Writing this blog these past few weeks has allowed me to understand the city in a way I couldn’t have done from sightseeing or reading books alone. The act of writing has made the events of the past month stick in my head so firmly that they’ll not be easily erased.
Like last night for instance. Continue reading “177 – Playing Handel in the Gare St. Jean”
Yesterday for the first time in my life I sat naked on a beach. It was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done.
More liberating in fact than turning forty and realising that all the worry was for nothing. ‘Life is actually damn good,’ I remember thinking. ‘So many birthday cards. Life can only get better. All I’ve got to do is stay alive.’
Well alive I am and so yesterday I drove to Le Grand Crohort 50 km west of Bordeaux to lap up the fag end of the summer. Despite it being 26 degrees I knew the summer of 2014 was on its last legs. Continue reading “176 – Naked Sunbathing at Le Grand Crohort”
I’m currently living in an échoppe. For those not versed in French architecture or who have never been to Bordeaux. It’s a bungalow.
Albeit a solid stone bungalow and not the ones I once saw in Torquay constructed from cereal boxes. These impressive one storey abodes are built from thick blocks of limestone and are as sturdy as the Nazi U-Boat bunker I mentioned in my last post. Continue reading “175 – L’Échoppe”
I’ve been craving Thai curry ever since I left Lyon. Once I had it six nights in a row. Same recipe every night from Monday to Saturday just because I could. On Sunday I had fish to give my bowels a rest.
I don’t believe you can’t have the same dish everyday of the week. If I discover something new, I generally gorge on it until I’m sick or can’t stand the sight of it any longer. Whichever comes first.
By the time I left Lyon last July I could make a red Thai curry better than any Thai restaurant in the city could. I experimented on the farm in Queaux with ingredients I got from the local supermarket in Lussac. But the results were awful. The runoff from the compost heap tasted better. Continue reading “174 – Eurasie Asian Supermarket”
When is a beach not a beach?
When you’re running up and down it in a pair of swimming trunks diving in and out of crystalline water in burning heat in late October.
I was expecting to be trudging up a rain soaked beach yesterday wearing a thick jumper, a cagoule, a weighty woollen scarf and a waterproof hat. A throwback to half terms staying with my gran in Scarborough, I admit. But still a shock to go to Lacanau, 60km west of Bordeaux, to witness a beach still wrapped up in its mid-summer glow. Scorching! Continue reading “173 – Lacanau Beach”
Each morning I’m awoken by the old man next door playing his piano. It’s my morning wake-up call and I can truly say that there’s nothing as calming as Beethoven, Brahms or Bach first thing.
It doesn’t actually wake me up. More rolls me over in my deep slumber. Gently prods me and says, ‘Oggers, it’s morning. Time to get up.’
This has happened everyday since I’ve been here. Except today. Which is worrying on two counts. One he might be dead. And two I don’t have another alarm clock. I have a mobile phone but the ring tones are so incredibly nauseating and offensive that I’d rather miss the entire day than be woken up by some moronic synthesised version of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. Continue reading “172 – The Piano Man and Beer Tasting”
Bordeaux’s main train station built in 1898 at the south end of the city symbolizes how opulent and exciting rail travel once was. The old arrival and departure halls alone are as big and as grand as any art gallery or museum I’ve seen. A full scale exhibition of Dutch Masters or T-Rex skeletons wouldn’t look out of place in the slightest.
In the evenings I often go down there to admire the architecture and twenty metre neoclassical colonnades of the main halls. The marbled floors, wood panelled ticket halls, old fashioned patisseries, newspaper stands, silver service restaurants, rustic waiting rooms make me feel like I’m walking back in time. To a time when taking a train to Paris was as luxurious as taking Concorde. Continue reading “171 – Gare de Bordeaux Saint Jean”
Yesterday I bought the most expensive bottle of wine I’ve ever bought. A Château Labatut Saint Émilion at €9.50. Three hundred percent more than I normally pay. But I had no choice. It was the cheapest in the shop. I was in Saint Émilion.
Famous Saint Émilion: a roadshow of geriatric Americans plugged into their tour guide headsets like they were life support machines. Tiptoeing down the steep cobbled paths cautious in the knowledge that one misplaced step could be their last. All desperate to drink a bottle of 1996 Clos de Menuts at €350 a bottle before they expire and their sons and daughters gobble up their cash to spend on Hummers, Botox and Dr. Pepper. Continue reading “170 – Saint Émilion”
Like most people I enjoy a beer at around six o’clock. And luckily that alcoholic alarm call of two hands to the vertical is as respected here in Bordeaux as anywhere else.
The best price I’ve found so far is €3 for a pint of Budwar at the Vintage Bar on Rue Saint-James. Which having lived in a variety of European cities over the years is as good as you’re going to get.
Although saying that there was a bizarre place in Salamanca I remember that dispensed litre bottles of Mahou beer from a vending machine in the corner for a couple of Euros. But looking back I’m not sure that was a bar. More a room glued onto the side of a student nightclub where people could sit on the floor, drink heavily and then pass out. Something like that anyway… Continue reading “169 – Bud Pint”
For thirteen months I saw the same view every morning from my hideout in Queaux. While incredibly beautiful and pleasing to the eye, the physical contours of the image never changed from day to day. Month to month.
Now in Bordeaux every step throws up new scenes. Every corner awash with right angles and curves. Every street exhibiting a new set of uprights and horizontals for my mind to gorge on. There’s so much information. So much data. I feel like a computer plugged into the internet for the very first time.
And that’s just the architecture. Throw into the equation a quarter of a million people walking, running, fighting, drinking, smoking, thinking, laughing, dying, burping, shouting, crying. And it’s no wonder my mind is having a sensory overload and my blog is running out of paper.
On top of all of that I’ve burdened myself with looking for work. Or rather my bank has burdened me. My balance popping up on the screen last week saying OGGERS OLD FRIEND, YOU’VE RUN OUT OF MONEY – JOB TIME!!!! Continue reading “168 – Job Centre Interview”
The Bordeaux tourist guide quotes Victor Hugo on its front page:
‘Take Versailles, mix it with Anvers. You have Bordeaux.’
I know nothing about either town but from what I’ve seen here there seems enough good cheer and sparkle to go round both of them with some to spare. Furnish Lyon with a bit perhaps? Continue reading “167 – Victor Hugo, Ice Creams, and Lyonnais Waiters”
What’s the first thing I did in Bordeaux?
Drink a glass of wine? See the sights? Take a coffee in a leafy square? A small beer in a courtyard bar? Eat a Charolais steak?
No. I hunted out places to sleep in the unlikely event of being made homeless. It’s an odd obsession of mine and stems from a childhood dream of escaping from boarding school and becoming a fugitive. Steve McQueen from the Great Escape, only in this version it’s Oggers on a 30 year old Peugeot cycle haring up the Welsh Hills being pursued by Potter the housemaster in his 1970s Citroen waving his walking stick in the air like a demented general. Continue reading “166 – Velos, Homelessness and The Great Escape”
After 13 months in the countryside I’ve finally returned to the city. I was reminded of this yesterday when somebody in the street asked me where I was from, thinking I was a tourist. I said Bordeaux.
It’s been a funny few days moving from Queaux to Bordeaux. Moving from a hamlet of 124 people to a city of a quarter of a million. It’s a lot smaller than Lyon, yet it feels bigger. Lyon sprawled up and down and around and over the Rhone valley like a big puddle after a heavy storm. Bordeaux feels more compact and rounded. Like a chocolate biscuit that’s begging to be dipped in a cup of freshly brewed tea and then eaten up in one mouthful. Continue reading “165 – Blogley in Bordeaux”