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I Went to France and Thanks to Fodors I Know Why Europe Is So Expensive or Indytravel Went to Bordeaux. :-)

I Went to France and Thanks to Fodors I Know Why Europe Is So Expensive or Indytravel Went to Bordeaux. :-)

Dec 26th, 2004, 02:54 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
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With 16 inches of snow on the ground I stayed inside today.

I put some photos on ofoto. I've tested the link. It works for me but everyone knows how that goes:

indytravel is offline  
Dec 26th, 2004, 04:22 PM
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Thank goodness, back on the France track.
Great photos Indy. You look like a monk.
Dec 26th, 2004, 04:27 PM
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Wonderful photos, David
Scarlett is offline  
Dec 26th, 2004, 05:31 PM
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Indytravel, those are some of the best vacation pictures that I have ever seen. If you do not mind me asking what kind of camera did you use? Do you take pictures professionally? The reason that I ask is that when I take vacation pictures well lets say less than desirable results are developed.
luvpenguins is offline  
Dec 26th, 2004, 06:54 PM
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Wow! Fabulous pictures, David!
marcy_ is offline  
Dec 26th, 2004, 07:12 PM
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You know, David, I'm thinking more and more that if the only place in Europe that I can go is France, I will never be disappointed. Great photos and report. When you dig yourself out of the snow, and when Marcy and I get back from Paris, we'll have to get together and talk France!
Dec 26th, 2004, 07:29 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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Thanks for the great photos, David! You have a canny eye for composition.

I was particularly moved by the flowers on the graves, the conrast between the dark marble and the bright petals. Someone was very much loved.
Croque_Madame is offline  
Dec 27th, 2004, 04:56 AM
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Thanks for the pix, Indy.
ira is offline  
Dec 27th, 2004, 05:48 AM
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Thanks for the laugh machin! A life of denial, sacrifice, contemplation and reflection, wow! that's really not me. Though I do reflect & contemplate on the meals I've consumed.

Hey marcy_ & dln, nice to see you aren't still stuck in the snow too.

Croque_Madame I was really moved by the cemetery. There were so many well cared for graves. I thought the ceramic flower arrangements were especially nice for the coming cold months. Pretty but not tacky as fake flowers seem to be.

Scarlett & ira thanks for the kind words.

luvpenguins I'm not a professional by any means. I use a little Minolta point & shoot 35mm camera. It cost about 100USD at a discount store.

I learned everything I know from a friend who is quite the amateur photographer. The "secret" is understanding how the flash works. Too many people think a flash will illuminate an object 10 yards away, it just won't. A normal flash works about 10 feet.

For the shots inside St Vivien it was very dark. I turned the flash off. For the stained glass I held the camera against a pillar so it could expose longer without jiggling. For the apse I set the camera on the back of a pew and set the timer. I set the timer at the wash house then ran around to the front of the camera. It usually works well but occasionally I'm too slow and there's a photo of my backside.
indytravel is offline  
Dec 27th, 2004, 08:03 AM
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St Emilion


Since my train didn't leave until 1:30pm I started wandering around Bordeaux again. I climbed the bell tower to the cathedral for overcast but still nice views of the river and city. It cost 4.60euro to climb almost 300 steep steps.

I walked towards the Grand Horlage tower with its nearby sports stadium. The tower struck noon as I stood near it. The sports stadium was very 70's. Since there was a market incorporated with it I wondered if that had been an old Paris-like Les Halles area that had been redone.

I walked down the main pedestrian street St Catherine towards Place de Victoire. While there I bought a freshly grilled ham & cheese panini from Brioche Doree. I ate it sitting on a street bench.

With a bit of time still left I decided to walk about 2 kilometers or so to the train station. Along the way I went through Les Halles Capucins which was a nice market with lots of seafood. I saw an incredibly coordinated lady. She was in her stick shift car at a stop light rolling herself a cigarette. The light changed and off she went managing to continue both tasks of rolling and driving.

Two beers emporter (to go) from a snack shop at the train station and I was ready (to go) too.

I took the 1:30pm train to St Emilion arriving a few minutes after 2:00pm. Yes you can visit St Emilion by train but don't expect a lot of amenities. The train station is an abandoned, boarded up building. There was no loo. Well except for the fact that French men seem to make a loo where ever they need it. No orange compost machine either. At the end of the gravel drive was a pay phone with a taxi phone number listed. My guide book said it was a kilometer walk into town. It was more like a mile and without sidewalks or street lights.

After walking into town I climbed up the hill to the tourist office. I caught the next guided tour. This is the only way to see the inside of the St Emilion church which was carved out of the stone hill. It's one solid piece. The tour was in French but they had a very nice English brochure. Try to read it before the tour as it's dark in the church.

Vineyards in the distance, lots of cobblestone streets, red tiled roofs with lichens growing, churches and fountains it's a beautiful town spilling down the hillside.

St Emilion is a one trick pony town: wine. There's a wine store for every 8 people who live in the old town or so my guide book claims. Many of the wine shops were closed due to the international wine convention happening that week in Bordeaux.

There were very few services. I didn't see a single tabac. I did see an ATM of the Crédit Agricole variety. I had to get near a hotel on the east side of town to find a bar. North of town is a more modern area but I didn't walk out that way. Maybe that's where the tabacs hide.

I sampled the macaroons. At 1.5 to 2 euros apiece I thought them a bit pricey especially since I prefer a crisp cookie. No one told me macaroons are doughy though it's my own fault for not looking it up on the Internet.

Sunset was around 5:00pm. My train left at 6:30pm. It was as dark as pitch on the walk to the train station. A few minutes after I arrived a man and his two small children biked in with a tow-along carrier. I think they were waiting to meet their Mom. The man spoke French and German to his 3 year old son. The boy kept pointing one way and saying, "Bordeaux," then the other way and saying, "Périgord."

Right at 6:30 another man showed up and asked if the train was going to come. "J'espère," was my response. It was 15 minutes late. It didn't bother me to be waiting there. It might bother other people to wait in the dark for a train. It would be a lot better in summer when the sun doesn't set until well after 8:00pm.

I wondered if the conductor would compost my ticket as there wasn't a composter at the station. I never saw the conductor. I suppose I can trade the full fare ticket towards a future trip but I'd feel like I was cheating.

Back in Bordeaux I went to Chez Edouard for dinner. Old school Bordeaux I really liked it. Service was decent but one of those places that runs a big dining room with a couple of people. The food was absolutely huge. I saw slabs of meat that would rival a US prime rib "king" cut and filets of salmon that were more than an inch thick.

The foie gras appetizer was the terrine style. A nice slab with perfect toast points kept hot in a napkin. It also came with those bits of jellied things. Not sure what those things are but I've never cared for them, weird texture.

Next up was a filet of beef with a fois gras sauce. Another slightly smaller slab of foie gras was on the steak as well as the sauce. Another pretty decent steak for France. Through the years I've decided France created fabulous sauces to make up for the fact they don't know how to butcher a cow. The filet came with hot home fries and green beans with garlic. The every popular cheese plate was for dessert. This set menu was 17euros. A kir added 4, a very nice 1/2 bottle of Bordeaux Lisenne red added 8.50 to that.

Once again I started back to my hotel room. On the way around the ice skating rink I glanced down an alley to see yet another pee-pee story in progress. When you least expect it there it is...



I walked to the Botanical Gardens. I explored them and discovered another persimmon staggering under its load of fruit. I saw southern magnolia, ginko and bald knee cypress trees. Lots of joggers and a man practicing with a "dead" tennis ball against a park wall.

I walked over to the CAPC museum of contemporary art. As it was almost noon I braced myself for a modern art experience with 2 quickly downed kirs. The museum is a beautiful space. It used to be a cocoa warehouse. Lots of interior brickwork with big windows set high on the walls. It has some permanent collection but much of it was a special exhibit involving food.

My oh my. 2779 coke light cans stacked against a wall, a phalanx of grocery carts filled with empty tin cans, a performance art clip of a man in a frenzy chopping, cutting, poking, boiling and making a mess in a kitchen, 540kg of gold wrapped hard candies spread in a square 6 inches deep on the floor, a primary color campsite with buckets of empty mussel shells, a plexiglass table and chairs for 20 with a performance art video clip running above it of women in various states of odd attire eating. My oh my again. 2 kir were not enough for this.

I did like the shiny chrome toaster on the floor surrounded by 2 feet high stacks of golden brown toast. I like toast. I did not like "Cloaca Turbo." In a large room by itself it was 3 front loading washing machines surrounded by all manner of wires, tubes and gauges wrapped in plexiglas. The first washer was filled with a thick brown liquid, the second with a dark yellow liquid, the last with a clear sudsy liquid. Thinking to myself "surely this is faked and not what it looks like..." I got my first whiff. I don't think I've ever bolted from a gallery as fast as I did that one. Just plain nasty.

This trauma drove me to the rooftop cafe. The modern china and furnishings contrasted nicely with the brickwork. My glass of wine came with cabbage in a vinaigrette served in Japanese spoons with baguette slices. After soothing my jangled nerves with a glass of red I was able to escape the place without incident.

On my walk back to the city center I hit the antique fair in the Place Quinconces. This is an annual event. There were 3 long aisles of dealers set up. Very nice as it was all antiques, none of the junk you see at so many so-called antique fairs in the US. As I walked through about 1:30pm I noticed 5 or 6 groups of people sitting at lunch on their antique furniture and eating off their antique china. I didn't check prices as I wasn't interested in hauling anything home.

I wanted to see about riding the fluvial boat across the Garonne to Lorment. It wasn't running on the weekend.

By now it was getting dark so I walk the main pedestrian shopping street r. Ste. Catherine. Hordes of people were out shopping and looking at lights. I'd not had a canelé so I stopped at a Baillardran shop (they seemed to be everywhere) and had one. Nice crunchy outside, a cake center and lots of cinnamon flavor they're very good.

With my munching snacks I didn't eat an organized meal. Or maybe I'd already eaten enough that week.

It was cold but I still wanted to watch people. I looked a bit and saw a McDonalds. Though I do find it funny to have a Big Mac and a beer I wasn't hungry. Then I happened to glance up and see large windows with counters and bar stools. Into the McD's I popped, purchased a Sprite and walked up stairs. I sat in their warm dining room and looked out the window at all the people passing below for over an hour. At one point some kind of organized march went by. I think it was Basque related but their banners weren't very clear. I went to their nice bathroom too. Not a bad use of McD's actually.


This vacation was almost over. I knew it without a doubt when my alarm went off at 5:00am. Out the hotel door at 5:30, I'd paid the night before. A 15 minute wait at Quinconces for the tram and I was at the train station at 6:45.

Plenty of time to get some breakfast to go and catch my 25euro prem fare to CDG at 7:30. The train ride was through an overcast day. I arrived at the CDG train station on time at 12:07pm. I followed the signs to 2C knowing the unmarked 2A was on the other side. Check-in, passport control and security took little time. I was on "the other side" and duty free browsing at 12:50. I thought May was quick at 1 hour from train seat to duty free. This was 40 minutes. My flight left at 2:30pm.


Many thanks to cigalechanta, StCirq and klondike for restaurant and itinerary help.


I was very happy overall with the weather, 3 days of sunshine, 2 of rain and 4 overcast.
The lows in the mid-30's highs never much over 50F. Not exceptional but very nice for miles of walking and museum hopping. It could have been a lot worse.

Now to explain my thread title. The reason I found out France was so "expensive" was because of the journal I kept. Before I came to Fodors I never thought about a journal. Now when traveling (especially solo) it's an integral part of my trip. I'm tracking every expense and making notes. I find it's something to do while dining alone.

After categorizing my journal I discovered that I spent 1/4 of the total cost of my trip on foie gras and booze. Ack! Did I need to know that? If I gave up the good stuff I could have every 4th trip to Europe be "free."

I don't think it's going to happen.
indytravel is offline  

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