#TogetherStronger

Solidarité
9th June 2016

 We set off from home early, although at just after 6am it wasn't stupid o'clock. With us only flying from Liverpool we decided not to stay overnight and save ourselves some money. Our only concern would be some major road incident causing us to miss our flight but other than some queuing over the Runcorn Bridge it was a clear run.

By some coincidence we arrived at the car park barriers at the exact same time as a mate of mine from work. Emlyn (with whom I play 5-a-side football) and his son Sam were also on their way to Bordeaux.

After checking in our hold luggage we went through security where my bag was searched. It was my camera bag. Not only did have a camera but it was also full of wires and cables and a dark rectangle block which always attracts attention .

They gave it their full suspicion including swabbing the bag down and analysing the results before opening it up and repeating the process on the travel speakers which was their main concern. Happy that it wasn't anything untoward we were allowed through.

We celebrated by buying our customary bottle of champagne plus a half bottle of Lanson Champagne Wimbledon special cloaked in a tennis ball wrapper. Next we sat down to a full cooked breakfast at the Kissing Gate Bar and despite only being 8am I had a beer and Julie discreetly cracked open her champers.

Emlyn and Sam were also on the beer, which strangely enough I was reading a post on Facebook from Rough Guides this morning saying that 60% of UK travellers would have a drink before a flight no matter what time.

It was good to know we weren't the only ones. It sort of validated our behaviour. It is true though, once your airside you enter a different time zone.

Half way through eating our rather poor excuse for a cooked breakfast our gate number came up so we started to shovel it down, only for them to announce a few minutes later that there was an hour delay.

This unsettled Julie slightly and she reached for a few more diazepams to steady her nerves. The extra hour flew by and it wasn't long before it was time to board.

This was our first Ryanair flight which added an element of uncertainty into Julie's worried mind. So far everything was no different to any other flight (except for the hour delay). We had even pre-booked our usual seats of 18E and 18F.

The first thing that Julie noticed, and it was difficult not to notice them, was the emergency information displayed on the back of every seat. It was really cranking up her anxiety to be constantly reminded of what to do when the plane crashes, no matter how unlikely the event. During take-off she placed her hands over the images of passengers escaping burning planes and concentrated on how well the pilot was flying the plane.

He did well, getting us up above the clouds quite smoothly despite his ropey Italian accent. Julie's always reassured by a well-spoken pilot

An hour and a half later we were coming into land at Bergerac airport, a small provincial airport with a very short runway which called for some rapid deceleration before we shot off the end. Of course it all ended well and we came to a stop a short distance away from the Arrivals terminal.

It was certainly one of the most basic we had come across. It was nothing more than an agricultural shed with a large Arrivé sign on it. We queued outside in glorious sunshine making slow progress through passport control. Once through we collected our luggage from off the floor in the corner of the shed and made our way to the taxi rank.

There was no regular bus service to/from the airport so a taxi or hiring a car was the only way out of there. To our disbelief there only appeared to be one taxi firm operating and they only had two cars to start with. The round trip to Bergerac train station and back took them almost 30 minutes which meant we were stood outside in 30C temperatures for almost two hours.

It was just ridiculous.

The taxi firm did call in a few more drivers when they realised how many Welshmen were waiting but it was too little too late.

Our first impressions were not that impressed. At least I had an angle on my side bringing me ice cold beer to cool me down.

Eventually of course we got to the front of the queue and got in a taxi, sharing it with an ex-soldier, Welsh Fusiliers, with a scouse accent and a gammy leg, which we assumed was a war wound and his mate.

Our driver was the boss's daughter. We knew that because they had a bit of a "Papa .. Nicole" moment. She spoke no English but I didn't have to say "Le Gare" as that's where we were all going.

I had originally planned a nice afternoon in Bergerac but what with the flight delay and the taxi debacle we didn't have much time. So instead we headed straight to the bar across the road from the train station.

Inside propping up the bar was Emlyn and his son Sam. We had a few rounds of a great tasting beer called Pelforth, both a blonde and a brune variety.

It wasn't long before they left to catch the 16:30 train to Bordeaux. We had tickets for the next train an hour later so we waved them off.

On the same stretch of road opposite the station was another bar called Le Berbere which was also a Middle Eastern restaurant.

They had plenty of tasty choices on their menu for the discerning vegetarian.

However, when we tried to order they said we were too early and offered instead to knock us up some french fries with tomato ketchup. We were so hungry that we thought anything was better than nothing.

In fact the chips were absolutely delicious.

We got chatting to an Australian lady sat next to us. She had been left stranded in Bergerac because of the national train strikes.

Her train left Bordeaux on its way to Sarlat but came to a stop in Bergerac and wouldn't continue any further. Fortunately there was a replacement bus service.

To our utter dismay we suffered the same fate half an hour later when we went to the train station to find that our train had been cancelled on account of the strikes.

A member of staff on the platform tried to justify the industrial action.

He shrugged and said "We are fighting for worker's rights". I wasn't feeling the solidarité but at least he was in work and he did explain that our replacement bus service would leave from outside the station at 18:55.

So we had no choice but to return to Bar Ambiance and carry on drinking.

We weren't alone, a group of South Walian lads were in the same boat. They were so funny. We enjoyed their banter so much we joined them. I'm not entirely sure how it happened but I somehow ended up playing the guitar alongside the resident entertainer.

We all piled onto the bus and like naughty school children we gravitated to the back seats. The banter continued as we were all in high spirits.

Ahead of us was a long drive stopping in all the scheduled train stations along the way picking up other stranded travellers from places like Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, Castillon-la-Bataille.

Two hours later our joviality was on the wane.

One of the lads, the guy who appeared to be organising their trip, asked the driver if he could stop somewhere so that people could go to the toilet. He got a blunt "Non".

When we stopped in Libourne Julie went up to ask the fabulously moustachioed driver the same question and got a different response.

Half a dozen or so rushed off the bus and had a piss behind the bike sheds as there weren't any public toilets. Including one woman who had to squat behind some bushes. (It wasn't Julie by the way)

Our first glimpse of the outskirts of Bordeaux were rather surprisingly houses on stilts along the banks of the Garonne. It reminded us so much of floating down the river in Thailand!

We eventually reached Le Gare St. Jean around 21:30 exhausted and hungry. Our next obstacle was to find our way to our hotel. It was a little bit out of the city centre near the old football stadium.

Catching a taxi was probably the most sensible option but I don't like paying exorbitant prices when there are cheaper alternatives. My original plan was to catch the number 9 bus getting off in Xaintrailles but I didn't really know where/when that stop was. So we caught a tram instead buying a seven day pass for 12.40 each.

After changing tram lines at Porte de Bourgogne we rolled through the city up towards the stop for Stade Chaban Delmas.

We got off weighed down by our bags and suitcases and we walked up the hill past the stadium. I knew how to find the hotel but I couldn't tell Julie how long or how far. She was rapidly losing the will to continue.

At the top of the hill, by a set of traffic lights we turned right and then left onto Avenue Jean D'Arc. Our "hotel" was only yards away. Julie was so happy she almost cried.

La Maison Cacheé was more of a small bed & breakfast or what they call a Chambre D'Hoté in these parts.

Its name translated as The Hidden House and that exactly what it was, hidden. Luckily I had previously "virtually" walked down the street on Google Maps and so I knew what it looked like from the outside.

It was hidden from view behind a tall wall with the smallest of signs on a heavy steel door to let us know we were at the right address. We rang the doorbell and pushed the door open when it buzzed to allow us in. It felt so good to finally arrive.

We were warmly welcomed by Beatrix who had a soft New Zealand accent and a big smile. She showed us to our room without delay and then phoned the Italian at the end of the street to see if they were still open.

They weren't, unfortunately. It was now 10pm and they were all was closing for the evening.

She suggested that perhaps the Chinese restaurant called Hong Kong may stay open later so that's where we headed.

It was open, however, next to it, on the street corner was a typical French cafe called Le Xaintrailles. I checked if they were still open for food in my best Italian when I asked if it was OK to "mangiare".

They understood and we were in luck. We sat outside and ordered our supper.

The food wasn't haute cuisine but it was fine. Julie had poached salmon but it was smothered in a mushroom sauce like that you would get with a steak Diane. She did a good job of scraping most of it off.

I had no choice. There was only dish that didn't contain meat or fish. It was their house salad. To be fair it was rather better than I expected with lettuce, tomatoes, radish, grated carrot, crispy croutons and a hardboiled egg, all drizzled with a tasty salad dressing. The only thing that let them down was a sorry bowl French fries.

I took a deep breath and relaxed.

"Let the holiday begin"

Next Day >>>

ęCopyright 2000 - 2020