May 16, Bordeaux

Breakfast. See above.

I’m so glad to be seeing two things that I loved about France in previous visits. The first is the French method of planting a forest. All the trees are lined up vertically, horizontally, diagonally, in perfect geometric precision, like pieces on a chess board. This is especially fun watching from the train, as the perfect lines of trees and spaces between them shift as your line of sight changes. The other, not fun, but touching, are the heartbreakingly huge monuments, in so many parish churches or village squares, listing all the local soldiers that died during WWI. The numbers are staggering. Saddest, I think, are multiple entries with the same surname, probably indicating that several members of the same family fought and died. One I noticed yesterday had some names added, out of strict alphabetical order, that I presume recognized soldiers who had died of wounds, after the war. I don’t photograph these monuments. I won’t.

The day started with another lecture from the knowledgeable Brigitte, this time about the history of Aquitaine. It’s fun to hear little hints of French pride creeping into her scholarly dispassion. Of course, according to her, neither the Chinese nor the Italian truffles are as good as the black Perigord truffles. She reported that truffle hunters were so secretive of their favorite sources that while many of them joined the army during the wars, when one died, his truffle trees were lost. Forever. She also explained how dogs have been trained to replace pigs as truffle hunters, but a highly-trained dog, a valuable asset, is very likely to be stolen by a rival hunter.

Lunch was at the Chez Jean restaurant. We were sent upstairs, as we often are, partly for a large empty room, but also to not disturb the rest of the clientele, and had a lovely lunch. The entree, a tender fish served atop a little column of pinkish (beet-dyed) potatoes was delicious.

After lunch we walked to the Aquitaine Museum. It was fabulous. I only saw up through the Middle Ages section, but, as you can see from the photos, there were many wonderful things to admire. I was blown away by the huge rose window frame. I couldn’t figure out what it was right away, as its shape, even without glass, is perfectly balanced. And all carved in stone. They used to have a natural history museum, but I think it closed, and some of the exhibits were moved to this museum. There was a ferocious-looking lion, an extremely ugly wild boar, and some very elegant birds.

After the museum, I wandered around, and ended up finding Saint Seurin Basilica. Another tour member joined me. The sign on the church said it would be open on Sundays for viewing from 5-8, and we waited until 5:30, and no signs of life. It was really disappointing, as I may not have another chance to see it, and it’s a very important church, architecturally and historically. I did get some good photos of the exterior.

Set up a dinner date, then off to see more of the riverside, including a partial bridge that everyone climbs to look out on the river. I also found another church, St. Louis. It looked very authentically Gothic, but the decorations, statues and stained glass were all very sentimental 19th Century. I finally found a history, and it was built in the late 19th Century. Bah. forget that.

Dinner was at Bistro d’Edouard with Teddy and Tom, a couple of tour-mates. It was a whole lot of fun. We all had good stories, and sons about the same age, and a very nice dinner. They got into the spirit of the photos, and lent their desserts for immortality. We’d eaten late, to allow time to burn off our late lunch. Then we sat up another hour discussing politics, so it was very late, and I was very tired, by bedtime.

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