10 June 2016
Jer and I have been getting use to the French life style, which means sleeping until 08:00 on work days. Today we had to be up at 05:30 to get a train to Bordeaux. Gosh, I forgot how much it sucks to wake up when the sun is barely coming up. I do not miss this. But, we are off to Bordeaux!
We left our apartment and headed for the RER C to Paris Austerlitz. I now love the trains, we literally got to the train 10 minutes before it left (of course sweating from half running) but we made it. Got to our seats and sat back for the 4-and-a-half-hour train ride to Bordeaux. So far I have only taken the train to London and now Bordeaux, but I am assuming for domestic trains you don’t need to go through security, which is nice yet slightly nerve racking. When I went to London there was security and passport control (since I was entering the UK).
I had originally planned to work on the train, but not going to lie, I slept almost the whole time. I believe Jer did the same for the most part. The nice thing about Europe is the train travel and finding deals. The service that runs the trains in SNCF in France and I (and I believe Jer as well) have started to check it for deals on the regular. This is how we got our cheap first class tickets to Bordeaux. Now first class on these trains is not like flying first class. The seats are bigger and that’s about it. However, they were cheap so I will take it.
The one thing that stinks about going to Bordeaux is that the train is not high speed so it takes longer, and there are also quite a few stops depending on what train you get. However, we found out that there is currently construction to get a direct high speed line (TGV) from Paris to Bordeaux that should be done by the end of 2016. This train would only take 2 hours. I’m seeing many more trips to Bordeaux in our future.
We got to Bordeaux around noon and got the tram to our hotel. The tram was running a Euro Cup special that one day passes were only 3 Euros. In comparison, a single ticket was 1,50 Euro. That’s a deal. We did find out that (I bet you can guess it) the tram was on strike Saturday morning until noon. (The tram is run by a different company than what is striking the trains and metros in Paris).
We got to our Hotel, Hotel Gambetta, but our room was not ready. We needed to come back in about 2 hours. So we did what we do best, we found café. We went to Bistro de la Porto, which was only a stone’s throw from the hotel. We had a cafe (which was much needed) followed by salads and a local rose wine. In the middle of lunch, it started to pour, but we knew that was possible so we strategically sat outside under the awning and watched people scatter for cover. We then checked into our hotel, which wasn’t a 5-star resort, but it will do. My new prereq is that the showers are big enough to put my elbow’s out like I am doing the chicken dance. This one did not pass.
We then headed out to explore the city of Bordeaux. With the Euro Cup being in France in June, one of the cities that is hosting matches is Bordeaux. I am going to stress that we booked this trip without knowing that (well at least not putting two and two together when we were figuring out what we wanted to do). We were originally going to drink wine all weekend but figured why not enjoy some football.
We then headed for the Fan Zone, which was at the Place de Quincones. I’m sorry to say, but it put the Fan Zones at the Final Four to shame. Security was super tight. The list of banned items ran as long as could be. It included a note that no alcoholic beverages were allowed in and if caught you could be put in jail for 1 year and fined 7,500 Euros. That’s one heck of a deterrent. There was a place to check bags, bikes and skateboards. Bags smaller than 25cm x 25cm x 25cm are allowed in, so basically small women’s hand bags. And the security pat down, well let’s just say, I if I had a penny in my pocket, they would have found it.
Jer also got super excited because he found a Bordeaux jersey for only 40 Euros (as he puts it ‘The best deal he ever got on a jersey!’) before heading out to Parc des Expositions to pick up our tickets.
|Beautiful new Bordeaux Stadium|
We took the tram which ended (because of the strike) to then get on a bus to get our tickets. Again, you had to present a photo ID that matches the name of the ticket and have your picture taken. Very serious security surrounding these matches.
We then headed back to the hotel where Jer went for a run (I took a nap) and then we got ready to head to the Fan Zone to watch the opening ceremonies and the France v. Romania match.
What was really nice with Bordeaux is that it has the longest pedestrian only walkway through all of Europe (1.5km) which our hotel, the major sites and the Fan Zone were all on or around.
We got food (Kebabs, well more like gyros, and Carlsberg beer) and found a spot to watch the game. The opening ceremonies were awesome and then the Fan Zone started to buzz with the players coming out. The singing of the French national anthem by thousands around you is pretty powerful. However, it is weird to not sing the US national anthem at sporting events. We enjoyed the match (in which France won) and with each goal scored the Fan Zone went increasingly more nuts! Especially when the French scored a particularly splendid goal in the 89th minute to win the match. The French are one of the heavy favorites to win and anything less than a win against lowly Romania would not have been good.
|Entering the Fan Zone|
|Giant screen to watch the matches|
|Slowly filling up as opening ceremonies continue|
|With thousands of our closest French friends!|
We ending up getting back later (and with more beer in our bellies than anticipated) but we had a great night!
Friday Step Count: 17,053, 12.59 km
11 June 2016
We were a little slower waking up then what we wanted but we were to breakfast at the hotel by 09:00 and out the door to do some sightseeing. I was a little disappointed in Rick Steve’s France, there was absolutely nothing written about Bordeaux and he did not have a book specifically on it (to my dismay). So I found a book from Lonely Plant on ‘Bordeaux and the Atlantic Coast’ which was exactly what we were looking for. It doesn’t have as many ‘fun facts’ as Rick’s books, but it worked for us.
Since the tram was not running (stupid strikes) we headed off on foot to see some of the UNESCO World Heritage sights. The first we went to was the Bordeaux Cathedral, which was original built in 1096 but most of what you see today is from expansions in the 14th and 15thcenturies. The church was just magnificent. You can see for yourself. One thing that set this church apart from some of the others, is the extensive art that is on display. Some of the pieces were as big as a car.
|Outside the Cathedral|
|Beautiful stained glass|
We then turned the corner to see the Pey-Berland Tower which was built separately from the church as Bordeaux was originally swamp land and it was feared that adding the weight would make the church sink.
We headed to the Grosse Cloche de Bordeaux. Which is a giant clock and bell tower. The story goes that the Bordeaux-ian people loved their bell so much that the nobility would threaten to take it away if the people did not behave (which did happen multiple times throughout history). Today the bell rings only on special occasions a few times a year.
|Grosse Cloche de Bordeaux|
We then did my favorite weekend activity; we went to the market. We headed to Marche des Capucins. The place was a massive covered market. There was fruit, vegetables, meats, cheese and fish as far as the eye could see. Per Lonely Planet, the recommended having a glass of local white wine and oysters at one the cafes in the market. I’m not going to argue with that. We sat down at Chez JeanMi. I was in heaven. 6 oysters and a glass of white wine for 7 Euros, what a deal!
|Great suggestion from Lonely Planet|
We then started to do what we came to Bordeaux for (while I had a jump start on Jer), taste wine. Jer found the Urban Wine Trail, which was on the Bordeaux office of tourism website (side note, highly recommend the local tourism website or going to the offices when in new towns, they have a ton of information and generally have someone who speaks English). The Urban Wine Tour was a map of the wine bars throughout Bordeaux that allow you to taste wines from different areas without have to go to each Chateau.
We started at Max Bordeaux/Wine Gallery and Cellar which had the most premium wines from the region. Tastings ranged from 1 Euro for 5 cl to 100 Euros for 5 cl. The staff was wonderfully informative. It was a great way to start tasting wine. It was a little expensive for our tastes (and they did not have food) so we set out for another wine bar.
|Wine glasses hanging from the ceiling|
We then headed to Bar a Vin. This place was more our style. They had 15cl pours (heavy handed) for 2 to 8 Euros. It was basically a full glass of wine and they had food options, mostly local cheeses and meats. They had multiple wines from the different regions of Bordeaux. My favorite was the Rose Brut and Jer’s was a lovely red from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux. We stayed here for a good chunk of the afternoon.
|The wall of wine at Bar a Vin|
We then headed out of Bar a Vin to grab quick sandwiches and take the tram to the football match. The game was Wales v. Slovakia. The Welsh are crazy and showed up in force (as Jer informed me they had never made it to a major tournament before in their existence), more so than the Slovakia fans. Jer and I now have one of the fight songs forever stuck in our head, as we were singing along with them on the tram and bus. The nice thing about this game, as since they weren’t two marquee teams, tickets were still available on the UEFA website for face value.
The match was very well played, with Wales winning 2-1.
|Great tickets. Beautiful stadium|
Since the match was at 18:00 local time, we were back by 21:00 where we grabbed a light dinner at Pizza Pino then retired for the night. We have an early wine tour in the morning.
Saturday Step Count: 14,781, 10.67 km
12 June 2016
We woke up and were out the door by 08:45 to head to the tourism office to go to Saint-Emilion for a wine tour. Jer found the perfect tour from 09:00 to 13:00 which took us, in a group of no more than 8. He found the tour on the Bordeaux tourism website, and it was run by Bordeauxwinetours.com and it was just perfect. We learned a lot about the Bordeaux region as it is much different than the other wine regions we have been to and learned about before.
We headed to Chateau Fombrague, where we learned all about the Chateau, the grapes, the process and ultimately got to taste the wine. It is so different from what we have seen on other tours in different countries. There are so many more rules in France which dictate the labeling of the wine. It is insane.
|One of the largest vineyards in the region|
|Believe it or not each barrel costs around 700 Euro!|
|Will take the one on the left please ha|
We then headed to the town of Saint-Emilion where we walked through as this is another town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture of the town was just beautiful.
|Clock tower of the underground church in Saint-Emilion|
|Overlooking the town of Saint-Emilion|
We then headed to a cellar to taste a few more wines from different region in Bordeaux. It was a great way to see the different wines the region has to offer. It was also a great learning experience to see how to read and understand these labels to get the good bottles at the store.
We then stopped at a small Macaroon shop called, Nadia Fermigier, and got, you guessed it macaroons and Canele. The pastries and much different than the colorful macaroons in Paris, but they are amazing. This is a must have in the Bordeaux region.
We then headed back to Bordeaux with some time before needed to get our train. We had lunch and cafe then headed for the train station. Not very exciting. At this point we were over drinking and eating so we just found a seat for people watching (and I may have taken a nap) at the station.
We then boarded the train back to Paris, which again is 4 and a half hours (and why this post is so long, I have the time to write it).
Looking forward to the weeks ahead!
Sunday Step Count: 8,628, 6.01 km