We arrived at Saumur station with plenty of time to catch our 8:01 train. This trip was in 3 segments, first a 40 minute ride to Tours, Then a 5 minute trip to St. Pierre des Corps. I tried to find a way to make that a single connection, but apparently, even though the two stations are close together and frequent service between the two, there are no trains to go directly to St. Pierre des Corps from Saurmur without the change in Tours. After our mishap in Marne-La-Vallée, we were very careful and making sure we were at the right place and right time.
It wasn’t a particularly long train day, as we arrived in Bordeaux just after noon. After taking a taxi to our Airbnb, our host checked us in and gave a tour of the apartment. First, remember this was to have been for 6 of us. It would have been Brian and Gary and our friends, Peter and Mark, who recently moved from Palm Springs to Greece, joining us. The apartment is huge, just under 2000 square feet.
This was a gorgeous apartment in a 18th century building right on the Garonne River. It was conveninent to transportation, with a Tram stop right in front. The neighborhood was multi-cultural, with lots of Middle Eastern, Chinese restaurants and Eastern European cafes, and shops. I heard a lot of languanges other than French as we walked the area. As I mentioned, Peter and Mark were coming later in the day. They eventually got to the apartment around five and we chilled for a while, enjoying a little wine and then heading out for dinner. There were so many restaurants to choose from, we walked until we found a nice restuarant. We also found a cute little gay bar/cafe with sidewalk tables called Sweeney Todd’s. It was literally around the corner from our apartment.
For our first full day in Bordeaux, we decided to walk along the Garonne, as far as La Cité du Vin, The City of Wine in English, is a museum dedicted to the history of wine. It was very interesting and we would have spent hours there and not seen everything. We stayed a couple of hours, viewing several of the video presentations, playing with some of the interactive exhibits and finally enjoying a glass of Bordeaux on the observation level. It was a fun couple of hours we learned a lot about wine. Afterwards, we decided to cross the river and return on right bank. The right bank of the Garonne is far less developed that the left. Lots of open space, RV camping, boat clubs, parks and even some rather large homeless encampments. We stopped at a funky bar along the River for a nice cold beer and then continued on to the Pont Pierre, the bridge right in front of our apartment. This bridge was built by Napolean Bonaparte.
It was a nice walk along the river, the stop at the wine museum was a nice addition.
I realize I didn’t take any pictures of us in the wine museum, just shots of the building and a few of the interior exhibition rooms.
We had 4 nights in Bordeaux with no particular plans for dinner, so we would walk around in evening until we found something that loooked nice. We mostly ate in the outdoor seating, which is so common in France, and has been long before Covid. As far as touristy things, we booked a city tour by bike and we booked a small group tour to St. Emilion.
It was about a half an hour walk to our bike tour meeting point and we were ready to ride. Our bilinqual tour guide who spoke English and French was informative and made our 3 hour ride around the city very interesting. We did have a little 10 minute rain which made the pavers slick. Peter hit a particular slick area and went down, the tour guide turned to see what happened and went down also. Although neither was injured, Peter’s bike did not survive and after several attempts to fix it our guide decided to park it, rent one of the many city bikes available and get on with the tour.
Our next day was filled with a 5 and 1/2 hour trip to St. Émilion There has been wine making in Saint Émilion since the Roman times and there are remants of the Roman structures still visible in the Village, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999. The wines of Saint Émilion are typically red blends, particularly Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Savignon. Bill and I really like red blends, so we expected to enjoy our tastings. Our tour had only English speakers, since it was the four of us and one other couple from Canada. it was about an hour drive to Saint Émilion where we toured the village before heading out to the vineyards.
After the village stop, we had two additional stops to taste wine. Our first tasting was at Château Du Tailhas. It was in a fairly non-descript building, but the Château du Tailhas Pomerol blend is a complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It was a dark red that had showed the complexity of its blending. A very pleasant wine. At the second stop, we toured two wineries owned by the same family. Château Tour Baladoz, is a traditional winery, with oak barrels and ceramic wine tanks. While its sister winery, Château La Croizille, is a modern facility with stainless steel wine tanks. It is very modern looking. However, the wines produced by both, from the same grapes are similar. Again, complex red blends, with a fruity nose and complex tastes that play delightfully with your palate. I think I could drink only St. Émilion blends and be very happy.
Our tour lasted almost 6 hours and with all the wine, the food and the ride, we were tired and ready for a nap when we got back to Bordeaux. After another evening stopping by Sweeney Todds and dining at Symbiose, a restaurant that Peter had heard about, that was also recommended by our hosts, and by our tour guide. Our guide offerred to call and make reservation for us. As it was, they only had space early, and since it was only a short walk from our tour drop off, we decided to forgoe our naps and head directly to dinner. The restaurant was very nice and, for once, we ate inside. The food was what you would expect at a French restaurant in France, was well prepared, with excellent service and, of course, Bordeaux wines. It was perfect for our last night in Bordeaux
Our train did not depart until 10:30 and we were a short 7 minute tram ride to the station, so we had a leisurely breakfast, packed up and headed to the station. Our ride to Bordeaux was a single connection through Narbonne and we were in Barcelona by late afternoon. Bill and I planned to stay at the Axel Hotel, a gay hotel right in the center of Barcelona. While Peter and Mark went to Sitges, to see friends of theirs, who used to live in Palm Springs. So Bill and I were on our own in Barcelona. We had a nice room, with a cute stain glassed in corner patio, which was great for morning coffee, but a little too warm the remainder of the day. We did not do any tours in Barcelona, we just opted to walk the city and see what we could find. We only had 3 nights there. We did send home one more bag, full of all the biking clothing and gear. We would not be needing that again on this trip. Although expensive, it is really nice to be down to one bag each for the remainder of the trip.
On Saturdy morning, we flew to Athens. Originally, Peter and Mark were supposed to fly with us, but one of their friends in Sitges had a 70th birthday party on Saturday night, so they decided to stay the extra night, while Bill and I flew as planned. Now we had an unplanned day in Athens. Peter and Mark would meet us at our hotel on Sunday afternoon and we would drive to their house about an hour from Athens. We didn’t get to the hotel until around 5 PM. We rested a bit and then decided to walk aroud and find something to eat. Bill had seen online, a gay cafe not far from our hotel, so we decided to check it out. The restaurant, called Rooster, had a large outside dining area right on a shaded square in the center of town. Again, dinner was a simple affair, but just what we wanted. The next day, we decided to walk up to the Acropolis. I am not yet comfortable with crowds at tourist sites, so we opted not to go inside the walls, but to walk around. We then headed back toward our hotel and stopped the Rooster for drinks and a snack. Afterwards, we went back to our hotel to wait for Peter and Mark.
While we were sitting at Rooster, I noticed a handsome young man across from us. He had classic Greek looks, enough so, he could be a model for any of the many statues from the classical Greek period.
Peter and Mark picked us up in their car and we headed to their house. Until March, Peter and Mark lived in Palm Springs, but they decided to retire and move to Greece. Peter, who is Greek and speaks the languange and Mark, who does not, have purchased a hillside house overlooking the Gulf of Euboea. They bought the house in 2020 and between covid and construction they are just now getting settled in their new place. They have great sea views from the various terraces of the property. Across the gulf is Euboea, also known as Evia.
Our plan was to take it easy after several weeks of being on the go. A quiet few days would be most welcome. We did a walk with Peter along the coast in Oropos, we had dinners on the water front and Peter also cooked a couple of meals. Peter is a great cook and enjoys preparing tasty but healthy meals.
Peter has not fully retired, but is expected to do so next month. So, we had time with him in the mornings and then in afternoon he worked remotely from home until about dinner time. One day we decided to drive over to Evia for a little sight seeing and lunch. Evia is connected to the mainland by a bridge over the Euripos Strait, which is only 40 meters wide at its most narrow point. If was a fun, but quick day, since Peter had to be back in time for work. We took the ferry from Oropos to Evia and then drove back using the bridge.
Our last day in Greece, Peter, Bill and I went to the beach. We hung out at one of the many beach clubs just down from the house. We had a great morning, into afternoon. Bill and stayed at the beach club while Peter went shopping. Afterwards, he picked us up and we headed home.
Early the next morning, Mark drove us to Athens airport for our flight to Madrid with connecting service to Málaga. And with that, I am going to end this blog here. I know it covered a lot, but I was trying to catch up. We are now in Estepona, Spain, having arrived on Thursday and we will be here until next Thursday, when we head to our nephew, Kyle and his wife, Ida’s celebration of their wedding. But that is a story for the next blog. Until then!