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One of my very first real adventures in the world. Working in Daumazan-sur-Arize, in the southern French region Ariège. I found this job through the internet, it was to be a restaurant job at Résidence Château Cazalères. Most guests to this castle were Dutch vacationers. Around the castle were vacation homes, both privately owned and rentals. Dutch vacationers came by car to enjoy a summer full of sunshine. By the castle was a pool with a snack bar. In the castle itself was a restaurant with a big terrace. Also, in the castle itself, the employees slept. I found this job, was hired for the whole summer, and flew to Toulouse. There were only Dutch employees, and we all slept in one room in the castle. It was tremendous fun, some of the best times of my life.

As the restaurant had enough employees, I would work the snack bar by the pool. It was really nice. Setting up the terrace and pool in the morning, turning up the friers, the coffee machine, making salads, selling ice cream. I made French fries nice and crunchy. My boss said they were too dark and crunchy when he came to inspect. Right then and there, a kid came up and told me they were the best fries he ever had! My boss then let me do my thing. Eventually, waiters at the restaurant had enough of the work load and could join me for some shifts at the snack bar. They found it to be much more fun, making jokes all day, selling lemonade, and not too much work in general. It was very relaxed and fun. Eventually, all waiters enjoyed just working the snack bar down with me in rotating shifts, but I stayed the fixed snack bar guy the whole summer. I loved it.

It was 4/5 days of work a week, the rest off. Then I'd go explore southern France with my colleague and friend Romain, who lived in the area. He was absolutely great and took me to the beach. I got such a bad sunburn that I had to go to the pharmacy to treat it. I severely underestimated the French sun. After the beach, we drove to Carcassonne. I had another friend named Bob, a Dutch guy. For the weekend, we once drove our bikes for 36 kilometers to Foix. There, we parked them at the train station and took a train to L'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre. Then, we hitchhiked into Andorra in two rides. People were remarkably friendly. Eventually, we ended up in Andorra la Vella and spent the night in a little hotel. We went out for dinner, had a couple of beers, and I bought a nice cigar and some perfume. Because Andorra is a tax heaven, these things were remarkably more affordable than in France. A lot of shoppers drive through the little mountain state. On the way back, we too a bus to El Pas de la Casa and from there, hitchhiked with a lovely French couple all the way to the station of Foix. French people are absolutely fantastic. We drove our bikes back to Daumazan-sur-Arize as it got dark.

The French always give drinking water, no matter where you go. You can walk into any restaurant or knock at any door of any house and people will fill your bottle. That made the bike trips quite easy and convenient. The water was always cold and refreshing and came with a smile of the southern French people. This way, we also rode our bikes to the Carbonne train station, and took our bikes on the train to Toulouse. It gave a nice contrast to the work during the week, we worked long days. It was a summer to never forget. The 'joie de vivre' in France is truly a lifestyle I can subscribe to. It was laid back and just very friendly. But this is eleven years ago as of now, and perhaps a bit of a sentiment for carefree days as well. I recommend anyone to go abroad on any adventure, it's either a great memory or a good lesson. The pictures are made on my mobile phone and my very first travel pictures. I do not upload them to show them off, it's just to tell you about the adventure. Amicalement, Leon.

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