OH and I decided to have a wee break in Bordeaux just to get away from it all. Prior to leaving I did my research and, as we like a wee bit of culture now and again, I booked tickets to see Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine at The Grand Theatre for the Sunday morning (or so I thought!).
The Saturday night before we did our homework and found the Grand Theatre without any trouble at all so our plan was a long lie, croissants and coffee for breakfast and then a leisurely walk to the theatre so we could sit back and enjoy the orchestra. What do they say about best laid plans?
After finishing Saturday night off with a very fine Bordeaux we woke late.
OK I thought, we can still buy something from a bakers en route. Eh no. All the shops were shut.
OK I thought, there will be a cafe in the theatre. Eh no. The theatre was shut!
We went into the restaurant next door to ask where the booking office was. A small Chinese man spoke rapidly in French. I heard the word shut. I did my best quizzical look and he gestured us outside. He then pointed down a side street and with his hands brushed us away.
After about 100 yards we came across “L’entree des artistes”. Through the window we saw an older gentleman – I held up my booking form like a white flag to gain entrance and he beckoned us in. He knew no English and I know very little French but I droaet a chance to use my favourite phrase ‘je ne comprendes pas’. Between us we discovered the concert wasn’t in The Grand Theatre at all but another building a distance away. He gave us directions by pointing in arches and going deda deda deda to describe the blocks we had to cover. In amongst the hawheehaws I heard Place du Gambetta, droite, gauche, auditorium and with his hands he demonstrated a large impressive building. We headed off on a march already knowing we were going to be late.
We did the deda deda deda and found Place du Gambetta and then it went all wrong. I obviously went droite instead of gauche so when we saw an impressive building we headed for it. Turned out it was a museum. OH spotted a woman standing outside enjoying a cigarette with a radio strapped to her belt.
Museum attendants are always helpful and tend to know English. Eh no.
I showed her my now crumpled piece of paper. More hawheehaws Opera, Bordeaux, colleague, moment. She disappeared. When she returned she shrugged and called over to a pretty young girl about to light up. Hawheehaw, parle Anglais, hawheehaw, Opera, Bordeaux. The pretty girl laughed and said, ‘Non’.
Then a young lad suddenly turned up and wanted to light pretty girl’s cigarette.
I couldn’t make it all out but I like to think what followed was –
‘Hey Albert do you speak English?’
‘Yes. Yes I do. I did it at school.’ (Trying to show off to pretty girl)
‘Good, can you give these poor, lost tourists directions to the Bordeaux Opera House please’
‘Eh no. Sorry. I thought you were joking. I can’t speak any English.’
He went a bit red when he stopped doing the hawheehaw thing. Then arrived our knight in shining armour. Well, duffle coat.
When he arrived there was only a short hawheehaw and he said, in damn perfect English, ‘Hi, how are you. You are looking for the Auditorium. If you go up this street to Place du Gambetta and then down Cours de L’intendance.’ I asked him to repeat the street name at this point. He did and added it’s a big luxury street you can’t miss it.
Who knew knights were blonde with hipster beards and striped scarves?
So off we headed retracing our steps. It was a grey morning with a dampness in the air but I could feel the sweat trickling down my back as I checked my watch. 10 minutes to the hour.
We found Gambetta again but disagreed about the luxury street – mainly because we had already walked along it earlier! I saw a street vendor so went to ask him for directions but just before I got there he started serving someone so I asked an Inspector Clouseau lookalike instead. Again no English but lots of hawheehaws and pointing – back towards the Grand Theatre.
‘Eh non!’ His very sophisticated good looking wife interrupted him. I heard – concert, now, orchestra – then she motioned right across the road at a modern building.
We ran across the road
With 2 minutes to go we found our seats.
The orchestra was fantastic and the helpful people of Bordeaux even better!