Last Sunday morning, we set off for the train station to begin this trip’s big adventure – five days of driving around the Bordeaux region. It has been twelve years since John last rented a car in Europe, and the prospect made both of us a bit nervous. We’ve spent time in other people’s cars out in the French countryside, and it can be flat-out frightening the way the locals drive on the twisty little roads. The land around Bordeaux is fairly flat, so we were hopeful that this wouldn’t be a problem (or that there would at least be room to get out of the way!).
At 7:10 am, an hour when most of Paris isn’t stirring yet, we boarded a fully packed train to the city of Bordeaux. I wondered if the train was so full because it was a school holiday week, but was told by a French couple sitting nearby that, “Non, c’est normal.” Wow. The first train to Bordeaux had left just 20 minutes earlier, and the next was only 40 minutes later. That’s a lot of people headed out that way!
We settled into our seats – no window for me this time,boo! – and for the next three and a half hours rocked gently along towards the southwest. Bear in mind, this is 388 miles, farther than from Providence, Rhode Island to Washington, DC. It takes more than 4 hours to get to NYC from Providence on Amtrak. And the French can’t wait until they’re finished with the tracks and they can take the ‘fast’ train all the way to Bordeaux. If the US trains went half that fast, it would be a major improvement – but that’s a rant for another day…
We arrived in Bordeaux about 11:30 and took a cab to the hotel where we would be staying that night. It was too early to get into our room, but they stored our luggage for us and gave us the name of a nice little place to have lunch that wasn’t far away. The Hotel Regent, where we stayed, faces the Grand Theatre, pictured above. The open square between the two seems to be the place to meet in this town. All day and well into the night, groups sat on the steps, lounging and eating, or just people-watching.
Lunch was amazing. Fresh asparagus, calf’s liver for John, steak for me, brebis – sheep’s milk cheese – and then dessert. And a great Bordelais wine to go with it… pure delight.
After lunch, we strolled a bit – still to early to check into our room. The day was warm, the sun was out – perfect for a little exploring.
This is only one half of this enormous fountain that sits at the base of a monument to the Girondin deputies. The other side mirrors it. See how beautiful the details are in the picture below.
We spent some time on the pedestrian path that boarders the river (see first photo). This is an easy city to get around in, with many popular modes of transportation. There are plenty of nice, broad paths and pedestrian-only streets, making walking here a pleasure. There are busses, electric trams, and several other non-traditional ways to see the sights – I’ll detail more in a later post.
We got checked into the hotel by about three, washed off the travel-dirt and rested a bit before starting out for dinner. The restaurant at the hotel was full for the evening, but they were able to send us just a little way down the street for some local seafood. As much as I like to try regional dishes, I just couldn’t bring myself to try the lamprey and settled for some wonderful scallops instead.
After a good night’s rest, we were ready to pick up the rental car the next morning and begin our journey.
Up Next: St Emillion, Cadilliac, and a parrot named Coco…