Six days in Bordeaux was a real treat. We loved the city, one of my favorite places in the nearly 15 months since we left the States. What was it that made it so cool?
1) Beautiful parks. There were a few great public park spaces, particularly the fabulous Public Garden. I’ve long thought Boston’s Public Garden is one of the most beautiful public parks in the U.S., and the Public Garden in Bordeaux compares very favorably. I spent parts of two days just lazing in the park with my book, a wonderful way to spend a few hours. The one strange thing was the weird weather. You’d have 40 minutes lying on the grass under warm sunshine and suddenly it would start raining. You’d head under a tree for 10 minutes and the sun would come back out. Repeat over and over throughout the day. Strange but still beautiful.
2) Wine education. If Bordeaux is known for anything, it’s the most expensive and supposedly fabulous red wines in the world. You’ll note, of course, my use of the word “supposedly.” We just didn’t get it. We were hoping we would, hoping that if we drank Bordeaux wines with meals and splurge on an expensive day-long wine tour of three Medoc wineries we’d finally get it. Well, we learned something during those six days: we still don’t particularly like Bordeaux wines. I tended to like the cheapest – not cheaper, but cheapest – wines better than the expensive ones we tasted on the tour. So now we’re ready to just be done with it. We don’t particularly like Bordeaux wines. Learning that is worth something.
3) Great ambience. Mark covered this in the last post. The city is alive. It has an enormous pedestrian-only section, but enough that I’d get lost and confused. In most cities you think of “the pedestrian street,” or at best the couple of big pedestrian streets. Here, though, there are multiple big shopping streets, going every direction, closed to traffic, so I got lost more than usual. The city’s longtime mayor, Alain Juppé, has made a hugely successful effort to clean up the city. Everyone who’s been there for a few years talks about how he’s gotten building owners to clean the facades, put in a great tram system, cleared out the old port detritus, and closed much of the center city to traffic. Juppé has been mayor since 1995, and during much of that time served in the national government as well, including stints as both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Hard to imagine someone in the U.S. remaining mayor while serving in those posts but apparently it’s not that unusual in France, and he seems to have done it with remarkable success (except for the conviction for corruption, but enough about that unpleasantness).
4) The dunes. Yeah, Mark blogged about that already, but they were still a highlight.
5) Finally, great running. It’s flat, especially going along the river front that Mayor Juppé cleaned up so nicely. And twice (twice!) while out for my morning run there were great rainbows over the city. Mark says that if I didn’t get pictures they don’t count, but I think you have to give a Mayor credit if he can not only clean up and modernize a city but even arrange for regular morning rainbows.
OK, we’re done with Bordeaux. Now it’s on to Poitiers for a couple days and then Paris. Did we ever mention how much we love traveling by train in Europe?