I met Vera at the train station at 6:45 after all too-few hours of sleep. We didn’t have to wait long as the train was early, so we had lots of time to get our bikes and stuff loaded. It was also rather luxurious all the way to Paris, as we were the only two bike passagers and could stretch out.
We took a very leisurely ride through Paris and stopped and drank a café au lait shortly before Montparnasse.
The second half of the trip was slightly less pleasant than the first. I think the term “teeming with humanity” was invented just for the Montparnasse train station. Oh my God it was full and chaotic and getting through with two loaded bikes was a challenge. The train itself was full to bursting and several times people asked us if we couldn’t just move our bikes so they could sit. Sorry, not our problem that the bike section blocks 4 seats.
Our hotel in Bordeaux (the only one we’ve reserved for the whole trip) is right across from the train station so finding it was no problem. At check in we had that typical problem: one speaks one’s practiced sentence of the foreign language and the people answer so quickly that you don’t understand a word, assuming that because of those three words you spoke you’ll understand their rapid-fire response.
After settling into the hotel we set out to explore the city. We took the street car for several stops and got out along the river-front promenade. Wow, what a beautiful city! This entire promenade is lined by beautifully-kept 3rd Empire buildings. Yesterday evening it was bustling with life (there’s a big different between “bustling with life” and “teeming with humanity”) and we strolled for several blocks, people-watching and enjoying the evening light. Very amusing… I as usual, offered to take a picture of a family of Germans, and where are they from? Augsburg, of course!
After our long stroll we started the search for dinner. We found the restaurant quarter and decided we weren’t interested in Chinese, Indian or Italian (what a surprise) and checked the menus of the French places. We settled on a place that looked ok, but the trouble started as soon as we sat down.
The little waitress walked by us 3 times, ignoring as much as possible before she brought our menus. Then another bit of ignoring went on before our order was taken. Aperitif, bottle of wine and water got plunked down all together and my first course came without too much waiting.
The pate de fois gras was served with triangles of pain d’epices (basically the French version of gingerbread) which completely overwhelmed the flavor of the pate. Which in this case wasn’t too hard to do because it was possibly the least flavorful pate I’ve ever eaten. Vera received her food, which involved not-so-great beef cheeks in a watery sauce, and for the first little while she tried to be polite about it.
So… I am sitting there, I’ve eaten as much of the foie gras as I can (there were two large slabs, a bit much for a first course) and the knife and fork are in the proper “please take me away, I’m finished” position on the plate. Vera is trying to eat slowly so that she’s not completely finished with her meal before my main course arrives. I am waiting for someone to take away my dirty plate. And waiting. And waiting. Twenty minutes later I managed to catch the eye of my favorite waitress (not an easy task, because she was very well practiced in ignoring imploring looks from customers) and indicated that she could clear my plate. About 5 minutes later she finally consented and with a sigh and telling look (“oh, these stupid tourists…”) she took my plate away.
So then I thought maybe that my main course would come sometime soon. By this time Vera had long since finished her meal. After another ten minutes I gave up and went to the bar (not a chance that one of the staff might walk by my table or ask if I need something…) and told the woman to please cancel my main course and bring the bill as I had waited too long. As it happens, at the moment I got up to go the bar, my food had come, but it looked so uninspired I could only think that those little scallops would taste like pieces of rubber so I let it sit until she brought the bill. Had the service been no so terrible and only the food mediocre I think it would have not been so bad, but this was a definite loser on both counts.
All was not lost, however. We made our way back to the theater plaza and sat outside at the café at the posh Hotel Regent and I had a cheese plate and some melon and we drank some more wine and the evening was saved.
Back to the hotel and fell into bed at 11:30.