14.12.2014 - 17.12.2014 8 °C
The plan was breakfast in Brussels, lunch in Paris and dinner in Bourdeaux. Unfortunately, it didn't work so well: I had to get up so early to catch the train, I didn't feel like eating. I did have a nice break of about four hours between trains in Paris, and enjoyed a very traditional French lunch of andouillette (a sausage with a very coarse, basically lumpy grain), mash and a large glass of bourdeaux (in anticipation of my destination) in a typical cafe opposite the Gare du Nord.
Changing stations was easy enough, just a quick trip on the subway and an interminable walk though tunnels and up and down stairs, to catch the TGV south. I remember when these things came in - they were quite the marvel, I think that only the Japanese bullet train would beat them. I remember being on one in the late 1980's and thinking it was as fast as an aeroplane, and kind of had the sealed in feeling of one. Now, many other countries have caught up, so they should perhaps rebrand as le train de la vitesse assez moyen (or TVAM - sounds alright). My particular train was going nowhere fast - we had a halt, then there were some announcements, nothing in English and finally a conductor came through but he couldn,t or wouldn't speak English. Luckily the woman beside me translated: the train ahead had hit a car: three hour delay. It took most of that time just to get a beer from the cafe onboard. So I had no dinner, unless some chocolate out of the vending machine at my hotel counts. The mention of a French hotel probably conjures up images - cobbled streets, quaint cafes, boulangeries, maybe even some music. Hah! I stayed my first night in the Formule 1, which was on the wrong side of the river: a few wine warehouses were the closest to the cafe scene I saw, and they weren't glamourous.
The price had tempted me to stay there for the week, but thankfully I found a cool place on Airbnb in an apartment above the Place du Parlement - a Square created in 1760 which has never actually housed a Parliament, but gained its name some time after the Revolution to honour the Bourdeaux Parliament which sat from 1462 - 1790.
My lodgings were in the one building which was not cleaned when the city recently polished up the majority of the buildings. At night, when there'd been a bit of rain, the Square was very atmospheric.
It was a brilliant place to stay - the people (a mother and daughter) were nice, there was a great cafe on the ground floor called Karl where I went every morning for breakfast before going up to spend the morning working. The coffee they made was a bit crazy - definitely not a Wellington cappucino.
Every side of the square featured restaurants, and I spent half an hour one day watching a couple of blokes removing the furniture from one of the houses. It was a third floor house, and everything came out the window and down a portable funicular. I had my first dinner just down in the next square - a brilliant entrecote washed down with some of the local product. Bourdeaux is, of course, a bit of a foodies paradise, and I ate enormously well every night - fusion Asian one night, great Indian another and more local foods like the magret de canard (they make lots of foie gras around here, so ducks are plentiful).
The Garonne River was about two blocks away, and my place was in behind the customshouse (now a museum) and bourse.
This is one of the little connecting streets, and the kind of bus they run through these narrow streets
I bet that no-one who hasn't been here knows what the next couple of photos are (but the game is given away in the third, if you squint):
That is the High Court - the wee pods are courthouses! Makes our Supreme Court look very normal. I wish I had gone in and taken a good look around, but the security at the entrance kind of put me off.
Being in Bourdeaux, I thought that apart from drinking the stuff, I should explore the history as well and went to the Musée du Vin et du Négoce - a wine museum set up in the cellars of a wine merchant. I have to say - it was lame, just a few static displays, although it did include some tastings and a bit of a talk about the local wine production and marketing systems. This was done one-to-one as I tasted the wine, which was nice, but I wish the person doing the talk actually knew something - she was a student from an island off the coast of Africa, in Bourdeaux for a few weeks and with a rehearsed speech.
One of the things that amused me about Bourdeaux (and I imagine they are elsewhere in France) was the variety of vending machines - not quite up there with Japan, but still it is unusual enough to have machines which vend inkjet cartridges and e-smoking apparatus.