195 – Goodbye Bordeaux, Hello Andernos-Les-Bains

I’m off again. Off to Andernos-Les-Bains on the Arcachon basin to look after a villa for the winter with some cheffing and teaching work thrown in to pass the time.

‘Not bad if you can get it,’ a friend of mine said.

‘Well, yes, and no,’ I replied. ‘It’s work. It’s by the sea. But it’s also an hour from Bordeaux, a city I really like. It means exchanging some of the best wine in the world for some of the best oysters in the world. Which is great if you like oysters,’ I continued. ‘But I happen to hate them, so it looks like I’ll have to stick to crab and champagne for my lunches.’ Continue reading “195 – Goodbye Bordeaux, Hello Andernos-Les-Bains”

194 – An Hour in Bordeaux – in Photographs

Having failed to write anything of any value or substance today – apart from a recipe on How to Cook Chicken Korma – I resorted to my camera and gave myself a task.

One hour to distil Bordeaux into an attention-grabbing photographic montage. Continue reading “194 – An Hour in Bordeaux – in Photographs”

193 – Dogs and Pushchairs on Rue Malbec

After months of trying, I finally broke through the 20.30 minute mark for 5kms at the Jardin Public in Bordeaux. And that was after being ‘assaulted’ by a dog at 1.34kms.

I know this because my heart rate data shows a sudden dip at the point where I had to slow down to avoid crashing into the stray mutt.

heart rate2 Continue reading “193 – Dogs and Pushchairs on Rue Malbec”

192 – Blogley in Paris

Since my last visit in 1989, a lot has changed. I’m not 15. I’m 40. Which means I can enjoy the finer points of a city. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything!

For four days I hared around Paris with Elizabeth taking endless ‘rolls’ of film and drinking coarse wine. The results you can see in the video at the bottom of the page. Continue reading “192 – Blogley in Paris”

191 – Fear and Loathing and Small Dogs at the Pôle Emploi

pole emploi3

Yesterday at the job centre waiting my turn, I saw a girl on the seat opposite me carrying a tiny dog in a sling designed for a baby. It passed the time wondering what it all meant before I was called up to a cubicle to see someone. Continue reading “191 – Fear and Loathing and Small Dogs at the Pôle Emploi”

190 – Scrum Down At The Gare St. Jean

student scrum4

One Friday evening a few weeks ago at the Gare St. Jean, I witnessed the largest exhibition of North Face puffer jackets, Samsonite travel bags and Bose Headphones in the Western Hemisphere. All attached, fastened or connected in some way to the pack of tired looking students hurrying down to the station to catch their trains home. Continue reading “190 – Scrum Down At The Gare St. Jean”

189 – Le Grand Meaulnes: Review

It struck me this week after finishing Le Grand Meaulnes, how similar the book is to another great novel I read three years ago when I first arrived in Lyon. The Great Gatsby.

I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic six times over that winter before finally trekking down to a bookshop one Saturday afternoon to unearth more of his books. I liked his writing, his style, his precision and wanted to read more. Continue reading “189 – Le Grand Meaulnes: Review”

188 – This isn’t Queaux. This is South Bordeaux, innit!

After eight weeks here, the honeymoon period between me and the city is coming to an end.

I woke up this morning in a cloud. A freezing cold cloud that hid everything except the headlights of the 40 foot long bendy buses that roar along my street.

It’s winter now. And the city is not my friend any longer. Dank, dreary, depressing Bordeaux. Continue reading “188 – This isn’t Queaux. This is South Bordeaux, innit!”

187 – Le Grand Meaulnes

Le Grand Meaulnes is a novel written by Alain Fournier and published in 1913.

It’s been on the living room table for months now, staring at me like the porcelain geese on the mantelpiece do when I’m trying to write something important.

I picked it up a few weeks ago. But put it down again when I read on the back cover that the author had been killed in action in 1914 and that this was his only novel. I simply couldn’t bring myself to read it. Continue reading “187 – Le Grand Meaulnes”

186 – Buffalo Grill

On Friday morning I had an interview at a business park that looked like a disused moon base. A shipment of white tiles, mirrors and concrete dumped there at some point in the 1980s and then forgotten about. Left to grow and evolve into the bland assortment of office blocks and budget hotels that is now west Bordeaux. A post-industrial form of natural selection that would work well in a JG Ballard novel I suspect. Continue reading “186 – Buffalo Grill”

185 – Weather Update (revised), James Dean and Gauloises Cigarettes.

Sitting outside a café this morning sipping an espresso, I wished I still smoked. The figure of a James Dean look-a-like opposite me smoking a Gauloises, reading a book and sipping an early morning brandy almost got me rushing to the Tabac next door.

I resisted. My lungs were wheezing anyway from my first cold in years. The last thing I need was a fag. Continue reading “185 – Weather Update (revised), James Dean and Gauloises Cigarettes.”

184 – Weather Update (Bordeaux)

‘I can’t believe it rains in Bordeaux.’

These were the words I said to the baker on Sunday morning as I handed him two Euros for my loaf of sourdough.

‘It rains more here than in England,’ he replied.

C’est pas possible!’ I said pointing my loaf at him like it was a snubnosed machine gun. ‘I was told the sun shines all year round here. Like in the Costa Del Sol.’

Par un idiot!’ He waved his arms fiercely in the air. ‘In winter it rains here like it rains grapes at harvest time.’ Continue reading “184 – Weather Update (Bordeaux)”

183 – Bizarre Signs of Bordeaux: Part 1

A light hearted take on Bordeaux for a greasy November Saturday afternoon.

1) Gare St Jean

gare

There are various explanations for this sign. None of which are very convincing. Any ideas, please leave a comment.

  1. Don’t walk on a triangle if the angles don’t add up to 180.
  2. Don’t use a springboard inside in a tent when there’s an air raid on.
  3. Beware! Pedestrians are liable to be catapulted into space at any time.
  4. You are not allowed to be lifted up by a drawbridge when the siren goes off (courtesy Stan Mellema).
  5. Warning! This road will turn into a steep hill when the siren sounds.

Continue reading “183 – Bizarre Signs of Bordeaux: Part 1”

182 – Running in Bordeaux

I love to run because it makes me feel better. Keeps the wolf from the door as it were. Wolves in the form of Demons that tell me I’ve ballsed up my life and should change course immediately. Get a job in an office. Get my own parking space. Buy a 3D-TV. You might be familiar with them? (Demons not 3D-TVs.) Continue reading “182 – Running in Bordeaux”

181 – La Boite à Lire

I woke up this morning on a bench in the Jardin Public looking into the eyes of Nicholas Sarkozy. I’ll explain.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the park to read my book – A Hundred Easy Steps to a Better Memory – only to realise a minute after sitting down on my favourite bench near the duck pond that I’d left it on the sitting room table. Continue reading “181 – La Boite à Lire”

180 – Mériadeck

If you’re caught short sightseeing in Bordeaux, the shopping centre at Mériadeck is the place to go. Clean, warm, friendly toilets with an attendant on hand to pass you lavender scented towels as you leave.

Redeveloped in the mid-sixties, Mériadeck is the quartier d’affaires (business district) of Bordeaux. A world away from the neoclassical-baroque-Roman architecture of the city, but still strangely pleasant. Continue reading “180 – Mériadeck”

179 – French Coffee

French Coffee

I’m about to destroy the myth about French coffee. But before I do, I’d like to make a statement.

I love France.  They do things better here than in a lot of countries, including my own. From campsites, to employment laws, to healthcare, to public transport, to food, to wine, to films, to beaches, to mountains. It’s a joy to live here and if I was French, I’d be proud of my country.’

Except for one thing. Continue reading “179 – French Coffee”

178 – The Palais Gallien Amphitheatre

The Palais Gallien Amphitheatre half a stride away from the Jardin Public is one of the oldest looking things I’ve ever seen. A two thousand year old crumbling ruin built from what looks like broken biscuits stuck together with chewing gum, it’s no wonder the Bordelais call it le vestige – the relic. Continue reading “178 – The Palais Gallien Amphitheatre”

177 – Playing Handel in the Gare St. Jean

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”

176 – Naked Sunbathing at Le Grand Crohort

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”