The city name is synonymous with great wine. More accurately, it IS the name of wine. This is one difference between French wines and American wines. French wines are named after the region where they were produced. E.g., Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy etc. American wines are named after the grape use in the wine; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chablis and so on.
Bordeaux is not just wine, its a city with an interesting history and some exquisite old buildings from the 18th century.
Thousands of the downtown buildings located around the historical part of the city are on the UNESCO World Heritage list as outstanding architecture. Bordeaux experienced a great economic boom in the 1700s due to the increase of wine trade with England.
When I scheduled our visit to Bordeaux my aim was the wine! I wanted a tour, I wanted to see vineyards, I wanted to taste and enjoy. Strangely, we didn’t drink a drop of Bordeaux wine.
Our couchsurfing hosts lived very near to the Bordeaux wine museum. We paid the rather hefty 7 Euros each and walked into the basement for the self guided tour. It was not very good or thorough, It took us less than 30 minutes to walk through it. The museum was a not a good value and a disappointment.
However, when we went back up to the gift shop (where we bought the entrance tickets) we began to have a look around and chat with the employee running the place. We were the only customers there so our conversation was relaxed and casual. I asked her to explain the 57 appellations that dived up the Bordeaux region. Something that was established in 1855 and is of great importance to the Bordeaux wine industry.
Gesturing to a big wall map of the 57 appellations, she did a decent job of explaining it to me. I still didn’t completely understand. No matter, I then asked her the most important questions: “How do we tell a good wine from a bad one?” and “What is a good rule-of-thumb to follow when buying French wine?”
The answer was not as cut and simple as I wanted. This is what I learned. You get what you pay for…..Uuuuusally. Wine is very sensitive. The sweetness of the grapes varies with the amount of rain and sunshine and the length of time on the vine. Also the soil will affect the flavor of the grapes. The moment the grapes begin their transformation into wine, the process is a balancing act of chemistry with too many variable to mention here. And finally the taste of the wine is subject to what type of containers its stored in and the length of time it is stored. Sometimes all this works together to produce a great wine, and sometimes the chemistry doesn’t work and you end up with nasty tasting wine.
Learning all this didn’t help answer my questions. I pressed her, “BUT there must be some general advice that I can follow that will Uuuuuusally guide me towards a decent wine. What is that?”
She kind of grimaced her face and drew a deep breath, “Generally……Genearlly if you spend around 10-20 Euros ($15-30 USD) and you look for a green sticker on top of the bottle, (this is a sticker that indicates something about the quality of the production process. I have only seen this label on wines IN France.) …you will usually get a decent bottle of wine.”
On March 26th Soon Jeong and I went downtown to have a look around. This was our 3rd wedding anniversary. I had planned to take her to a very nice restaurant for our anniversary. But sometimes plans just don’t work out.
About mid morning Soon Jeong began to need a restroom rather frequently. “Rather frequently” turned into urgently needing one every ten minutes. I think we found just about every restroom in the downtown area. Her condition became bad enough that we decided to go back to the apt because we were not seeing anything, we were just searching for the next restroom. Our anniversary dinner was canceled.
Well, this posed a problem. My male, right-side brain went into Problem solving Mode!!! I must go out and hunt down suitable dinner and gifts to bestow upon my ailing wife.
I remembered, from our arrival circular parking hunt, a delicatessen on a nearby street. They sold ready-made foods by the Kg. I went there and got some spicy looking vegetable dish, a meat dish for Soon Jeong and some rice. Added a mini bottle of plane red wine, and I had our takeout dinner. Not fancy, but I hoped it would be a cozy, yummy heart warming dinner.
Next project was the all important anniversary gift. I stopped in a shop that sold kitchen supplies. Most of the items there were too expensive and/or too big for us to carry in our luggage. Thus, I concentrated on finding some small accessory tools. Small and affordable being the criteria. I had no illusion that these kitchen accessories would be THE anniversary gift, they were only a little something to present on the day of our wedding. The REAL gift, I intended to buy later.
A garlic mincer that you rolled across the table to operate it. It was shaped like a Volkswagon beetle with two large wheels. A small knife that you pulled across some vegetable or skin of a lemon to get small shavings. A square shaped peeler that fit on your finger like a ring.
With these three items and dinner in a bag I mentally evaluated how well I had solved the problem. Using my own logical and methodical assessment of the solution, I gave myself high marks. I had dinner, I had gifts. Even better, I had a gift that months ago, Soon Jeong had commented on how “cool” it was.
By now I am sure you are smirking and laughing at me. Without going into the details of the great disappointment and name calling, I am sure you can guess I did not win any points at all. The dinner was rather bland and the gifts…the gifts, errr well, what sort of “stupid” husband buys kitchen TOOLS for his wife on their anniversary? “This says you just want me to work in the kitchen.” “Babo!” (Korean for; Idiot) “Where’s the sexy underwear? The beautiful watch? jewelry?”
To sum up the whole event, our 3rd wedding anniversary in Bordeaux, France was a total flop.
Oh well. On the good side, my dear wife now has a “My stupid husband” story to tell and compare with her girlfriends.
The next day, Friday, Soon Jeong’s bladder problem continued and did not get any better. Saturday we were leaving to drive to our next couchsurfing host. I e-mailed ahead and asked our host if there was a doctor or clinic we could make an appointment with. There was and an appointment was made for the following Monday.
The quick ending to this story is that Soon Jeong had a bladder infection. Something I had expected given her symptoms. The doctor prescribed some antibiotics and in a few days she had fully recovered.
When talking to the doctor I asked him what was the cause or how did she get a bladder infection. He said, probably she wasn’t drinking enough liquids. HA! Medical proof that what I have told Soon Jeong many many times; “Drink more water” was not just ridiculous nagging. Drink more water was a wise thing to do for good health. You should listen to your husband Soon Jeong, even if he has no sense what-so-ever of an appropriate anniversary gift.