I felt terrible when we awoke this morning – sneezing, puffy, and congested. Matt acted as my cheerleader, setting-up breakfast and ensuring we stayed on schedule. The only thing left to pack was our toiletries, food, and laundry. Our laundry which was still damp despite sitting on the clothes rack by the heater all night (no electric dryers here!). We said farewell to our friendly host (who was frying pasta for his breakfast!) and headed out into the dark Parisian streets.
We took the bus to the train station, arriving ahead of schedule. Although we had ridden the subway many times during rush hour during our trip, this was the first time we encountered crowds on public transit. What with our lack of knowledge of the ticketing system on the bus and all our bags, it made for an awkward bus experience.
Train to Bordeaux
We had booked a SNCF high speed train to Bordeaux through Rail Europe. In roughly 3 hours we travelled 600km, reaching top speeds of 300km an hour! Matt was very excited by this.
Economy seating was very comfortable and exceptionally clean. We had spacious seats, USB and electrical outlets, a folded down table, baggage storage, pleasant washrooms, gardbage and recycling bins, and a cafe a couple train cars next to us. Only thing missing was wifi!
Matt went to buy us espresso at the cafe. It came in tiny cups with plastic lids, each with an individually wrapped piece of dark chocolate. We sat and enjoyed our espresso, watching the French countryside whizz by.
France through the window
Looking out the train window, the houses reminded me of the suburbs of Molkau, from my trip to Germany. The plaster walls were cream coloured with red tile roofs. We saw few houses near the train tracks that varied from that. Sometimes there would be stone or concrete farming structures like barns or turret-like silos.
Just outside of Paris, the tops of the trees were crowned in frost. Further out there was a light dusting of snow in parts and just thick fog in others. We saw orb like moss growing in trees that Matt thought were bird nests at first. They looked like something out of Dr. Zeus!
As we neared Bordeaux, we saw our first blue sky of our whole trip! The dew on the grass outside sparkled in the sunlight. The trees cast long thin shadows on the fields. Matt and I closed our eyes and held hands, enjoying the warm sun on our face.
The sun didn’t last long and soon the countryside was covered in fog again. I saw my first French vineyard then – gnarled old vines, white with frost. We saw grazing sheep and horses sheltering under trees, ghost-like in the thick grey fog.
Arrival in Bordeaux
The sun arrived with us in Bordeaux. It had a lovely train station and out front were rows of bicycles, an electric train, and quaint looking businesses. Directly across from the station was a bistro with a bright red awning and matching furniture. As we passed the bistro, I noticed a sign for hot wine and mussels at a much lower rate than we’d come accustomed to seeing in Paris.
We decided to stop for moules et frites. We shared a huge bowl for just over 9€. It was accompanied by bread and served in a big pot. Matt ordered a local white wine for us to share as well. To our delight, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, and spicy oil (called Pizz) came in long thin packets – like sugar at fancy restaurants! The bistro also had things like hamburger au fois gras. It was like a French diner… bistro-diner… bistro.
After our meal, we made our way to our AirBnB apartment rental. I was elated walking through the residential streets. Gone was the polish and pomp of central Paris – here everything looked real. The buildings were built with such detail and care ages ago, but now fallen into disrepair as few today can afford to maintain such craftsmanship. Matt said everything looked ‘homey yet fancy’.
Our Home Away From Home
I was a bit nervous entering our AirBnB rental. The corridor was dirty and smelled like a sewer – yet when the door opened on our new home away from home, I was awestruck. Our flat was gorgeous!
It was a newly renovated loft apartment with exposed stone walls, laminated and tile flooring, a shared back garden and everything we could possibly need!* It felt spacious despite its small size and was very well laid out. The windows in the kitchen let in light all through the apartment – and the window over the sink looked out onto palm trees!
Once we had unpacked and marvelled at the amenities available to us, Matt went grocery shopping while I had a nap. The bed was up a ladder and stocked well with blankets. I cozied up and drifted in and out of sleep before a very excited Matt came back.
The staff at the grocery store and bakery had been a joy to converse with after the snooty attitudes of Paris. Matt showed me all the wonderful groceries he’d got – including soup, lemon, and Kleenex for my cold. He had got a baguette at the local bakery, which he set out with hummus and wine. For dessert, we had canalé de Bordeaux, a which Matt had picked up from the bakery down the street.
Wandering through Bordeaux
Fuelled up, we went for a walk, soaking up Bordeaux in the warm glow of the setting sun. We walked down to the bridge, then Palace de la Bourse, and up to the opera house, and down Rue Ste-Catharine.
It was only when we neared the opera house that things started to look upscale. However, despite the wealth around us, staff were very friendly and helpful. We chatted with staff at the opera house about shows (none during our visit) and tours (Wed/Sat only), followed by exceptional service next door at the Tourist Information Centre when we enquired on wine tastings. We walked down Ste-Catherine, a pedestrian street lined with shops. It started very posh, then thinned out to fast food restaurants and fast fashion.
With night came the fog. We returned home where we put on a French classical radio station. Matt started surfing French Netflix, showing me clips he’d worked on in Orphan Black. We then stumbled upon a German film, Look Who’s Back, that we ended up watching for the remainder of the evening. It was about Hilter waking up in modern day Berlin and gaining power as a comedian. It was thoroughly entertaining but deeply disturbing, especially with current events.
*We later discovered our AirBnB lacked anything to make coffee, had only had one bowl, and poor wifi. Matt has decided he is going to travel with his AeroPress from now on.