Monday, June 4, 2007

Bordeaux

“What do you mean a reservation?” This is how our morning started at the train station in Tours as we headed to our next destination in the south of France, Bordeaux. Nicole and I invested in the famed Euro Rail pass that has been beneficial except for the fact that on certain trains you have to pay an additional fee for a “reservation”. If you ask me, this is a bunch of Euro-trash, just like you have to pay the cab driver to put luggage in his trunk, just like you have to pay the cab driver for the time/distance he drove to come pick you up, and just like when you get charged for the complimentary bread when you are eating at a restaurant. I guess these are rules we need to get used to in the next few weeks.

Anyhow, this whole reservation thing was a mess as I dashed around central station speaking the best French I could in order to find the information we needed. The train leaves at 10:27am and I am stuck in line 6 people deep with 10 minutes to spare. One thing I’ve learned about the French is that there is no rush. There is no rush to get out of the way when you are carrying 3 large suitcases with no maneuverability and there is no rush for prompt service. It seems like the only time there is a rush is when they are trying to cross the street and the walking light is red. No one on this continent seems to give a damn about the most remedial traffic law out there. Oh well, “when in Rome”, now Nicole and I are guilty of that same crime. Tick, tock, tick, and tock the clock winds to 10:24 and I have reached the front of the line. I’ve promised myself I will run to the train at 10:25 to meet up with Nicole and all our luggage.

“Bon Jour”, the lady behind the counter says.

My time is up, but I have to give it a shot…I say, “I need a reservation for Bordeaux”.

She says, “The train doesn’t leave for another hour”.

“No…it is leaving right now!” I can’t argue with her, so I gather my backpack loaded with 20lbs of electronic equipment, 2 laptops, cameras, chargers, books, etc. and sprint my fat butt back to the train with all the grace of a sea turtle. I can see Nicole’s eyes widening through the train window as the whistle blows for departure. “Push it! Push it!” and my foot lands on the steel grated step of the train coach. I calmly gather myself, wipe the sweat off my forehead, flop down next to Nicole and say, “We need a reservation”.

Bordeaux is about a 3.5 hour train ride south of Tours through the countryside of France. Nicole reads and naps as I quietly work on the computer trying to map out parts of our future. The train attendant makes his approach and asks for our tickets. When I got on the train, I told Nicole that we need to play dumb and act real American when they ask for our tickets. I found out that in addition to our Euro Rail pass we were going to have to pay 100 Euro for our reservation. That’s like $150 US!

“Tickets?” I show him our passes, but he asks for more. I simply tell him that I don’t speak French and Nicole starts talking to him in complete sentences in English to further confuse him. We go on and on with him for about 5 minutes, really not trying to understand him at all. Finally, Nicole scribbles something on a piece of paper “TGV, always reservation” and shows the man. He smiles, and thankfully, let’s us pass. What a relief to catch a break from a nice Frenchman.

We arrived in Bordeaux which was a bustling city filled with gridlock and a seedy feel to it. The streets were littered, the buildings dreary and the walls painted with graffiti. This was a shock to me because beneath the surface I could scratch out the foundation of the traditional French pageantry that has defined most other cities in France. It seems a little disappointing that they let this area go. It also didn’t help that a dense black cloud had just consumed the last bit of sunlight. Nicole prepared the umbrella for a fight that it would eventually lose.

The hotel was located on the main street of shops and restaurants. It was only accessible by foot so Nicole and I had to lug the bags about 200 more yards. It wasn’t that bad, as we are always excited about our next venture. The hotel was a little creepy. It reminded me of a horror movie. I quietly examined the old and aloof helper at the desk, a spiraling staircase rising 5 stories with a red carpet bleeding down each step, and the classic molding on the ceilings that screamed mystery. Our room was tiny, probably the size of a traditional walk-in closet at home. No worries though. We wedged our bags between the wall and the bed and headed out for exploration. We saw many of the same things like the rest of France like the brasseries, cafes, chocolate shops, and bread shops. The prices on everything were still high. It was on this walk that we decided our excitement for Spain was a priority and that we would cancel our second night in Bordeaux, which meant canceling our trip to the famed St. Emilion wine region, and get a head start on San Sebastian.

A small café jumped out at us because of the food we saw on other patron’s plates. Nicole and I both ordered specials for the day. Nicole tried the beloved Croque Madame and I had Curried Chicken Brochettes. One thing is that in Europe one expects small portions or basically little value for what you pay for. I will argue that point. We have received some of the largest portions during our travels and most have been bigger than the U.S. version. The lemon and curry marinated chicken was skewered and then breaded and deep fried. I thought this was a great concept and something that I might borrow in the future. This came with a baguette, a beautiful salad tossed with balsamic reduction, pancetta, duck prosciutto and a chuck of foie gras pate. It also came with a shooter of tomato gazpacho as well as the largest fruit salad I have ever received. It included banana, grape, kiwi, cantaloupe, raspberry, watermelon, honeydew, pineapple, strawberry, mango, and passion fruit. Pretty extensive. And if that wasn’t enough, it was all topped off with a chocolate covered pretzel. I just got full thinking about that meal again.

We took a long walk after our meal, which has been such a delightful routine that we are considering doing the same when we get home, and decided to shut it down for the night. We packed up and prepped ourselves for an early morning departure.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Should've went to Monte Carlo.....

Anonymous said...

who is the dumb ass that said that ( you should of gone to Monte Carlo..) what you and Nicole are doing is a trip of a life time.

Anonymous said...

I, Peter, am the dumbass....and you're right, going to Monte Carlo wouldve just ruined everything....anonymous dumbass.....

Anonymous said...

all is forgiven , Peter you can't help yourself...Hope Anthony and Nicole feel better, but they are trooppers to continue to eat thru europe.

Anonymous said...

Who is this?....I thought it was Clint....dumbass is his trademark....I hope it wasnt a parent....if so my ultra apologies....

Anonymous said...

it's me Jackie dumb ass...

just kidding smart ass..

Anonymous said...

Oh well in THAT case..... :)

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