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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day Three: Bordeaux



My alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. this morning and with it came a wistful exhale and soft groan. It wasn’t just the fact that it was so early and I had only gotten a few hours sleep. It was the knowledge that within a couple hours, I would have to quell my time in Paris and say au revoir to its never sleeping streets, cozy cafes, picturesque buildings and of course, the Eiffel Tower.
So, as I did the morning prior, I got up and ambled to the window, opened it up to the terrace and stood outside for a few minutes, forlornly transfixed on the street washers cleaning the sidewalks. It was as though they were created in that moment solely to illustrate my melancholy musings.
On the other hand, I was excited to get to Bordeaux, a place no one in our press group had ever been and a place that isn’t high on the tourist radar at the moment, giving it an air of mystery … we didn’t know quite what to expect. So, we boarded the Rail Europe and within a few hours, made it to Bordeaux and our hotel, the Regent Grand Hotel Bordeaux.
I’ve been trying to come up with the words to describe this inordinate structure, which is located in the main section of Bordeaux across from the Grande Theatre. The moment I set foot inside, a faint scent of gardenias charmed my senses.
The hotel itself was once a smaller building, but over the last decade, was connected with four other buildings to form the elaborate, expansive presence that it is now. Nothing in the city compares to it, according to one of our tour guides.
My room – adorned with lavish cream, robin’s egg blue and burgundy hues along its walls and spiraled carpet – has a bathroom, another room with a marble tub and sink, the king-sized bed in the center with an enormous flat screen TV and a sitting room. The crimson couch is coupled with a marble topped, dark cherry wood dresser and elegant coffee table, a French window backdrop framed by luxurious curtains swooping down and pulled back with fringed ties, and overlooks the Grand Theatre.
Another common feature in both Paris and Bordeaux are softly lit and working carousels. In Paris, there was one on each side of the Eiffel Tower. Here in Bordeaux, there’s one to the right of the hotel. It took everything in me not to join its playful, archaic horses during their mesmerizing circular motion.
Today also marked the first day of a huge sale in both cities, which caused a flood of customers through the main shopping area in Bordeaux, Sainte-Catherine Street. But before any more shopping could be done, our group had a lunch at the Café l’Opéra before attending a wine tasting nearby.
I anticipated an overwhelming experience, but found the entire event very intriguing, educational and enjoyable … though it was interesting to take a sip of wine and then spit it out in order to appreciate its taste on the palate, or perhaps more importantly, to keep a “clear head” during tastings.
Afterward, I attempted to shop, but it wasn’t long before I become beleaguered by the constant waves of people, throbbing within every store like the pulse of a heartbeat. I felt as though I was back in the mall during Christmas Eve, yet sorely magnified. The wall- to-wall foot traffic and eager shoppers stole my breath.
This time, however, I made it back with a half hour to spare as the evening was topped off with a dinner at our hotel. The evening included five courses presented by renowned chef Pascal Nibaudeau, who was awarded a Star in the 2010 Michelin Guide within 10 months of working at the Regent.
I tried everything from a sour cream, cucumber and Brussels waffle with seaweed, to duck, scallops and truffles, as well as an organ of an animal I don’t want to fully know about with quail eggs and truffles.
Then, they brought out the lobster press, one of five ornate, silver lobster presses in the world in fact. And it was quite an interesting process to watch. However, at that point, I felt like I was filled to the brim.
Yet somehow, I was still able to make room for dessert. I couldn’t pass it up, not here, not in this place I may never have the chance to inhabit again.
It included an egg white plum entrée as well as a chocolate mousse and fruit sorbet. Every few minutes, I would lightly shake my head and repeat how completely awe inspiring the dinner was, not to mention the hotel itself. And many times, my sentiments were echoed by the others.
Prior to our elaborate banquet, we toured a few different suites of the hotel, including the royal suite where Tom Cruise stayed last year during the opening of his movie with Cameron Diaz, “Knight and Day.” Yeah, you better believe I sat right on that bed and had a picture taken …
But moving on, each room, designed by the famous French designer Jacques Garcia, was drenched in a different style, color scheme and pattern of sumptuous fabrics and designs. Between the rich chocolates, terra cottas, burgundies, lavenders and blues, I was immersed in them all with every step and breath that ensued.
However, when it’s all said and done, I really am having trouble finding the words to describe all that I saw today, but I hope to convey these musings on paper once my article takes shape.
All I can say right now is, I look forward, though with some bittersweet feelings, to my last full day on this trip tomorrow. We’ll be taking a tour of the city in the morning followed by lunch at Café Andree Putman and another train ride to the city of Arcachon by the beach.
Until then … adieu.

-- Cassandra Shofar
CShofar@News-Herald.com

1 Comments:

Anonymous doug smith said...

I must say that there's no where quite like Paris. We love the streets, art and sidewalk cafes. We Americans would we wise to take a lead from the rench in terms of how to relax on a warm evening.

January 13, 2011 at 11:05 AM 

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