The three-hour drive south from Coulon was pleasant and uneventful, though with temperatures continuing to rise (36 degrees) we might have enjoyed it a little more if the van had been fitted with air conditioning. French roads are excellent and by sticking to the ‘D’ and ‘A’ roads we avoid motorway tolls and drive at a speed that’s comfortable for the van. I have to say also that the standard of French driving generally puts us Brits to shame – no hogging the outside lane or attempting to drive up the exhaust of the car in front.
Bordeaux has been on our travel wish-list for some time. We’ve skirted around the place several times on our way down to Biarritz and the south but never managed to summon up much enthusiasm for driving into a large, unknown city centre. This time we were fortunate to locate the Beau Soleil campsite near Gradignan on the city’s outskirts, which sits at the end of a 45-minute bus and tram journey that takes you directly into the city centre.
The following day (Friday) we hopped on the bus, changed to a tram at Peixotto, and eventually found ourselves in the heart of the city. Bordeaux is an attractive city that has somehow managed to avoid the twin scourges of the twentieth century (war and town planners) and as a result still has much of its 18th and 19th century charm – I was particularly taken by the wide boulevards which would have allowed a clear field of fire for the canons when the peasants started revolting (not an uncommon event at the time).
Despite the heat we managed to take in a number of visitor attractions and had an enjoyable wander around the narrow streets of the old city. Along the way we noticed a number of Camino scallop markers set into the roads and pavements – we hadn’t previously realised that one of the pilgrim routes passed through the city. Come lunchtime we walked across the Pont Pierre and managed to find the Jardin Botanique, which was pleasant but in need of a bit of upkeep and therefore perhaps a wasted opportunity for the people of Bordeaux. It did, however, provide a nice venue for lunch, which we enjoyed in the Jardin Café before taking the bus directly back to Beau Soleil. Overall, an enjoyable visit and another tick on the visit wish-list.