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  • Writer's pictureLillian E.

An American in Bordeaux

Saturday morning, bright and early, I got up and took my duffel bag in search of breakfast on my way to the train station. Lucky me I live within walking distance of one of the biggest train stations in Paris with direct lines south. Unluckily, that means it took me a while to find my train- but we don’t need to get into detail. I made it onto that train with a mini personal quiche and an apple turnover.

This was the selfie I sent to my sisters when I arrived, saying "wow I can't believe you can just get on a train and end up halfway across the country two hours later" like I've never seen public transportation before and haven't just spent the past month using the metro system to get around Paris.

Two hours, a lot of clouds, and several sheep later we rolled into Bordeaux and I confidently walked right off that train and into the station thinking, “wow it’s so much quieter than Paris, there’s nobody here!” Don’t panic, reader, I was in fact in Bordeaux, I just didn’t realize that the train pulls into the middle of the station and you can exit left or right. The friend of mine who lives in Bordeaux called me and said “exit the station and turn left” and I went out and all types of left, right, and backwards and still didn’t see anybody before we both realized I was on the backside of the station. Back underground, through some tunnels, and up into a much much much busier station.

We dropped my bag off at home and immediately turned right back around to run to the local boucher, boulanger, patissier, and marché for all the ingredients necessary to make lunch! I had truly the best hosts because they were determined to give me the best impression of the southwest of France.

An honorable mention goes to this little pastry puff. Kind of like a donut hole, but so much fluffier, the direct translation of the name is "a nun's fart".

They made lomo (a kind of pork), grilled chorizo, and duck breast, as well as red wine, salad with a shallot yogurt dressing, a tomato-pepper something in a ramikin, nut bread, and pastries for dessert! We spent far too long at the table and ate way too much but it was delicious.

Prior to coming, they asked “what do you want to see or do in Bordeaux?” and having never visited, I asked Google for recommendations and compiled a list. After lunch, we made a valiant attempt to tackle the list. First stop was the Cité du Vin wine museum, and to get there we took the bus/ tram through the heart of the city which meant we drove past at least half the monuments on my list. 

The Cité du Vin was super cool! I learned a lot about grapes and different types of wine, and the history of wine, and production of wine. There is even a tasting room with a 360º view of the city located on the top floor, so we took full advantage of our opportunities.

Hello! Bonjour!

After leaving the museum, we took the tram back into the heart of the city and tackled a few more monuments and list-items on foot. 

A friend of theirs, also a musician, met up with us for the latter half of the evening. We stopped in a pub for a couple rounds of drinks before continuing on to dinner at a Japanese restaurant where we each got a bento box. We were starving. Did I mention in a previous post how the French like 100% salty soy sauce vs the Americans who typically prefer less-sodium soy sauce? I woke up the next morning feeling shriveled and dehydrated after that dinner, and the only way I could express that in French to my friends was to tell them “I feel like a dried up raisin” and make a face to accompany the description. They were rolling on the floor.

We bundled up and ventured out in search of some breakfast pastries to bring home and inhale with some tea/ coffee. Next thing on my list: the Dune du Pilat (recommended to pair with a trip to the nearby town of Arcachon for lunch). My friend’s girlfriend was feeling under the weather, so she elected to stay home and take a nap with the cat. 

I have thus far not mentioned that I met this friend of mine in the Banda six years ago, and he since moved to Bordeaux about four years ago, and he met his girlfriend in yet another band, so I was in good musical company. That being said, my friend is also part of a semi-professional brass band that rehearses once a month, so on our way out of town we stopped briefly at their rehearsal space and I got to listen to them practice a new song for a few minutes. They were impressive.

Back on the road- next stop: Arcachon! We made it all the way out to the coast to a little seaside town. It was super quiet (probably because it was cold and grey, nobody goes to the beach in January) and walked along the water for a little bit before ducking inside the nearest restaurant for a hot lunch.

After lunch, we made our way over to the main event: the Dune du Pilat! I have always wanted to see a giant sand dune, and this one was definitely the coolest first experience. On one side is a huge forest (partially burned by a recent forest fire), and the other side drops right into the ocean! Lucky me for coming in January, because there weren’t that many people to compete with for the view.

We stomped around for a bit and I built a tiny sandcastle just so I could say I did, then we took one last look a the view and headed back to the car (stopping only to empty out a couple more sandcastles-worth of terrain from our shoes on the road).

Drove back through the foggy countryside.

Back to Bordeaux, where we managed to check a couple last things off my list. We drove past a couple of famous vineyards (located within the city limits of Bordeaux, and not out in the countryside with the majority like I thought they’d be), and took a quick detour to the Cathedral Saint André. It was absolutely enormous, and really dark inside.

Gates to the Pape Clement winery.

Finally making our way back to the apartment, we picked up my other host (feeling much better after a nap) and ventured out again! This time we made a quick pitstop to get a box of cannelé (the pastry Bordeaux is known for) and bring them over to the apartment of more friends who invited a group over for an apéro!

We played this game called Kantu, it comes in a purple box. It's like Cards Against Humanity but the cards you're trying to match are drawings of people expressing emotion. All I can say is, a dirty banana joke is pretty universal.

End of the night rolled around and we went home to bed. In the morning we got up early, had a couple of leftover pastries and some tea/ coffee, and I got dropped off at the train station on the morning commute. Took the train back to Paris, made a couple stops along the way, and spent the rest of my day doing laundry and homework!

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