Saturday, July 5, 2008

July 5, 2008 – A Day in Bordeaux: Wine and French Lessons!

My day in Bordeaux began early as I couldn’t sleep due to jet-lag. At midnight, I received a call from Shane – one of the bikers on the group wondering if I had a bike tool to help him put his bike together. I told him I had a multi-tool, and he asked if he could call me in the morning to retrieve it from me.

I stayed up until 2 a.m., and finally took a sleeping pill to help me sleep. I wasn’t ready for Shane’s call at 8 a.m. I ignored the ringing the first time. Shane was persistent, and called me again at 9 a.m. I told him I was still sleeping. Why is the phone so loud when I you are trying to sleep? I finally arose at 10:30, still groggy, but not wanting to miss my day in Bordeaux.

I met Shane, and brought down my bike case where my tool was stored. Shane put together his bike and then helped me with mine. Becky, Jonathon and Ian were also downstairs in a conference room off the lobby.

Shane (a New Zealander living in Australia) asked if anyone wanted to ride – and I said, let’s go! We were on the road by noon with a vague goal to find some wineries. We rode down to the City Center to find some maps and directions. The wineries were an hour by train, the woman at the information desk told us. So we opted to ride west toward the Atlantic.

Bordeaux is rider friendly. There are well-marked bike lanes, and the drivers are courteous to cyclists. Two motorists even shouted “Tour de France!” as we rode by, though we were certainly not riding anywhere near the speed of pro riders! (Today was the start of the Tour.)

Our first 10 miles consisted of stops and starts as we encountered many traffic lights through the city. I also stopped along the way looking for a razor to buy before I started really looking like a French woman. The pharmacy I stopped at didn’t have one, and the woman there suggested I try the general store. At the store, I asked the clerk for a “shaver.” He didn’t understand what I meant, so I demonstrated shaving my face. He thought I wanted a brush, so then I demonstrated shaving my underarms. He consulted with the people in line, and asked over the intercom for someone to help me. Since my French is somewhat limited, I don't know if he said that there is a woman up front with hairy armpits who needs help. A woman clerk arrived and led me to the back of the store to some disposable Bic razors. Perfectment! Once again, I was surprised with how helpful people were as I tried to explain what I wanted. The French are very, very nice people.

After riding for a while, Shane and I left the urban area and come upon a rural road. It looked like the U.S., I was surprised to see, with rows of corn, pine trees and grass.

Shane suggested we stop for lunch on our way back. I was starting to get hungry as my breakfast consisted of a protein bar carted from home. We stopped at a Portuguese restaurant, and I asked for a menu in my poor French. There was no menu, but the special was steak and fries. That sounded too heavy, so we went next store to a grocery store, and bought peaches and bananas.

After our pit stop, we rode fairly fast back to Bordeaux with a slight down hill and tail wind. When we returned to the City Center, we decided to stop for a drink. There seemed to be a lot of commotion going on, with police cars and crowds. Shane thought it was a protest of some sort. Then we saw it was a gay pride parade. We sat at the Irish pub, ordered a drink, and watched the floats and marchers parade by. All the participants were cheerful and boisterous. Many were dressed flamboyantly and there was music blaring and people blowing whistles. (The two men in drag in the photo to the right were surprisingly beautiful!)

We finished our drinks, and we rode the three or so miles back to our hotel. I showered and then met Becky, Jonathon and Shane for dinner across the street. The food was good, the wine was cheap and we sat enjoying a three hour leisurely dinner. Some more of the tour group came to the restaurant, and I met some new faces. Afterwards we walked to a bar across from our hotel. I ordered another vin rouge and talked to Frank, our mechanic, for a while. By 11, I was feeling tired, and went inside the bar to pay for my wine.

I attempted to ask the bartender how much I owed, and he became annoyed with my bad French. I asked him to teach me how to say some words properly, and he shook his head at my poor pronunciation. I returned to the table and got my purse so I could take a picture of him. Patrick (in the photo on top) was happy to pose for my shot. He started talking some more, and tried to teach me more words. He asked if I wanted to join him in a drink – another vin rouge for me and a shot of rum for him. Our conversation meandered from the war, the economy and the Latin roots of the French language. How good it is to not speak the language to learn how to become a careful listener!

After an hour with my new friend, Patrick, I told him I had to turn in. The next day will have a 60 mile bike ride in store, and I want to be somewhat rested. I thought about my biking group outside, swapping stories of home and each other’s countries. Yet, they were missing out on discovering the culture right before them if they would only extend themselves, however awkwardly, to a French person right before them.

Though, I am enjoying a bit of companionship with the tour, I am starting to wonder if being with a group will limit my immersing myself into a French experience.

I came back to my room, and washed out my cycling clothes that I wore. With all of the luggage I brought, it is amazing for me to think that I have to keep doing my laundry or I will run out of things to wear on this trip.

Lessons for today – extend myself, listen more and immerse myself in each day’s experience. And next time, pack even lighter and wash more often!
My jet lag seems to be improving - it's only 1:15, and I'm ready to sleep!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your successful arrival! Keep the updates coming!