Bel and Phil's Adventures

Our adventures through Europe, America and Asia

Posts from the ‘France’ category

Bordeaux, France

Sunday 15thJuly – Bordeaux

We were up early and out as we wanted to go on the bus around Bordeaux this morning. We got over to the tourist centre and there was 1 lady waiting to go on the tour as well. The tour needs 5 people to go, so we were waiting for 1 more person. Luckily there was another tourist and we were off. We got talking to the lady who was waiting with us who was German, but living in Paris and spoke fabulous English. She was so nice.

The bus trip was perfect and luckily early as it was in an open top bus. We were on the 10:15am trip. This is such a pretty city, with many old buildings. Bordeaux’s heyday was in the 1700’s and 1800’s due to its strong position as a trading hub and exports of red wine from the area. We crossed the Pont de Pierre which is an arched stone bridge which had 17 arches which is the same number of letters in Napoleon Bonaparte. He ordered the bridge to be built after his army was held up in Bordeaux on their march towards Spain, as all of the army and provisions had to be transported across the river by boat.

After our fabulous boat trip, we posted some postcards for Mum and then headed back towards the hotel. We had a stop in H & M as Mum’s handbag’s handle had broken, where she found a bargain for 8 Euros (on sale).

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Allez les Bleus – Go the Blues (French World Cup team)

We got back, packed our bags and headed out. The cab was there, although it was just a normal sedan for the three of us and our 3 big bags. It was a bit of a squishy ride to the airport with the 3 of us in the back seat and my bag in the front. We arrived and then proceeded to the terminal we needed to go to and went through their processes. London here we come!

 

We landed at Gatwick and our travel guru had organised a car for us. Luckily it was very spacious. Our driver was a Portugese gentleman and was showing us some of the sights as we neared London. We had a lovely time chatting to him and we also REALLY enjoyed being on a road where people were driving the normal way! (That is with the driver on the right and oncoming traffic also being on the right instead of the other way around as it is in Europe.)

 

We arrived at our hotel – Pullman Hotel, Kings Cross and checked in. The front desk attendant, Renaud, was lovely and very helpful. He suggested a local pub for something quick to eat called The Rocket. France had won the World Cup. The game was being played as we were in the air. They beat Portugal 4 – 2. We had dinner at the pub consisting of burgers and chips – pretty typical pub food really.

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Bastille Day Celebrations were just too much for both of them and getting ready for the World Cup celebrations

We headed back to the hotel to bed as we didn’t want to be late for tomorrow. We are off to the Harry Potter Movie Studio Tour and definitely don’t want to be late.

Bordeaux, France

14thJuly 2018 Coutras to Bordeaux

It was time to leave our holiday house today. We got up and packed our bags. We were leaving our rooms and opened up the door to the rest of the house and we saw banners and balloons decorating our doorway. What a lovely surprise and a wonderful way to start my day. We went down to breakfast and Megan had balloons decorating the table with French birthday napkins – Joyeaux Anniversaire. We had our final French breakfast, packed the car and left. We were driving again on the wrong side of the road in our Peugeot hire car – for the final time thankfully!

We dropped the cars off at the airport and caught a cab into Bordeaux. There is no way that we could’ve driven into the city. We checked into the hotel and one of the three rooms were ready, so we could leave our bags in that room and go out. We ended up going upstairs to the rooftop bar. We shared a bottle of sparkling wine and had lunch. Phil, Mum and I went out to explore and headed to the tourist information centre. We were interested in a bus tour around Bordeaux and a boat tour on the river that goes through the town. We couldn’t do both this afternoon, so opted for the river cruise today and we will have time in the morning to go on the bus.

We headed down to the river. It was so hot walking in the sunshine! It was around 30 degrees Celsius – although it felt much hotter walking in the blazing sun. As we were walking past the river, I found the reflection fountain that I was looking for. It was so pretty. We took some photos but needed to get to the pier for the boat tour.

We got there with time to spare (thankfully) and were able to get a seat on the boat outside in the shade. They also had cold drinks for sale (which we had checked prior to boarding). The river looked as though it was at low tide, which the guide later confirmed. There is a large difference between high and low tide – a difference of about 6 metres (on average) every 6 or so hours. We were almost at the lowest of the low tide. We went upriver with the guide pointing out many items of interest on the riverbanks and within the river.

 

She pointed out the wine museum which had the weirdest shape. Apparently it was supposed to replicate the swirl patterns when you swirl the red wine around the glass. It just looked strange to me. There were quite a few river cruise boats docked and she was explaining that it was a popular port for these cruises. They do also get larger cruise ships in – although not as large as our ship.

We also saw where they had moved the working dockyards to, which was probably about 10 km upriver from the city. They used to be very close to the city, however this area has been converted into shops and restaurants, catering to tourists and locals alike.

 

The water was quite brown as the river and the water from the sea met around Bordeaux. Due to the massive fluctuations in water levels, there are very strong currents which stir up the sand from the bottom. The freshwater from the river also has silt, which combine to make it look brown. The guide reassured us however, that the river wasn’t ‘dirty’ at all and it was all natural, not from pollution.

 

On our return down river back to the pier, when the tide had dropped even further, there were some wrecks of boats remaining from the Second World War. They have chosen to leave them there as they help to stabilise the riverbanks.

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Partially submerged wreckage in the foreground

We really enjoyed our journey and decided to walk home a different way exploring anything that took our fancy. We walked through this interesting looking way and discovered a beautiful square, that had an ice-cream shop. I think Phil can sniff them out personally. It had a fairly long line, which generally means that it’s great, so we lined up. Mum had a small caramel cup, I had a small chocolate cup and Phil had a cone with mint chocolate and vanilla. They were really nice. We wandered back to the hotel slowly savouring our ice-cream. The streets were packed, which was not surprising considering it was Bastille Day. Bastille Day is the French national day that commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and the unity of the French people.

We got back to our room and had time to relax before going out to dinner. Unfortunately for us we had problems with our air conditioning. We thought it was just because the sun was beaming down on our window and it would get better when the sun went down.

 

We went out for dinner at a restaurant that Megan had chosen. The chef for this restaurant had worked at a prestigious restaurant and was venturing out independently. The food was lovely and our waiter was able to explain the food to us in English, which was very helpful, and Megan and Paul helped with any other explanations required.

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Mum in movie role mode – the sun was shining right in her eyes so she borrowed Phil’s hat and my sunglasses – movie star mode!

The food was delicious and the service fantastic. I wanted to go and take photos back near the reflection fountain and because it was still my birthday, Phil agreed. We got an Uber back to the hotel from the restaurant (as it was about a 2.5 kilometre walk (which we had done when we went there)). Mum came back with us and went to bed, whilst we got the tripod, changed out of our fancy clothes and our fancy shoes, and headed back out again.

There were heaps of people still walking around. We found a more direct route down to the river and were surprised at all of the people there just before midnight. We took some photos of the reflection fountain and then the river. By this time it was after 12:30 am and there was still a celebratory feeling down there. There were lots of kids playing in the water, having a great time as it was still quite warm. Some kids ended up playing soccer in the water, although I think they all fell over in the water at different points. The water was only about 2cm deep. There were another group of kids who had plastic cups and scooping up the water to then splash each other. Everyone was having a great time.

We walked back to the hotel and got in around 1am. We thought that the room would be cooler – we were wrong! We worked out how to open the window and used the fan to try to cool the room down. It wasn’t a very comfortable sleep.

Coutras, France

Saturday 7th July – Friday 13th July

We left Copenhagen exceptionally early – 3:30 am as our first flight to Paris was at 6:05am. Phil enjoyed his final Danish pastries at the airport and tried several of them. “All three of them were delicious!” he declared. Once we arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport, Paris, we needed to change flights to catch a plane to Bordeaux. This all happened without a hitch and we arrived in Bordeaux just after 11:00 am. We got our bags and then went out into the terminal.

We found a café and had something to eat. We waited here for a while and then moved to another spot. We were waiting for Megan, Paul, Mum and Paul’s parents to arrive from Dublin.

They arrived in on their scheduled flight at 4:00pm. Phil and I had already organised our car hire, although hadn’t collected it as we were waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. We went and collected the car and we ended up getting a Peugeot with only 9000 km on the clock! It’s a nice car, but it just ramped up both Phil and my nerves.

Larry, Paul’s father volunteered to come in the car with us and help us to navigate the unfamiliar roads on the wrong side of the road. We were very grateful for his assistance. Phil’s confidence increased as we were driving and he even managed to overtake some cars. We took a wrong turn coming out of the airport, but google redirected and we got to our accommodation okay. We were about 10 minutes behind Megan and Paul.

The house is beautiful! It has a footpath to the front door surrounded on both sides by lavender in full bloom (with the bees buzzing around too so we didn’t walk up the footpath). The house is white with green ivy growing over it. It truly looks amazing. The inside didn’t disappoint either with a formal dining room, informal meals area, kitchen, laundry (thank goodness – need to do a couple of loads of washing), lounge room and a full length terrace out the back. Upstairs was all the bedrooms. Each room that we are using has an ensuite bathroom. It is amazing. The owners have done up both this section of the house – the big house and their section – the small house. It had been an abandoned barn with the terrace originally being the cow shed.

Outside the back yard has extensive gardens leading down to the River Isle, which eventually joins up with the Dordogne River. It also has an inground pool, which looks appealing today as it’s close to 30 degrees Celsius today.

Megan and Paul headed to the supermarket so they could get some food and wine to enjoy for dinner. We had a beautiful meal cooked with fresh French produce. (We all chipped in money for the ‘kitty’ to buy the food we will need for the week).

On Sunday we had a quiet day doing some washing and relaxing. The wifi speed isn’t great so it takes a long time to upload photos onto the blog, but we persevered and slowly got there. I enjoyed relaxing and just reading a book. This break was exactly what we needed. I volunteered to go with Megan and Paul to the supermarket. It was crazy! It was a mix between Kmart and Woolworths. You could get everything all in one place. Crazy indeed. I was okay with getting some things, but obviously everything was written in French so it was a bit tricky to get milk as I couldn’t tell which one was full cream, half cream or any other combination.

Monday was also a quiet day with both Phil and I staying at the house and just relaxing. On Tuesday morning Phil and I walked into Coutras to collect the morning croissants and freshly baked bread for breakfast. It was a lovely walk, although we couldn’t explore Coutras as we had planned to go out to a Roman ruins and then on to Saint Emilion today.

The Roman ruins were at Montcaret which is about a 30 minute drive from where we are staying. Mum loves this kind of thing, so we explored this area for about an hour. Then we headed to Saint Emilion. This was another 30 minute drive from where we were. This town is so pretty. It is almost exclusively dedicated to red wine, but there were pretty restaurants and the view was amazing. Megan and Paul got caught up tasting red wine, so we joined them.

We then headed to a restaurant that Paul had booked for lunch. The lunch was amazing. Mum and I shared a bean salad (luckily – it was huge). Phil had oysters. For a main meal Mum and I shared a huge lamb shoulder (it was for 2 people), Phil shared a huge piece of beef (again for 2 people), whilst everyone else ordered a main meal of duck each. For dessert, Mum and I had raspberries with cream. Phil had a larger serve of raspberries. . It was a lovely meal with some lovely sparkling wine and great company.

Phil and I decided to stay on in St Emilion and explore a little more. We ended up joining an English tour of some of the historic monuments of the town. We had some time to wait so we went down to where the tour would start and had a drink. Phil had a beer and I managed to find some actual Diet Coke (Coke Light here in Europe). It was perfect!

The tour was okay (it wasn’t super expensive). We saw the cave where St Emilion lived for a time. It was quite interesting as the tour guide was explaining that there was a certain chair within the cave that they called the fertility chair. There had been many reports of couples who were trying to have a baby without success, had sat in that chair and then were able to fall pregnant. Another miracle that had happened, there is a natural well in the cave. A blind lady came to St Emilion. He used the sign of the cross on her forehead and she was able to see. After seeing St Emilion’s Hermitage, we then went into an old church. The paintings on the wall indicate that this was used as a church around 1000 years ago.

 

After here we went into the catacombs, where the important people of the time were placed upon their death. It was very interesting. This then led into the underground church. The bell tower sits on top of the church and it weighs 4500 tonnes. There have been some concerns about structural damage and it has been shored up by steel, however the local historians are keen to try to find a permanent solution, however that will take quite some money to achieve. The altars are just so pretty and it is very cool after the 30+ degrees Celsius heat of outside.

Our tour ended and we headed back to the car and back to our accommodation. Megan, Paul, Larry and Noelle opted to go into Coutras to find a bar to watch the World Cup semi final between Belgium and France, whist Mum, Phil and I chose to stay home and watch it. France won the game and we went to bed.

On Wednesday Mum came with us to get the croissants and bread for breakfast. They were setting up a market in the town centre, which we found. We headed back for breakfast, then Phil and I decided to walk back into town to check out the market. Mum decided to come back with Megan and Paul as they were driving. We took some photos of the town and Phil enjoyed a capucchino which was a great one according to Phil. We caught up with the everybody else and decided what to have for dinner. It was almost 12 by the time we had finished the shopping so we decided to have a beer. (Some people were having a beer at 10am when we had our capucchino and Coke Light). It was very pleasant sitting by the square and enjoying another Coke Light with family. They all enjoyed their beers.

Phil and I decided to wander around the town a little longer, so the rest of the crew went home and we headed down to the river. We got a little something for morning tea and ate it down by the river. The view was amazing. We took some more photos and headed down the Charles de Gaulle Promenade. We noticed a lady fishing up river, near the town. We couldn’t believe all of the fish that we could see downstream in the river. I went back and was able to communicate with her that I could see fish in the river just a little further down. Whilst she didn’t understand English, I was able to express my message. There were heaps of fish that we could see in this area.

We walked further along the river and then decided we needed to head back home. We enjoyed relaxing in the afternoon as we had walked over 13 kilometres today. We all stayed home to watch the second semi final of England vs Croatia. It was intense. England scored during the first 5 minutes and then Croatia scored mid way through the second half. One all. Both of these teams had won penalty shoot outs to get through to the final. With 10 minutes to go in extra time Croatia scored. It was an intense final 10 minutes with England going all out to try to score again, but it wasn’t to be. Croatia and France will battle it out for the World Cup final on Sunday.

 

On Thursday we got more of the blog done and relaxed reading books. Friday is shaping up to be more of the same. Some of our group are returning to Ireland this afternoon. Mum, Phil and I are heading to Bordeaux tomorrow to celebrate Bastille Day and my birthday along with my sister and her husband.

This week has been very relaxing and a chance to unwind in the middle of our holiday. It has certainly been a nice break and we have enjoyed eating the beautiful food of France cooked and prepared so well by my sister and her husband.

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