Bordeaux, toute seule

All alone in Bordeaux (And yes, this post is about spring break…I realize it’s over a week late!)

Originally, the second week of spring break was going to be spent in Bordeaux with another assistant friend of mine — she’d start in Spain, I in Germany, and we’d meet “halfway.”  But then the train strike hit, and she couldn’t get out of her town.  Ironically, she told me that she wouldn’t be able to meet me only 20 minutes into the 4-hour train ride to Bordeaux, the last leg of my journey there, so I figured I’d just stay there, since I’d already be there.  Besides, spending four days by myself in Bordeaux sounded much more appealing than finishing out the week by myself in my little tiny village with nothing to do.

But as it turned out, my expectations (and, thus, the title of this blog post) were proven wrong.  Bordeaux is a very friendly city for tourists, much more welcoming and accommodating than Paris (although I still love Paris more…).  All tours of everything are consistently offered in both English and French, bikes are available to rent on almost every corner, the tram is very easy to figure out, and people are just generally more laid back.  ‘Course, this is also partially because Bordeaux has undergone a pretty large renovation and/or facelift within the last three years.  The tram system, the backbone of their public transportation system, was only put into service 2.5 years ago.  The Bastide quartier across the river, where my hotel was, only got pulled out of an industrial slum 5-10 years ago (depending on who you ask).  The Office de Tourisme has transformed into a friendly, open service instead of a dingy little back office, according to one of the workers.

So I had fun.  I met people.  I met people without prompting, nor a common interest.  Shocker?  I went on two wine tours, coach bus rides to a couple chateaux in a certain appellation outside of the city, where we got tours of each chateau and we tasted some good wine.  Tuesday was Entre-Deux-Mers, and I spent the entire time with two French girls, one from Paris and one from just outside of Bordeaux, and we had a blast.  Then, on the way back to the city, I met two Australian guys who were a month into their 4-month tour of every single part of Europe they could possibly see.  We chatted, I met them later that evening at a student bar where a football (yes, soccer) game was playing — Barcelona v. Milan, for some sort of qualifying to some European cup.  I’m horribly lax at anything sports-related, but it was awesome fun.  Thursday’s wine tour was Médoc, and I spent the whole time with a Canadian girl who was spending the year studying at the university in Lyon.  I met people.

Any time I spent alone was by choice, which is how it should be.  I biked along the sunny promenade at the river’s edge.  I took a walking tour of the city and then expanded it on my own.  I wandered the oldest still-open museum in France.  I sat in the gardens by the reflecting pool, which occasionally became sea-spray jets.  I climbed to the top of the tallest bell tower and heard an accordion down below.  I found an amazing crepe place.  I saw a French movie with Gerard Depardieu.  I saw an old classic movie, “The Red Shoes,” in its original English, and cried at the end.  I perused shop after shop and bought a summer dress made in Nepal.  I saw Lisa Hannigan sing on French TV.  I wandered into a game shop that had Magic cards — Rise of the Eldrazi packs on the shelf three days before the big release parties, because some non-Magic-player accidentally put them out, so the owner had to get special permission from Wizards of the Coast for any Magic dealers in Bordeaux to sell Rise of the Eldrazi early.  I got stopped on the street by two older men who asked me what “ong-kin-tong” meant in English, and I almost walked away, until they showed me the book they were reading about jazz — it was honky-tonk.  (Still haven’t figured out how they knew I spoke English.)

Apparently, you can do a lot on your own.

What I’ve learned: “lonely” is not the same as “alone.”  And although I have at times been painfully lonely out here, I have never been alone.  I have lots of old and dear friends who care about me, and lots of new friends, or even passing companions, just waiting to waltz into my life for an hour or a few days.

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