Vino, Vino, Vino - Bordeaux
Trip Start Apr 01, 2009
70Trip End Jul 13, 2009
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My train from Paris to Bordeaux left Paris at 7:52 am. My rail pass allows me to travel in first class on the TGV, so again I was riding in style! It is interesting because some one back home told me that that first and second class are relatively similar, but with the Eurostar and TGV that is NOT the case. During the whole train ride, there were only two or three other people on the entire train car, so it was nice to be able to spread out over 4 separate seats. I slept almost the entire 3 hour train ride before arriving in Bordeaux around noon. The station, Gare St. Jean, is in a very run down part of Bordeaux, so my first impression was, "oh no, what did I get myself into!" So, I consulted my travel guide, threw my back on and hopped on the very modern tram to the heart of town.
It turns out that Bordeaux is a lovely city of about 1,000,000 people. The heart of the city is filled with bars, boutiques, cafes and shops and is very pedestrian friendly. When I arrived at my tram stop, I had to ask a few people on the street for directions. Not many people in Bordeaux speak english, so it was a little difficult to get around. Many of the hotel rooms were booked because of the French travel holiday and Easter, so it took some serious effort to find a place to stay. After wandering the streets for an hour or so, I found a nice little hotel right outside of the main square.
After getting settled, I set off to find some food and check out the town. I strolled down one of the busy pedestrian walk ways and found a nice little boulangerie (bakery) and picked up a delicious sesame seed baguette. I then found another little boulangerie selling wonderful deserts, so I picked up my first authentic French chocolate beignet, which was wonderful! After cruising the streets for about an hour, I randomly walked past by my hotel and decided to wash some clothes at the laverie (laundromat) around the corner.
I arrived at the laverie to find one of the most difficult situations I have been in thus far! I had zero idea how to work the washing machine and could not understand one word of what the instruction said, so I asked a gentlemen for help. It was just my luck that the man who I ask did not speak or understand one word of english, but it just so happened that an American named Angela, who lives in Bordeaux, was there to save the day!
After chatting with Angela for about 10 minutes, I found out that she had graduated from UC-Santa Barbara in 2004 and had moved to Bordeaux after college to buy and rent houses to wine tourists. She offered to show me one of her rental flats (that is what they call apartments in Europe) and to give me an afternoon tour of Bordeaux. After checking out her flat, which was very nice, we strolled around Bordeaux for a while, stopping at her favorite cafes to sample some of the local fare. We stopped at one small cafe where I tried the French version of hot chocolate, which is very thick and is eaten with a spoon! It was fantastic! The hot chocolate is so thick and rich that Angela and I had to split one and drank almost an entire bottle of water to wash the rich chocolate down. I also sampled the delicious local pastry, caneles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canelé), which are a must for anyone visiting Bordeaux.
After my tour, Angela invited me to meet her French friend, Caro (short for Caroline). Caro was so gracious and welcoming and her flat turned out to be one street over from my hotel! Angela and I bought a bottle of wine before we arrived at Caro's, but Caro opened a special bottle that she was given to her by her father on her birthday. She said it was because it was a special occasion! The wine, a Bordeaux merlot, was, hands down, the best wine I have ever had! After 2 bottles of excellent Bordeaux started to get hungry, so headed to the neighborhood market to pick up some more wine, cheese, and sausage for dinner. After 3 or 4 bottles, excellent food, many laughs, and a guitar serenade from another friend of Caro's, Guillem, we went to a popular bar down the road to see some live music. A reggae band, which is very popular in France, was was playing. After a beer or two, I decided to call it a day and get a good nights sleep before my early morning train to San Sebastian.
My short stop in Bordeaux was very special! Its not every day that you randomly bump into someone who happily gives you a personal tour of their city and invites you into their home for an authentic dinner and night of fun with friends. My one day in Bordeaux definitely sticks out as one of the best so far!
I hope everyone is doing well! More to come from San Sebastian on the northern coast of Spain!