It is entirely possible that despite my considerable quotidian practicality, I may also nurture a certain Romanticism. Such that, when I head off with the Love of my Life on an adventure that combines 50 kilometres of pedalling in the hot sun with much consultation of a cycling guidebook whose directions seem questionable, I am determined to eat lunch in a charming little roadside bistro, delightful garden negotiable, possibility of goats nearby an extra I'm willing to relinquish.
Um, plastic tables and chairs on the hot asphalt of a strip mall? Not part of any Romantic image I call to mind...
But Love of my Life had been pedalling as well, and he was frustrated too that we'd ridden many wasted kilometres trying to find the promised piste cyclable (could have got to where we were going if we wanted to ride on the shoulder of a busy road? Didn't want to). it really wasn't his fault that we hadn't discovered the charming garden restaurant of my Romantic dreams...nor did a quick reconnoitering a kilometre or so beyond this oasis look promising. If we left it behind, we might pedal another 10 kilometres only to settle for a similar set-up at the next town.
So, we decided to be pleased that the serveuse had no problem with us leaning our bikes against a nearby wall (non, non, ça ne me dérange pas! Pas de tout!).
Vegetarians might want to quickly avert your eyes, but I was pleased with my Salade Landaise. Not the best I've had, but creditable, and lots of protein here for a hungry cyclist.
Pater had steak frites, and while the steak was as tough as it often is here, it was tasty, and the frites were the real thing. Potatoes that morning, I suspect. A true test, I think, is so often found in the bread basket that generally accompanies a French restaurant meal, and this owner had a direct line to a very good baker. That isn't always the case, but when it's good, oh, it's so good!
So I let go of a few Romantic notions, and we settled in to enjoy our overall very good fortune. Paul sawed away at his steak, and drained his pression; I put away my meaty salad and drank my rosé. We chatted a bit with the fellow at the next table, eager to practice/show off his English, and others, in turn, indulged our French. We shared a panna cotta (just practising for Italy, y'know?), then further dragged out our break with a couple of espressos.
We discussed with each other the lovely Frenchman, well-dressed even while out trimming his hedge of abelia, who offered us directions after we'd passed his place for the 3rd time, doing a 2-kilometre circuit each time. Absolutely charming, although it was as obvious to Paul as it was to me that his lifelong practice had been to make as much eye contact with women as possible. I'm not saying he was flirting shamelessly with this old lady the whole time he was giving her husband directions, but that might be Paul's story.
And maybe that's why Paul declined the very kind offer of a cold beer and preferred to chat on the sidewalk rather than go in for a drink. Still, we both found Handsome Monsieur Retraite (I.e. Retired, about our age) engaging and helpful. And it's so gratifying to have a reasonably complicated conversation with someone whom you only know in a Second Language. We talked about travel, and language, and globalization, and the wonderful chateaux of the Médoc. and Monsieur shook his head at the inadequacy of our guidebook, went into his house, and returned with two different Michelin maps of the area. Des cadeaux, he insisted.
So although we didn't get where we were going, the day was not at all wasted, and I practised my best grump-avoiding techniques quite successfully. And Pater took a photo to prove that at least we'd passed some vineyards...(and you can even spot his new bike basket)
Truly, it didn't get much more attractive than that, but we have some ideas to improve the route for next year. And on the way back in through the city, we stopped at the Lac du Bordeaux to admire the sailboats.
Next post, if I can muster up the energy before we have to leave Bordeaux, I'll tell you how handy the non-grumbling practice has been, given the ongoing horror of a train strike here. For now, I'll just say that after checking the SNCF website all week, plus monitoring the news and my Twitter feed (and there really is such a thing as too much information), it's now official: our train will not be going to Paris tomorrow. Least of our worries at the moment is getting the tickets refunded. Right now, Paul's arranging a car rental, and once again, we'll be studying maps.
Stay tuned! the adventure continues . . .