK for me until the final, when I crabbed massively (much to the continued amusement of various people), took a while to recover it, and then when I did I was so out of time that Kat crabbed in front of me due to laughing.
So we lost the final, but all good fun. Don't think I'm going to give up coxing to try and row though.
Despite the total utter lack of nightlife in the town, it was generally pretty fun outside rowing. We bought a crapload of beer and went in the jacuzzi (or "jaboozy" as it got nicknames) a couple of times, which was decent fun. Plenty of loud singing and abuse aimed at Jesus College (who were also there while we were). Also some decent indoor 7-a-side matches in the afternoons.
The main faff was over getting home. What with there being insane snow over pretty much everywhere in Europe besides Soustons (which was pretty nice most of the time) flights were getting cancelled all over the place, and it was a bit nervous for the last 48 hours or so of the trip because we didn't know if our flight would be cancelled or not, and a fair few people didn't have travel insurance either. Luckily everything was all right, but I felt pretty sorry for Craig for being in charge of the trip and have to fret and come up with alternative plans if things didn't work out.
Overall, really a great time. It was nice to be out in boats on such a huge lake, where you could literally row for four or five kilometres before having to spin, and to not have all the ridiculous congestion that you get on the Cam. Less interesting from a coxing perspective, considering there weren't really any corners (and buoys are a fucking pain in the arse to follow because they're really difficult to see), but still pretty good. I felt I learned a fair bit as well being on the camp, and I'll definitely go again next year.