It’s just before 9 in the morning when the plane lands.
And the first thing we see in Bordeaux is a group of soldiers patrolling the airport.
They’re in formation, full camo and flack jackets, machine guns at the ready, walking through the airport Burger King, scanning with their eyes.
Maybe it’s a France thing.
After a wildly expensive taxi ride into town, we’re at the hotel, with only 5 hours to kill before check-in time.
Time for breakfast.
It’s warm and sunny, and we sit at a sidewalk café outside the Grand Theatre.
There’s a large plaza spread in front of us, with lots of people going by.
Contrary to popular French stereotypes, nobody’s wearing a beret, and nobody’s carrying a baguette or a wheel of cheese.
Nobody’s riding a bicycle with a wicker basket full of flowers on the front.
Damn globalization. Ruins everything.
And apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Later, on the main shopping street, some teenagers are protesting outside McDonald’s.
It’s just like 1999: they’re jumping around and chanting god knows what, in French.
Un, deux, something something. Trois, quatre, something something.
Then in English:
What do we want? Something something. When do we want it? NOW!
I hear this about a thousand times, while drinking an 8€ beer at another sidewalk café across the street… and I never manage to figure out what it is that they want NOW.
Of course, I’m no stranger to protests myself.
So I get it. If you’re a teenager, protesting McDonald’s is probably way more fun than you’d have sitting at home.
And what better place to do it than outside a bastion of Yankee burger imperialism?
The next day is Bastille Day.
I might never have realized it was Bastille Day except for an email from my dad entitled Quatorze Julliet.
Anyway, there’s not much going on.
But the buses have little French flags sticking out of the corners of their windshields like bunny ears.
And in the afternoon there’s a military parade.
There’s lots of standing and talking, followed by a little marching. Three or four fighter planes fly across the parade ground at one point, and several parachutists slowly float to the ground.
In the evening, fireworks, which end without the typical climax of a fireworks show.
It’s all pretty subdued.
I don’t know much about French history, but I’m sure the storming of the Bastille was quite a thing.
Guess the French have chilled out quite a bit in the meantime.
Steak and Oysters
One good thing you never get in Spain is bread and butter.
Of course, Spanish food is great, but their national aversion to butter is something I’ll never understand.
Here, we eat oysters with bread and butter as an appetizer.
The oysters are cloudy in their brine. Loosen them from the shells and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on top, and they slide down your throat.
Other than that, we have a lot of tartare. And steak. And more steak.
The grill we have lunch at on Bastille day is playing a remix of Party and Bullshit when we come in.
…my man Sage that I knew from the projects
Said he had beef, asked me if I had my piece.
Sure do, two .22s in my shoes!
Well, Sage, I’ve got beef too. A big plate of it, with some over-cooked french fries.
(Apparently, cooking fries till they’re dark brown is also popular here.)
Dating a Soccer Mom
About a dozen years ago, I spent a couple of romantic summer months with a girl from Paris.
Let’s call her Eva… mostly, because that was her name.
She was perky, blonde and 25 years old – studying Spanish in Madrid for a summer before going home to start a “real life”.
We got hot and sweaty on my tiny bed in Vallecas all through July and August…
But this was before Facebook, when someone could just move out of town, change their number, and disappear from your life forever.
And disappear she did, after her Spanish adventure was over.
I see a few girls that look like her – or at least my memory of her – around town…
Then I think: oh yeah, Eva must be almost 40 now.
And incidentally, so am I.
Not much else to say about that. I hope “real life” is going well for her. She’s probably someone’s mom by now.
Perhaps a typical soccer mom – mortgage, minivan, or it’s French equivalent… maybe a bicycle, with a wicker basket full of flowers on the front.
Since I’m not a respectable travel writer, I didn’t want to make this article “Top 10 things to do in Bordeaux”.
And anyway, what do I know?
Those people who spend a long weekend in a place and then pretend to be experts are pretty annoying – and mostly, they’re just copying someone else’s top 10 article anyway.
“Come to Barcelona, see a flamenco show!” said no knowledgeable traveller ever.
But those people who blog for Business Insider all seem to go to the same flamenco place when they’re here.
And then, in the words of one young traveller I met, “have some absinthe at the bar where Picasso cut off his ear.”
(Gotta love the unabashed ignorance of youth…)
That’s all I’ve got for today.