Otherwise known as a day of best laid plans of mice and men… The plan was simple: drive the 32 km to Bordeaux, spend the day exploring, and depending on the nature of accommodations, either stay the night or take off to somewhere nearby. Here’s what actually happened…
The drive in passes in a flash and the outskirts of Bordeaux materialise. I don’t know about you, but I find the edges of cities to be depressing places, rarely reflective of the gem in the centre. A combination of light industrial, council flats and abandoned buildings, this one is no exception. There’s been an effort to liven things up with street art, including a fierce bear on the side of a warehouse, but the main features of the day are roadworks and deviation signs …everywhere.
One deviation only leads to another and so on until we lose the better part of two hours. Being as large as we are, there are only a limited number of options for approach and by the umpteenth set of roadworks we’re disheartened and on the verge of giving up. I thought the biggest challenge of the day would be parking, not actually getting there.
It’s in this disheartened and turned around state that we decide to leave. It’s then that the gods of travel, having enjoyed their joke, take pity on us. Bordeaux appears across the river, like a particularly good conjuring. Once its impressive display is on show, there’s no way I could be convinced to leave without seeing it.
Battle number two is all about parking. We’re in familiar territory here. One place review mentions burglaries, that’s out, another is inaccessible, lost in the maze of roadworks, we’re too large for most and so on it goes. In the end, our only option is street parking on the river, a lucky find of three spaces in a row. It’s bikes out for a lighting fast tour of Bordeaux – the parking is time limited.
Our approach is over the river Gironde, brown enough to rival the Yarra, across a massive arched bridge. The bank is lined with elegant rows of wine merchant’s houses, originally built to hide the mediaeval slums behind them. These of course no longer exist – Bordeaux is a now series of grand boulevards lined with neo classical townhouses in cream stone, decorated with masks carved of stone. The masks represent the gods of the area, trade, wine, the river and wind – their expressions vary from stern to saucy. It’s a very elegant, beautiful city.
Our first find happens to be one of its oldest – the Gross Cloche, a magnificent bell towered clock, the only surviving part of the city gates built in the 13th century, once also serving as the belfry of the original city hall.
Restored in the 19th century, it was used for a time to store animal feed after the Revolution. The truly unique thing about the cathedral is its separate bell tower, built adjacent so add not to ruin the acoustics within the church (nor presumably, the bells’).
We tour a few of the main boulevards, but there’s no time to stop. I’d like to see one of Bordeaux’s most photographed sights, Place de la Bourse, a square flanked by 18th century buildings now housing the stock exchange and a museum. Apart from their architectural beauty, the gem here is the reflective square in front of them. When layered in a fine mist, a perfect reflective shot is yours for the taking. Well mine and every other tourist that steps in to unbalance my perfect shot. I’d love to be here at night when the buildings are lit up – patience would surely pay off eventually as the tourists thin. Meanwhile I do the best I can and try not to strangle the woman who takes 15 min to take her photo in the centre of the display… and ruin mine. When it comes to patience, unless I’m stalking furry things, it’s not a strong point.
Our time is up and we decide to leave rather than replenish the meter. Finding the city and a park was challenge enough, looking for a place to spend the night might bring more than either of us has energy for. We cycle back across the lovey bridge and bid Bordeaux au revoir.
We head instead, down the Cote des Landes coast to the Bassin d’Arachon, a protected bay and high end summer hot spot. We settle on the beach in Arachon, golden sands for miles in either direction, flanked by tall beach pines. With Cap Ferret (tee hee) visible across the bay, it’s a pleasant spot to sit, read and wait for the sunset. And there’s all the evidence of recent squirrel activity to explore – pine cones so freshly nibbled that the dregs reek of pine resin. Searching high and low reveals none. 🐿️🐾🐾