Caiti and I have been in Bordeaux, signing her up for University. Several of you guessed Paris as our destination due to the Velib (communal bikes) photo, but Bordeaux has that as well. Bordeaux is a city of bikes in fact, and skateboards. Those seem to be the two preferred methods of transport around the city, followed in third place by the tram.

A bike and St Andre's Cathedral

We made good time there, despite the fact that most of the N141 was being dug up and there were no services until we were nearly at our destination. That had meant three and a half hours solid driving which was a bit much. I’m not prone to stiffness but it took me a good minute before I could walk in a vaguely human wary.

When we got to Bordeaux I merrily hit the ringroad. Our plan was to sightsee on Thursday afternoon and go to the University for the Friday morning signing up session at 9am. Fortuitously we soon came across a sign for the tram park and ride so I headed for that. We found ourselves at Buttinière. I had to drive round the multi-story carpark two and a half times until a gap finally appeared. I think it was the smallest space I’ve ever parked the Grand Scénic in! But at least we’d got rid of the car. We took the tram – Caiti’s first time ever on one – into the city centre and poked around for a while. We crossed the Garonne on the famous bridge, Pont de Pierre. The river is enormous, I estimate a kilometre across at least. Practically the first thing we saw when we got off the tram were two gendarmes on bicycles, and very soon after we saw two gendarmes on scooters. During the afternoon we saw an army of cops, mainly in cars and vans. Now I know where there are so few cops in Creuse: they’re all in Bordeaux.

We wandered aimlessly admiring the beautiful city and then took a tram out to the university to suss that out for the next day. There are four sections of university in Bordeaux. Caiti’s science campus is Université 1 in the south of the city, towards Pessac. You need tram line B for that. There are tram stops at either end of the campus. We pottered through it, impressed by the size of it and the greenery, and the very large koi carp in the poind. Then we went back into the central city and had a quick McDo stop to refuel. Caiti reckoned I was trying to walk her to death. We got a bit lost after that but saw more nice buildings and gateways and things, and then had a look inside the St André’s cathedral. We were nearly at our sightseeing limits so we stocked up on sandwiches for tea and trammed back to the car park.

Caiti being walked to death

Our Formule 1 hotel wasn’t too far from the park and ride and Caiti navigated me there brilliantly. It was the same as all Formule 1s which I find perfect for our purposes. No frills, just the basics at a budget price and the Tour de France on telly.

Next day we made an early start but rush hour was nothing like as dreadful as I’d feared and we didn’t get caught in traffic jams on the short run back to the park and ride. We were tram veterans by now and got ourselves to the university with half an hour to wait.  We watched as other slightly nervous looking students began to accumulate and then mooched into the main building. Caits went into the first introductory session so I wandered up and down the corridor, and up and down, and up and down. OK I could have read things on my Kindle but this was my summer holiday! There were a few other parents hanging around at whom I beamed in what was meant to be a friendly manner but I think I scared them. Anyway, Caiti came hurtling out of that meeting having found out that there were a few spaces left on a special course they do there with an international element to it. The students can do one of the four scientific subjects in English and go abroad for one semester, usually to Berkeley in California.

We scuttled around trying to find out more information about this course and filling in various forms for the different courses. Then there was an interview for Caiti. Luckily she saw one of the two teachers who run this international course and he gave her the OK on the spot and told her more about it. She was a happy bunny. She had to write a letter of motivation for her dossier – the French love these letters – and then we had to queue up in a couple more places to hand in all the various paperwork and for Caiti to then be officially admitted as a student at Bordeaux. We came away four and a half hours after arriving with her carte étudiante. Phew.

Porte Cailhau

We trammed back to town, bought sandwiches and found a handy bench to have our lunch on. Caiti remarked on the number of pregnant women we’d seen and it’s true. There did seem to be a lot of bumps around. That and a lot of breastfeeding, which is brilliant. I breastfed my babies in England and Ireland and had to do so very subtly and secretively as it was very frowned upon. The public disapproved of such depravity. But in Bordeaux, thanks heavens, mum just whips out a boob and no one bats an eyelid. How healthy and wholesome.

Then it was back to the car. Holiday over. Well, not quite. The drive home was the last part of it. We came back a different way – the N89 and the A20 – which was better driving although there were a few tolls along the way. We came through Périgord which is a lovely part of France – hilly and forested. The weather turned foul at Limoges so it was a steady, spray-filled drive from there until past Guéret but we trundled along safely and got home about half past six.

I look forward to discovering Bordeaux properly over the next few years while Caiti is there. It seems to be a really lovely, clean city, with a nice atmosphere and plenty to discover.

For example, I need to discover why this quai has two names ...