The 10:48 to Bordeaux
I learned nothing about what the wineries of Bordeaux were famous for on my first trip to this city a year ago. I did learn something about where the wine was served, though, and it was in that same cafe that Carol and I sat now.
“So what are we going to see, since you've been here already? Carol asked expectantly.
I didn't want to thoroughly disappoint her, so I replied pointlessly, “Everything.”
We did not see ‘everything’ during our two-day stay, but everything we saw was all new to me. From the church steeple I first saw and then ignored (turned out it wasn’t a steeple, but a stand-alone tower next to the church of St. Michel), to the wonderful Quinconces park and the mirror pool, Bordeaux revealed itself as a charming city in the heart of the famed Aquitaine region of France. (With the habitue of the city splashing their bare feet in that reflection pool, I renamed it, The Bordeaux Institute for the Study of Foot Fungus.)
By now, into day five and six of companion travel, I could more concretely distinguish this kind of travel from solo. As content as I'd been to just sit alone and watch the world pass by me, I was now energized by becoming part of it with someone else. A companion is not just someone to share an observation with (such as, “Reid, you missed a loop with your belt this morning.") but to bounce an insight off of (as in, “I think the reason you're leaving the toilet seat up so much is because of that year you lived alone.”) Companionship broadens and enriches travel without hardly being aware it's happening at all.
Carol has also shown an uncanny ability to conjure events, literally out of thin air. At a square where we’d stopped for happy hour one late afternoon, she wanted to change up the view of the passing parade of people. “I'd like a thunderstorm to open up, complete with lightning and a downpour,” she announced to the heavens. The previously partly cloudy skies suddenly opened up with great peals of thunder, and the rain caught everyone by surprise, including several lovelies who unwittingly became contestants in an impromptu wet t-shirt competition. (First prize went to a buxom Bordeauxean with a large bosom and small hands.)
It is here in Bordeaux that Carol adjusted (or is it resigned?) to my choices in accommodations. Unlike myself, Carol is somewhat uncomfortable walking along dark, narrow alleys filled with swarthy men of the blackguard demographic, with the hotel itself located across from a lingerie shop and strip bar. But in this case, the room was clean and spacious, and after Carol had piled her suitcase and my backpack in front of the door for extra security, she slept quite peacefully - her arms lovingly wrapped around me for dear life.
When we left Bordeaux, Carol was pleased that the train station was only a two-minute walk away, which we reached with a quickened pace and over-the-shoulder glances. Next stop was Arles, which was something Carol was looking forward to - until she saw the walk from the bus to the hotel was, again, up a dark, narrow alley filled with swarthy...