|To take a break from cobbled streets etc we headed to the coast. Arcachon is situated on large bay or "bassin", which makes it a perfect place for safe bathing. It came into existence in the 19th century purely as a bathing resort for the leisured class of Bordeaux, grew with the establishment of rail connections, but still retains a "genteel" air. At the end of the summer with a chilly breeze it had a slightly melancholy air.
However we made the most of it and enjoyed a 17euro "menu" at Le Thiers, one of the beachfront restaurants - 3 courses including local oysters, salmon and dessert, plus a 1/2 bottle of Mouton Cadet blanc for 15E. Life is tough! As the afternoon warmed up we decided to try the real beach - the Atlantic coast is basically continuous sand dunes from here south for several hundred K's. Nearby is the "Dune of Pyla" 3km long, over 100m high. We resisted the temptation to climb it, instead finding an isolated stretch of sand, the "Plage de la Lagune" This is the "wild coast" - no lifesaving, no bar, no beach shacks, no sunbeds. In other words what most Australians mean by a beach, with the attendant potential dangers.
Bordeaux We had a mixed experience of this city. We headed in one afternoon foolishly without much of a plan amd headed toward the most prominent feature - a church spire that is visible from everywhere in the city. This turned out to be the Basilica of St Michael which was in the midst of major renovation so surrounded by scaffolding and blocked access. It is also the heart of the North African quarter and we felt rather conspicuous as the only tourists around. We headed towards the more central area, but decided this is perhaps not the best city to explore on foot. The "sights" are quite a distance apart and for once the ubiquitous circulating tourist red buses looked like a good option. We came back on Friday night to go to the Opera and had a rather better experience. The banks of the Garonne river have been landscaped
and the "Miroir d'Eau" is a great attraction.
The water is just a few cms deep but its various computer effects control misting ,ripples etc. It is meant to reflect the main Place de la Bourse, but almost everyone feels compleed to take of their shoes and take photos of each other paddling. We walked along the banks and into the Square dominated by a huge fountain.
I've since checked out a bit of the history of the Girondins who I vaguely know were figures in the French Revolution, but not much more. They are evidently local heroes as their name is given to the Bordeaux 1st division football team. We walked into the main shopping street, Rue St Catherine, and up to the St Andre Cathedral (closed of course), then had beer and meal in a side street before going to see "Madame Butterfly" at the opera. When I booked on the internet I had the choice of either seats right at the side of the stage or in the "Paradis" (the "gods). I took the latter as I thought we would have a more front on view, which we did, but I did not allow for the fact that 19th century theatres are not airconditioned and hot air rises - we sweltered through the 1st act and stumbled outside for fresh air. A shame as we did not get to enjoy the atmosphere in the foyer which is often the most interesting part of the theatre. The production was a touring version so a simple set. Soprano was a cut above the other performers. As you may know French opera always includes some ballet - in this case dancers in white with powder-white skin who accompanied the Bonz and represented some sort of malevolent ghosts or spirits. We had to come back to Bordeaux to drop off our car and catch the plane to Paris at the end of the holiday so we thought we would explore more of the city then, but things did not turn out that way so Bordeaux is a bit of a question mark. Its famous world heritage architecture is impressive but leaves me a bit cold. I still get more excited by semi ruined medieval castles.