Friday, May 16, 2008

Day Two - Off to Bordeaux

April 24. Since our train did not leave until 12:30 pm we did not set an alarm clock and woke up around 8 am. Showered, ate our supermarket breakfast and watched CNN, packed one suitcase for both of us and just took our time getting ready. We had booked this room for nine nights so it may sound extravagant keeping a hotel room in Paris for the three days we were gone, but it actually would have cost us more to stay one night, leave for three days and come back and check in for another five. It doesn't make sense, but anyway, it was cheaper this way.

Off to Gare de Montparnasse via le taxi. This was a way to see some of the city without wearing out our feet. The ride took about 15 minutes and we arrived in plenty of time for our train. This gave me time to get the cup of coffee I had been craving all morning.

Trains in France usually run very efficiently and on time. We boarded our train and sat at our assigned seats. The train we were on ran non-stop between Paris and Bordeaux at a speed of around 180 mph and the ride was supposed to take 3 1/2 hours. The seats were comfortable, but actually Amtrak is a little roomier. Anyway, take-off time came and went, but no movement. After about 15 minutes, an announcement was made in French that Ken and I did not understand. Another announcement was made later, people laughed and again, we had no idea what was causing the delay. After sitting there for an hour, the train finally left, and made up some time by arriving only 30 minutes late. A taxi took us to our hotel, and we later realized that he took a much longer route than he needed to take. So much for taking advantage of Americans. This is the outside of the Bordeaux train station in the picture just above.

We had not done much homework on Bordeaux, but it is a large city and quite old. Like Paris, it is easy to get around on foot or by public transportation. Cars are not allowed in the center of Bordeaux although the streetcars run through the streets. Bordeaux has money! All the high-end shops are there along with the quaint ones and numerous restaurants. It is a vacation destination for many French citizens. We were there for a wine tour of the area. We had booked this tour last fall and planned our vacation around this and a special dinner our last night in Paris.

We unpacked, got a map of the area at the hotel front desk and went off to investigate. We found a lovely chocolate shop, so of course we had to buy something there. Ken found a model train shop which was also high-end. He managed to refrain from buying anything even though he spent a while in the shop.

Our hotel was down the street on the left of the rounded building. It is the Hotel Continental which you can barely see in the picture at the top of this entry. Across the street is a performance center which is undergoing major renovations and was closed.

We had to be back at the hotel for an introduction to our wine tasting tour. This was conducted by Arblaster & Clark which is a British tour company. We found them on the internet and since they spoke the same language as Ken and I, we would get more out of this than a good buzz. Well, we messed up and arrived an hour late. We never rechecked our itinerary for the tour and relied on our travel weary brains instead. They were gracious, and two other people actually arrived after us. We did get to taste several of the local wines and were given a history and explanation of the wineries and classifications. There were 20 people in our group which was a great size. Ken and I were the only Americans with this group. After the introduction, we had dinner at a brasserie, I do remember having sausage and calvados afterwards.

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