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Ray's World Adventures 2000

France Adventure 2000 - Narbonne
Narbonne Beach International Kite Festival 2000

I know I am way ahead of myself as I still have more articles to write about my Australian adventure, but I could not resist writing about my France adventure. This is my third time to France but the first time south to beautiful Narbonne Plage on the Mediterranean where they have 3,200 hours of sunshine a year. It is the sunniest spot in France. Also, few cities can boast a two thousand year heritage, but Narbonne can. Being the first Roman colony in Gaul, history has left its mark there, with many museums, monuments and Roman ruins bearing witness to its illustrious past, restoring to Narbonne all the glory of bygone centuries.

I am sure that the 4th Narbonne kite festival will also go down in history as being the best ever. I have been going to kite festivals for the last 18 years and this is the first time everything turned out perfect, the sort of festival that every organizer on this planet dreams about, superbly organized, great weather, awesome 8-10 mph wind, beautiful beach 3 miles long, hundreds of spectators and some of the best kite makers, designers, and flyers from Switzerland, Spain, Italy, England, Canada, Brazil, Belgium, and of course France ... great accommodations and food fit for a king, great lunches, and 5 course dinners that seemed to go on for hours, and wine that flowed like water!

The festival is organized by the City of Narbonne, and the flying agenda was in the capable hands of Michel and Murielle Trouillet (French wind lovers and master kite designers). Michel has designed and achieved over 100 original creations, 3 of which are in the Guinness World record book. His Craken Kite is over 3,000 feet, and his "La Fresque 3000" has to be seen to be believed, it is so big. I was flying multiple kites in a steady 10 mph wind when all of a sudden my kites fell out of the sky. I wondered how the wind could have disappeared that fast. I looked behind me to see that Michel's La Fresque 3000 had just been launched, taking all the wind away from where I was flying.

I was given my own 200 x 200 flying arena in a prime spot right next to the main demonstration arena; in these conditions I could do no wrong. I was on the beach from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., and the only time I was disappointed was when Michel and Yves Laforest, my friend from Quebec, told me it was time to pack up and come for dinner. I said, "Dinner? We can eat any time but we can't waste this awesome wind." Then they told me what was on the menu: oysters, crab, lobster, prawns, and this was just the first course. I think I made a world record in packing up 3 sets of lines and 9 kites.

On the first day I felt like kind of an intruder. I mean here I was, with my own arena; I got the feeling that all the sport kite flyers were wondering who this guy from Canada was. I had just finished setting up when Michel asked me to give a demonstration to set things off. I kind of said to myself, "Right Ray. Go and introduce yourself." I set up the kites in the main arena and attached 3 new tails to each kite. Crowds of spectators had gathered and all the sport kite flyers stopped whatever they were doing. The wind was a steady 10 mph, the sun was burning a hole in my back, every thing was ready. The announcer had finished talking, the music man was ready to push the button to begin my music, "You are the Wind Beneath my Wings". One of the flyers was waiting to tap me on the shoulder at the first note.

I always love this moment because for the next 5 minutes I have the world "by the bum" literally. I am totally focused and my concentration is 101%. I am in my own world of silence. I gave a nod as a signal to start my music, felt the tap on my shoulder, then launched the kites and flew like I have never flown before, as if my life depended on this one performance. I could do nothing wrong; every move was right on the money. I added moves that Ihave only dared to do when I am practicing, and only then, if no one is watching, my refuel, then a break away in to the Maple Leaf Split then into the Crucifix mode, perfect every time. I landed all three kites independently behind each other, as the music faded away.

The next thing I knew I was lifted shoulder high by the kite flyers that had run into the arena, and to see the hundreds and hundreds of spectators waving and jumping up and down. It was the thrill of a lifetime. This is the greatest award any performer can achieve, recognition and being honored by one's peers.

The sky over Narbonne beach was filled with kites of every description, from the smallest fighter kite to Michel's La Fresque 3000. The brilliant clear blue sky and sunshine showed off all the colors of the rainbow. The French sport kite flyers gave awesome demonstrations to entertain the thousands of spectators. I am not into trick flying, but I was very impressed with some of the things the French flyers were doing which I had never seen done before, especially when they flew as a 6 man team. It was amazing. The 6 man rev team were also super; I think they have been checking out the infamous UK Team Decorators, so you better watch out guys, "the French are coming."

Topping off this perfect-in-every-way kite festival, was the night fly. It was a beautiful warm night with thousands of spectators, and a 12 mph steady as a rock wind. Again, so much thought want into organizing the night fly which went off like clockwork. First the sport kite team and individuals put on a super show, then I was called in to do my multiple kite ballet, again to the song, Wind Beneath My Wings. I launched in complete darkness, then the lights lit up the sky catching my kites in a refuel mode, then I broke away to dance among the stars, catching every note of the music. The lighting system was perfect, never losing sight of my 3 kites, they had me locked in. My landing again was right on as the music faded away. Then the lights were turned on to the spectators, and what a thrill to see thousands of people waving and clapping. Once again I was congratulated by all the flyers, who also did a terrific job.

Next it was the single line flyers' turn and this was the most magnificent sight I have ever seen. What an awesome climax to end the night fly. The night fly was a huge success, not only because of the weather, the steady wind, and the spectators; the main reason was that everyone involved worked as a team. "All for one and one for all." I was very proud to be part of this team.

The next day, Sunday, was the last day of the festival ands even better than the previous days. Word must have spread because there were twice as many spectators. They were entertained continuously throughout the day, with kite demonstrations from the very best. Everyone was still on a high from the night fly. The festival was officially closed at 6 p.m. with a short speech from the Mayor which was translated into four languages. I was presented with a beautiful book on the City and History of Narbonne, plus a invitation to return again in 2001. Then, as if by magic the awesome steady wind that had blown for the last four days, stopped dead as if someone had pulled the plug. Man, talk about well organized. How did they do that?

It was great sharing the kite arenas with such great and talented people, making new friends, and spending prime time with old ones, like Pierre Fabre, Zoe Harris, Yves Laforest, Michel Martin, Michel and Murielle Trouillet and their lovely daughter Fanny (who, by the way, did a fantastic job along with her friend with all day workshops for children), just to name a few.

Thank you, City of Narbonne for inviting me to your 4th International Kite Festival. I was very proud to have been part of it; thank you also for the great book. Thank you Michel and Murielle Trouillet for your hospitality, plus picking me up and returning me to the airport, but most of all for your friendship. Many thanks to all the kite flyers who treated me as one of their own, with respect and friendship.

Thank you for listening,

Ray






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