Friday, May 27, 2011


The last time Gustav visited the farm, he expressed a desire to see the Atlantic Ocean, which is about three hours’ drive away. My first inclination was to head towards Biarritz, placing us close to the Spanish border, and thus putting San Sebastian in easy reach. A return through the Pyrenees would cap off the trip nicely.

With only a rental car at my disposal this week, this put paid to taking Munson and/or any overnight stays that would soften the driving time. The days are long enough now to make the trip doable in a single day, but wet weather was forecast all around the south coast for the next few days. I remember San Sebastian as being a particularly drizzly city, so unlike our neck of the Gers, a forecast of rain was more likely to stick.

The other option was to go to Bordeaux and look for a quickly accessible beach. I’ve driven past Bordeaux a couple of times but never scheduled time for even a quick survey. Once home to Neanderthals, it now capital of Aquitaine and head of the world’s most famous wine-growing region, and I really should have gotten there a little sooner!

Taking the motorway, our journey was bang on two hours from farm to a carpark on the edge of the River Gironde. I crossed the mouth of the Gironde by car- ferry back in 2005 – looking back in the blog I see I had telegrammatically-brief entries as internet access was extremely limited. So here is a picture from that time which I’ve not posted before: 20051203 Bondi in Bordeaux

This was one of our first stops after leaving San Sebastian, and Bondi was really happy playing the on sand at the estuary mouth until the ferry came along. Bordeaux is not actually by the sea, but ocean liners can reach the city along the river. Italian and German submarines were stationed there during WWII.
Grosse Cloche (Great Bell Gate)  Gustav, hot cholocate and muffins

Passing on foot through the bell gate La Grosse Cloche, we entered the old eighteenth-century heart of the city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Area. The marshy soil by the Gironde prevents tall buildings from being erected so Bordeaux has sprawled to become France’s largest city in area. The old city is very pedestrian-friendly with some of the longest shopping streets in Europe. A rain-shower and a muffin-filled window display sent us hurrying into a big friendly-looking bakery/cafe called Karl for bowls of hot chocolate and the muffins.

P5263190  Rue Leopold
P5263224 P5263188
P5263192-93_stitch Bordeaux
After some walking around the interesting narrower streets, the city opens out into wider spaces such as the enormous Place des Quinconces with its fountains (below) in a 12 hectare (31 acres) setting.
Place des Quinconces  P5263212
The fountain sculptures and their fantastic sea-horses were dismantled and sold for cost of raw materials in 1942; the pieces only re-assembled and returned to their original place in 1985.
2011-05-26 Bordeaux   Grand Crohot

After 3 hours of wandering, we returned to a Thai kitchen that my stomach had mentally bookmarked near the bell gate. I’ve been having Thai food dreams after nearly a year away from Sydney, and a big Pad-Thai noodle dish filled that gastronomical hole in my diet for the time being.
2011-05-26 Bordeaux   Grand Crohot1

The closest ocean beach was Grand Crohot at Cap Ferret about 45 minutes beyond Bordeaux. It’s not a very scenic drive: motorway decorated by whitebox supermarkets and hardware stores, interspersed with drab functional holiday houses. Most of the coastline down to Spain is a long stretch of sand with little to distinguish one “beach” from another. It’s still too cold to swim in the Atlantic waters, ill-advised in any case with the very strong off-shore currents. A junior surfing class was just finishing up as we arrived, and we didn’t stay more than thirty minutes as a wind was picking up and there was nowhere to shelter from flying sand. Gustav had enough time to wade in Atlantic waters for the first time and collect shells and stones for his mum back in Sweden.

For our return drive we passed through the Parc Naturel des Landes de Gascogne – a huge area south of Bordeaux – but this was a rather sad affair with great swathes of over-felled forest and little to see but the back of the slow vehicles in front of us. Even the motorway was more interesting!

I’m looking forward to returning to Bordeaux (with Munson I hope) for a longer appreciation of its treasures.

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