September 24, 2013

Wine country

I didn't really know what to expect from Bordeaux and I think one part of me thought would be a town that was really just defined by the vineyards surrounding it. To an extent, that was correct but there was a lot I was to find out about the city in the two short days I had there.

Lesson 1: There are no hostels. Apart from a dodgy place pretty far away from the cultural centre of the town, there were no hostels. This was a provincial sort of place and my last minute approach to booking wasn't really the best in this case. What they did have were lots of little economy hotels. The bus stop hotel didn't have any cheap single rooms left so with a hint to check down the road, I hung around at the reception door until the host decided to turn up. I was in luck with a little double bedded room for me to indulge in after a good number of sleepless nights in Spain.

Lesson 2: Nothing is open on Sundays. I went out to explore as the sun made its way to the horizon but quickly realized that there was something I was missing about this place. What day was it? It only seemed relevant when I found that most shops and even restaurants would be closed that night. I settled for a pizza joint, taking the steaming box back up to my room for an early night in, in the first private room I had had in a long time.

Lesson 3: There really isn't too much in the town of Bordeaux and while the town is quite interesting historically, there aren't too many good places to witness it.

Lesson 4: The town is full of students and while it's certainly a walkable place, a bike is a pretty good idea since it's quite long and narrow.

The following morning, I found my camera was showing the final stages of a slow death with the screen degrading to a final darkness and the lens just failing to extend when turning on. It was time for a quick run through the local fnac (the only thing open on a Sunday coincidentally), finding myself a little shockproof camera that seemed a little more suited to my new phone-less lifestyle. I had gotten in to the habit of replacing my phone maps with pictures taken of paper maps and tourist information boards at tourist bureau's. It worked out pretty well from place to place. Whoever needed a phone anyhow.

I joined a winery tour in the afternoon which just seemed to be the thing that you do in Bordeaux. After a bus trip out through the burbs and out to country, we arrived at our first Chateaux called Chateaux Segonzac, learning about some of the quirks of marketing wine out of Bourg or Cote de Bordeaux and getting that name on the label of your bottles. One of the things I liked about the first tour was that it took us through the industrial parts where all of the hoppers and separators were, showing the big concrete vats where the skins and juice would be mixed to bring the red colour to the wine. I didn't know that the early process of wine making depended so much on re-mixing the skins through the wine vats before the product gets strained, barrelled and cellared. I now knew that apart from the type of grape, the major distinction between a white, rose and red is the difference between no hours and a weeks' worth of skin mixing.

We were shown around the bottling areas and shown the big racks of aging bottles. Not big compared to the monster Torres winery I saw out of Barcelona but it was fun to get closer to the action. I got to know a couple of German exchange students living in Bordeaux on the bus between that and the next destination being the very cosy Chateaux Falfas, enclosed by high walls and a well over-grown garden. Perfumed roses took our noses before we delved in to the dark cellar for a dimly lit wine tasting.

The girls invited me to a little pub quiz night that evening but they were off to freshen up and meet some friends for dinner so I set out to find this killer crepe place I'd heard about. I sat down by myself to a little table at a place called Crepe d'Angel and tried out my ordering and not long after, my first savoury crepe ever was on the plate. I am a now a convert to the crepe but I still couldn't leave without a chocolate sweet crepe. I took a light jog down the road with my desert in hand, knowing that without a mobile, coming late could spell the end of my evening. At the agreed time I sat outside the tourist bureau. 15 minutes past the time and my impression of German timing was down the chute but without anything to replace the wait in the meantime, I persisted and just as well because, 30 minutes the girls emerged, all apologetic with stories from dinner.

We roamed the streets, deciding how to eat an oozing crepe elegantly, eventually finding the bar. House wine was cheap and good as what seemed like whole Erasmus exchange crowd flowed in to the little bar. The quiz questions dissipated into the noise as the night drew on. The three of us took in the sights on the river bank, including a mirror-like water bed, reflecting the glowing Haussian architecture as if it was inverted and floating in the air. I enjoyed a good sleep in the next morning, making the most of my big room before catching the bus out to Paris via Tours before Lunch.

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