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August 10th – very hot now here in the Médoc. 35º today and barely any wind. Even hotter away from the coast. All woodlands etc now completely off limits with police patrols on the busiest cycle paths. Local media reporting fires in several parts of the region, but thankfully no more near here. Yet.

Albufeira beach webcam here. Albufeira local ten day weather forecast here.

Fête de la mer, Soulac-sur-mer Sunday 7th August

Sunday saw the traditional celebration of the sea at Soulac. A church service was followed by a parade of the great and good the short distance along the Rue de la Plage to the seafront. There, the Archibishop of Bordeaux made a speech, a band played (including a strange jazz version of the Bee Gees hit Stayin’ Alive) and offshore there was a small gathering of boats. Soulac does not have a harbour or marina, the nearest being at Royan or le Verdon, both several miles / km away. Skydivers then demonstrated their skills, some with tandem jumps, landing on the beach not too far away from the holidaymakers. Only one was slightly off target, but no danger.

The band played on. Later in the day was more music, a fireworks display (off the beach , so no worries about fire danger) and then from 2300 until 0100 a very loud outdoor disco for the teenagers. Urgh, this modern music, it’s all noise, I don’t know what they see in it. But, presumably to drive them away, the last three tracks were Queen, the Spice Girls and Frank Sinatra!

Elsewhere in town, this horrible ruin still stands. An apaartment block one home to 200 people, it has been empty for many years and is a real eyesore. It was evacuated when it decided that coastal erosion was becoming too much of the threat. It is now barely 20 metres from the sea at high tide. I asked why it hasn’t been demolished. A local said that they were waiting for the sea to do it so that it would not cost any money! Apparently there some sort of judicial process regarding compensation still dragging through the courts. Apologies for the sun streak, I did not notice it at the time.

Soulac-sur-mer 30th and 31st July 2022

Low tide on Saturday morning. The view along the beach from the south of the town. In the second picture, the fortifications just visible in the distance were not under water when they were built 80 years ago. Close up in the third picture. That demonstrates how far the beach has receded since. I was standing on top of another ‘blockhaus’ now converted into a viewing platform. Some of the others now sport modern artwork!

Saturday night outside the church and the ‘Marché Nocturne’ an outdoor mix of stalls selling arts and crafts plus several ‘street food’ kitchens. Included was ‘poisson et frites’ which I passed in favour of a Tajine Poulet.

Soulac face due west, so sunsets are often spectacular and watched by many. A decent camera would get better pictures, but these will have to do!

Soulac-sur-mer July 29th 2022

Friday morning began rather cool and cloudy. There were few takers for the beach! It was better later in the day, but still only around 24ºC.

Soulac-sur-mer seafront

The tide was out, leaving vast stretches of beach uncovered.

To the north of town, the old sea defences are gradually being overtaken. At low tide, lagoons are formed behind the walls. They make ideal giant paddling pools for young and old. (More pictures of these to follow.)

The rusting remains of rails laid when they were built, 90 years ago, are still visible as they crumble away.

In places, the old structures simply disappear under the dunes. But erosion has exposed more and more of them.

Note the dual gauge tracks, metre and standard 1.435m (4′ 8 1/2″)

No repairs are being made. Eventually this part of the coast will succumb to the advancing sea.

One of the bigger ponds. Town seafront in the background.

This little chap and his friend were up on one of the old walls, looking for something to eat. There are a lot of crabs among the rocks. This one was fairly quiet, his (or her) friend was a lot more skittish. A reverse image search tells me that this is a species known as ‘ruddy turnstone’, ruddy from its orange legs and turnstone from its habit of flipping small stones with its beak to see what’s underneath. It is related to other sandpiper species.

Ruddy Turnstone at Soulac-sur-mer, France

The Médoc, first week

The weather has been OK, just one hour or so of rain and since the weekend the daytime temperature has peaked at only around 25º. But the lack of rain over the past few months (July will be the driest in the region since 1958) means that the area is under the highest level of fire risk. There have been no fires at the tip of the Médoc region. Most woodland, bike trails, picnic areas and the like are either closed or have limited access. The the south of Bordeaux some very big fires have caused a lot of damage to forested areas, campsites and destroyed a few homes.

Just a few random pictures from my wanderings.

Field of sunflowers ripening near Soulac-sur-mer
The distinctive church tower of St Vivien-en-Médoc
The beach at Pointe de Grave, looking nicer than if often does!
The estuary of the Gironde and dock cranes of Le Verdon, almost never used now.
The two ferries cross in mid channel. The town of Royan in the background.
Royan with its modern church. The little white puffs in the sea are racing jet skis.
Not the best quality, looking towards open sea and huge sandbank that appears at low tide
Much of the work to repair and improve the seafront at Soulac is complete.
The town’s miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty now sits in its own open space.
A rare sight! A train at the Pointe de Grave station

The station at Pointe de Grave is open only two months of the year, July and August. Five trains a day run down the line to Le Verdon, Soulac, Lesparre, Pauillac and ultimately Bordeaux. The ferry from Royan docks 100 metres away, but hardly anyone uses the trains.

The train leaves, with its two passengers on board.

The overhead electric wires are no longer live. A fault was discovered some years ago. No repairs are being considered, therefore trains have to run in diesel mode the whole 115km or so of the line from Bordeaux. Not very eco-friendly.

Bordeaux July 2022

Spent a few days in Bordeaux. As many will know, a city and area I really like to visit. There is no particular theme to the words and pictures below, just things that caught my eye.

One of the things I like is that on many street corners it’s possible to see 250 years of history in street names. On top is the pre-revolution name carved into the stone, below the name given after 1789 and bottom the modern name. How the revolutinaries decided upon Guillaume (William) Tell I do not know, but I suppose he was a rebel in his own way!

All that remains of the Roman Ampitheatre. I have been before, but my walking seemed to lead me there. It was largely demolished in the late 18th Century to make way for housing, which still stands. If you are in Bordeaux, look for the Gallieni Palace. (A misnomer from later history!) There is no direct access to the ruins, they are fenced off.

The Parc Riviére contains the slightly creepy remains of a baronial mansion.

Parts of the city were not exactly busy on a hot afternoo. This is rue Camile-Godard.

rue Camile-Godard Bordeaux

The Gironde in full brown flood with the church of St Michel in the background.

Where once there were busy docks and industry along the river bank, there are now ‘ecological gardens’ well looked after.

To the east of the main railway station, much building continues on one time industrial and and railway land.

Out in the suburbs, the rather neglected station at Villenave sees little activity. Trains pass through, mostly without stopping.

Intercités train passing Villenave station heading towards Marseille.

Followed closely by a regional train.

In another suburb, the rather busier station of Pessac – Alouette. The overhead line supports are the classic Chemin de Fer du Midi design from the 1930’s.

A neat piece of engineering takes the power cables over the bridge as a kind of bypass.

One day, January 2023 perhaps, this will be the new tramline to the airport, branching off the existing route at Quatre Chemins stop in Mérignac. The new section does still lack one vital item of equipment!

Bordeaux Ligne A tram at Quatre Chemins

A Ouigo low cost long distance train in its bright blue colour scheme at Bordeaux St Jean.

The fully restored roof of Bordeaux St Jean station.

A Balthazar of vin rouge please mate.

Being a non wine person (really!) I had never heard of a Balthazar of wine until I was in a museum this morning. Apparently, it’s equivalent to 16 standard bottles or 9 litres. Next to it is the Salmanazar, 12 bottles. Sorry for the picture quality, but behind glass in a dark room and no flash allowed. How would you lift such a bottle? More importantly, how to avoid dropping it? Has anyone ever seen one, full?

Lille, France, 19 July 2022

I spent two nights and a day in Lille, France. I had not been there for many years and thought to stop off on the way to Bordeaux. What I could not anticipate was the disruption to life caused by the highest temperatures ever recorded! My journey by train from London was delayed by an hour and 24 minutes, that time spent among a seething mass at London’s St Pancras station where many trainloads were waiting patiently. Then on Tuesday in Lille the temperature quickly rose and it was still 38ºC at 7pm. Hardly conducive to a city visit, but I did manage a bit before beer called!

What a change though! 12 hours later it was 21º and raining hard!

Some pictures. Inside the city’s Flandres station there hang two sculptures by Portuguse artist Joana Vasconcelos. To me, they look like spiders. Her website says it is is made of “Handmade woollen crochet, fabrics, ornaments, LED, polyester, inflatable, fans, microcontrollers, power supply unit, steel cables.”

I will let you be the judge.

The belfry tower, unfortunately closed to other than pre booked visitors that morning. It is modern, built in 1932 in the style of much older structures seen in other towns in the region. They were built as lookout or watchtowers. This one is made of brick and reinforced concrete and stands 104 metres (342 feet) high.

The Porte de Paris (Paris gate) commemorates the taking of the city by Louis XIV from the Spanish in 1667. Ornately decorated and with a drawbridge to keep put undesirables, it was left isolated when the city walls were dismantled in the 19th century.

Like many French cities, there are wide tree lined boulevards around the centre. Lille’s are in a five star pattern and totalling 14.5km (about nine miles) in length. Laid out, it is said, to make it easy for the army to march and also to defend, being a wide space across which in older times would be a killing zone. Nowadays you just send missiles!

Lille has many canals, some still used for commercial purposes. Not this one. Right at the end, past the bridge are boats for hire at a disused lock.

A nice idea, but not that day with the temperature up around 38ºC!

A feature of Lille is the Citadelle, a classic example of Vauban military architecture. Much of if is rather overgrown, some suggest deliberately so that attackers would be confused as to the location of the defenders. All well laid out, with interlocking fields of fire from high walls, gun emplacements, moats and drawbridges. All very good until mechanised warfare arrived in the early 20th century, then attackers simply drove past. The outside can be visited and walked around but not the central area. it remains an active military facility, home to a NATO (French) battalion strength quick reaction unit.

Moat at the Citadelle, Lille
One of the ‘back gates’

Not what I expected to see at a world class listed monument. There were two of them, happily munching away.

Cow at the Citadelle, Lille

By lunchtime it was getting rather warm, to time to dive into the metro and head for cooler places. Lille has a two line metro system, completely automatic, no drivers. Trains have rubber tyres, so are quiet and smooth riding. The stations are modern. The system was opened in stages from 1983 to 2000. It is 43.6km (about 25 miles) long and has 62 stations. It is almost entirely underground except for a section of line 2, which runs through the rooftops just south of the city centre.

Stations have platform doors that open when train doors open.

Canterbury 14/15 July

Well the cricket is over. My team, Kent, lost the important game and now face a fight to avoid relegation. Must win one of the next two or three matches. Made up for that disappointment by drinking far too much ale. We had found 13 pubs in Canterbury to which we had not been, or not recently. Managed to cover eight of them. Now in Eastbourne for the weekend before heading for France on Monday.

The cricket ground at Canterbury has evolved over 170 years. It is far from flat, as this picture I hope shows. The various different buildings are also a legacy of so many years.

St Lawrence ground, Canterbury

This morning at breakfast we were joined by several birds. Then wasps! Staying at Keynes College, University of Kent.