From Paris the goal was northern Spain, either Bilbao or San Sebastian. A couple weeks ago the only decent route was a direct flight from Paris to Bilbao; even though we prefer traveling overland, the price and timing were both so much better, we figured we’d do that. But … we didn’t know exactly when we would want to leave Paris, so we didn’t book it right away. And by the time we were ready to book the tickets they had more than quintupled (yes, quintupled) in price. Good thing, of course; had we booked them we couldn’t have had that last dinner with Chris & Joey.So we turned to Plan B. We took a high-speed train down to Bordeaux for an overnight stop just to break up the longish trip to San Sebastian. Train travel is so much less stressful than flying unless, of course, you’re sitting with a potential ax murderer. There was this young guy sitting across from us, seemed pleasant enough. Very quiet. All he did for the three-hour trip was sit with several different colored pens and copy a “sentence” in tiny script, one color for each “letter,” over and over and over. And over. I should qualify both “sentence” and “letter” – they were symbols that bore no relationship to any alphabet I’ve ever seen. But there he was, hour after hour, writing, writing, writing. Same “sentence,” different colors for each symbol. Over and over. Never said a word. And I didn’t ask, since I didn’t want an ax in my back as I left the train.
The exciting thing about Bordeaux was that we were here last summer. I used a trick my brother Al showed me to filter our expense spreadsheet and, while in the taxi to the hotel, identified the two restaurants we’d really liked when were here last and the bar that made the best Manhattans. When we checked into the hotel the guy at the desk was going to suggest some restaurants, but no, I knew just where I was going for steak tartare. Normally we really try to avoid one-night stops (and one-night stands, for that matter), but in this case we knew the city pretty well so it worked just fine to stop, enjoy a couple good meals and then continue on the next afternoon.
The other great thing about Bordeaux was the weather, mostly sunny and in the low 60s. After six days in cold, damp Paris it was like heaven; we just loved wandering around for the afternoon and morning before catching our train across the Pyrenees to San Sebastian.