Rugby, Operations and Recuperation – Bordeaux and Verdalles (Gujan-Mestras), Nouvelle-Acquitaine, France

In my last post we were just about to leave to watch the La Rochelle v Exeter European Rugby Champions Cup Semi-Finals. The result is history by now, a 47 to 28 defeat for Exeter. The better team won fair and square. It was fabulous to be there though, even though I think the Exeter supporters made up less than 1% of the crowd, we met and chatted to a few outside, the solidarity of the minority. We could not see another Exeter shirt or flag from where we we sat in the magnificent Bordeaux Matmut Atlantique stadium. It felt like there was as many from Exeter on the pitch as in the stands, as even when Exeter scored tries, our minority voices could not be heard over the din of La Rochelle Stade Rochelais voices in the 41,204 strong crowd. However, such is the sporting nature of a rugby crowd, they smiled indulgently as we cheered alone and shook our hands at the end.

La Rochelle v Exeter European Rugby Champions Cup Semi-Finals

It was a fabulous atmosphere though, the massive following of La Rochelle is heartening for the sport, after seeing two UK premiership teams sadly having to withdraw from the league due to financial difficulties this season. We loved how the French made a family day out of the game arriving hours before to congregate with arm fulls of baguettes and crates of wine. It was an event we won’t forget and we were so pleased to have been able to join despite the result.

This was one of the last games for Exeter for a number of key players, all apprentices of many years for the club, sadly due to UK salary caps heading to France, not unreasonably in their short professional careers taking the best deal for their families. It was good to see them off. Including Cornwall’s (Newlyn) own Jack Nowell who amusingly, it has since been revealed, will play for La Rochelle next season.

After all the excitement of the weekend Monday passed quietly at the campsite after the mass departure of the La Rochelle contingent. We had not realised it was a Bank Holiday across Europe that day, excellent timing for the La Rochelle fans, but a few of our admin jobs had to wait.

Tuesday, was the big day for Lizzy, being dropped off at the vets for her cataract removal operation. We had thought about this day for years and had it planned for weeks and suddenly it was here. Alongside a dozen other jobs, now everything was back open, so late afternoon we dropped her off for her acclimatisation night before her operation the next morning. Our little travelling family has barely been apart for months and we all felt a bit bereft to be one short for the next two days, especially little Lola, her daughter who has literally never spent a night apart from her Mum before.

We decamped to a lovely municipal campsite right on the southern shore of Arcachon Bay, where we have booked in for 9 days. The post operative care for Lizzy being critical and as she is a nervous traveller, we decided that camping out for a while would be the best plan. We did some long walks with Lola around the bay and obviously sought out Arcachon Bay oysters for Kev whilst we could before Lizzy returned.

We picked Lizzy up on Thursday with a bag full of drops, tablets and medicines and a complicated regime to follow three times a day for the next two weeks and ramping down over the next 6 months, all guarding against the potential threat of increased intraocular pressure which is a risk in dogs. Lizzy’s was not a simple operation due to some complications, but our specialist, Dr Goulle has done a marvellous job and we are so pleased we chose him for the task.

Lizzy had slightly alarming swollen eyeballs, as to be expected, when we collected her, enhanced by her shaved eyebrows, but already by today, she is looking back to normal. However, after 5 years of diminishing eyesight to near blindness by 8 years old, she can now see! Having had to steer her round every post, kerb, tow bar, bench, uneven bit of ground etc etc for years, she can now happily navigate herself, although she is strictly on a short lead for the next few weeks. She has though no spatial awareness of her cone, which she has to wear for the next four weeks, so we are pleased to be camped out on a nice big pitch where she can potter around.

Recuperation in sunny Arcachon Bay

The weather has been absolutely glorious and as usually happens when you stop, we both felt a bit run down, so everyone has been taking it nice and easy and we have been able to read books etc which we have not done for a long long time. We are loving being part of a French village, collecting our fresh bread from the boulangerie and enjoying the way of life.

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