#TogetherStronger

Calon Lan
12th June 2016

We both woke up hungry this morning. It was enough to force us out of bed. However the rest of the body was not willing, especially the eyes which we struggled to keep open. In the kitchen we met Clare, the owner. She greeted us with a bright and chirpy "Bonjour". We croaked back a very tired reply. All that singing and shouting had taken its toll on the old throat.

Already eating at the breakfast table were a male couple. The younger man didn't sound very Welsh but he said was born near Newport and was obviously here for the football. The older guy rolled his eyes in mock despair. We boasted about our 2:00am return only to be beaten by their 2:30am. We had the croakier voices though.

Instead of croissants this morning we had pan au chocolates. Julie's not so keen on the chocolate pastries so I ended up eating both of them. I was so hungry I could have eaten two more. We did have a second cup of coffee in an attempt to wake us up but it wasn't working.

So we returned to our room and went back to sleep for a few hours before restarting the day just before midday.

I wanted to go and walk around a cemetery. I have to admit that I do find them fascinating places and I had heard that Cimetière de la Chartreuse was a real treasure.

I persuaded Julie that it was the place to be on a dull grey Sunday morning.

So we walked from our hotel down the hill towards the tramlines and then continued along the main road just a little further where we came across the high walls of the cemetery.

It was converted in the late eighteenth century on the former gardens of the Carthusian monastery and covered over 25 hectares. We found the entrance next to a florist who specialised in funerary flowers and had clearly paid attention to the mantra "location, location, location".

The cemetery was laid out in a grid with all the available space filled by grave stones, tombs and chapels.

It reminded us of Cimeterie du Pere Lachaise in Paris only smaller and without the famous people. What it lacked in glitterati however it made up for it with curiosities.

One of the strangest tombs was a pyramid, a plain four-sided pyramid with only Famille de Pereyra engraved on it. I wondered if it was just fashionable at the time or were they connected in any way to 19th century Egyptology or was it as odd then as it is now?

There was one grave I especially wanted to find and that was that of a sailor by the name of Jean Catherineau who died in 1874 aged 72. It was built by architect and sculptor Jean Alaux.

The sculpture was of a dramatic scene where the grim reaper waited on the rocks against which the sailor's boat had shipwrecked. It was by far the most eerie of all the graves in Cimetière de la Chartreuse if not all in all the world.

However morbid it may seem there was something quite beautiful about it.

The epitaph wrote in French "Par la science et l'intrépidité, le marin peut longtemps braver les tempêtes de l'océan mais il est un écueil contre lequel il doit fatalement se briser : la mort" which Google translate told me meant something like "For science and fearlessness, the sailor can long defy the storms of the ocean but it is a rock against which it must inevitably break: death."

The vast majority of grave stones were a variation on a cross, with some more ornate than others. One in particular that caught my eye had a bronze statue of Christ on the cross and it looked striking with its faded green colour against the black of a simple stone cross.

We reached the end of the cemetery and came to the exit which was also the grand main entrance. Despite only covering less than a third of the cemetery we decided to leave. I had seen what I wanted. One Grim Reaper - box ticked.

Opposite the entrance/exit stood Eglise Saint-Bruno a large unfussy church with a simple facade. Its well-dressed congregation were just leaving. Just around the corner we caught a tram which rolled us slowly downhill towards the cathedral.

Right below the Pey-Berland bell tower there was a small food market. There wasn't much there at all. In fact some of the traders were already packing up for the day having been there since 07:00am.

Walking through the market did bring on the hunger pangs. Our breakfast felt so long ago. Remembering yesterday's delicious lunch we walked to Place Saint-Project for the cafe next to the Post Office. Unfortunately it was closed on Sundays.

As we continued to walk towards the river we passed plenty of cafes and bistros that were open but I struggled to find anything to eat on their menus.

We came to another small square called Place Camille Jullian. It wasn't the most attractive of squares but we decided to stop at a cafe on the corner called Le Sainte Georges.There still wasn't much on there for me to eat but they did offer the classic French vegetarian dish of "frites e mayo". That was good enough for me.

Julie ordered the prawns and I had the frites. They both came with this incredibly delicious homemade garlic mayonnaise. It left us purring with delight.

We didn't want it to end so much we came close to ordering the same again.

After lunch we walked through the Saint-Pierre district admiring its elegant town houses. They were built by wealthy wine merchants and their architecture reflected their patron's ambitions.

Many were positively palatial. There must have been an incredible amount of wealth here at one time.

We passed through Place du Parlement and out into the middle of Place de la Bourse en route to the Quais des Chartrons, a section of the waterfront which was at one time the main hub of Bordeaux's wine trade from where its finest claret was exported to the rest of the world.

Until recently much of this area was still filled with ugly derelict warehouses from those days. But in 1995 the city began a regeneration project which saw them all knocked down and a promenade along the Garrone river installed instead. Looking at old images of the city it was such a transformation.

We walked up Quais des Chartrons where now on Sundays they a have colourful farmers market.

I wasn't too sure how much of it would still be there this late in the day but we were pleasantly surprised when we found plenty of the traders still selling their produce.

Oysters were a popular speciality as was fresh fish in general. It was certainly an assault on the nostrils. Towards the end of the market there was even an oyster bar where you could sit comfortably to eat the prized molluscs. I did try and encourage Julie to try an oyster but she was having none of it. She just couldn't, not even for my amusement.

There were other less offensive smells, although the pungent aroma of strong cheese is not to everyone's liking either.

I suppose if we had rented an apartment we would have bought some supplies to take back for lunch but we didn't buy anything.

 We left the market empty handed and crossed the road to the Chartrons tram station.

Our final destination today was to be La Cité du Vin, the new wine museum. I had pre-booked tickets with an allocated entry time of 3:30pm. It was too early to head straight over there so we sat outside Brasserie Les Nouveaux Chartrons for a few drinks whilst we waited.

It was a busy little place with a great character and conveniently positioned by the tram station. Although whilst I was there I did get moidered by this annoying guy who claimed to be Welsh despite his accent being straight out of Berkshire. He was trying to impress me by boasting about how he got free tickets to the game yesterday through his influential contacts at the Mayor's Office. What a knob.

Anyway, we caught the tram from Chartrons along the Quai de Bacalan past where we ate on Friday and all the way to the end of the B line or at least where it currently ended. It looked like it was going to be extended anytime soon, strikes permitting.

There was a short walk from the Bassins à Flot tram station over a bridge spanning the entrance to a wet dock and then we saw the La Cité du Vin close up for the first time. I have to admit we were impressed.

Its swirling design representing the movement of wine in a glass was a great example of how beautiful modern architecture can be.

Mind you having spent €80 million on it the pressure was on to impress. Despite its undoubted style it still has its detractors.

We entered the swirl and found our own way to the museum entrance on the second floor. There was a small queue but nothing terrible.

Our tickets were scanned and we were given an audio guide each. Almost everyone needed help in getting the headphones on correctly.

They were a little odd in that they rested on the ears and wrapped around the back of the head. I'm sure there would have been less of a queue if it wasn't for them.

The first open space we walked into had images of vineyards from around the world projected onto two large screens. We virtually flew over all the great wine producing countries like France, of course, but Chile, South Africa, Australia, the list was endless.

We sat there jetting around the globe for quite a while not once did we revisit a region.

Next up was this incredible futuristic immersive and interactive information station for want of a better title.

The large installation was an electronic marvel. Divided into six sections, each representing a wine producing region of the world. Images, maps and a wealth of information was being displayed on the table top whilst on large flat screens experts talked about the qualities that made their region distinct.

By holding a device over a hotspot our audio guide activated the sounds to accompany the visuals. The French wine producer talked about the importance of "le terroir", the earth from which the vines were grown.

 

As museums go this was one of the best we'd been in for being interactive and making learning entertaining.

My favourite was the smelly zone where all sorts of items both aromatic and downright stinky were kept in large glass vials and you could squeeze an old fashion car horn contraption which let some of the smell out.

There was also this relaxation zone where you reclined on a plush red velvet sofa and look up towards the sky to watch an animated dreamscape unfold above you.

We spent over an hour and a half walking around and could probably spent another hour in there if we looked at everything.

We left the museum area and return down to the ground floor. There was a shop, of course, but this one was a fabulous circular room filled from floor to ceiling with a mind blowing selection of wine. To be fair the prices weren't too extortionate.

Of course they had the super expensive ones but there were plenty of wine at around the €10-€15 price range.

We didn't buy any. Instead we found our way to the cafe where we had a glass of wine each, a white Graves for Julie and a red St. Emilion for me.

There were also around the cafe several temperature-controlled, airtight display cases filled with an extensive range of wines where you could self-dispense small amounts of very expensive wines.

Apparently for only a few euros you could try some of the Bordeaux finest Grand Cru wines.

Whilst we were there I also tried a traditional local cake known as a Canale du Bordeaux. It seemed to have been baked in a mould no larger than a thimble and was an incredibly dense sponge. I struggled to finish it.

We were about to leave when I remembered that included in the ticket price was a free glass of wine. It wasn't that clear where to collect the vino au gratis.

Luckily we saw a few people getting in a lift and I remembered reading about the great city views from a bar on the 8th floor so we followed them.

We got our tickets checked and stepped inside a large elevator with half a dozen other people. At the top we stepped out into the Belvedere Bar which was full of people quaffing their free wine.

It had this unique ceiling of a thousand wine glasses like one enormous chandelier.

Despite being really busy I didn't have to wait long. In its centre it had a 10 metre long bar with plenty of staff ready to serve the thirsty horde.

I had a red, Julie had a white, of which appellation I do not remember but they were both of exceptional quality. They certainly weren't getting rid of any old cheap plonk as their free glass.

We stepped outside to have a look at the view over the city. Looking straight down the Garrone river we could see the cathedral and its belltower in the distance and the rather gothic spires of Église St Louis des Chartrons nearby.

Other than those landmarks Bordeaux was quite a low level city which didn't make for an exciting panorama.

There was rain in the air so we didn't stay outside for too long. We returned inside to continue drinking our lovely wine savouring each delicious mouthful.

With empty glasses it was time to leave.

Back down the quays we scooted on the B line tram, getting off at the Place des Quinconces.

We arranged to meet up with Emlyn and his son Sam in Place du Parlement for a few beers. We got there first and sat ourselves down in Le Bistrot d'Edouard to watch some of the Northern Ireland v Poland game.

We had saved them two seats but when they turned up they had a few more friends in tow, people they knew from the Penmaenmawr Phoenix Football Club. There wasn't enough room for them all to join us so we joined them in walking up Rue Parlement Sainte-Catherine to the pub called The Houses of Parliament.

The amount of English themed pubs in the city was quite unusual. The formula normally follows the Irish bar template but here in Bordeaux we had The Charles Dickens, The Dog & Duck, The Dick Turpin, The Cock and Bull to name but a few as well as The Frog and Rosbif, named after the name calling traded between the French and the English, all tongue-in-cheek of course.

It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise because Bordeaux has a strong English connection. As far back as the 12th century the Aquitaine region fell under English rule when technically a Frenchman Henri Court-manteau the Count of Anjou, Duke of Aquitaine and grandson of Henry I the King of England, became Henry II, the King of England.

It remained in English possession until the mid-15th century and the end of the Hundred Years War.

So thanks to good old Henry II we were stood outside the Houses of Parliament drinking Belgian beer by the barrel load singing football songs until we were hoarse.

Julie even got the crowd going by starting to sing Calon Lan. She was on her own for a few bars before they began to join in, building to a crescendo with everyone belting out the chorus.

It was a magic moment filled with pride for Julie.

When I went inside to buy a round of drinks I bumped into a good friend of mine from work. I didn't even know Carl was in Bordeaux for the game.

It was quite a coincidence, although I suppose if you were Welsh and in Bordeaux you would be found in a pub at this time of the day. On the big screen Germany were beating the Ukraine but no one was paying it much attention. We were all still in such high spirits after yesterday's game. It was one big party.

At around 21:00 we decided to bring our festivities to an end and head back to our hotel. There was great rejoicing when we noticed that the trams were running. There was a lot of relief as well. We had been drinking since the late afternoon and the hike up the hill would have been challenging to say the least.

We sat on the tram pleased as punch to be transported smoothly towards Chaban-Delmas but we must have been sitting too comfortably as we missed our stop and carried on along the A line to Hôpital Pellegrin.

The next tram was not due for another 10 minutes but we decided to wait. We didn't have the walk in us. Eventually we got to our tram stop and had to walk the final 500m.

Along the way we realised we hadn't eaten since lunch so we decided to find some food. However, this late on a Sunday evening our options were limited. We weren't fussy, we would even had eaten in a McDonalds if it was open but it wasn't. By the time we reached the top of the hill we were famished.

The little cafe on the corner, where we ate on our first night, was shut but the Chinese restaurant next door was still open. So we entered the dragon so to speak.

I couldn't find an option for me so I asked the waiter if they could knock me up a stir-fried veg which they duly obliged. It tasted fine even if we found the serrated carrot far more hilarious than it actually was.

Julie went for sweet and sour chicken or was it pork or was it something else? All I remember was that she wasn't that impressed by the sweet and sour which resembled a jar of Uncle Ben's sauce.

One thing that I did like were the chopsticks. They were a lovely dark wood set which I pocketed. (Something I wasn't proud of doing in hindsight.)

We left Hong Kong and staggered the short distance back to our hotel. It wasn't late but it was certainly the most ... "tired" we'd been on the trip. We were asleep in a flash.

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