Wednesday, 11 November 2015



Tuesday 10th November 2015

Today we decided to visit Bordeaux, a bit of a challenge really on 2 counts.  Firstly, we had to use public transport (something we don’t do even in England), and secondly we'd decided we'd treat ourselves to lunch out so we had to decipher the French menus!

We set off with a little trepidation and walked to the tram stop where we had to obtain our tickets from a machine - easy peasy - and only 1.5 euros each per journey (we could also have purchased a ticket for 4.5 euros which would have allowed us multiple journeys all day), maybe us English could learn a thing or two about promoting the use of public transport!

Apparently the tram system was introduced by the then mayor of the city, Alain Juppe, and this along with pedestrianisation of its boulevards and restoration of much of it’s architecture led to it becoming the largest urban UNESCO listed World Heritage Site in the world.

Another transport element that impressed us were the ‘Boris Bikes’ (made us think of you Paul), and also the myriad of cycle paths that facilitated safe movement around the city by this mode of transport!  You could rent them from multiple locations  (one being just outside our campsite) by putting your credit card into a meter and then resubmitting it when you returned the bike - they were obviously very popular because they were in evidence everywhere we looked.

We got off the tram (after about a 20 minute journey) at The Esplanade des Quinconces - a huge area that houses the Girondins monument - a massive fountain that the picture below fails to do justice to. If you look carefully you can just about make out the water spraying from the nostrils of the horses. Apparently it is made of marble and bronze and is said to represent 'Les Girondins', a group of moderate Bourgeois National Assembly deputies during the French Revolution, 22 of whom were executed in 1793 after being convicted of counter revolutionary activities.

I'm not sure what the cockerel  represents but I thought I'd include him cos he 
looked quite cute up on his high perch!

We continued on to Prenons la rue du Chai-des-Farines - St James Way,   

and then on to Cathedral St Andre - another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Apparently the oldest section's date back to 1096 but most of what can be seen today was built in the 13th and 14th Centuries. The masonry is presently undergoing restoration, (you can see the scaffold just to the right of the picture), but the detail and artistry that were evident were beyond description - especially when you consider that each element had to be hand made individually.

In comparison to the cathedral, the bell tower looked much newer but it was erected between 1440 and 1466 and it was built separately to the cathedral because they thought the vibrations from the bells might affect it's foundations!  We did hear the bells ringing and we were quite glad we weren't inside at the time - y
ou can actually enter the tower and climb the narrow 231 steps to get a fantastic panoramic view over the city - but alas - it was closed for cleaning! History has it that it's spire was added in the 19th century, and in 1863 it was topped off  with the stature of Notre Dame de l'Aquitaine.  

More beautiful and intricate carving.

Next it was time for lunch which we decided to have on the water front. The river 'la Garonne' runs through the city and provides a huge promenade which is shared by walkers, cyclists, in line skaters,  trams, cars and all manner of groups enjoying the views and ambience of the city.  This is backed by numerous eateries and shops - so really we were spoilt for choice.  However, we ended up patrolling up and down several times before we managed to pick out a place to eat where we could understand the menu.  The Bar we choose displayed it's menu in English - but to keep things simple we ordered lasagna and beer - and very nice it was too! Bon appetite!

After lunch we did stroll for a while longer, but John and I are not really 'City People' - our kids would soon tell you that we're much more at home on the top of a mountain or cycling in some lonely place - so we were soon back on the tram and heading for our portable home!

Wednesday 11th November 2015

Today we woke up to mist and murk, and to start with it was quite cold so we weren't in any hurry to go out, which was just as well!  We had our breakfast (smoked salmon, scrambled egg with goats cheese, and of course, baguette!), and then John had to fix my bike again.  My back tyre, which was the one that had punctured  previously, was as flat as a pancake, which seemed a bit strange because after it  had been mended the first time I had ridden over 40kms without a problem.  John surmised that there must be something in the tyre itself that was puncturing the inner tube - and he was right. He found a big chunk of grit which had penetrated the tread and carcass of the tyre - which shouldn't have happened because the tyre has a kevlar reinforced lining.  

Smelly but very nice cheese and pickle sandwiches 
with chocolate waffle for afters!
Anyway, by the time it was sorted the sun was shining so we decided to go out on our bikes for a potter around the excellent cycle trails that seem to be all around us, but before we went I fixed our picnic lunch.  Today it was to be ‘rustic’ cheese and pickle ‘sandwiches’ - it had to be cheese because I had some particularly pungent stuff in the fridge that I wanted to use up because each time we opened the door the aroma that drifted out packed such a punch it nearly knocked us over!

We left the site and were soon cycling beside Bordeaux Lake along a tarmac double lane cycle path - this type of path stayed with us almost throughout our ride.

The only exception being was when we missed our way a bit and ended up on the N210 - a very busy road where we needed to cross multiple lanes of traffic on more than  one occasion.  It was a bit scary, and to excape we ended up nipping through the car park of a shopping mall, and this was where we met Santa!

Happily, from there we were able to get back onto a proper cycle track and then into a lovely park with etangs (ponds) as well as informal and formal areas.  The first part  was left to be wild, and this was especially lovely with the bright sunshine glimmering through the multi-coloured autumn trees.  

Then came the more formal gardens where we paused to eat our lunch, and out in the open, the sun was as hot as any summers day in England - I'm sure it would have burnt us if we had lingered for to long.

The roses were starting to fade but there were still plenty of very pretty blooms to be seen.

After lunch we cycled around some more formal areas - a Japanese Zen garden, and an area depicting Los Angeles, and then it was back to the informal area and around the ponds.  And it was here that we stopped for a bit of bird watching, luckily this time I had remembered my binoculars and we managed to spot herons, egrets and some birds we didn’t recognise, as well as this guillemot sitting on a sign - I don’t think he will take notice.

Fishing prohibited!

The park was so peaceful we lingered for quite a while, but eventually we found our way back to our original cycle track and then onto the D801 cycle route - Lacanau-Ocean - and it does eventually (after about 50kms) lead to the Atlantic Ocean.  We didn’t have time or the energy to complete it all today, but we did follow it for about 15kms, and it’s end point is where we will be heading next.  

We’re going to move on again tomorrow, to the Ile du Nord area - a long peninsula that fronts the Atlantic and where we plan to stop on several Aires while we explore the area.  Therefore, all may go quite on the blog front because we may not have much access to the Internet.

So I'll say bye for now xx

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