Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beautiful Bordeaux 24 Sept 2011

24th Sept 2011

Woke to the pervading smell of pastries. Didn't want to get up so spent about an hour and a half in a pastry dream. Finally we went down for our provided breakfast. The Chateau breakfast room has one big table and 3 smaller ones which tend to insist you sit with strangers. We hogged our own 4 seater for most of the time but ended up chatting to an older American bloke called Geoff from Maine who had been on a holiday in Russia for almost a month. He was very interesting but we left him to his croissants after a bit.

Chateau Meyre and vineyard

Unfortunately the weather was cloudy and a little rainy. We hung around the room until check out at midday, playing on the internet. Today is Jim Henson's 75th birthday so we ended up watching muppet clips on Youtube instead of getting ready. Doesn't matter that you're in France, Youtube is still a time waster.

Finally got moving and made our way into Bordeaux, Monseiur GPS took us through the centre without too much difficulty. Got a free park at the Ibis and settled in to the room early which meant we were raring to go by 2.30.

The best decision of the day was to rent a bike via the City's free velo scheme. Took a bit to get going because we had to give it the credit card twice for a deposit. Also, the 2nd bike we chose was chained to another one, vandalism, so Luke had to start again. Still, the system is relatively easy for first timers and, of course, you don't need a stupid helmet so anyone can use it, including clueless Australian tourists. We saw lots of people hop off the tram, type in a number and cycle off, happy as a clam. It's free for half and hour or 2 euro after that.

Middle Eastern middle-of-the-street celebration
When we'd finally got 2 bikes ready to go, a commotion occurred in the traffic... 3 or 4 small cars roared off the bridge and into the nearby road honking their horns. Then they pulled up and stopped traffic (not good considering it's a large roundabout). More honking, lots of yelling and leaning out of windows and then we saw what was going on - a Middle Eastern style wedding. The bride and groom were heaved out of their convertible and suddenly a large crowd was dancing around them, cheering like lunatics, hoisting the groom on their shoulders and throwing him. I think they'd been doing this every 500 metres or so. We bemusedly watched on but most of the Bordeaux people were rolling their eyes. The people in traffic behind weren't too happy either. They'd only just got going again when a fire engine tried to make its way through. It was all very exciting.

We rode over the bridge and found ourselves riding along the beautiful, busy waterfront of Bordeaux on a Saturday afternoon. The Garonne river is huge and muddy, the tide causing multitudes of eddies as it goes in and out. There were sailing boats racing along its length and thousands of people were out enjoying the day, despite the clouds. We rode about 2 km down towards the revamped dock area, stopping at the "thin fountain" where a very thin layer of water covers a vast area of paving stones, creating a reflective surface. Kids love it. Every now and again it sprays a thin mist as well. The buildings along the riverfront are all majestic 18th century ones, very imposing and regular.

Free velo scheme bikes on the Bordeaux riverfront
I liked Bordeaux more than I expected, mainly thanks to the glorious riverside vibe. It was very relaxed and joyful. We saw people on unicycles, kids learning to ride bikes, rollerbladers, all kinds of bikes. The skate park was packed and we liked that there was a special area for small kids too.

Having done a reccie we then went to find the art gallery. Had to ride along the tramlines in places which I found very disturbing but lots of other people were doing it. You had enough warning that a tram was coming so you could get off but I was still panicked about getting my wheels stuck in the tracks. That and pedestrians who were very unpredictable.

The art gallery, presided over by a very snooty French lady who deigned to print out our free tickets, offered a short but sweet stroll through French art history. Saw some Titians, a Bruegel, some Renoir... the usual. A nice diversion, not too much art but enough to say I at least had SOME culture on this French trip.

Now THAT is art. Wedding photo in the background.
Just as we emerged a giant convoy of cyclists went by, part of an anti-climate change rally. Luke wanted to join in but by the time we unlocked the city bikes and got stuck in traffic we'd lost them.
In front of the Grand Theatre
We rode by the Grand Theatre and I watched the kids carousel without getting on, even though I wanted to. Didn't want to spoil the memory. Two older women paid their money and gleefully went for a ride on the horses. grinning like idiots.
I want to go on the merry go round!
Then we went back to the riverfront, uncorked a 375 bottle of rose and watched the sailing races as the sun set. We were the only ones drinking... I'm sure the French were looking at us sideways for such uncouth behaviour. Wine is for dinner, you silly sods!

After that we went riding in search of dinner, rode all the way down to the marina and back (again). When stopping to look at the menu of one restaurant, I was browbeaten by a haughty athletic man who was striding along in his skimpy shorts and Nikes, obviously training. I had pulled up and was about the park the bike against the railing but he walked straight at me and, panicking, I actually moved my bike out of his way so he didn't have to go around me. After it happened I felt silly for doing it. As we rode back towards the bridge we encountered him again. So I rode around him and slowed down, carefully getting in his way. We also did it again a bit later, heading straight for him and slowing down. Pathetic revenge really but it felt good.

Actually, Luke wants to go back to St Emilion so we can make a witty comeback to a shopkeeper who decided to make some comment about Australian losing the rugby. Not that we really care but it would have been soooo good to say... "Ah yes, but we did win the Tour de France this year." Hah! Take that, shopkeeper!

Finally decided on dinner at a smallish place, very nice. Luke had a Lillet which was like a martini. I had a kir mure which isn't as good as a peche one, even if it is proper and correct.

Eventually we made it back to the room quite late and retired to bed. I was about to go to sleep when large booming sounds occurred outside. It was midnight and Bordeaux were having fireworks. I have no idea why and I haven't been able to find out. Alas, the Ibis hotel at Bastide doesn't face the waterfront so we only had flashes in the sky and screaming teenagers nearby to go on.

All up I had a surprisingly great last day in Bordeaux, better than expected.

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