Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Viking Forseti; Last Day and We Visit Arcachon

This is the one trip I had really looked forward to, a beachy area famous for seafoods, and mussels, and oysters. Arcachon reminds me of all beach towns, a little casual, often a little kitch-y.

We got on a bus for a 2 1/2 hour ride from Pauillac to Arcachon. This is the train station in Arcachon. You can see it is a beautiful day.

I snapped some of the houses just to give an idea of the beach aesthetic in Arcachon.

 

 

 

The harbor of Arcachon, where we caught our boat to to out to the oyster fields.

Loved this mercantile art!

 

 

 

“Noeuds” is not a word I am familiar with, but I love that, in the context, you can figure out what a lot of new words are, in this case, I speculate, “Knots.”

 

Not unlike the Gulf Coast we live on.

 

Oysters waiting for us . . hmm. . . in the hot sun . . .

 

Boats and oyster boats


Introducing us to the art of oyster farming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always a recommendation for an appropriate “pairing”

 

 

 

 

A mosque built for foreign laborers, but somehow it never worked out and it may be a church now.

 

We ate at this very crowded restaurant. Viking had set it up and we were so glad there were tables reserved for us. The place was PACKED. Viking had set up a lovely lunch for us, fish, with some sort of exception for vegetarians. On our way in, we passed people with huge bowls full of mussels! Mussels! We need to go back and eat mussels!

 

Oyster beds all over Arcachon Bay

 

 

 

Back in Bordeaux, people are getting ready for the famous Midnight Marathon.

 

Our last night on the Viking Forseti, and we get a thrill. We get to watch the bridge raise it’s middle section to allow a cruise ship to go through. Honestly, I held my breath. It seemed to me like there was a lot that could go very wrong . . .

We had our last dinner with our friends the four ladies turning 70, and it was a delightful, noisy, laughter-filled dinner. A great way to end a great trip.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Food, France, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: Bleye, then Paillac and a Magical Dinner at Chateau Kirwan

I’m kind of figuring it out. Some days are crystal clear in my mind – the walking tour in Bordeaux, our time at the market in Libourne, walking in Bourg, my solitary time in Bleye – these are all definite. It is the times associated with the wine chalets and production where my mind gets fuzzy. OK, I can hear you laughing, but here is the truth. I like wine, I like specific tastes and particular kinds of wine, a dry, fruity Sancerre, a rich dry St. Emilion. I found a couple wines on the trip that I really liked, and after all, wine is a theme on this trip, I think it is called something like Chateaux, Rivers and Wine.

We signed on to a wine trip, so I am not whining about wine, it is just that it is low on my priorities. There were people on this trip who were really into wine in a big way, and they had a wonderful time. We drove by some fabulous wine producers (Petrus comes to mind) and we had the opportunity to learn a whole lot.

I am thinking for me, much of the wine information was sort of . . . irrelevant. So these tours are not sharp in my mind. I don’t much like bus travel, I am a big fan of history and sacred spaces and how people really lived, all the people, rich and poor. I try to imagine what their lives must have been like. So the tours were not without worth, it is only that for me, while the guides were going on, as they should, about wine, I was usually wandering off elsewhere, peeking behind the scenes and sort of self-guiding.

 

Please forgive me if some of my explanations are non-existent, or fuzzy or maybe, God forbid, just wrong.

 

Below is Bleye, the little town below the citadel, when the Mascaret has taken all the waters back out to the sea and left the fishing boats high and stranded on the remaining silt. The sky may look a little blue, but it is really shades of grey, and we start out our walk with our umbrellas, expecting to get rained on.

There are official tours going, but we really like to putter around on our own, reading signs, figuring things out, taking our time.

 

I can’t resist a church.

 

Look at the grace of those wings! It is a find like this that makes my heart flutter. I am guessing that is the archangel Michael, with the defeated serpent at his feet, but I really don’t know . . .

 

Sometimes I look at a photo and think “why did I take this?” but I can tell you why on this one immediately – look at the details. Look at the trouble someone went to to place flower pots in the middle of each little French balcony on the uppermost floor. Look at the niches built for the plant containers on the main floor. Imagine the effort to plant those containers each year. If it is this lovely on the outside, I wonder what it is like on the inside, what are the light fixtures like, do they use wallpaper or moldings, how are the spaces arranged?

Every village has its memorials to those lost in the wars. We really love it when it includes the fallen from all the wars.

So it started raining and we abandoned our walk, I think it was only a 7,000 step morning :). Now things get fuzzy. Thank goodness for the Viking Daily, which tells me we sailed for Pauillac at noon. At 2:30 we boarded buses to go explore the vineyards of Pauillac-Medoc and Margaux Wine Country.

I’ve always loved the harvests. In some places in the Bordeaux, we saw horses being used with the harvest.

I think this might be at Chateau Margaux. It was raining. There were lots and lots of tourist groups, not just the Viking tours. We were hurried along, and I don’t remember going inside anywhere.

You can see the weather is a little grim.

 

 

Off in the distance, a place I might like. I am a sucker for towers with high pointed turrets.

 

I’m pretty sure this is Chateau Giscours. I am guessing that because later in this post is a photo of a sign saying that, and I often take those photos to anchor my future self who is writing the trip up. I take pity on her lack of clarity, and help her out with some of the fuzzier details. Or maybe we are still at Chateau Margaux – the next photo is a church, and I think it was where the buses parked at Chateau Margaux.

 

For sure, this is Chateau Giscours. The hoi polloi (us tour groups) did not actually go into this building, which is probably a formal residence, or at least a party venue; we went to the wine tasting specially-built building next door, with wonderful modern restrooms built just to accommodate the tourist class.

I gave you a hint of our bus to the left, parked in front of the wine tasting addition.

Inside, those keenly interested in wines bellied up to the table.

 

After a sip or two, I slipped back outside to wander, see if I could find something interesting.

We toured another place where wine is created, bottled and stored.

 

A chart full of wonderful words we might use to describe a wine we are drinking.

I don’t believe this building is old enough to have really needed places to tie up the horses, but it may be that some nearby chateaux host travelers who want to ride horses to their wine tastings.

Promptly at 6 we leave the winery to travel a short distance to the Chateau Kirwan. Evidently Chateau Kiran was visited by Thomas Jefferson, and is one of the old Chateaux classified in 1855. Wikipedia provided me with this chart to explain the classifications;

The dinner was very elegant. I thought maybe Viking had bought this venue to use for “special” end of trip dinners, but it appears that it is a place which may be used by many organizations wanting to give their clients a special evening.

The wait staff was all from the ship. I think maybe some – or all – of the food may have been prepared on the ship.

 

We had several courses. Of course, these wines were available at the entry for sale, with other Chateau Kirwan wines.

My favorite parts were the pate’ and the terrine.

 

 

 

I liked this because the candelabra was high enough not to intrude on conversations across the table. The venue, however, was very loud, lots of excitement bouncing off beautiful hard wood surfaces, so there was not a lot of cross table conversation possible. It was difficult enough conversing with your neighbor to the right and left. But conversation was not the point of this dinner, it was to give us all an idea of how elegant and special life can be eating French foods and drinking French wine πŸ™‚

 

LOL, look at all those wine glasses! There was barely room for food!

The dinner did not drag on. It was served efficiently, and then we had a few minutes to chat or buy wine or hit the facilities before we boarded our bus. We saw one of the ladies from our dinner the night before and she said “oh! we wished we were at the same table as you!” so we arranged to eat together the next night, our last night on board the Forseti. Β The ship was nearby. We all had a big day ahead of us the next day, the last day of the tour.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, France, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: The Captivating Citadel of Bleye

I keep telling my husband, this is the hardest trip I have ever written up. We wake up in one place, end up in another. We may or may not tour the second place in the same day. We may arrive, tour one place, then board a bus and head for another. It is very hard for me to keep my days straight.

For me, Bleye was a welcome relief.

My husband was eager, from the beginning, to tour Bleye, with it’s 17th century citadel high above the river. It was built by Louis XIV to protect Bordeaux, upstream. Legends are that Roland, knight of Charlemagne, is buried here, along with Charibert II, an early King of Aquitaine. So much history, and so beautiful!

I have my own agenda. I need some quiet, I need to be away from the groups. I need to walk at my own pace, and be able to stop and ponder where I will. Bleye, for me, is an opportunity to explore, on my own, in quiet. Yep. I’m an introvert. πŸ™‚

I had a lovely adventure. I started with the group, then headed off in a different direction, heading straight up the hill of the main street after entering Bleye. I toured the entire citadel, loved my time, went around the groups when I came upon them, and ended up at a small museum with a delightful woman who loved it that I was an American who spoke French. She spoke no English, and gave me a private tour of the museum. She made it come alive! It had been a prison, and I could see the prisoners trying to sleep in the cold stone courtyard, trying to bake their meager bread in the large oven, It was a brutal life. In the basement of the museum were models of the Bleye Citadel and various artifacts, going back to earliest man in that area.

I was both stimulated and refreshed! I also found a shop with lovely hand painted silk scarves, just what I love!

When AdventureMan and I met up again, we had a lot to share πŸ™‚

Arrival in Bleye, view from the river:

 

 

It looks like a grim day in the photos, but I was wearing a short sleeved dress and a hoodie, and I had to take the hoodie off and tie it around my shoulders, it was so warm and humid. I remember sunshine, but I don’t see any sunshine in the photos. I must just have sunny memories of Bleye.

 

 

 

 

This is the main street, where, when my group went left, I went straight ahead. There are all kinds of artisan shops along this street, including an artisan ice cream shop (No, I didn’t, but I was tempted by the blueberry ice!)

 

I don’t know what this was, but I loved the feeling of it. Maybe a farmhouse? Maybe a barracks?

 

 

 

This was my favorite area. It is all overgrown, all green and mysterious.

I purposely included people in this shot so you could see the relationship of citadel to river, and see the strategic value of Bleye. You can spot any ship entering from the Atlantic headed toward Bordeaux. Also, I think this is one of those iconic photo places where tour brochures are shot, wedding photos, “I was there” shots – I think I’ve seen that overlook from different vantages a hundred times.

 

I shot this watchman’s tower because it evoked in me a feeling of isolation and loneliness; I could imagine being the guard on a cold, windy night, no fire, and hours of watching before me. You always hope for nothing to happen, and at the same time, watching and waiting is boring and monotonous.

 

Lots of happy meals available in Bleye citadel. The menu of the day, tuna tartine (a savory upside down pie?), slab of salmon with creamy risotto and chocolate cake with a pear sauce and chocolate wafer all for around $25, really, not bad for a tourist location.

Don’t you like to see what’s for lunch or dinner? Β πŸ™‚

 

 

 

The Viking Forseti waiting for us at the landing below the citadel.

In the small museum, such treasures from antiquity!

 

This is my dear friend, who made my trip into Bleye so delightful, meaningful and unforgettable. It was a lovely moment of connection. (And that’s the old bread oven)

Model of the old citadel:

 

 

I love this rendition of the entrance, especially because later, when we visit the Museum of the Aquitaine, there is a print of people at the gate of a similar castle, surrendering to an army who probably starved the castle into submission. Such were the realities of a pre-nation.

 

I loved this door; it reminded me of Tunisia. My friend the museum docent, explained to me that the studs, while artistic, also ruined any axe which was trying to break down the door. Oh! I guess it should have been obvious, but I was so taken with the artistry that the utility escaped me.

 

 

Finally! A photo with a little pale blue sky!

We spent the night, and the next morning in Bleye,

This was one of the funniest nights of our trip. We couldn’t get into the Aquavit Terrace, the only place where you can find a table for two. We anchored a table for six (the smallest table available) in the dining room, and were approached by four very beautiful and a little bit tipsy women, asking if they could join us. I said “Of course! You are welcome!” because that is the custom of the boat, you share tables, you get to know one another. But they are all looking at my husband, whose face looks like a deer in the headlights. He does not want to appear horrified, but he is overwhelmed by these laughing, beautiful ladies and for an instant, is unable to hide his feelings.

Thankfully, they joined us, and as we chatted, we enjoyed them very much. Lucky for me, I got to sit next to another introvert, who lives a very different life from mine, in a very different context, but listening to one another, we had a lot in common and a lot to share. Each woman at the table was unique and talented. They were all celebrating their 70th year on earth and more than 55 years of friendship. They had met in school, and kept up the friendship all these years, traveling to get together, and planning a trip now and then together. They were delightful, and we all ended up laughing for the next two or three hours. At some point, we were close to being the last party left in the dining room, and we broke it up. From an awkward beginning came one of the best evenings of our trip.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Shopping, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: The Libourne Market

It’s a really good thing AdventureMan collected all the Daily News, because already my notebook has become confused, with arrows pointing to when we *really* did this and scratch outs where I totally got things wrong.

First, I am going to insert photos from our time on the Dordogne, en route to Libourne:

 

Yep. That’s me, on the balcony, taking photos. Thank you, AdventureMan πŸ™‚

It is a glorious afternoon, and the scenery on the way to Libourne is amazing. There is a mansion around every bend.

 

The Viking Forseti has a map you can follow on the television in your room. You can see the little Viking longship going into the bend of the river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is an impressive fortress – or church. even on low ground, with no low windows, it is defensible.

 

 

November, and we are having a day in the 70’s F.

 

 

 

 

We hike into Libourne in late afternoon to figure out our plan for the following morning. Once again, we are thoroughly enjoying the warm sun, and a beautifully walkable town.

 

 

View at dusk in Libourne, from our balcony.

We get up and have breakfast so we can head into town. We know the markets get started early, and I want to be able to take photos before the groups tours start arriving.

Through all these years, those who have continued to follow me, you know how I love local markets. You never know what treasures you might find. Some of the treasures, we can’t even buy because we can’t cook them and we can’t take them back to the USA. We just have to appreciate them in place.

I covet these windows, and the shutters that you can pull closed to cover them. I would love to have a house like this!

The detail of the stone and wooden beams in the building facades.

Love the old doorbell pull and the new intercom juxtaposed.

I admire the way the French can create a garden from the tiniest patch of earth.

The outdoor market is small on this cold November day, but there are also stalls under the protected areas all around the square, and in the Marche’ Couvert.

 

 

Behind the market stalls here is a lovely Tourist office with nice goods, and a cafe full of smoking men, waiting, I think, for their wives to do the marketing. The owner was kind and let me use the restroom – clean enough for a desperate woman. I never found the people to be unkind, as long I as I asked them politely, the answer was always “yes.”

One of the nicest memories of this market is a needle-arts vendor in the center of the plane who had a little butterfly stitching kit suitable for my 6 year-old granddaughter, in colors I knew she would adore, and a small pair of sharp sewing scissors, in the shape of the Eiffel Tower. More than anything, I want her to love France, the very idea of France.

The word I learned for pumpkin was “potion” but here in the Bordeaux there are many pumpkins, and the most common one I saw was “Potimarron.” I expect it’s a variety of pumpkin, and I love having a new word πŸ™‚

 

 

 

Inside the covered market, all is immaculately clean, the foods are fresh and beautifully displayed.

Even at eight in the morning, oysters may be paired with beer and eaten with gusto.


My old friend, Mimoletta, which, I believe, is actually a kind of Belgian or Dutch cheddar, but oh, so good, especially aged.

The local and Basque special cheese:

A spectacular variety of goats’ cheeses!

Look at those beautiful scallop shells!

We were delighted to see what “Maigre” looks like in fresh form; this is the fish my husband ate at the restaurant in Cadillac.

Huitres! The magic word for oysters!

Palourdes are delicious little clams.

I really wanted to bring some of this home, but was not sure I could transport it safely.

 

I did bring home prunes from Agen, and I ration them out a little every day πŸ™‚

 

 

This is the way we bought squash in Tunisia – in hunks. It wasn’t expensive. Once, at Halloween, I caused a scandal in the Marche’ Lafayette by buying a WHOLE pumpkin to take home and carve for my three year old little son. There are some things you just can’t explain cross culturally, and buying a whole pumpkin to carve and put a candle in to burn to scare away evil spirits you don’t believe in – some things are too complicated. Sometimes, you just don’t even try to explain.

 

 

This was heaven and hell for my husband and I. We would have loved shopping, taking home some of the beautiful produce and preparing it for our own meals. What a thrill it was just to see them in such abundance. Grilled chicken, below, was expensive compared to the USA, but the chicken really tasted like chicken.

Canale’ is a speciality in the Bordeaux area. We expected to love it, but it has a burnt under taste that put us off a little.

 

Walking back along the river to the boat, we could see the results of the Mascaret, the tides coming in and going out from the Atlantic. At low tide, the Forseti had to head out to the middle of the river, and boats all along the sides of the river were stranded.

It’s around here that the photographic record becomes really important. Even with the daily newspaper and my notebook, some parts of the day become fuzzy. What I remember was the thrill of seeing Chateau Petrus. Bruno, Chief of Police talks about the one bottle he was given, and what a treasure it was. One day, I would love just a little 3 oz glass of a Chateau Petrus.

Wineries and vineyards in the St. Emilion area.


 

 

The weather has changed. As we exit our bus, we grab our umbrellas. It looks like the rain could get really serious.

I loved the St. Emilion church. You could see that it was a working church, and a beloved church. It had a special feeling to it.

 

 

I am a total sucker for this kind of architecture.

 

 

Looking out over the rooftops of St. Emilion, trying to shelter my camera from raindrops.

 

 

All the Viking guides were really good, but the one we had really seemed to bad-mouth several of the wine vendors, and really seemed to push one particular vendor. Many people were buying the wines, most of whom were having it sent or were going directly bak after the tour.


 

 

We boarded the bus, chilled and soaked, even with our umbrellas, and were thankful for hot showers when we got back to the Forseti. We loved the market in Libourne, and I loved the church of St. Emilion.

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Food, Living Conditions, Travel | , , , | 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

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 Β 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 Β . . . 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