July 14, 1995. Tricia and I arrive at Bordeaux airport. André, the local ICI rep, is there to meet us. He takes us to our hotel. It’s huge. Long, white terraced gardens and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
“Don’t worry, we’re paying for it and I’ve booked you in for dinner tonight.”
Sod filming, I’m staying here all day. I wish…
We dump our bags and André drives us to the first body shop. It’s a modest family business. Pierre has three spray painters; his wife, Ellie, runs the office.
I’m up a ladder taking top shots with my 9.5mm Angenieux lens. It’s hot and the air is thick with paint fumes.
“Like a drink?” calls Ellie. “Sure, anything. Tea, coffee, wine…”
I climb down the ladder; Tricia takes me into the office. A bottle of Bordeaux red is open and glasses are waiting. Not only that, there’s a selection of local cakes and pastries.
Back in the body shop, I shoot André and Pierre walking around chatting. Both have radio mics, I’m on telephoto. It looks real and natural.
“ICI Autocolor, c’est magnifique!”
That’s it. We pack up. I take some shots of the river, cobbled streets, anything that’s says Bordeaux. We pass a vineyard. I jump out, shoot it. We drive off.
Lost in France
“Where are we going, André?”
Finally, a clearing in the vineyards and a stone building, an old winery. We enter and go downstairs into the cellars. And guess what? It’s a restaurant. Not just a restaurant but a restaurant gastronomique!
Let the Wild Eating Begin
One course after the other, each separated by a small plate of culinary diversions.
“Is this the main course, André?”
He just smiles and refills my glass. Some plates need red wine, others white. The food and wine don’t stop. People join us. Lots of laugher and jokes in French.
After a few hours, I say, “Aren’t we shooting this afternoon?” André smiles and pours more wine.
Four hours later, the desserts arrive. Time to leave for another body shop.
Late afternoon. It’s a bigger, more modern body shop. Do I film it? I guess so. I’m beat, working on autopilot. Shoot over, they bring us (oh, please God, no)—yes, more Bordeaux wine.
“André take us home, s’il vous plaît.” The hotel manager is pleased to see us.
“Bonsoir, the restaurant is waiting. You have a table booked. We have a treat for you: a menu gastronomique.”
“We can’t. Please forgive us. Charge a cancellation fee. A big one.”
He hates me. The entire restaurant staff hates us.
Alone at Last
The sun has set. It’s dark. It’s France’s National Day. The sky is filled with fireworks.
We sit around the swimming pool with our gifts of wine and a brown paper bag full of little cakes. Nibble. Sip.
Pipistrelle bats are circling and dipping low over the water. The pool and gardens look incredible, le quatorze juillet fireworks exploding above us.
We slip out of our clothes and slide into the warm water, watch fireworks from underwater. Unreal.
We have died and gone to heaven.