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Published: October 2nd 2014
The drive from Andorra down to Toulouse was nothing short of breathtaking. The Pyrenees are spectacular enough as they are, but driving down through mountain passes made it even more so. The views seemed rather disappointing when we left the high peaks behind us and reached the mere foot hills. Between Toulouse and Bordeaux it was flat and boring. Not even the vineyards could compensate for the lack of mountains!
Once we reached the outskirts of Bordeaux we found our hotel quite easily. The F1 Hotel chain is a budget range but they are cheap and cheerful and we don't mind sharing self cleaning bathroom facilities. There are several F1s around the city and we stayed in Bordeaux Ville
. This didn't turn out to be the best choice for purely logistical reasons. To get into the city we had to walk along a pretty dodgy road for 20 minutes before catching a tram to the centre. The Lormont
hotel may be further out but it is right on the tram line. If we return to the area, that is where we will head for.
We were there for two nights so on our first evening we didn't go into
the centre. Instead we walked along to Stalingrad Square. We couldn't find any reference as to why it is so called. On the square there is a huge statue of a lion looking very much like the emblem of England's football Premier League! It was a beautiful evening so we took a stroll down Avenue Thiers to the beautiful Eglise Bastide which reminded us of the Sacre Coeur
in Paris. Nearby we wandered through the botanical gardens with its strange statues and scary scarecrow. There was to be jazz in the gardens that night but the dinner menu was extortionate so instead we headed for a pizza in La Mona
which we had spotted earlier. It was excellent and the service was super friendly. We continued our evening stroll alongside the River Garonne where some of the local Muslim community were patiently waiting for sunset and Iftar, so that they could break the fast of Ramadan. They were quite a juxtaposition across the road from the riverside bars and cafes so full of life. Part of the old Gare d'Orleans has been turned into an English style pub. We sat in there for a drink but the service was too Parisian
for us. "We don't have Kronenburg, we only have 1664" was about as bad as it got, and we weren't even speaking in English, just crap French!!
The following morning began with great plans of finding a riverside cafe for some coffee and pain-au-chocolate. The weather put paid to that idea and instead we had breakfast at the hotel. It's not bad for €4.90 but it wasn't quite the atmosphere we had wanted. When the rain abated, we dashed along the road back to Stalingrad, trying to avoid the splashes from passing cars in puddles. We made it safe and dry! From there we took a €1.40 tram into the centre of the city.
Bordeaux is a beautiful city. We were mesmerized by the architecture and the ease of movement for pedestrians. Modern buildings like the Palais de Justice
fly in the face of the aesthetic beauty of the Grand Hotel
and how they ever got permission to build it is beyond us. There were curious sculptures on the Place de la Comedie but the highlight is the Monument aux Girondins
, a huge column set on the largest square in Europe with intricate fountains at its base. By
the river we were captivated by the Miroir d'Eau
, a pond which is just millimetres deep giving a dramatic mirrored effect and allowing people to effectively walk on water! Between this spectacle and the impressive Place de la Bourse
was a huge sculpture made entirely from corks. Quirky but it certainly got our attention.
The heavens opened again whilst we were on Rue Sainte Catherine. That's quite fortunate really as it is the longest pedestrianised shopping street in France (or was it Europe, or even the world?!). There were plenty of shops to dash into, but the street itself turned into a river for a while and the doorways became uncomfortably crowded. In between the downpours we gradually made our way down to Place de la Victoire. This ornate square is sat at the edge of Bordeaux's more bohemian quarter and we saw many "ethnic" restaurants we would like to try one day. It's clearly an up-and-coming area but has a lot to offer even whilst it is under redevelopment. We loved the German style Grosse Cloche
and the Fleche
of Saint Michelle is definitely worth seeing. We then made our way on foot back to the hotel for
a well earned siesta.
In the evening the skies still looked a bit too threatening to wander back to the bohemian quarter. It's a shame as a bit of Senegalese food would have been nice. Not that we have ever tried it before, but it sounded good! Instead we drove around the area near the hotel looking for a little restaurant or a pub but found nothing and ended up instead in the Ami Asian Buffet
which turned out to be an excellent move. A bit pricey but worth visiting.
The following morning we continued our journey north, stopping at the supermarket for supplies and then at the nearest services for a picninc breakfast. A full day on the road ahead of us so of course the sun was shining!!
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