Wine Glut City, with a side of street crazies
24.08.2012 - 24.08.2012
With a correctly composted ticket (the machine to validate the train ticket you have already paid for is called the Composter) we were spirited down the tracks from La Rochelle's grandly decorated station to the riverside expanse of Bordeaux, the capital of the red wine growing regions of France. The station doors disgorge you right in front of a restaurant just when the rigours of travel have made you rather peckish, actually, and the plat du jour doesn't look too bad. Refueled, we spied in the distance the sign of the Best Western Hotel, our hired home away from home for the night.
Bless they who Condition the Air for they make a room truly comfortable and giveth much relief after a consistently hot week in the Lot Valley. All up a restful night, needed for He Who Had Committed to The Drive on the morrow.
With little time to waste, we walked to the edge of the mighty Garonne river, which was rushing headlong under the ancient arched stone bridge, whirlpools whipping around near stones gathered in front of each arch. A soccer ball and a balloon in the shape of a rabbit's head rush headlong down the stream.
Along the walking and cycling paths trail a wide assortment of predominantly young people, pedalling a range of vehicles extending from bicycles to scooters to rollerblades and skates. Fitness enthusiasts sweated up a storm exercising on the concrete promenade, pushups and shadow boxing included in the grand look=at-me package, while a madman played counterpoint a few metres away with his ' my dog won't obey me say would you have a cigarette for me' routine.
A little further and the ancient town centre is heralded by a majestic church tucked up a side street. Next comes into view the celebratory city gate built in honor of a conquering king, a Charles 3 or so. Passing through the gate, no longer protected by a portcullis as it once was, and indeed now not joined other buildings, these having been torn down long ago to better show off the fine structure of the gate and its towering presence facing the river. Upstairs, a small museum display building implements of the type used in the gate's construction.
From a plaque on the ground we are informed of how Eleanor of Acquitaine, the beautiful heiress of the local duchy, through her second marriage tied a massive part of France to rule by the English for hundreds of years. She went on to be the mother of Richard the Lionheart and his brother John.
In the river, some of the less royal residents, a family of river otters, climb out onto the bank of the river, and seem quite at ease in their urban environment. Controversy breaks out on Facebook. Are they otters, beavers, or water rats? David Attenborough fails to appear on command.
On the way back to the hotel, we pass a deserted carkpark under a building where filthy foam mattresses lean at drunken angles against the wall, while their owners sit with their limbs at dispirited angles on whatever brick or metal surface their bones find themselves against.
To sleep, perchance to dream. Far too many action dreams during this constant travel.