2014 France, Spain & Portugal Letter 1

Wednesday, 27 August 2014 8:12 pm

The bois buzzing around beautiful Bordeaux

Bon soiree

We are on the move, literally! The lad has joined me on my morning walks, sadly they are more dawdles than power walks, but the company is superb and he’s doing well!

We were to depart Adelaide with Cathy Pacific at the ungodly hour of 6.30am, only the plane was nearly an hour late departing and the extra hour would have been better much better spent in bed! Even I baulk at 3.30am rises. We then had a 10 hour stop over in Hong Kong, so being an over organised Virgo, I booked a room at the hotel within the airport complex and we packed suitable clothes in the cabin luggage. We then walked Hong Kong. Amazingly we have never been there other than the airport on numerous occasions.

The first hour was spent walking above the streets, they ‘do’ passages and bridges between buildings big time in Honkers. We eventually found terra firma, probably reclaimed, and dropped by St John’s Cathedral, a very attractive stuccoed gothic number built in the mid 1800’s so all the good British subjects could fall to their knees on Sundays. It’s now about one of the few calming parts of the city. Spiritually fulfilled, we then moved on to the botanic gardens. That intern lead to climbing a few hundred stairs to a bird aviary (closed just 10 minutes be fore we reached the top steps. We then moved up yet more stairs and wandered along a road that sort of looked promising. 30 minutes later, and still walking and climbing along a diminishing footpath. I did have worries about my friend but he indicted he was ok. We eventually found a way down. I was seriously concerned that we perhaps were on the road to the summit! The way down was probably one of the world’s most attractive storm drains. Thankfully it was not raining. My mantra at this stage was ‘gin and tonic’, ‘gin and tonic’ – but we have at least another hour’s walk ahead of us…….. The gods finally looked down upon us, and we found said liquid at the ferry wharves. Several glasses later, we returned to the airport hotel, showered, and then dined at the airline club, taking off at mid-night. For once we both slept for much of the flight.

An equally early arrival in Paris, was followed by yet another airport stop over before we caught the train for a four hour trip to our destination; Bordeaux. Travel time was not finished, because of the amount of luggage, we caught a taxi to our little apartment, which turned into an hysterical adventure. The flat is in the centre of the old city, which is a warren of tiny lanes, many only one way but most blocked off with electronic bollards that can only be accessed by the locals. The taxi driver had no English and we have very little French, but he did indicate that he would drop us off. We weren’t far from our flat: however having been caught out several times before, he soon understood we wished to be dropped at the door. To do this took about 20 minutes. He had to ‘drop’ two or three bollards and then drive down Rue Saint Catherine, the fashion street of the city. For Adelaide people, think Rundle Mall crossed with Burnside Village on steroids.  Half of the population of Bordeaux was out shopping, and we were the only car in sight. Progress was slow, however no pedestrians lost their lives, but the masses opened up before us and let us pass. We then turned a corner in to Rue San Simeon and our front door, all of 30 metres from where he had indicated we would find it! He got a good tip for his troubles

Just a few people on the street!

Just a few people on the street!

I came to 'Love' these little buggers!!

I came to ‘Love’ these little buggers!!

The flat is wonderful; light, airy, well laid out and with the smallest kitchen I have ever seen. It has an all-in-one sink: drainboard and hot plate number, with which neither of us has managed to electrocute ourselves (so far). Within a few hours we had unpacked, shopped, stocked up on very questionable wines (well they all have French writing on them but very little else, so we purchased by pictures on the front) and generally settled in. Dinner was at a nearby restaurant (there are hundreds around us) somewhat strangely called “Chef Michael”: as if!!  We dined on duck; himself on confit that had been shredded, with added bits. Mine was breast, served with potatoes, exceptionally good potatoes and copious amounts of red wine for us both, so we slept well. Next morning we were both up early and walked, and walked, and then we were just about the first customers at the great food market on the river frontI.  I was over excited and over purchased and we are still dealing with the produce, but many cheeses, salad goodies, breads, tiny strawberries, tomatoes, jams and relishes, cured meats, olives etc. Our biggest purchase was a cooked chook. Somehow in our broken French and the stall holder’s broken English we omitted to nominate a size; we got the super big, mini turkey-sized organic number, and it keeps reappearing at meal times. After three days it’s now in its death throws, but it has been a great chook!

We have done our normal 101 art galleries, rubber necking wonderful architecture, shops, and art galleries. We walked, did museums, walked, ate, drank and then drank more and generally left no stone unturned or church unvisited. Loved their contemporary art museum, it’s housed in an old warehouse, a very grand warehouse. The building is spectacular and the art is ok too. After a dinner en famille at the flat, with some of the above mentioned chook, we took to the streets again and the lad played in the fountain in front of the Place de la Bourse, It’s the size of about 8-10 tennis courts laid side by side and is called ‘Miroir d’eau’, that’s water mirror if your French is like mine! It alternated between a flat lake (mirror) a few inches deep, to a misty cloud about 6 feet high, and as boys never grow up, off he went, into the mist. He received a gelato (sorry glacee, I’m in France!). More museums etc., followed the next day, and then dinner at Le Petit Commerce; seafood big time.

The contemporary art museum

The contemporary art museum

Now a word on himself and things from the sea: he grew up thinking his mother’s ‘mock fish patties’ was seafood. He was never sure if there was any fish in it or not. I grew up where from Christmas to school-return in summer, [other than for the Christmas leg of ham] we lived on seafood 24/7. If it flipped, flopped, slogged along, flapped or swam, we ate it. Fried, baked, boiled or BBQ’d it was always 100% the real thing. He does not do bones, shells, scales or heads. He chose for us both to share the mixed seafood plate, (I have a suspicion that he was expecting fisherman’s basket…..) I added extra oysters. A mound of shells and heads arrived! He did well, but had that “I’m over it” look by the end, so yet another glacee was had, to cheer him up on the way home.

He did not give in!

He did not give in!

He’s taken to joining me on the morning walks. I keep thinking each morning he will feign sleep,when I arise to get into my walking gear, but the little patter of feet are heard a few minutes later. I’m impressed! We are not doing my ’speeds’ but this morning he did say I could walk faster if I liked. This morning we walked both sides of the river from the old bridge to the new; an 8km round trip. Later, a half bottle of Champagne with pastries was the reward.

Unfortunately, we passed what you could call the “harbour town’ of Bordeaux, they have seconds shops for Gien china, Hugo Boss, and Le Creuset, so we are heading back (via the tram!), before dropping into the Grand Theatre and the Museum of Decorative Arts.

Tuesday was ‘car’ day and we took possession of our brand new Citroen hatch back, our mode of transport for the next six weeks. We had to go to the airport to pick it up and then test drove it to the beach at Archachon at the Basin Archachon. My Virgo streak was in hyper mode when we packed. I did leave the sink at home but packed a foldable Esky type of thingy, some cook’s knives, a coffee machine (stove top espresso) and some older ex T.P.C.H. large white towels for just these occasions – a picnic on the beach! We have also purchased some nice cutlery, (grey and white spotted handles) matching plain grey paper plates and wine glasses (the cork screw was also packed).

A picnic was prepared with a salad of yet more of the chook/turkey, pommes de terre, homemade mayo, fresh baby radishes, salade verte, several fromages, a bottle of Rose and plans to pick up the baguette en route. The only thing my Virgo personality had no control over was the weather. Rain! And more Rain! The only good thing was it was warm rain, but it did not deter us; we picked up the baguette and some ‘tarte apricot’ and found a park on the water’s edge. We promenaded between showers and returned to said new motor mobile and proceeded to enjoy our picnic by the sea in the comfort of the car: how very British!!! We also managed to upend the first glass of vino over the passenger seat, so ‘le auto’ is now christened!

Our new car

Our new car

A picnic by the seaside........

A picnic by the seaside……..

Ever the 'virgo'

Ever the ‘virgo’

The return journey was not with out tension, first was trying to fill the car; the service station was without any employees on site (Tony Abbott would love that of course), sadly the pumps did not like any of our credit cards, so we moved right along to the next village, and thankfully eventually found a pump that liked our money (but still no employees on site), so with full tank we drove into Bordeaux and headed to our part of town with the knowledge that the very good Sat Nav would in fact take us directly to our little square that houses an underground car park. Sadly, direct is what she was trying to do, but with each attempt we came up against the bollards, but they would not submerge into the ground as they’d done for our taxi driver! With much reversing and grinding of both teeth and gears, we eventually drove down a lane the wrong way, hijacked a very pleasant madamoiselle on her push bike (complete with umbrella clamped to her handle bars) and she then led us to our destination. If there are police cameras around, we will probably be receiving some serious driving fines! The car is parked two floors beneath our local square, and no Bordelaise were killed or damaged with my driving, so I’m really quite proud of my self!

Well, the rest of today was spent visiting the Grand Theatre – brilliant, with a very clever installation that took you through fantasies of various shows: then onto the Museum of Decorative Arts set in a stunning little 1700’s town house of some 30 rooms. The chap who built it only lived for 10 years before he popped off, then his son lost his head, literally in ‘the reign of terror’, and his heirs let it out for a while and then sold it. Move forward a hundred years: the city took it over, sort of a compulsory acquisition; and it’s now a very nice museum showing decorative arts, which probably accounts for the name! Truck loads of china and glassware, more sitting rooms than anyone could ever need, very tiny beds so God knows how they ever had enough room to procreate, but all in all a nice museum. We did revisit the quai, and checked out the ‘seconds shops’ but I have to say our heart was not in it, so no new china or clothing, other than a very smart pair of deep blue chino’s with skinny legs for himself; oh, and we also got matching ’snap’ watches, but his is black and mine is red. We also walked a lot, so we are hoping the food/wine intake is in direct correlation to walking calories losses.

It not all fun and frivolity, we do have a business to run and i need to stay 'online'!

It not all fun and frivolity, we do have a business to run and i need to stay ‘online’!

I think I should finish this waffle, it’s nearing meal time and as it’s our last night in this wonderful and very liveable city (he’s been collecting real estate brochures), we are feeling for a little Bordelaise-type of experience and we think we have found something down in the Place de la Bourse  area and as it’s near the ‘miroir d’eau’ he may get to play in the mist again! This will also be edited one day by himself, have added images, and then be posted on The Thorn Park blog, however in the mean time I leave it to you all to get your red pens out!

From Sunny Bordeaux where it’s day light till nearly 9pm

Au revoir

Himself & Me xo





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