Bikes in Bordeaux

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We awoke to clear skies and eager to explore the city. Our tour bikes http://www.o2cycles.com were to be delivered between 900 and 1000am and we scurried around to be ready. We were on the second floor and could peer down onto our street to spot the delivery truck. Tick- tock. We were ready at 830 . Tick tock . We called at 1015 but got an answering machine and at 1030, he showed up. Yay! It was like Christmas for grown ups. New bikes, helmets, saddle bags, bike locks, tubes, tools and water bottles. The Cube brand bikes were solid, with clean shifting and disc brakes. They were an upgrade from the rust bucket rentals in San Sebastián and the ” Stupid Crate Bikes” in Burgos. We couldn’t wait to take them for a spin and I headed for St. Jean bridge the start of our bike path. I wanted to pre run it so there would be no floundering around the next morning. Over the bridge I went and the crowded streets of where we were staying gave way to clear trails with minimal traffic. Nice.

I returned and we hit the city riding up, (or is that down?) the Garonne canal. Well it was towards the Atlantic and soon enough the river got wider and there were some cruise ships docked along the shore. We spotted what appeared to be a huge Arc of some sort spanning the river , and there are two big Arcs in Paris so we didn’t pay it much attention. We found a riverside cafe to have some coffee and enjoy the view. All the people watching and dodging was fatiguing. It was then that we heard a loud announcement being repeated in several languages and finally in English. The bridge was lowering. Unlike a typical draw bridge, the “Arc” was a bridge in which the center span was lowering from four huge pillars to complete its bridge function. It took about 10 minutes to lower the massive span and photos do not do justice to the enormity of the structure.

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We rode back taking a side trip into the Sunday fresh market and it smelled so good. It was too crowed to ride through so we walked the bikes for a bit before heading back onto the bike path.

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Our next stop was at the Esplanade des Quinconces. This square is not only the largest city square in Bordeaux but also in France itself. In the center of the square is a tall column topped by a winged lady statue made of bronze. The statue symbolizes liberty and victory.

At the base of the column is a fountain with bronze sculptures of horses drawn by chariots. One side of the fountain symbolizes “the triumph of the Republic” and the other side represents “the triumph of Agreements”.

During the Second World War German soldiers dismantled the statues in search of metal. The statues were later recovered in 1944 and returned to Bordeaux to be reinstalled.

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At lunch time we grabbed a table near a plaza only to find out that were not offering sandwiches or meals. Instead they offered a cheese and salami plate with Pate de Foie de Porc which was excellent. A street performer set up a slack rope similar to a tight rope and entertained us while we ate. He worked the crowd for tips and he was packed up to move to the next plaza all within 30 minutes. I appreciated his business acumen: make them laugh, give them your greatest hits, leave them wanting for more and move on.

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Once a year all the French monuments in Bordeaux are open for free, even the ones normally off limits, for a two day period. And we got lucky. We had noticed a line at the Porte Cailhau and decided to give it a spin. It looks like Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland and it was the gate tower of the city’s former walls. You will see many of these Ponts in towns and cities often with a road going through them. The old walls protecting the town from invaders have come down to let the traffic in, but many of these Ponts are left intact. We waited in line and it did not move. After 15 minutes, they let in 6 maybe 8 people. We would have had an hour wait so we headed back to the apartment for a siesta but a heard a rock band warming up close by. I drifted off to sleep as they played a song to sound check and startled awake commenting ” the drummer is rushing!”. It’s a curse.

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The Musee national des Douanes was next door to our apartment so we walked over to watch the band and view the museum. The display signs were all in French but we ambled through it. It appeared to be a museum about early Bordeaux commerce trading and military artifacts. There was a stuffed lion in the corner and we were not sure where that fit in.

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We had not had any pizza on this trip and were craving some. The restaurant down the street was a pizzeria yet when we got there all 4 tables were taken. We moved on and ended up eating our best meal on the trip at an Indian place. I had chicken curry and Marla had chicken Marsala. It was delightful.

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