Going down to Bordeaux

How many times have I done this? Started in ‘65, did it monthly at first, have slowed up now, but … in the hundreds. My long-distance commute.

I avoid Dover and go the shortest way; Portsmouth to Saint Malo, on good old Brittany Ferries. In my early days with the Transit van it was the little Thoresen Norwegian ferry from Southampton. I can still taste that copious all-you-can-eat smorgasbord.

These last few years we’ve taken to sailing over on our anniversary. Floating past aircraft-carriers and the old wooden Warrior (many wine evenings on her) as the waitress brings the champagne … for us, hard to beat. Tho’ bunk beds are not ideal these days … but it’s our habit … we spent our wedding night on the Perth to London sleeper.

In the van days, there were no autoroutes, by-passes, or even roundabouts so we went through countless bustling small towns and villages. Pont Audemer, Bernay, Gacé, Sées, Alencon, Beaumont, the 24hr straight of Le Mans, Ecommoy, Vouvray etc … music to my ears. Took maybe 10 hours … 10 lovely hours. Now it’s 6 hours on dual carriageway … and so very boring. No decent food or coffee. They must be somewhere but we don’t take the time. Obsessed by speed. Mad.

The best way of all for going down to Bordeaux is by sea … in an old wooden sailing ship, like they did in King John’s day … when it was the biggest trade the world had ever known! Be proud … we Brits have always out-drunk them all.

We’ve done that sailing route three times. Coming back with a big wine cargo … somewhat dangerous; it gets very rough, and two of the ships we used The Marques and The Astrid have in fact subsequently sunk!

I’m reminded of this because at the weekend our Libby (organises our Vintage Festival and other shows) spotted the surviving ship; ‘The Irene’ of Bridgewater in harbour. She’s kindly written about it in tomorrow’s blog, so I can have a day off in the Bordeaux sun. 

About Tony Laithwaite

Tony Laithwaite, founder of Laithwaite's, whose passion for wine is still going strong!

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