Number of times we heard James Blunt's 1973 yesterday = 1 (a record)
15.09.2007 24 °C
Apologies for the tardiness updating the blog. Unfortunately it hasn't been easy finding internet cafes in France, and even when we do find them it's late and we don't have any time to do an update. So, lets wind the clock back a week... let's go to... Bordeaux.
Unfortunately we had our first series of misfortunes in Bordeaux. These were (in order of significance):
1. We arrived on Sunday and every single shop was shut (people at home (Perth, Western Australia) complain about the limited shopping hours on Sunday - get over it! Try every single shop shut every Sunday);
2. I dropped and smashed my beloved camera (damn!);
3. Ireland was playing Namibia in Bordeaux and the city was filled with Irishmen (yes, there were a few women amongst them, but not many) and we were forced to go out on the town to drink and celebrate Ireland's victory (although the Irish were a little unhappy that they didn't do better);
4. We both woke up with raging hangovers, and;
5. Many shops don't open on Monday mornings in Bordeaux either - specifically all the shops Shelly really wanted to visit.
Things were so bad on Monday morning we broke the cardinal travellers rule - we went to McDonalds for food (it's acceptable to go to McDonalds to use the toilet when you travel but one should never, ever eat their "food" - unless drunk). Needless to say it didn't really help. Sometime after 12, dosed up on expresso and Dark Dog energy drinks we hit the road. An hour later we'd made it onto the motorway. Clearly our navigational skills have not improved.
I don't remember much of that drive. I'm pretty sure that James Blunt's "1973" was played on the radio something near 700 times. It has become our theme song for the trip. It seems that every radio station in France is required to play it at least once an hour by law. "And we sang, here we go again." You said it James.
We took a detour off the motorway to visit the little town of St Emillion, deep in the heart of Bordeaux's wine country. Of all the many wine regions we'd visited, the region of St Emillion was the neatest. All the vineyards were as neat as pins and the vines themselves were as ordered as a formal garden. The grapes - I don't know what variety they were - were rich and black. St Emillion, which was renowned as a beautiful heritage village, did not disappoint. It was set on a hill amongst the vineyards and although only small and beset by tourists, it was a lovely little town. We scammed a parking spot and then wandered around. We ate a late lunch in the town square before descending into the catacombs under the town on a walking tour. St Emillion was originally a monastery town and the monks who settled here in the 10th century carved the first churches out of the soft limestone. In the cliffside facade of one of the two town squares a small church is etched. It looks rather small and poorly constructed from the outside, but inside it's the size of a small cathedral. The effort required to carve it our of the mountainside must have been astronomical (and odd, considering it would have been much easier to just build in stone). In passages around the church were catacombs, some still containing the mouldering bones of their occupants. This was a bit of surprise to see and a little disconcerting.
St Emillion is famous for its red wine and having admired the beautiful vineyards of the region we could be excused for wanting to enjoy a taste or two, but the hangovers we both had were still raging and the mere sight of an open bottle of wine was too much so we left without so much as a sip.
We arrived in Toulouse about 5ish. Hooray! And early arrival in a new city is a joy - it's great to be able to wander around in the evening light, enjoy the ambiance before settling down to a nice meal (no alcohol tonight though). Toulouse looked lovely - all red and pink brick, shady tree lined streets and canals, and a young, studenty crowd gave the city a real bohemian feel. It was not to be however. Although we had far less problems with navigation this time, we could not find a single hotel with a vacancy. After Bordeaux - which was after all hosting a World Cup Rugby match the very day we arrived - we assumed accommodation in Toulouse would be a breeze, after all Toulouse was hosting..... nothing. It took over two hours of tense, frustrating driving to find a room. Fortunately, French drivers are surprisingly tolerant. True, the road rules seem to be a little flexible at times (if you can overtake on the inside lane - well, why not?) and I have been tooted a number of time for driving a little too slowly or refusing to run over pedestrians French drivers seem to tolerate quite bizarre and arbitrary driving behaviour. For example, if you can't find a parking spot and you see an old friend by the side of the road you want to have a chat to, or need to pop into a cafe for a quick expresso, or decide to pick up a street walker, there seems nothing wrong with just stopping in the middle of the road, putting on your hazard lights and getting out of your car for 10 minutes. Sure, the other drivers are annoyed, but they all sit patiently and wait. This proved a lifesaver for us as I had to block up quite a few lanes of traffic while Shelly ran from hotel to hotel looking for a room.
The drivers in Toulouse were a little less patient than in other cities I will admit, but that is probably because they have to deal with pedestrians in Toulouse. It appears actually looking before you step into a line of traffic in Toulouse is just not on. In fact I almost ran down the same girl twice and I hit a bicyclist - who apologised to me!
Looks like I'm out of time. Don't worry tomorrow is Sunday and every single shop will be shut in the next town we get to - except the internet cafe. So till then......