An unplanned little break
The past few months have been pretty busy for work on our side and the last time we could leave for vacation was.. Humm, let me think.. Christmas 2013!! Oups. Time to consider a little getaway somewhere to rest and recharge batteries. Speaking of batteries, this trip would of course include a lot of photography. I love these improvised excursions, they are like short pilgrimages for the spirit and my creativity. Food for the brain.
Anyways, we decided to get away for a few days, but the destination was yet to be determined. We wanted something different and while we didn't have one or two weeks for an international trip, but rather three or four days at our disposal, we decided to stay in France but go for something we never visited in the past. The first thing that came to mind was Bordeaux. Agreed by both of us we started to pack our stuff slowly and take a look at what we could do over there. But we kept it like that, no reservation except for our first night. Everything else could be managed on the road as we travel and visit, leaving our itinerary in the hands of Mrs. Opportunity (It's one thing to be opportunist when you travel, but always leave some space for intuition. it can make a whole difference in the experience. Better safe than sorry, they say). No rush. No schedule. And as usual, no expectations (This is often mentioned here. You know I've learn to leave expectations at home when I leave. The best way to never be disappointed).
So, no fixed itinerary, no reservation (except 1st night), no huge luggages, no expectations, no kids, no dogs, no worries, no problems. Just the road ahead and a desire to go places, see things and enjoy a little vacation.
Detours can bring some spices to the sauce
We thought it would be interesting to visit some friends living in Cahors. It's also a great excuse to leave the highway and see things at a slower pace. This always proves to be the best way to travel and discover little place and meet with great people. We spent the day visiting Cahors and the evening with our friends. From there we slowly headed to Bordeaux the day after, going through Bergerac so we stay on "N" roads instead of "A" highways. And doing this brought some surprises like very kind people, an excellent restaurant for lunch and quiet quiet quiet lovely places on the way. One of the surprises was a blast for me: I saw a panel in Bergerac where it says the city is "jumbled" with Repentigny (Québec) Canada!! Well, that's the city where I lived until age of 25 with my parents and then bought a house and lived there for 10 years. That's more than 35 years in this city and now in the middle of nowhere I have this panel! Amazing.
Just before leaving Cahors we went to a wine shop selling exclusively Château Lagrezette wines. We bought 3-4 bottles and then left town. About 15 minutes on the road we see indication for Château Lagrezette vineyards. Why not stop by and see how it is (I have a small passion for vineyards. People there work hard and produce something made with passion. There is something noble in that. Just like any handcrafted things. Also, vineyards offer such a beautiful vista, they're usually quiet, vast and fragile at the same time. These "artisans" have all my respect). That was the right decision. The time we spent there was more than worth. We tasted four different wines and ordered many bottles to be delivered at home. The lady who helped us was very kind and passionate, we learned a lot in just one hour and even had a chance to go in the cellar and visit the installations. The site went through huge modifications in 1992, they actually digged in the mountain to build the structure and then covered everything back. From the outside you don't realize how big this is. Again, going out of the way is often a good idea.
Sometimes the sauce is too spicy
And we also had the opportunity to go through St-Émilion where we spent a little moment, but it was packed with people. That's a place I would prefer visiting off season. I know it from a fact: I leave in a village that's visited by 1 million people every year. I almost never go there during the season. I'm pretty sure the same goes for St-Émilion and September is probably the best time to visit. There are lots of places like that, just thinking of Mont St-Michel or St-Tropez, and any major touristic spot. Off season is the way to go.
And then the GPS says: "You have arrived"
We finally got to Bordeaux late in the afternoon. We knew we could spend many days there because there is so much to see. But we had another destination in mind for tomorrow (which will be the topic of another post this week) and the idea was to enjoy the evening as much as we could. The guy at the front desk in our hotel was great and sent us to essential places and even suggested the best restaurant to taste local specialities. We walked all over the place, took a lot of photos and had an awesome dinner before walking again and again.. A light rain started to fall and I really had a blast photographically when the ground was wet and shiny. At night, with lights from the building, street photography is awesome. I kept shooting and walking until we decided to head back to the hotel and get some sleep before we see even more exciting things early in the morning..
What's in the bag?
For every trip I do I there are two time when I think about the equipment I bring. No, I'm not saying I think twice before I leave. What I mean is that I think about what I'm going to bring, and what was right or wrong when I'm back. It is one thing to have all that you need to produce good photograph, it is another thing to bring only what is necessary. The more you do this exercise (think before, think after), the better you get at bring just what you need. Going place with too much load is not fun at all and prevents you from enjoying the trip to its fullest.
Things become pretty clear for me now and the stuff I bring with me is almost the same every time, more or less. For this short trip I had the following kit with me at all time:
- Leica M (Typ 240) + spare batteries x 2
- Sony RX100 + spare batteries x2
- 64GB Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards x 3
- Lens cloth & blower
- Apple iPhone 5
- Moleskine Field Notes & pencil
There is another "kit" I usually bring with me when I leave for a few days. It's a mix of gear that stays at the hotel in my room's safe.
Here’s what I have:
- Small 2.5" 750GB HD with SuperDuper! bootable image of my Mac.
- Small 2.5" 2TB containing ALL my files (work, photos, music, etc.)
- iPad Air 128GB, WiFi & 4G
- Mophie JuicePack for anything USB + iOS devices. Even charges my Sony RX100 camera
- Leatherman Wave
- Leatherman Flair
- Fenix TK22 Flashlight
- Steiner 8x24 binoculars (for things we see on our way between cities, not necessary in town)
After the fact I think I had no need for the Mophie JuicePack because we have many chargers in the car, and access to electricity everywhere we were. USB-to-wall socket adapters were all we needed. We ended up eating in restaurants all the time and never cooked on the road, so the Leathermans tools were not used at all. I still think it<s good to have them because they can be handy for screw drivers, pliers, etc. when something goes wrong with the gear. The flash light was not used but I will always bring it because anything can happen when your drive at night and I will always remember the out of this world crazy pitch black night we had during the black-out in New York! Never again.. For the rest I think it makes a perfect kit for my needs. Even the iPadAir with its 4G connection proved to be very helpful for Maps, Booking.com, DuckDuckGo searches email and note taking. I just love it! I even modified my bag to fit it in. I wrote about the modification I did on my bag in a previous post on the Hanbury Botanical Garden. If you are interested in this bag, you can find out more and shop here.
And what if I had to do it again?
Nothing went wrong during this trip. Everything was great, the flow, the timing, the weather, etc. But what If I had to do it again? What would I do differently? Well, the first that comes to mind is "time". We only had 3 days between home and Bordeaux, back and forth. I really liked Bordeaux and would probably spend 3 days there instead of an overnight. There was a light easy going ambiance in there, people having fun, walking, laughing, the terraces were full of people enjoying their time, the city itself is gorgeous and vast. Yes, I'd like to go back and spend more time. Maybe fly there to save time and "live" or "experience" the city more deeply. As usual anyone visiting such places should do some research and learn about the destination beforehand.
Other than that I found this trip very refreshing, in spite of the very hot temperature, and extremely productive from a photography perspective. I've been to places in the past where I would not even raise the camera to my eye so much it had nothing exciting to shoot. In Bordeaux I had the Leica in my hand all the time and the finger on the shutter ready to capture the light and the moment. Great great location for photography.
You can find the whole picture set on my website at www.normandprimeauphoto.com
© Normand Primeau