Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bordeaux 17: Our new Bordeaux apartment

Saturday 22nd February 2020.

As Stuart has unfortunately developed severe sciatica, which makes it painful for him to walk, we have cancelled our proposed drive to the village of Cotignac and will instead stay in beautiful Bordeaux for the last week of our trip.  We were not able to stay in our former accommodation, so booked another apartment.  The entrance (above) was not shown in the booking information, so even though we had seen interior photos on, we approached with some trepidation.

We needn't have worried.  Inside, it is quite stunning.

Stuart's room.  I don't know why he is looking so solemn - he really loves it.

One of Stuart's funky bedside tables.

Dining area.

Schmick kitchen.

Crisp b&w bathroom.

My room is up the spiral staircase on the mezzanine level.  It is just big enough for the bed, and there is no cupboard or hanging space, just a shelf.  But it is very cosy and spotlessly clean, and I love it.  The two young men who own the apartment only bought it last June, and have done a super job of renovating and decorating it. 

I am even keeping my suitcase at the bottom of the stairs, but it is yellow, and matches the (suede) cushions. 

Only the view out my window reminds me of what the street looks like outside.  Although we are now outside the "old town", we are only a few hundred metres away.  I think we are going to have a good week!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Bordeaux 16: A Change of Plan

Friday 21st February 2020.

Unfortunately, Stuart has developed a severe case of sciatica, and it is very painful for him to walk.  We have visited a doctor (twice) and he has acquired a load of French medications.  After a lot of discussion, we have cancelled our car trip to the village of Cotignac and will stay here in Bordeaux for the extra week, then take the train back to Paris for our flight home.  There are worse places to spend an extra week than the beautiful city of Bordeaux.  Stuart is happy to go to lunch and then to his favourite bar each day, even though walking is quite a trial for him.

We have not been able to stay on in our present accommodation for the extra week, so have booked another place, just outside the "old town".   While the front door looks a bit grim, hopefully it will be nicer inside?

The street looks a bit grim too, but we are staying positive!  We go there tomorrow.

Stuart has has found it is less painful for him to walk bent over.  I try very hard not to laugh, but sometimes I fail.

He can walk for a little while, then he has to sit down.

Sometimes there is a handy bollard for him to sit on.  (I thought it was very kind of me not to photograph him from behind after he had been sitting on a bollard after it had been raining.). 

Sometimes there isn't a chair or a bollard available when he has to sit down.

Made it, to our favourite restaurant, Le Petit Commerce.

The lovely ladies from Le Petit Commerce, who keep plying us with free drinks.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Bordeaux 15: Porte Cailhau ("Our" gate)

Saturday 15th February 2020.

I have become very attached to this beautiful gate, and feel a sense of ownership whenever I walk through it.  Occasionally, it is open to the public so of course in I went.  (Stuart is not fond of steps so waited outside.)
The original 1450 gate was implanted in the city wall, and was the main entrance to the city from the port.  This version was built between 1493 and 1496, and served as a victory monument to King Charles VIII who won the battle of Fornovo against the Italians in 1495.  The gate features a statue of King Charles VII, surrounded by Cardinal Andre d'Espinay, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, who led a Bordeaux contingent in the battle (apparently Archbishops were required to multitask in those days) and St John the Baptist, for good measure.

View from the top of the gate towards the "blonde" river Garonne.
You can see the arches of  "my" beautiful Pont de Pierre in the background.
The name of the tower means "pebble" as the opposite quay was paved with river stones.  Not a very glamorous name for such a beautiful gate.

View from the other side of the top of the gate towards "our" square.  (Our apartment is just around the corner from the back of the building on the right.  Stuart's bar, where he goes for a drink most evenings, is just out of sight at the front right.

Looking up into one of the turrets.

As you enter the gate, there is a plaque on the ground saying that one of the four main routes of the pilgrimage from Paris to Santiago de Compostella in Spain passes through Bordeaux. This way  is clearly marked by the shell signs that I followed in Spain.  There is a hostel for pilgrims opposite the passageway to our apartment

The English section of the plaque.
So now I will have to go and find the Basilica of St Seurin.

Then I went to Mass at the church St Pierre, just around the corner.  It was built in the 1500s on the ruins of an ancient church from the 1100s.

The church has a beautiful wooden Pieta.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Bordeaux 14: Cruising the Garonne

Saturday 15th February 2020.

Stuart bought jonquils from the market.  I thought they looked quite good in the beaker that he was given at the Louvre for his red wine.  I put my new phone (thanks Laura) into portrait mode to take this photo, as it puts the background out of focus.

We had lunch at a restaurant where the table tops were like an ipad where you ordered your meal.  I had a tuna poke bowl which was nothing like the ones I had had in Hawaii.  For a start, the tuna was cooked, not raw, and the taste was completely different (and scrumptiously delicious.)  It also included some divine cooked figs.

Stuart had something to do with veal, which he seems to be enjoying.

We were going on a river cruise, so I posed casually beside the boat moored at the designated spot to leave.  Even though Bordeaux is 90 km from the mouth of the river, the effects of the tides are very obvious in the city, especially in the way the clay river bed is constantly stirred up.  The locals lovingly call the colour of the river "blonde."  (Sounds much nicer than "muddy".) 

Woops, wrong boat.  This is the right one.  Le Luna is a post-war Riviera yacht which now takes tourists up and down the Garonne.  Posing casually again.  You can see "my" lovely Pont de Pierre in the background.

A glass of wine and a canelé pastry (a specialty of the Bordeaux region) were a part of the deal.  Stuart ate his canelé before I could photograph it, which is why he looks a bit odd.

Our guide gave us a brief history of Bordeaux and pointed out some of the major landmarks as we passed them.  Here, using Stuart's drink,  she is explaining how the architecture of the Cite du Vin suggests the action of wine swirling in the glass.

Get it?  (Handy to have it explained.)

Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas (the one that can go up in the middle to let ships through.)

The middle bit didn't have to go up to let us through.

The Pont d'Aquitaine is the second largest suspension bridge in France.
After passing under this bridge, we turned around and came back again.
A very pleasant trip.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Bordeaux 13: La Cité du Vin

Friday 14th February 2020.

"Audacious and emblematic, the architecture of  La Cité du Vin is inspired by the river and wine and complements the architectural heritage of Bordeaux.  Truly evocative of the soul of wine and the liquid, the building recalls wine that swirls in the glass, the coiled shape of the vine or the waves of the Garonne, while its golden reflections echo the white stones of Bordeaux facades and the reflections of the river."

I was glad I read that from a plaque outside the building, or I would never have guessed it.  Any of it.

This is a very modern and interactive museum about the history, making of, culture and science of wine.  From the top floor (where your entry ticket allowed you to have one taste of wine) you had a great view of Bordeaux and the river.

We are at the weird end of town.  

This anodised aluminium sculpture (just sitting in the river) by British artist Suzanne Treister belongs to a trilogy entitled The Spaceships of Bordeaux.  This one "evokes the metamorphosis of a shipwreck in the Garonne, a vestige of the war, into a gleaming spaceship heading for the future."

Luckily, I read the plaque for this one too.  (Seen from the top of the Cité du Vin.) 

While we're at the modern end of town .....

The Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas is the longest vertical-lift bridge in Europe, opened in 2013.  The middle bit lifts up to let ships through.  

It is named in honour of Jacques Chaban-Delmas,  a former Prime Minister of France (1969 - 72) under President Georges Pompidou and a former mayor of Bordeaux from 1947 to 1995 (48 years - no wonder they named a bridge after him!)  Also seen from the top of the Cité du Vin.

While we had taken one of the slick modern Bordeaux trams up to the Cité du Vin, we walked back so we could visit the Musee d'Art Contemporain (to continue our day of weirdness).

On the ground floor was a colourful and poignant exhibition by the British artist Lubiana Hamid, born in Zanzibar, Tanzania, in 1954.  A figurehead of British Black Art in England in the 1980s, she questions the marginalization of the black diaspora in the contemporary society.  This exhibition consists of a hundred painted plywood silhouettes representing African servants of the 17th and 18th centuries, and then "widens the experience of the slave to that of all 'migrants', whose personal identities are defeated and remade according to the pressures exerted by the world political and economic forces."

On the upper floors were two other exhibitions, of which I didn't like most because the works were violent or unpleasant, and quite frankly couldn't understand any of it.

A challenging and interesting day.

Bordeaux 12: Snails

Thursday 13th February 2020.

After a very enjoyable morning at the Musée d'Aquitaine, we decided to go to our new favourite restaurant Le Petit Commerce for lunch.
Stuart hadn't had les escargots before, so I encouraged him to have one of mine:

Come on little fellow.

Maybe if I turn you over.


This one actually made it right in.  "Not too bad!" was the verdict.

The restaurant has a seafood bar on the other side of the narrow cobbled street, with the catch of the day displayed out the front.

When anyone in the restaurant orders seafood, such as Stuart's crevettes, the waiters carry the served plate across the road from the seafood bar, just adding to the general atmosphere of the narrow streets.
When we had finished our meal (we had whole sole for mains) one of the owners came and said because they thought we were very "kind" (and maybe because this was our third time there) they would like to give us another drink.  Have I ever been known to knock back a glass of champagne?

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Bordeaux 11: Musée d'Aquitaine

Thursday 13th February 2020
This museum traces the history of Bordeaux and Aquitaine from Prehistory to today, including  Prehistory, Protohistory, the Roman Epoch, the Middle Ages and the Modern Era. 5,000 pieces of art from Africa and Oceania also testify to the harbour history of the city, and there are rooms dedicated to the role of Bordeaux in the slave trade. 

The museum was beautifully and clearly set out, in an artistic and modern way.  I especially enjoyed videos accompanying some of the exhibits, e.g. someone showing how early people made needles from bones, or one of some people who dug a kiln and fired pottery which they had made using the same materials and methods as those used in that particular time.

They also showed how archaeologists made many of the discoveries.

I have to say that I enjoyed visiting this museum more than I thought I was going to, mainly because it was so good!

Detail from a Roman mosaic floor.

The same floor, seen from a specially constructed viewing platform above it.