Thursday 17th. We had a quite leisurely start to the day - which was good considering it was raining and just eased off as we trudged the 100 mtrs to Gare Lille Flandres station where we had breakfast before boarding the train to Bordeaux. The trip to Bordeaux took about four and three quarter hours. These trains are fast! The hum along (with virtually no swaying and are so quiet) at close to 200 miles per hour. Cars on the motorways look like they are going at a snails pace. Bordeaux station was a bit chaotic. Hard to find the taxi stand and when we got there it looked like there was a queue of people and no taxis. The line was actually for an adjacent bus stop but it was hard to tell. Accordingly we booked a taxi but had to wait 15 minutes for it as other taxis came and went. We could not get Uber on Johns mobile but did so shortly after we booked the taxi - Murphy's Law! The hotel is an apartment/hotel and has a kitchen and even a small dishwasher! We ventured out immediately as it was already close to 6pm and figured out a 24 hour pass on the trams at euros 4.60 each was good value - and so it proved to be. We caught the tram to the middle of Rue du St Catherine (2.3 miles straight, wide boulevard and vehicle-free) and wandered up to the Place de la Victorie before we had a shandy at a nearby bar (they actually sold Monteiths but the language barrier meant Patrick ended up with a local St Moritz instead). Julie & John had a shandy. We took a tram back to look at Cathedrale St Andre and Palais Rohan, both pretty impressive and then another tram back to the hotel for freshen up before heading out again by tram to the top of Rue du St Catherine where we went to a chinese wok place for dinner. We then wandered back down the boulevard before catching trams back to the hotel.
Friday 18th. Patrick awoke feeling a little under the weather and we were all a bit jet-lagged so we were a bit late in getting going. It was also looking a bit foreboding with rain and thunderstorms forecast. We had booked a wine tour for the afternoon going to St Emillion, one of the premier appellations in Bordeaux. We grabbed the trams out to the new Cite du Vin which is a fantastic new building celebrating Bordeaux wines and wine culture. We also took in the newish Pont Jacques Choban-Demas which is actually a new draw-bridge with four massive architecturally designed towers used to hoist the bridge up. We then walked along the riverside shopping centre which has a lot of outlet shops, mostly up market. It had started to rain so we took shelter in a brioche café where we had some nice mini-baguettes. It had stopped raining when the tour was due to start. It was a small tour with three Aussies, an Irishman and us three. Our guide was a young man called Yan who turned out to be an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide. He explained at length the history and virtues of Bordeaux’s wines and the differences in the various appellations. He took us to Chateau La Croizille which is a ‘Grand Cru’ and hopes its wines to be ‘Grand Cru Classique’ in the near future. These are the top tier of producers in Bordeaux. We had a tour of the winery and sampled four different wines ranging from 2008 to 2013 vintages. The host at this Chateau, Carlos was also very engaging and personable. Yan then took us to the beautiful old town of St Emillion and lead us through some of the quieter streets not frequented by too many tourists before joining the madding throng in the main town centre. We then ventured to the Pomerol appellation and visited Chateau Chantecaille where we had another winery tour and sampled a further three wines all from their 2014 vintage. Yan had also prepared us some nibbles here of cheese and meats and bread which went down a treat. This tour took a little over five hours and we thought Yan was extremely professional and the tour was great. We got back just after 7pm and returned to the hotel by trams, taking in another amazing sight, the Place de la Bourse on the River Garonne waterfront on the way. We assembled our own light dinner with cheeses and meats from the local supermarket. Patrick and John ventured out later to get an ice-cream each. We leave Bordeaux for Paris tomorrow convinced that we would all like to come back again someday.