After an unforgettable week with Brigitte and Paul in the warm Mediterranean Turkey (many thanks), we returned to Paris. Just in time for Autumn, we adjusted to the season by resting in the childhood flat of Paul, where Brigitte would prepare a nice breakfast like she always use to, and practice the piano playing lovely tunes. And within a few days it was time to meet the rest of the Brossier family! For the following six weeks, we visited Paul’s family in France. Paul is the youngest of two brothers and a sister. It had been over two years since he had seen his family before parting for his grand journey; from France, Barcelona, across the north to Greenland, from North to South America. The eldest brother, Eric, and his family were returning to France for the holidays. With Paul and Eric’s return in September, it was a big Bossier reunion, or as I like to call: ‘Bro time’.
During the first week, we made trips out to see the family in and around the Parisian area. I met Paul’s sweet sister, Charlotte. She recently had her second child, Joseph, and had been on maternity leave from work. She invited us to a elegant fruit de mer lunch (Fruit de mer is seafood. It literally translates at “fruit of the sea”) in the historic Montmartre neighborhood. We spent some nights with Charlotte and her family, in their cozy home outside of Paris. In the mornings we would walk Paul’s niece, Rose, to school and in the evenings we shared dinner and her husband, Mathieu, made delicious pastries (best in France!). In the southern suburbs of Paris, we made visits to Paul’s father, Philippe. Paul was introduced to Philippe’s new home that he just got with his girlfriend, Annie. We shared a pleasant walk with them along the riverside neighborhood and shared nice dinners prepared by Annie. The following day we met Annie’s daughter for lunch, and together we drove down to Fontainebleau, a wonderland for the sport of bouldering. Phillipe is very kind, very smart, and he makes an incredible chocolate cake that Paul has been raving about since I met him.
Back at Brigitte’s home in Paris, Eric and France arrived with their two daughters, Leonie and Aurore. It was a return from another season in the Arctic. They make annual sailing expedition on their vessel, Vagabond, anchor in the Arctic sea, and locked in after the sea freezes over. Throughout the season, the Vagabond serves as a station for researchers. After hearing about them and following the media updates, I wasn’t sure if I would meet an intimidating duo. Come to find out; Eric and France are very kind and so humble about their lives. Their daughters, Leonie and Aurore, are sweet, too. Their hugs and kisses gave way that they liked me. Leonie was my English speaking buddy, since she has been learning at school and from the researchers on board. Impressively, she knows some Inuktitut, the language of the Inuits of the Canadian Arctic region (where they lived during the previous winter). I wont forget witnessing the girls first day out in the unfrozen urban world; their joy glowed in a typically gloomy Autumn afternoon, making bouquets of fallen leaves, dancing, and happily socializing with the children in the park.
In addition to the reunion, the “Bros” had arrangements to attend some big events. First up, was the Adventure Film Festival, in Dijon, France. The line up of documentaries included the Sur le Grand Océan Blanc (The Children of the Cold is the English title) featuring the story life of Eric, France, Leonie, and Aurore on board the Vagabond.
Paul and I arranged a ride to the city, Dijon (as you may know; Dijon for it’s mustard) to meet with Eric and France. I met ‘Middle Bro’ François, and his girlfriend, Christoo, when the arrived to join us at the festival. It was three days of inspiring films; tales of men and women who venture the world documenting their projects, special communities, and environmental issues. We saw the premiere of the Sur le Grand… and the film received an honorable prize at the end of the festival! And thanks to François and Christoo, we had a convenient location to go to rest. What a joy it was to be amongst amazing travelers and talented film professionals! Despite my understanding of French, all the films were incredible!
After the weekend, we carpooled to the city Grenoble, where we had stayed in François and Christoo’s home. Their home was so inviting to cozy up in the spacious main room, eating bro’s homemade cookies and surrounded with hip funky Brazilian music and paraphanilia. Why? Because, François and Christoo run an awesome Samba group name Cie la Batook. Cie la Batook is a drumming group, based in Grenoble, influenced with precision styles from Africa and Brazil, and of their own unique flavor. The groups presence is silly and mischievous – but of good intentions – to bring music and dance to life where they may be. The group has made a lot of noise, in Grenoble, and around the globe! The group had toured to Brazil and Africa for performances.
I attended a Batook group rehearsal, which was the last before their performance in Alberville. It was the second adventure-traveler themed event, Le Gran Biouvac. The name means “the big camp” and it was a grand convergence of adventurist. The Biouvac featured books and signings, showcased products and films. François, Christoo, and Batook had schedules for entertainment and Eric and France were scheduled to speak before an audience. Paul and I? We were the incognito bike touring stars, of course. At showtime, the Batook marched before the crowd of attendees, beating the drums for an exciting show that invited the crowd to dance along.
One major attendance was a famous figure in the cycle touring world; Claude Marthaler. He has been touring by bike, for as long as I have been alive. Paul had met and toured with Claude, years ago, when Paul was a youngster on his first bike tour in Africa. We scored an opportunity to have lunch and conversation with Claude. Paul bought his book featured at the book fair. It was the book that we found at the Casa de Cyclista in Peru. One of the photos in Claude’s book, is a photo Paul captured; a dead python they propped on the sponsored tire, bearing the brand name, Python.
The final feature of the weekend was the screening of the film, Sur le Gran Ocean Blanc, followed by the Arctic family making a stage appearance and audience interview. The announcer called for François and Paul up to the stage to recognize each “Bro” for their adventurous endeavors. What a moment!
Back In Grenoble.. I had the pleasure to meet Christoo’s family! Christoo has two lovely children, a bit younger than me; Judy and Louie. A short drive from their home, is the home of Christoo’s parents and her two sisters live nearby, too. So, for many occasions, casual or special, they meet at their parents for a huge Sicilian style lunch. We gathered for a few lunches, one celebrating Louie’s birthday. And another evening, Mallorie, a niece of Christoo, cut 4 family members hairs and I was invited to have mine cut too. It all started because Paul came back to France with so much hair, they thought he was “The Dude”.
Back in Paris, it was a lovely reunion with all the siblings and their families. Many days of gathering at families homes, celebrating the October birthdays of Louie, who turned 19, and Paul, who tuned 35.
I had an absolutely wonderful time with Paul’s family. They all made me feel so welcomed with big smiles and hugs. I am in awe of their humbleness and strong brotherhood. Amazing for what they do, and all beautifully kind. Also the family of Kristoo, all whom I had the pleasure to meet and touched to be so lovingly welcomed. And additional shout-out to the super great folks who make up Batook. Thank you all for your generosity, sharing all these wonderful meals and occasions with me.My time in France was unforgettable. Merci beaucoup!