Bordeaux no longer just a "Sleeping Beauty"....Jim's Deals of the Day
BORDEAUX, France - I gotta admit the first impression was pretty poor. I rolled into this town in southwestern France in a bit of a hurry on Tuesday, rushing to make it from a morning tour of Chateau Bonaguil in the Dordogne region and then lunch in Biron so I could be here for a 7 p.m. dinner appointment.Of course, I had stop to fill up my car with gas and the station exit didn't allow me to go towards the Gare St. Jean train station as I had planned, so I got stuck in rush hour traffic leaving central Bordeaux. I made a highly illegal u-turn and got back to the right spot, then got mired in gridlock outside the train station. They're doing a lot of renovation in this part of the city, and traffic is a nightmare. I finally got to the train station, but was confronted with a left turn or a right turn. I chose left. I chose wrong. I ended up on a street that got right back into the exodus from central Bordeaux traffic that I had left 20 minutes before. So it was back into the fray. This time, I realized I should turn right at the train station. But I circled the area for a half hour and couldnt' find the place to return my car. I finally gave up and just parked at the side of the road and walked into the Europcar office asked where I could park. She gave me some general direction. Twenty minutes later, I finally was rid of the rental and on my way to my hotel downtown.
My cab driver drove me past endless stretches of magnificent buildings that were used in the old days as offices or storage places for Bordeaux wines, fruits, soaps and oils. The entire waterfront was filled with decaying warehouses not that long ago, but they've taken almost all of them down and replaced them with a four-kilometre stretch of parks and open space along the Garonne River. There are basketball courts and gardens and fountains and all sorts of open spaces for average folks to enjoy, and it's apparently a huge improvement.
My hotel, the Regent Grand Hotel Bordeaux, is a five-star jewel with great views of the Opera House across the street. Actually, it's a pedestrian-only plaza that's a real gathering point for citizens, and even now, at nearly midnight local time, the place is crawling with folks enjoying the fine, summer-like weather. The city reminds me a bit of Paris with its beautiful stone buildings. There are some uber-trendy bars and restaurants, many of them in the St. Pierre region. I gotta admit my image of Bordeaux was kinda boring; just the fancy wineries and a bunch of stuffed shirt old men pooh-poohing the rise of Australian and California vino.But it's a vibrant city in its own right, and I had a wonderful seafood meal in the St. Pierre area (see photo), which was filled with outdoor cafes and young people sipping wine or listening to gypsies play the accordion.
I had plans to come here in 1979 when I was backpacking, having just finished my undergrad at UCLA. A friend I met in Nantes convinced me to skip Bordeaux. "It's really boring," she said.
Instead I went to the south of France and then on to Rome, where I met a Canadian girl. We've been married almost 29 years, and today was the first day I stepped foot in Bordeaux. If I'd come in 1979 I probably wouldn't have the wonderful family I have and the incredibe job I have, so I'm pretty happy about that girl who warned me not to come to Bordeaux 31 years ago.
Maybe Bordeaux was kinda boring then. But it looks pretty good right now.