(Grand Hotel de Bordeaux)
We left the small town of Créon early on Saturday morning to drive to a lakeside campsite just north of Bordeaux. The journey took about 30 minutes.
(Driving over the Dordogne)
We’ve bypassed it many times but we’ve never been into the city of Bordeaux but on the recommendation of friends – thank you Astrid and John – we decided to have a look. We found the campsite, the information said it was near public transport so we parked up and set off to find the bus stop. It was just outside the gates and the driver was waiting for us. He then drove us to the terminus of the C tramline. It took about 20 minutes to get into the center of Bordeaux.
(Sanna sculpture by Jaume Plensa)
We didn’t have a big itinerary planned, we were just going to soak up the atmosphere. First step: follow the crowd off the tram and into… the longest shopping street in Europe. We can now tick that one off our bucket list. It was very long but it wasn’t very crowded at 10.30am. We walked for a while, me taking pictures, Denis calculating how long before we could have a coffee. Not long, as it happened, we sat down looking out on the world as it shopped. Then we were off walking again.
(The French Camino goes through Bordeaux)
I love the idea that the French have their dinner at lunch time so that was one thing I definitely wanted to do while we were in the city. As déjeuner (midday meal) starts at noon… before long it was time. This turned out to be the high point of our day but not for reasons you’d imagine.
(This was my view)
We sat at a table outside a lovely looking restaurant facing each other. Does this happen to you? One person gets the best view and the other hears a commentary of the scene? Denis had the best view and was keeping me up to date with the traffic and the scooters for rent. Like the ones we rented in Lisbon. Then he started doing a survey on the number of cyclists wearing helmets. It’s not compulsory to wear helmets in France when you ride a bike. Two out of 25 cyclists surveyed were wearing helmets.
(My duck salad)
It was about this time I noticed the group of five men about 200 meters away running down the street in our direction, probably for a bus. Up until then nothing was happening in my view. So I put down my fork in anticipation of starting a commentary but I continued chewing (an amazing duck salad, by the way). Then the guy in front stopped and turned to the second guy and punched him full on in the face. They weren’t running for a bus. The second guy went down. The first guy turned and ran… straight into a scaffolding, fell, got up… and started running towards us.
(Nice buildings in Bordeaux)
I was trying to tell Denis that there was something happening but my words got stuck and anyway he was devising a new survey about takeaway food delivery logistics and didn’t notice I was mumbling. The guy in front (you know, the one who had hit the second guy?) approached our table. I was trying not to look but at the same time to look because I had a sudden thought that I should be a good witness. But I had to let that dream go my eyes were in touch with fear and he said, Don’t Look! I did see he had a shoulder bag that looked like it was a woman’s Burberry. I was well into a story about how he stole it and the gang of guys behind were trying to get it back for the owner when he ran into our restaurant.
(Old shopping arcade)
I could hear shouting, our waitress was backing away from the restaurant door. I couldn’t see into the restaurant because the windows were mirrored on our side. I was not getting anywhere explaining to Denis. Then the army arrived. I. Kid. You. Not. Six soldiers in full khaki with guns walk from a side street to another side street not 6 meters from me.
(Longest shopping street in Europe)
I’m gesticulating discreetly to Denis, he sees nothing. Six more soldiers pass. I can take no more I catch the waitress’ eye and point to the soldiers. (Did I mention the guns were big? They could definitely be useful with the Burberry guy.) She moved from her spot staring into the restaurant and walked over to me, saying, “Ah, no, madam c’est normale.” (This is normal.) We went home after lunch and fell asleep until it was time to go to bed.
Maybe we stumbled onto a movie set? Mairead
Ps. I hope this doesn’t put you off Bordeaux, it’s a really beautiful place.