Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bordeaux France

Gray rainy days in Paris - perfect for reflecting back on ten days traveling in the hot sunny south. Mostly in Spain, but also two days in Bordeaux, a city we’d skirted on earlier trips but had never visited. Our timing was good – in recent years Bordeaux has shaken off old dirt and dust, renewing itself into an elegant city with well-kept pedestrian areas, smart shops, myriad plazas full of cafes, sleek trams, and great night life. Unlike so many European cities, Bordeaux wasn’t bombed during modern wars, (although it did duty more than once as capital in exile) so the city center has a rare architectural harmony from the glory days of the 18th century. I was especially taken with the extraordinary range of faces staring down from the facades – winking, grinning, leering, wagging stone tongues and rolling carved eyes. In the early 19th century the city was a place of refuge for Spanish intellectuals, including the painter Goya who died there in 1828. I came across a statue of him close to our hotel, with his signature furry top hat in hand. It wasn’t hard to picture him, despite age, deafness, and bitter disappointment at the ways of men, enjoying local oysters and drinking the magical Bordeaux wines.

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