Monday, September 5, 2011

Thurs 1 Sept - Mon 5 Sept: Bordeaux

Yet another fabulous French city. I've wanted to go to Bordeaux for ages. Had heard great things about it. Also wanted to see how south west France compared to south west England, and of course my home city, Brizzle. And quite simply because I like the sound of its name, and of course its wine.

Bordeaux is stylish, chic, elegant, with wonderfully wide and grand boulevards. Because it's such a flat and spacious city, there are cyclists and cycle paths everywhere. Something you still don't find as often as you should. There's just no excuse not to have them in cities and towns. It's only a lack of political will, the irritating and pesky petrol-head lobby, and downright short-sightedness that stops them proliferating.

Apparently, as recently as a decade ago, Bordeaux was not much to look at, which is hard to believe when you see it in all its present day glory. The buildings all look beautifully preserved, and the main centre (which has had the most work done to it - not so much 'old Bordeaux' anymore, as new-old Bordeaux) is just terrific.

Mini square upon mini square dominate, filled with the prerequisite, numerous caf├ęs and eateries. Each square had something special about it, and we spent many an afternoon/evening in at least one of them.

Because of the huge number of students there, it has a very youthful and lively feel to it. It's also full of some seriously attractive people. Rivals to those Flemish folk. So, you have the dark, sexy types of Bordeaux vs. the fair, wholesome, north Europeans of Flanders, or the blonde supermodels of Oslo. Tough choice. There's an academic study in there somewhere.

The food was mixed. Not a patch on the Cote D'Azur, although found something in common with Mons: poor, painfully slow, service. We did discover a great Asian street food place, serving the kind of stuff you can easily find all over England, but which is severely lacking in Wallonia. The "waiters" were those 'too cool for school' types, who are more interested in dancing to the funky beats that blare out across the restaurant, than in actually serving customers.

I also discovered white Bordeaux wine, which I didn't even know existed. The best white vino I have ever tasted: smooth, dry, and without that warm and sometimes sickly aftertaste that I often find with white wine.

Did a tour of a couple of the vineyards, which is a must in this region. Unfortunately, it wasn't a particularly good tour. The guide never shut up for almost the entire journey there. You're trying to admire the scenery around you, when all you can hear is her blathering away about something or other: the history, why the land is the way it is, who ruled the area.

We only got to sample three different types of wines, and nobody ever told us how to taste the wine, what to look out for, what flavours to expect. Surely, this is a must for a wine tour? In future, what I want is a tour which just deals with the wine, and involves sampling a (preferably) large number of wines, with explanations of what we should be looking out for as we taste it. I really don't care how wine is made. This was pretty much what the tour was about. I'm such a philistine!

In summary, Bordeaux just felt like somewhere that has a high quality of life. It's only 3 hours away from Paris, direct, on the high-speed TVG but, without a high-speed link to Nice, a 9 hour night train journey away from the French Riviera. Either way, I'd have no qualms about living there.

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