We’ve been on a ramble for the last week, and I’ve been remiss in posting about it. The first week has been in the Bordeaux region: two days in the Pauillac area, two days in Bordeaux itself, and two days in Fronsac, near the famous wine town of St. Emilion. We’ve had great weather and excellent adventures.
I won’t write a lot about Pauillac, as we were there a short time in a less-than-memorable B & B. Actually, I should say it was quite memorable, but not in a positive way. Best thing was that the woman running it (born in Aberdeen, WA – 90 minutes from Seattle) knew the wine-makers in the area and set us up with appointments at a couple. We did enjoy the wine-tasting – no surprise there. Pauillac wines are made with what’s thought of as the “traditional” Bordeaux blend: mostly cabernet sauvignon with a fair amount of merlot and small amounts of petit meunier and cabernet franc. Nice wines… We had some at a large chateau (the wine makers here are called “chateau” even though they are unlikely to have a physical chateau building anywhere) and a very small place. Prices were large and small, respectively, but all the wines we tasted were excellent, matching their prices to their quality.
Bordeaux is an ancient city, existing long before Rome conquered it in 60 BC. Its golden age was in the 18th century and during that time many beautiful buildings were constructed of a golden limestone. For whatever reason, the years since did not result in those buildings being destroyed as in so many cities. The got tired and dirty, but they remained. Over the last couple decades, Bordeaux has cleaned and restored many of these buildings, pedestrianized many downtown streets, and built an excellent tram system that makes getting into and around the city quick, easy and cheap. To say we liked Bordeaux understates how we feel: we are looking forward to returning already.
Both readers of this blog know we like beautiful buildings. You can imagine, then, how we felt when we first stepped into this street:
Most of Bordeaux’s central core has streets like this! Walking around the city is a treat for us building aficionados. Some more:
It’s not perfect, though. You may recall that in my Le Corbusier post I mentioned that there’s a lot of UGLY modern architecture; Exhibit 1:
This is essentially a Court House. It is slammed against a beautiful tower left from the city’s protective wall; no one can explain what those cone things are or the wavy roof. One explanation said that its openness is to symbolize the “transparency of justice.” Right. This is one ugly building, surrounded by beautiful buildings 250 years older. The one bright spot, as Mary pointed out, is that it will be gone long before that wall tower disappears. The tower has been there centuries; I can only hope the building doesn’t last that long.
La Cité du Vin
Are you surprised that Bordeaux – one center of France’s wonderful wines – would have a wine museum? In fact, it has at least two; one of which is brand new and shows what modern architecture can be. This is a spectacular building (in my always humble opinion).
The exhibits of the museum use technology to explain the history of wine, how it’s made and how to appreciate it. When we bought our tickets (not cheap: $22 each) we were told to plan for two hours to see it; after two hours we had not seen everything but we were, indeed, finished. So we went to the observation room at the top where we were able to try a glass of wine (part of the admission fee) and look over the city. From there it’s possible to see the rebuilding of this previously derelict area of Bordeaux; the museum has generated a renaissance here, and in a few years it will be surrounded with new buildings and apartments.
That’s Bordeaux. We are already planning to return. We loved the city.