Day 10: Bordeaux

I find myself in France, ahead of schedule, but looking at the things I want to do in Paris, I may need 2-3 days!.

Today I woke up at 6am, just before we were to cross the boarder into France as we stopped to let off those getting off at San Sebastién. The hotel train this time was half as much as the one from Lisboa, but in general half as nice, the adage “you get what you pay for” comes to mind, but its fine enough, and strangely I slept well, even though they didn’t so much as give us a pillow, and had us stacked 6 to a room like sardines. I had hoped to get to see the sun rising over the Pyrenees, but I slept in too long, and probably wouldn’t have seen anything anyway because it wasn’t very light out when I did wake up. Most of the people in my room got off before the boarder, leave me and 1 other. Next stop across the boarder was Hendaye, where I got off. The train station people here are a ton more helpful than any I met in Spain, the woman had a bit of trouble with my crappy French, but I was able to communicate that I wanted a map of the French rail system, and she unlike the Spanish railway, had one on hand.

The scenery in this part of Spain/France is very very green, it looks a lot to me like Washington, or perhaps parts of New Zealand. I then caught a train headed to Toulouse, getting off at the Bayonne stop 30 minutes away from the boarder, expecting to spend the night at a cheap hotel. The hotel was easy to find because it was across the street from the station, but as it turns out they didn’t have any open rooms for the night, instead I decided to divert to Bordeaux, but first, a look around Bayonne. The reason I had been interested in Bayonne in the first place is that its a quiet little town with a pretty spectacular Gothic style cathedral with stain glass windows from the middle ages. The streets leading up to the cathedral were really cute, lined with nice shops and cafes. I happened across a little fruit stand selling fresh, regional apricots, so I decided to make a breakfast out of it. They were really quite excellent, very sweet. The Cathedral was not far from the train station, and was really quite interesting, with many intricate designs and patterns. Inside I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, though I snuck one when no one was looking hehe. Some of the windows told stories, like of the patron of the church, others however didn’t seem to follow any story I know(which aren’t that many though) but were very violent, one window in particular had some 25 images, all of which were of people being killed in one way or another; by sword, by axe, by hanging, and the worst were of torture. I really don’t understand that. All in all though the detail was extraordinary, made with very bright colors.

Back at the train station I bought my ticket to Bordeaux on the TGV high speed train, the supplement this time was 1.50 euros, which is the cheapest yet, which makes me very happy because I’ll be on the TGV a lot, tomorrow to Tours and Paris most likely, and to Luxembourg and Strasbourg. With the supplement being so cheap I may even take little day trips around the country. The trains as it turn out are not all that fast in some spots, probably restricted by the quality of the rail.

Arriving in Bordeaux I set about finding my hotel, I found one in my guide book for 22-32 euro that was in the main part of town offering small simple rooms. I didn’t want to stay at a hostel because although they’re cheap, and can be pretty fun, I really wanted a nap, and eventually a good night’s sleep. Bordeaux apparently used to be a sleepy town, but after massive works by the government putting in a new trolley system, and making a large block of the downtown area pedestrian streets, Bordeaux is anything but. I caught the trolley in to the main part of town and found my hotel without much issue, the maps from lonely planet actually being helpful here. All of the rooms had various options, like a sink, or a shower and TV. I chose the cheapest, trying to save a bit of money, though that means I need to use the incredibly tiny shower in the morning that’s the size of a coat closest.

After checking in, I took a brief nap, even though I slept better than last time on the train, I was still tired. Waking up after an hour and a half, I set off for the Musée de Beaux Arts, the fine art’s museum. The collection here is largely from artists out of the Bordeaux area, but include many other famous artists from France. The permanent collection is free to the public, while the temporary collections costs 2.50 euro. I took the free ticket and looked around, most of the paintings were religious in nature. The most interesting was a visiting collection from Pierre Lacour that is here until October, the guard who was supposed to stop people without the more expensive ticket seemed to think that art should be free to see, so he shooed us through saying “I didn’t see you”. Lacour seemed to do a bit of everything. They had a sculpture he had done of Napoleon, these amazing engravings for a book, along with the book itself, incredibly detailed sketches, and a painting for which I took a small little pamphlet of called “Vue Du Port De Bordeaux”(View of Bordeaux Port) which I was struck by; the painting has incredible detail and shows any number of things, from boat building to unloading of bricks. The painting also has many of today’s iconic landmarks of the port that still stand today, some250 years later. There was also another painting at the museum I was struck by, though not from Lacour, it depicted a lion being subdued by a group of bunny rabbits, which I found really amusing. I took a photo when no one was around. Moving on I stopped at their nouvelle collection, which had a combination of paintings from the 1800s, to modern photography, and even some comic like pieces. They offered a nice booklet which I will try to hold onto and bring home. I then went on to see their temporary collection from Lhote, which cost me the 2.50euro, and really I wasn’t too impressed with what I saw. Apparently he was famous in his time, and ran in the Parisian intellectual circles, but to me their quotes of him made him seem as though he was too full of himself, and self important about his work. I think I prefer artists who become famous posthumously. His style in general, was to break images up into shapes, which is interesting maybe for a few, but to base a whole lifetime’s work off of a single concept like that seems a bit too much like a one trick pony to me, and after a few is uninteresting.

Finishing up my trip around Bordeaux’s art collections, I left to find some dinner and wander the streets. I had forgotten my experiences in French Polynesia, but soon remembered that you cant find dinner in France until after 8 or 9, restaurants just aren’t even open. In America they would be open anyway, even if not many people were eating until 8 or 9… Is Europe just lazy as a whole? The streets are jam packed with expensive boutiques, and cafes. People flock to the stores in droves crowding the streets. Its really quite an amazing atmosphere. I eventually find a place serving cheap sandwiches, and take one back to my room. Its simple: baguette with butter, a little bit of ham for flavor, a cookie, and a bottle of water, but I figure it will last me until dinner really begins. After finishing my food I fall asleep again. Waking up at 10 this time, I contemplate dinner, the sun is down but its just now starting to get dark. I decide that I’m not feeling particularly hungry, and I’ll be asleep by midnight, so eating something heavy would not be a particularly good idea.

I find myself with no working outlets in my room, which normally doesn’t seem like much of a problem, but with the previous night been spent on a hotel train, and the night previous to that in a hostel, all of my electronics are running out of batteries. My MP3 player and PSP are both dead, my razor will die before I can finish shaving next time most likely, and my computer is at 15% battery remaining, and worst of all my camera is starting to run low…. Hopefully my hotel tomorrow will have internet so I can upload my last 3 day’s of entries, and power. I hope no one is too worried about not finding any entries for a few days. I think this might become more and more common, especially when I’m in Greece, so please don’t worry unless its been a week.

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