Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Bordeaux and The Aquitaine Museum

 

Leaving the market, we walk back to the Place de la Victoire and catch the B line back a couple stops to the Aquitaine Museum. Our first priority was a museum of the French Resistance, called the Jean Moulin Museum, but it has been closed for renovation, and that collection is now at the Aquitaine Museum.

As we are waiting for the tram, some young men are chastising an older woman sitting near us for smoking. They are not being disrespectful, one, although a little rough, meaning hair a little long and beard gone curly, was wearing scrubs, and spoke as an educated person, encouraging the older woman to not smoke, for her own sake.

He was wearing athletic shoes. All the men were.

When we were living in Europe, and in the Middle East, we had guidelines to follow, so as to not look like Americans. No ball caps. No athletic shoes for street use. No track suits, or athletic wear with recognizable names, unless you were on a track or field actually doing athletic things. No shorts. Dress a little more formally, men wear a jacket, women try to look polished. These were the rules we lived by to stay safe.

In France, I am delighted to say, I am often taken for French. French people come up to me and ask directions. They are surprised when I tell them I am a tourist, an American.

Now I realize they probably think I am a French woman “of a certain age,” still wearing dresses and scarves while everyone else is wearing . . . track suits. Athletic wear. The French now look American. The French are heavier than they used to be, even the women. The younger women are heavier than the older women, some very few of whom are very thin. The world is getting fatter. Even (astonished gasp) the French.

The woman ignores the young men and continues smoking until the tram comes. We all board, she has had to leave her cigarette behind, and the men continue to talk to her encouragingly about quitting, while she continues to ignore them.

At the Museum of the Aquitaine, we show our City Pass and are allowed to enter. No, they tell us, there is no section for the Jean Moulin Museum. We are seriously disappointed, but the museum offers so many spectacular options that we could spend a week here and still need more time.

 

 

This takes my breath away. Imagine the delicacy of the hand that drew this, the vision, and this is a “primitive” person.

 

 

 

I photographed all of these because they are so wonderfully graphic, and I can use them for quilt blocks 🙂

 

Remember the Citadel at Bleye? There is a model of the citadel, and a gate that falls across the moat so people can enter? When I saw this photo, I think of the Hundred Years War, as the English sought to maintain control over the Aquitaine, while the French fought to oust them. I look at the faces in this photo, and wonder if the lives of those surrendering were spared – people then, as now, didn’t always play by the rules. And whether the men were spared or not, how were the women treated. If women are treated disrespectfully now, how much worse was it to be conquered, to be a part of the spoils, perhaps raped, never knowing if you would live or die, or whether, if you live, you would live a life worth living? This small picture below haunts me.

I suppose this is probably a remnant of the French revolution, and the desecration and de-consecration of so many churches.

 

 

The cenotaph of Michel de Montaine in its finished splendor – the photo below this one below is a shot of the video record of the restoration process, the cleaning, the filling in, the incredible detailed work it took to restore a dingy, broken old burial crypt.

The Museum of the Aquitaine has done a remarkable thing. Along with a truly wonderful section on maritime trade, with complete lists of what was shipped where, in which quantities, the museum has edited the displays to insert a factual commentary on slavery, and the ;rice which was paid in human lives for the trade in slave labor. There is an small but very good display of various African cultures, and displays of what happened to the lives of those taken in slavery. The callousness of the traders, buyers, slave holders of all kinds is portrayed factually. It is an apology, as opposed to a denial or a cover up. The effect is both shocking – and inspiring admiration for the kind of courage it takes to admit such a ghastly historical misdeed.

 

 

 

 

There are relatively contemporary displays with some posters I love

 

 

 

While graceful, imagine actually bathing in such attire.

I love this poster, so graphic.

The marche’ and the museum, and that’s only half a day. We need to go eat!

 

December 18, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Biography, Cultural, France, Health Issues, Local Lore, Public Art, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farewell Viking Forseti, Hello Bordeaux and the Marche’ des Capucins

When we reach our cabin, after the farewell dinner with our friends, there is a card waiting for us, beautifully handwritten, to tell us that our taxi will be waiting for us at 0930, and Viking wishes us a safe trip. This kind of attention to detail makes for great customer relations.

Our friends are fretting; there is a nation-wide train strike which may – or may not – start tomorrow, as they are heading for the train station en route to Paris. It causes great consternation. We tell them that we are picking up our rental car at the same station, the Gare Sainte Jean, and that if there really is a train strike, to quickly go pick up a rental car (before everyone else tries to do the same) and drive to Paris. It’s not a long drive.

We have a leisurely breakfast and our luggage is picked up from outside our door. At 0920, we head outside, and we can see a car waiting. In Tunis, in Doha, we used to call these limo’s, they are a higher class of taxi. Often someone’s private car (then, in the Middle East, things have changed somewhat since then) you were given a phone number by a friend, and you only shared that number with people you know who would appreciate and not abuse the service. It was a beautiful, well kept car, no markings to indicate it was for hire. He took us directly to the hotel, which was not that easy to find. We thanked him, and set up a pick up for the next day, which was a Sunday.

We had found a hotel, The Grand Hotel Francais which is also a Best Western. It is beautifully located near the Grand Theatre and just up the street from Saint Andre’s. I can’t figure out how to make a mark on the map, but up in the upper right corner, just where the red line B (tram) makes a turn, you see Rue de Temple, and the Hotel is on that street. The location is very quiet, but it is walking distance to everything!

 

We loved this hotel. First, we loved the location. Second, even at 0930 in the morning, they had our room ready for us. We had been prepared to drop our bags in the hotel baggage room until official check-in time, but what joy it was to be able to go to the room directly.

 

While I am not a big fan of motel-modern, I am a fan of this room. I like space. The ceilings are very high. While the walls are plain, the room has a spacious feel.

The bathroom is also spacious, and very modern. It felt roomy, especially after the ship. Lots of towels, and big thick cotton bathrobes. The controls on the shower were sort of space-ship modern, you move this knob this way to control volume, and that ring that way to control desired heat, and how do you raise the shower-head and make it stay exactly where you want it? But it wasn’t rocket science, and once I figured it out I explained it to my husband. We ran into this configuration several times.

What contributes to the feeling of spaciousness are the floor to ceiling French doors out onto a balcony. I am a big fan of balconies. Below is the view to the right, which you will see again as the marathon runners run by later in the day/night.

Looking down this street, you can almost see Saint Andrews cathedral, the “temple” to which the rue runs.

We didn’t stay long, just long enough to leave our luggage and get what we needed for a busy day trying to do everything we wanted to do in Bordeaux. (We failed. Oh well, guess we’ll just have to go back again 🙂  )

I had a priority. I love markets. I wanted to see the Marche’ aux Capuchins. We have an all-city pass that lets us on all the trams and busses, and lets us into several museums, so we have that joyous feeling of knowing we can do anything!

We take the B line, heading South, and get off at the Place de la Victoire, where there is a huge beautiful arch. And look at the skies! It is a beautiful, warm day; there is a lot of excitement in the air because tonight is the famous Bordeaux marathon, a crazy night where the streets of the city close down and the runners get to race on the major roads of the city.

I love public art, don’t you? Look at this big bronze turtle, and her little one, right in the middle of the city of Bordeaux. I love it that she has food in her mouth, after all, this is Bordeaux. Look at the leathery texture, captured in bronze, of her skin. I always think of turtles as symbols of long life.

The walk looks short on the map, but the blocks have a longer feel. It is a little north African, lots of kebab places, wonderful exotic smells. We feel very much at home. We come to the entrance of the famous market.

This is one of the reasons we are here. We hunger for the pate’s of fall, the Forestiere, and other local specialities. This is heaven, even just to look, it is abundant!

Umm, below, there are often things we wouldn’t even think of as food. Pigs ears? Hoofs?


 

 

 

 

 

When we lived in Tunis, we shopped at the Marche’ Lafayette where families would sell their varieties of pasta like this. It was the tastiest pasta in the world, and so fresh it spoils you for the kind you buy in stores. We have no stove, no pots, no pans and it is all I can do not to buy some just because I can, because these are so tempting, so beautiful.

Quiches-by-the-slice

Fabulous old grains breads

In the center of this photo below are fish, translucent, almost transparent fish that look like a pile of cellophane in this photo, but are distinct fish. I’ve never seen them before, and wonder how they cook up? No, I don’t ask because these merchants are interested in making a sale, and I am rally just a voyeur.

Ahhh! These are famous. We are warned to get to the market early to try these, that they bring so many, and when they are gone, they are gone. Clouds of love, and oh, my, WOW.

A thin sweet crust, a sweet sort of cream meringue, truly a fabulous cloud 🙂

Plates of oysters, fresh from the sea, ready to eat!

The prices of oysters are controlled by the French government. Every place, we are told in Arcachon, charges about the same.

 

You pick out a variety of little tapas sandwiches and pay by the color of the stick.

 

 

 

 

Cucurbitacee are gourds; most of these appear to be pumpkin-like. This market was a heaven of squash and gourds.

 

 

Even as we leave the marche’ we see another sign for tonight’s Bordeaux Marathon Madness – the energy is everywhere!

 

 

 

December 18, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Entertainment, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Marketing, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Tunisia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: Bordeaux Panorama and off to Libourne

When you think of cruising, you think of people sunning in lounge chairs on the sundeck, don’t you? I always did. That is not the way things work on a Viking cruise. Viking cruises like to keep people busy and entertained!

In truth, even while we are on the trips, it is easy to get confused about what day it is, where we will be and what we will be doing at what time.

“How do you write these trips up in such detail?” you ask.

First, as the ship cruises the river, I keep notes. The days get all jumbled together in our minds. If I write things down, we know where we were there and when we were there and what we did there and a little about what we were thinking.

“Why don’t you just do it on your computer?” asks AdventureMan, my love and travel companion.

I’ve tried. When I keep notes on the computer, I forget to look at them. A notebook might be slower, bulkier, but when a random thought strikes or I want to make a quick addition, I just grab my notebook and jot it down, without having to start up the laptop.

This also is a great help, both on the trip and after the trip – Viking publishes a daily news, which tells us where we need to be during the day, at what time and later reminds us the same:

AdventureMan started saving them from the first day, and I was so grateful to him! Honestly, with jet lag, and with the pace of the trips, you just can’t keep it all in mind. I take pride in my ability to organize, but on these trips, I am just not in control. I have to roll with it. I need the Daily News! Even then, sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all the information.

Today, we will start our day with a Panoramic tour of Bordeaux (we have learned that on all the cruises, panoramic means a bus tour, and you don’t get off a lot; you have to take photos through the bus windows. It gives you a good overview, and ideas for what you want to see when you come back.) which ends up downtown with a walking tour and then some free time. (Woo HOOO, we love free time!) But not TOO much free time, as we have to be back aboard the Viking Forseti by 11:15 for an 11:30 departure for Libourne.

 

Google Maps won’t give me boat routes, but they will give me bike routes, which I can maneuver to give me a simile of the route the Forseti travels to Libourne.

But first, downtown Bordeaux. We can’t wait to go back to Bordeaux. From our first day in Bordeaux, we felt comfortable and happy in Bordeaux. They have a world-class tram system, which intersects with the bus routes. You can buy special passes, good for varying amounts of days, and go anywhere with minimum hassle.

Above is The Bourse, the heart of mercantile Bordeaux. Bordeaux has a long history of being both French and English, a major trading town even in the time of the Romans.

Bordeaux is famous for it’s Grand-Theatre.

I love this gate to the city.

 

 

Below is the Grosse Cloche, or big bell, the only remainder of the former Saint Eloi gate to the city.

We had such lovely weather for this day tour! The sun gleamed off the churches and monuments. This is a tower at St. Andrew’s, one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future king of France in this church, at, I believe 13 years old. If you read any histories of Eleanor, she knew what she was doing, even at 13. She was a woman who negotiated much of her own destiny.

Below is one of the muses atop the Grand-Theatre.

This statue below tops the famous Girondins monument, so graceful!

What there are not a lot of, in France, are tourist restrooms. As we got off the bus for our Walking tour, I told AdventureMan to go ahead, I had spotted a McDonalds, and I know that the McDonalds always has a restroom. I even know where it is, because this McDonalds in downtown Bordeaux is just like the one in Metz, France, near where we used to live. So I quickly went up to the third floor, only to discover the door to the restroom was locked. An interesting woman asked what I needed, and I said “to use the restroom” (yes! I can speak French when I need to!) and she unlocked it for me. I thanked her, used the restroom and zipped out to catch up with my group. Did not see the group, but AdventureMan was waiting at a corner saying “hurry! hurry!” and got me quickly back into the group.

We had a really good guide. She showed us some places where she shops, and where she and her family like to eat, and later in the trip AdventureMan and I came back close to here and ate at a restaurant she recommended. During free time, we also located the hotel where we will stay at the end of our cruise, before we pick up the rental car. It’s all easily walkable.

 

We were also able to go to the Tourist Center where we picked up City Passes so that when we came back to Bordeaux, we could take all the trams and buses and go into all the museums at free or reduced costs. It was a great deal for us.

We are astounded that the French have adopted Hallowe’en in such a big way.

We’re back aboard the Forseti, now, have eaten lunch and are en route to Libourne.

 

Another view of the Museum of Wine.

 

 

We had time for a good hike around the city when we arrived in Libourne. We scouted out the location of the local market (world famous) so we can head out tomorrow on our own. We don’t like being part of a crowd in market cities. Well, or just about anywhere.

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: Dawn Cruise to Cadillac

(The map above shows the land time to Cadillac; I couldn’t make it show boat time. We were not on land, we were on the river 🙂  )

 

It’s Sunday morning, and a whole new world for us. We gave in to jet lag the night before, so at four a.m. when we can no longer sleep, we have the whole ship to ourselves. The ship will sail at 6:30 a.m., en route down the Garonne River to Cadillac, home of the famous Sauternes. We feel like a great adventure has begun.

Above is a view of the lounge (LOL around 5 a.m., not a creature is stirring) from the wrap around bar.

 

More lounge, and where the night time entertainment takes place. The entertainment is wasted on us; after a long day, and a dinner that stretches a couple hours, we are in our cabin making notes, reading, or crashing 🙂

 

The dining room, above, with a variety of tables for six or more people at each meal.

 

Breakfast is semi-buffet style. The wait staff are there to bring us coffee, tea, hot chocolate or anything we want off the extensive special order menu, which includes French Toast and Eggs Benedict, as well as eggs to order, etc. The buffet is enough for us, and more than enough. There are many kinds of rolls, and at least two home made jams, in addition to butter, and other spreads.

 

 

The chef will do omelets to order, scrambled eggs, whatever you wish.

 

For me, I am delighted every day to find smoked salmon or herring, just thrills my little Scandinavian heart. People always ask “Don’t you gain weight on these cruises?” and I say “No” because there is a secret. Many of the portions are tiny, just a taste, to prevent waste. Usually the small taste is enough for me. With all the walking we do, I actually lose weight on these trips, in spite of some truly fine eating.

 

The tables are beautifully set, even at breakfast. Our attendant this morning, Roxana told us that one of her favorite stops on this ship is Bordeaux. “Better than Paris?” we asked her, and she just laughed and said “Paris is full of rats! Have you ever seen rats bigger than cats? Paris has rats the size of DOGS!”

 

As we finish breakfast, the Forseti moves away from the dock, headed in the direction of downtown Bordeaux.

 

 

Sunrise from our bedroom window.

 

Along the route are fishing camps, and these nets when lower down right into the river to catch fish. The Gironde flows into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean sends tides up the rivers, a tide called the Mascaret. The Mascaret can cause a huge lift, enough to make going under bridges difficult for ships, and, alternatively, can cause very low water, making it possible for ships to go aground, so the ship captains have to be very aware of the tidal forecasts on these associated rivers.

 

We are told that this is the first ship in months able to go as far as Cadillac.

 

We have a fire drill, put on our life vests, show up at our emergency posts, then go back to the cabins to stow the life vest and get ready to go ashore in Cadillac.

This is the interior of one of the Viking buses. It is roomy and comfortable, and has it’s own toilet  aboard. We aren’t on the buses long, but they take us to the various vineyards and wineries for educating us on wine production and tasting the wares. And selling the wines, of course. We are warned that this is a very good time to buy French wines before the new Trump French wine tariffs go into effect, pushing up the prices and limiting the availabilities of the finest wines.

 

Today is Sauternes.

 

 

 

We arrive shortly at Domaine de Rayne, where we tour the wine storage area, and sip dry, semi-sweet and sweet Sauternes. I am not a fan of sweet wines, but I could understand how these could enhance the right pate’ or dessert. They were good, just not my favorite.

 

 

The late harvest is still continuing, and I loved that there were still grapes on this vine and at its foot.

 

 

 

 

 

The tasting began. It is sad to see civilized people elbowing others aside.

 

 

We headed back outside where a rainbow appeared and brightened the day.

 

We are told that roses are planted with the vines so that if a fungus or disease shows up, it hits the roses first and most visibly, sort of like a canary in a mine can indicate when air flow is low.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the bus, on the way back into Cadillac, our guide, whom we really liked, told us a cross cultural story we could really relate to. She and her husband had a good French friend, and they were invited to their house for dinner. The non-French couple wanted to make a really good impression; they really liked these people They didn’t know much about wine, so they bought a bottle with a beautiful picture on it and hoped it was a good one. She baked her famous chocolate cake to take with them and give to her, and they bought chrysanthemums from the florist. When they arrived for the dinner, and presented their gifts, they could see that the gifts did not have the intended results.

They later learned that the gifts were all wrong – the home made chocolate cake implied that the hostess wouldn’t have a dessert of that quality, the chrysanthemums are a flower used on graves in that part of France, and the wine implied their hosts did not know how to choose a wine. Fortunately, the hosts were not insulted, and over time, explained the local customs. They looked at the gifts with their hearts, and perceived that the intentions were for good. The two couples are fast friends to this day.

How often we’ve been in that position, and how easy it is to offend, when you don’t know what the customs and traditions are! We are so thankful for all the tolerance we have received, being welcomed as ignorant strangers into strange lands, welcomed into homes where we might unwittingly insult our hosts and hostesses. Thank God for their kind, forgiving hearts, and for their willingness to patiently educate us into the ways of their countries.

 


 

 

Back in Cadillac, we look for a good restaurant. Part of the reason we are on this trip is because we miss French food.

 

 

L’Entree Jardin is recommended by Viking, which says “Owner and chef Didier Bergey and his wife Helene Bergey welcome you to their little haven foreign of Cadillac’s finest gastronomic experiences. Centrally located in the heart of town, this quaint restaurant offers traditional regional cuisine with a modern flair – all made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The delicious, tastefully plated dishes are served in a cozy setting. . . . Address 27 Avenue du Pont, 34410 Cadillac. ”

 

We did not have reservations, but they had one table left. They were very kind, very patient with my French. There was one other small group from the ship also eating there; we had to ask them about tipping as we knew the US practice of 20%+ is not the practice in France, but we didn’t know what a proper tip would be. They gave us their opinion, which seemed low. We opted for somewhere in-between.

Our guide to the Domaine de Rayne had eaten there on the previous Sunday, and told us about the scallops and little pumpkins, which we ordered for the first course. This was my favorite part of the meal. I love scallops. I love pumpkin. What a fabulous combination.

 

We both ordered fish; I had tuna and my husband had Maigre, which we looked up and it came back a fish called Croaker (U.S.) We found it later in the markets of Liborne and Bordeaux. I believe this is my husband’s main course; I think I ate mine without remembering to take a picture.

 

The desserts were all about the presentation. They were wrapped in caccoons of caramelized sugar strands. My husband had a Tarte Tatin (an apple pie that is cooked upside down)

I had a chocolate ganache with a raspberry coulis – delicious. We were both very happy with our first totally French meal in France. I saw that because although we are in France, all the people working on the Forseti are from somewhere else, not France. The cruise director, Jorge, is from Portugal, others are from Romania, Spain, Bulgaria, Austria – from anywhere but France. No one speaks French on board!

 

After lunch, we take a walk around Cadillac. Here, in the old tower, is a chart of where the river has risen during winter and spring storms. We have the same kinds of charts in Pensacola, thanks to hurricanes and water surges, so we understand, but this one measures over centuries. We are greatly impressed.

 

 

I am a total sucker for old walls and watch towers. You will see a lot of different walls and towers from this trip 🙂

 

 

This is the Chateau de Cadillac, home to the Dukes of Epernon:

We were just strolling along feeling pretty good when we saw a Viking tour group doing a walking tour, but sort of hurrying. One of the group said to another “we have to be back by 3:45 because the ship is leaving to go back to Bordeaux” and we noticed a lot of different people sort of scurrying in the direction of the ship. So we scurried, too, and made it back. What we do not want is the walk of shame, the whole ship waiting and watching for the last ones to board.

 

From our balcony, we enjoy the sunny skies on the way back.

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Museum of Wine in Bordeaux, just northwest of where the ship is docked.

 

We had a lovely experience at dinner. We preferred to eat at the Aquavit Terrace, where they have TWO tables for two people, the only two person tables on the ship (there may be more when the outside terrace is open, but it is not warm enough in November). The tables were all taken. It is a more casual restaurant, few tables, very popular.

 

The head waiter, Anton, put us at a nearby table in the lounge, and made sure we had a good dinner. After the fabulous lunch we had, all I wanted was soup and the appetizer crab cakes. Anton made sure I got a huge bowl of soup and two crab cakes, so it was more like a full dinner. They were all so caring, and didn’t want to see us under eat. My husband had salad and scallops, which were also supposed to be an appetizer, but the portion was very generous. Anton was chastised for allowing us to eat in the lounge, but he stood his ground and we were very grateful to him for his kindness, wanting to make sure we had a good dinner and were happy.

 

We go on cruises, but we are introverts. We pay more for a cabin because we know we will spend a lot of time in the cabin, so it is good if it has a balcony and some space. It makes us happy. We usually prefer to eat by ourselves; we’ve been married for 46 years and we have good conversations. The Forseti is not equipped for room service.

We DO like other people, but until we’ve met someone we choose to eat with, we eat alone. On this cruise, we actually found people we liked eating with, and one group we actually adored, but that will come.

After our quiet dinner, we left the Forseti and walked into Bordeaux, just a short distance. We had a lot of fun just walking around, and then it started sprinkling, so we walked back. We were able to stay up until 10 this night, our second night in Bordeaux, so we feel pretty good.

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Local Lore, Restaurant, Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boarding the Viking Forseti

We’ve been watching the Bordeaux weather forecasts for weeks. It shows it will rain every day of our trip. Fortunately, we’ve always had good weather-luck. It may rain from time to time, we may even get sprinkled on, but, for the most part, we don’t get rained out.

 

As we head through the suburbs of Bordeaux, I am reminded of Tunis, where we lived many years ago. The ground is dry, sort of pinkish red, sandy, with scant trees, and maybe a little green ground shrub here and there. The buildings look like something built in the old Soviet Union, all concrete and utilitarian and crumbling.

 

When we reach the wharf at Chartrons, an area close to the center of Bordeaux, the sun breaks through. It is a joyful arrival altogether. The Viking Forseti is docked next to a city park area, a skateboard park, with skinny French teenagers all practicing their moves. Next to the skate park is a children’s playground. It is a lively area, full of families, and we have to cross a busy bike and walking path to board the ship.

 

Once aboard, we are quickly processed and shown to our cabin.

 

I am taking a great risk here, telling you my innermost thoughts. In our family, we have a saying “That sounds like a first-world problem,” which we can say because we have lived in many countries which were not first world, and where people worried about serious things, like having enough food to eat, or finding a place to sleep where the police wouldn’t bother them or the like. We are on a Viking riverboat. This is luxury.

 

We booked a suite on the Forseti. When we walked in the door, I gasped. It was small! It was two rooms, three if you count the tiny bathroom. You entered into a sitting room, with a couch and chair and flat TV on the wall over a counter space for wine or fruits or books. It’s the size of  a normal small cabin minus the part which is our balcony, which we really wanted so we could sit out on it while we cruise up the rivers.

 

I have a thing about space. I feel like I can’t breathe well if the ceilings are not high enough, I don’t like being cramped. I know, I KNOW how lucky I am to have so much room and I can’t help it, I feel what I feel.

 

Our only other trips with Viking have all been on Ocean boats. Our cabins on the bigger ships had a lot of space, and a double closet, and lots of cupboards for putting folded clothing, underwear, shoes. etc. As I said, this feeling cramped on a river boat is not a worthy problem, and after bumping around a little while, we adjusted and did just fine. It was, however, a shock at the beginning.

 

 

There was champagne waiting for us, two glasses, and a flower. It’s a lovely thought.

You can see our bedroom through the door of the sitting room.

 

This is the bedroom from the door. On the right is a French balcony, i.e. sliding doors open but you can’t go out on it, as you can go out onto a balcony outside the door of the sitting room.

 

Inside the bedroom, this is the closet and all the drawer space. Two drawers. There is space under the bed for suitcases.

As you look to the right, entering the bathroom from the bedroom. The floors are heated.

Watching the safety video is a requirement. So we watch it, and check to make sure our life vests are stowed where we can get to them. There will be a drill the next day in Cadillac.

We are tired, and the sky has darkened again. It has started to rain. We decide to nap for a little while and then go to the welcome aboard briefing at 5:30.

 

View of Bordeaux from the ship.

People begin to gather in the lounge for the briefing.

 

By the time we finish dinner it is no longer raining, and Bordeaux looks inviting. I know I should go walking, and we are signed up for the walking tour of Bordeaux that leaves at 9:30 pm, but . . . I need to sleep. I need a nice shower. It is only 8:30 now, and I can’t face staying awake another minute. Before my head hits the pillow, I am asleep.

December 15, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, France, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Weather | , | Leave a comment

Departing Pensacola for Bordeax and Nothing Goes Smoothly

OK. I am NOT a control freak. I roll with whatever comes along, well, sort of.

 

I am a planner. I strategize. I research. I seek alternatives. I check with my husband, to insure that the trip will please him, too. I choose the exact flights, and then I choose the seats. Hmm. When I say it like this, I sound like I am a control-freak, but  . . . as a strategist, I realize I am not in control of all the variables. I plan, and then so often, I have to be flexible.

 

The night before we are to leave Pensacola for the Bordeaux, a wildly windy tropical storm in forecast to blow in right around the time our flight is due to take off. I talk to my husband, I call the airlines. They COULD change our flights, but they can’t, they aren’t allowed to, the flights were booked by Viking, our cruise line, and they are not allowed to change anything. My husband knows me well. He drives me to the airport (nearby) and I try to sweet-talk the desk agent to change us to an earlier flight. I am close to success, I can feel it, but as she tries and tries, without success, my hopes fade. She makes a call, and gives me the same information – that she can’t change the flights because they were booked by Viking. But, she says, if we show up the next day for the earlier flight, we are likely to get on.

My husband is a good sport. The next day, we go to the airport early. Actually, it worked out well, our son was able to drive us and we got to have a good chat with him before he dropped us off. We went up to the desk and the clerk said she couldn’t change our flights. Aarrgh.

It wasn’t that bad. We checked in, got rid of our bags, went through security. We had lunch at the airport and it wasn’t bad. I can’t remember what we had, but I remember having a conversation about how it wasn’t bad for airport food.

Our flight boarded quickly, thanks to a flight attendant with a hilarious sense of humor who patiently, endlessly directed passengers entering the plane to put their large bags overhead, wheels in first, and their smaller bags tucked under the seat in front, and please, please, take what you might need out of your bag before stowing it so that other passengers might not be delayed in boarding. The delivery was perfect, utterly hilarious, and the passengers did what he said.

As we were departing, the storm was moving in, and we were warned that there would be about 15 minutes of turbulence as we avoided the clouds. It was bumpy but not bad.

When we got to Atlanta, we headed for our Paris flight, and it looked like 600 people waiting to get on in different lines – all on the same flight. We found the right line, which was moving slowly. It took us about 40 minutes to actually get on the flight and get to our seats. This was a plane with an upstairs and a downstairs; we were on the upper deck. We turned to the left, and there was business class.

It was the biggest business class section I have ever seen. It was also a little chaotic. There was one thing I really liked, and that is that toward the front, where the toilets were, there was a little lounge kind of place where you could stretch and walk around and not have to worry about being in anyone’s way. You could look out windows and take your time, which was really nice.

This was the Airbus 380, “the biggest airplane in the world.” There was a compartment next to my seat where I could stow all my gear, as well as in the luggage section overhead. Having all that space was nice.

The meal service was not smooth. It felt like maybe there had been some last minute changes and people were trying to deal with some changes. Finally, however, all that was past, and the lights dimmed and most people went to sleep. The seats went flat, and the mechanisms were very quiet. You could get a good night’s sleep.

Overall, given my choice, I will never fly a plane that big again. Even in business class, you feel like cattle. The cabin crew did their best, but they had a lot to do, a lot of people to look after, and they seemed stressed and overworked.

We dreaded Charles de Gaulle; transiting CDG is always a nightmare, but for some reason, early this Saturday morning, it went smoothly. We headed for our gate and tried to pick out which of our fellow passengers waiting for the flight were Americans, and who might be on our ship, the Viking Forseti, with us. We were right about a few, and wrong about others.

Across the aisle from me, on the flight to Bordeaux, was an American going on a bike trip, chatting with a man who lives just outside Bordeaux. The man who lives in Bordeaux was groaning that since Bordeaux has been modernized, with great public transportation and public spaces, other French people are retiring and moving to the Bordeaux area, “snapping up properties at ridiculous prices,” causing taxes and prices to rise. “The newcomers are ruining Bordeaux,” he added, “Bordeaux is being gentrified! We can’t afford to live there anymore! Every thing is changing!”

Bordeaux is not a large airport, our landing went smoothly, soon we had our baggage and were loading up onto a Viking bus. I am guessing that Viking may be a part of the gentrification, paying for expensive, accessible mooring positions, buying and maintaining their own bus fleet rather than chartering, and supplying their ships in bulk with all the advantages that bulk purchasing might bring. As we were leaving the airport, I saw something very strange;

It was at a different hall from the one we came into, and we think it might be one of the budget airlines. The line stretched out several hundred meters, and only inched along. We hoped that we would not face a similar fate upon departure. (As it turned out, our departure had its own, radically different anomalies.)

December 15, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, France, Paris, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Bordeaux/Dordogne Trip – We Owe it All to Martin Walker and Bruno, Chief of Police

Several years ago, I ordered a book recommended by Amazon. I do that from time to time, and I will tell you honestly, some of them are real stinkers.

 

This book, Bruno, Chief of Police, by Martin Walker, was delightful. So delightful I started looking for more of the series, some of which I was able to find used. So delightful, I shared the Bruno, Chief of Police with my husband, and he, too, was hooked.

 

If there is a genre I like, it is detective novels set in foreign locations, dealing with crimes that have to do with social issues current in the locale. The first I can remember is the Eliot Pattison series about Inspector Shan, a Chinese detective who falls on the wrong side of Chinese political correctness and ends up in a Tibetan jail, where he begins a series long association with Tibetan monks and the threat to Tibetan civilization that the Chinese pose. It is eye-opening reading.

 

The next series I discovered were the Barbara Nadel series set in Turkey with Inspector Cetin Ikhmen. Then the fabulous and prolific Donna Leon and Commisario Guido Brunette, set in Venice.

 

And actually, I don’t read all this books in sequence. I watch for books by these authors, and read them when they come out, not unlike my addiction to James Lee Burke and Dave Robicheaux, set in New Iberia, Louisiana and Montana.

That was a very long introduction to the idea that it makes travel in foreign lands much more user-friendly to have read books that put you on the ground, seeing what the people who live there might see. When we went to Venice, we went off the beaten track to eat at a restaurant that Commissario Brunetti recommends to a touring couple who witnessed a crime and made a report to him. It was a great adventure just finding this restaurant, Rossa Rosa (“Guido Brunetti Sent Us”) and it had delicious local food, no tourists. In Venice. Imagine. Now, too, when we read the newest Brunetti novel, or watch the German production of the Brunetti series, we feel a closer connection with Venice, a familiarity, because we have a “friend” on the inside. Or so we feel.

 

Bruno Correze, the Chief of Police in the fictional French village of St. Denise, along the Vezere river close to where it links with the Dordogne, loves his small town. In the very first volume, we meet his friends, we visit his home, we are with him when he prepares meals and entertains his friends (he uses a lot of duck fat) and we get to visit the markets and cafes with him. Every book, like the best of this genre, introduces us to at least one issue, social and/or criminal, past or present, which is manifesting itself as a problem in the Dordogne. The actual crime may or may not be the point of the novel, and the solutions are often very French.

 

We have devoured this series. We felt like we had been there. So we decided we needed to go there.

 

We visited the Dordogne – it seems like a short time ago – the last time, 35 years ago, when our son, now grown, was around 9. We made a special effort to make this a trip which was relevant to him, too. We visited Castelnaud, and spent hours with the trebuchets and mangonels, old weapons once the ne-plus-ultra of fighting off the enemy. We visited the old caves with early paintings, when they were still open to visitors.

 

We love France, we love traveling in France and we have never had a negative experience in France. While I once spoke French fluently – we lived in French speaking Tunisia – but language skills get rusty when they don’t get exercised. Oh, really, any excuse will do. Martin Walker’s books made us hungry, hungry for French foods and hungry just to be in France.

 

We booked a cruise out of Bordeaux, eight days of cruising on the Gironde, Dordogne and other rivers, visiting villages older than our entire nation, learning about major appellations, eating some fine food and drinking some very fine wine.

 

And then we picked up a rental car in Bordeaux and headed to the Dordogne. I’m going to tell you all about it, but first I want to share Martin Walker’s books with you. He, and Bruno, have a wonderful website where he tells you all his favorite places. As we read the Bruno books, we also take notes – which wine he chose to serve with the duck course, where he and his friends gathered for the wedding feast, etc. It was like having a friend who says “Oh, I am desolate I won’t be there, but here are all the places you need to go, restaurants you will like and oh, be sure to try this wine!” Hotel and restaurant recommendations are on the website under “Bruno’s Perigord”

 

Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Police website

 

Here are the Bruno, Chief of Police books, in order, from a resource called How to Read Me, which puts the books in order. http://www.howtoread.me/bruno-chief-of-police-books-in-order/

1 Bruno, Chief of Police – Meet Benoît Courrèges, aka Bruno, a policeman in a small village in the South of France who has embraced the pleasures and slow rhythms of country life. But then the murder of an elderly North African who fought in the French army changes all that. Now, Bruno is paired with a young policewoman from Paris and the two suspect anti-immigrant militants. As they learn more about the dead man’s past, Bruno’s suspicions turn toward a more complex motive.

2 The Dark Vineyard – When a bevy of winemakers descend on Saint-Denis, competing for its land and spurring resentment among the villagers, the idyllic town finds itself the center of an intense drama. Events grow ever darker, culminating in two suspicious deaths, and Bruno finds that the problems of the present are never far from those of the past.

3 Black Diamond – Something dangerous is afoot in St. Denis. In the space of a few weeks, the normally sleepy village sees attacks on Vietnamese vendors, arson at a local Asian restaurant, subpar truffles from China smuggled into outgoing shipments at a nearby market—all of it threatening the Dordogne’s truffle trade and all of it spelling trouble for Benoît “Bruno” Courrèges, master chef, devoted oenophile, and, most important, beloved chief of police.

4 The Crowded Grave – It’s spring in the idyllic village of St. Denis, and for Chief of Police Bruno Courrèges that means lamb stews, bottles of his beloved Pomerol, morning walks with his hound, Gigi, and a new string of regional crimes and international capers. When a local archaeological team searching for Neanderthal remains turns up a corpse with a watch on its wrist and a bullet in its head, it’s up to Bruno to solve the case.

5 The Devil’s Cave – It’s spring in St. Denis. The village choir is preparing for its Easter concert, the wildflowers are blooming, and among the lazy whorls of the river a dead woman is found floating in a boat. This means another case for Bruno, the town’s cherished chief of police.

6 Bruno and the Carol Singers (short story) – Bruno is occupied with his Christmastime duties. From organizing carolers to playing Father Christmas for the local schoolchildren, Bruno has his hands full . . . at least until some funds raised for charity go missing.

7 The Resistance Man – First, there’s the evidence that a veteran of the French Resistance is connected to a notorious train robbery; then, the burglary of a former British spymaster’s estate; and, finally, the murder of an antiques dealer whose lover is conveniently on the lam. As Bruno investigates, it becomes clear that they are connected.

8 The Children Return (also known as Children of War) – Bruno’s village of St. Denis has been called many things, but a hotbed of international intrigue has never been one of them . . . until now. When an undercover agent is found murdered just as a prodigal son is set to retun from a grim tour in the Middle East, the small town suddenly finds itself host to a determined global tribunal, threatening the usual cheer brought by St. Denis’s annual wine festival.

9 A Market Tale (short story) – As summer blooms, the newest talk of the town is the rapport between Kati, a Swiss tourist, and Marcel, a popular stall owner whom Kati meets over his choice strawberries. None are happier than police chief Bruno to see Marcel interested in love again, but as his friend’s romance deepens, Bruno senses trouble in the form of Marcel’s meddlesome sister Nadette.

10 The Patriarch (also known as The Dying Season) – Bruno Courrèges is thrilled when he receives an invitation to the lavish birthday celebration of his childhood hero, World War II flying ace Marco “the Patriarch” Desaix. But when the party ends in the death of one of Marco’s longtime friends, Gilbert, it turns into another day on the job for St. Denis’s chief of police.

11 Fatal Pursuit – It’s the start of summer, and Bruno’s found himself the last-minute replacement navigator in a car rally race. The event has attracted a spate of outsiders with deep pockets, big egos and, in the case of one young Englishman, an intriguing story about a lost Bugatti Type 57C. When a local scholar turns up dead, Bruno suspects unnatural causes.

12 The Templars’ Last Secret – When a woman’s body is found at the foot of a cliff near the idyllic French town of St. Denis, chief of police Bruno Courrèges suspects a connection to the great ruin that stands above: a long-ago Knights Templar stronghold. With the help of Amélie, a young newcomer to the Dordogne, Bruno learns that the dead woman was an archaeologist searching for a religious artifact of incredible importance.

13 A Taste for Vengeance – When a British tourist fails to turn up for a luxurious cooking vacation in the idyllic village in the south of France that Bruno Courrèges calls home, the chief of police is quickly on the case. Monika Felder is nowhere to be found, and her husband, a retired British general, is unreachable.

14 The Chocolate War (short story) – Police chief Bruno enjoys wandering the stalls of the weekly market in the village of St. Denis as they are being loaded with wares. But when Bruno’s old friend Léopold from Senegal start selling African coffee and chocolate more cheaply than Bruno’s old friend Fauquet at his café across the square, a competition erupts between the vendors.

15 The Body in the Castle Well – When Claudia, a young American, turns up dead in the courtyard of an ancient castle in Bruno’s jurisdiction, her death is assumed to be an accident related to opioid use. But her doctor persuades Bruno that things may not be so simple. Thus begins an investigation that leads Bruno to Monsieur de Bourdeille, the scholar with whom the girl had been studying, and then through that man’s past.

How to read me: Bruno, Chief of Police

Bruno, Chief of Police Books in order: How to read Martin Walker’s series?

 

I owe a big thanks to Martin Walker for giving us so much inside information which enhanced our trip so much. I will try to remember to give him credit along the way as I take you along with us on our trip.

December 15, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Books, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Fiction, Food, France, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Tunisia | , , , , , | Leave a comment