Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chenonceau, Bordeaux, & Carcassone (2005)

The next morning, we got all packed up and took the Metro to Gare de Lyon to pick up the rental car. We spent a couple of minutes wandering around in the railway station before spotting a "voitures" sign. Then, when we spotted the Hertz stand, we saw that was boarded up and locked shut. I was pretty worried at first, but when we got closer we were able to decipher a sign telling us that the Hertz was now located across the street. After that, we quickly found the right place.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of our troubles. The person who was helping us seemed fairly junior, and he was certainly very confused by our reservation (which we had made through Auto Europe and not Hertz, with a reduced drop fee). It took us 45 minutes to get our car, which ended up being two classes larger than we had wanted (Peugeot 407 wagon). Apparently it was a pain to drive, not that I dared to attempt driving it in Paris. We finally got on the road around 11am.

Our goal was to arrive in Bordeaux by evening, but along the way we visited the Chateau Chenonceau, not too far from Tours. We spent most of the afternoon there, walking in the gardens and looking around inside the castle itself:

In Bordeaux we checked into our hotel, the Hotel Choiseul (kind of old and dingy), before having dinner at Le Valentino, a small but trendy Italian-French fusion place off of the rue St. Remi. We had some trouble locating the restaurant (my fault) so we did get to see a fair amount of Vieux Bordeaux (Old Town) that evening, as well as lots of fancy boutiques in the Palais du Bourse area.

The next morning we checked out and headed to a nearby laundromat. Laundry cost 3.80 EUR for a 3kg load (washer only), and 1.10 EUR per 10 min for the dryers. In the end it was quite expensive, but we didn't have much choice. At this point I realized we'd forgotten our travel towels in the hotel, so I ran back just in time to catch the desk clerk as he was leaving for the afternoon! Luckily he was able to understand my broken French and he let me in to retrieve our towels.

For lunch we got some panini sandwiches near our parking garage in the Place des Grandes Hommes. Then, we set out for St. Emilion, a famous wine region near Bordeaux. It turned out to be a charming area with lots of old buildings and small streets. We walked up a tower to admire the view, and then decided to rent some bikes to further explore the area (10 EUR apiece). During our ride, we also stopped by a small chateau called Villemaurine and had a nice tour and tasting.

We left St. Emilion around 6pm, and arrived in Carcassonne just in time to check into our hostel at a decent hour. We'd chosen a tiny place called Sidsmums which was run by a British family. It was pretty bare but cute, with wood cabins and pebbled paths, and it was completely dark and silent at night, so we got a good night's sleep.

We got off to a later start the next morning, partially because we consciously decided to sleep in a bit, but also because one of our friends had forgotten her wallet under her pillow, so we had to turn back and get it. I guess I wasn't the only forgetful one!

We had a fairly cheap (5 EUR) breakfast in a small cafe near the canal in the lower city, and then tried to catch the shuttle to La Cite proper. We waited about 25 minutes before giving up and driving up. Surprisingly, we had no trouble finding parking up there, and it only cost a couple of Euro.

We wandered around inside for most of the rest of the day, climbing up and down the ramparts and watchtowers, and exploring the castle and the churches, including one very old cloister wall:

We did some souvenir shopping on our way out, and I was surprised they didn't have the Carcassonne board game available.

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