The Plan

Here’s the plan for my next few posts: I divided this trip into five chunks to make these photo essays a little more manageable.

  1. Bordeaux, France. You’re reading this right now!
  2. Basque Country Tour: Bayonne, France; Pamplona, Spain;  San Sebastián, Spain; Bilbao, Spain
  3. Scotland, pt. 1: Edinburgh, St. Andrews,  and Inverness
  4. Scotland, pt. 2:. Isle of Skye, Oban and the inner Hebrides, Stirling, and Glasgow
  5. Reykjavik, Iceland.

September 19th, 2016

Finding a place to get over jet lag is one of the most important early steps of any trip involving a long flight, especially if that’s an eastbound time zone change. We decided to spend two nights in the southwestern French city of Bordeaux. Rick Steves claims that “Bordeaux is french for boring,” but after looking at some maps and checking out the new efforts of the city to rehabilitate the historic and downtown core, it seemed like a good choice.  Bordeaux is roughly the size of Tacoma, Washington, and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for 18th century architecture.

After two long-haul flights we arrived in Paris Orly for a brief recharge before taking the third and final flight to Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport.

Icelandic Sunrise
Keflavík was beautiful as usual

The final slog from the airport to hotel is always the hardest part of any European trip. You’ve been up for probably 20+ hours with only an hour or two of light sleep on the flight, your stomach is growling, and there’s always a bit of culture adjustment when dealing with a new city and mostly unfamiliar language. Dinner that night was at Ye Olde British Expat pub (not the real name), which while perhaps uninspired, did provide us with English speaking staff and excellent veggie burgers.

After which we promptly went to bed at 21:00.

September 20th, 2016

Up bright and early, we started exploring the downtown core that the city is known for. Originally a walled city, the inner core showed scant evidence of the existing walls except for a few freestanding guard towers. Rising above the urban morass, they were a reminder of the historic and strategic significance of this location.

Old Bordeaux Gate
Looking up at a watch tower, one of the few extant examples of the wall

 

Note the headless statue of the building architect
With plenty of preserved buildings, there were gems in plain sight throughout Bordeaux, and quit a bit of creepy/weird ones as well. This multistory apartment building had a statue of the architect perched above a balcony, but the passage of time had caused the head to fall off in a macabre display. Also note the eagle below the balcony.

Along the waterfront, nested between the tram lines and the river, was a pedestrian walkway which had a distinctive work of public art: it created a foggy mist that people could walk through and disappear quickly in the shroud of moisture.

All that exploring can really tucker you out though. By 15:00 I had reached a wall and fell asleep in a coffee shop.

Fun side note! Not only was I in the depths of jet lag, I also decided to completely cut off my caffeine consumption at the beginning of the trip. It was a very dark and low energy first few days.

Too sleepy. Continue on without me.
zzzzzz

Recovering energy, we went to the Musée d’Aquitaine, which contained lots of artifacts tracing the history of the region through recovered artifacts and records. One of the more striking pieces featured was the remains of a large gothic church rose window from a ruined building.Gothic Rose

September 21st, 2016

It was a train day! The only train day on this entire trip! Besides being historically interesting, Bordeaux is also on the main TGV fast train line running South from Paris, and it was under two hours away to our next destination of Bayonne.

But first, we checked out Wok to Walk, which Tracey had excitedly found out existed in Bordeaux. It’s a Wok fast food restaurant, but their ingredients were fresh and had plenty of options for our picky dietary preferences. Remember the name, because we’ll go to these places multiple times in the trip.

We finally get to the train station and hopped on for a quick journey for the start of our Basque Country tour.

 

TGV to Bayonne.
TGVing it up

Next up

Next post we’ll explore the Basque Region together. If you can’t wait, or want to see more pictures of Bordeaux, a full album is published on flickr.

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