166 – Velos, Homelessness and The Great Escape

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.

It’s the first job I do when I arrive in a new city. Seek out potential spots to sleep in case my well thought out plans go spectacularly wrong and I end up munching on half eaten crepes rescued from bins. Brushing my teeth in the nearest MacDonalds to get rid of the taste.

I checked out the sleeping options in Lyon when I arrived there three years ago but found it pretty limited. Bordeaux on the other hand offers so much more. So many outdoor spaces. Cemeteries, gardens, riverside shelters, half built underpasses, all weather marinas, abandoned industrial units, blocked up doorways, lakeside parklands, tree houses, covered alleyways, homely parks.

I’ve already laid my claim to a few choice sites by leaving a few pairs of rolled up socks here and there. The Nature Reserve at Parc Bordelais being one. The cruise ship gangway at Chartron with its underfoot heating and freshwater tap being another. It’s all precautionary I know, but you never know in this world.

My other task this weekend before I could settle down to a nice glass of Saint Émilion was to sign up for the city bicycle scheme. In Lyon it was called Velov. Here it’s called vCub. CUB standing for Communautè Urbaine de Bordeaux. The ‘v’ is obvious – see title.

It works on the same principle as the Velov with an annual €30 card getting you unlimited use for up to half an hour. After that you just take your bike to a terminal to get another free half an hour. And so on. It’s quicker than bus or tram, by foot or by car. And seeing as, like Lyon, the city is pancake flat, it’s the perfect mode of transport. Just avoid being hit by a tram. Or scratching the paint of a very expensive Mercedes parked badly on a street corner. Oops.



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