"Bonjour! On a une réservation pour ce soir pour deux personnes."
"Quel est le appelle?"
I hestitate for a second.
"What? Did you only learn enough French to say you had a reservation and nothing more?"
Bienvenue a France. Relax, American readers, the man at the desk was clearly just joking around with us.
"Désolé! Je suis americain, so admit it, I've already exceeded your expectations."
Our room in Bordeaux was not even in the same building as the hotel reception. When we got there we found a rather desolate studio room with two beds and a balcony. The shutters of the balcony seemed to be dressed in the peeling layers of paint from hundreds of years of history. The room was not much, but somehow it felt right. Maybe spiritually? There was something about the struggle to turn the key the wrong way in the door several times to unlock it from the outside, immediately repeating the process to close it from the inside that just made you feel French; like this really was your normal life.
Since this was D's first night ever in France, we set out to find a restaurant where we could have some good French food. I had a delicious cassoulet and, in proper Bordeaux fashion, D had a wonderful lamb shank. The house wine - while not life changing - was still better than many of the wines I come across back home.
It's almost impossible for me to explain in words how beautiful this city is. Put it this way - almost the entire section of the historic district of the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Not a building - the entire city. Strangely enough though, despite endless streets of gorgeous buildings, what really struck me in my heart the most was when we first stepped out of the side streets and made it to the bank of the Garonne River at night, where the path is lined by lanterns glowing in soft pinks and greens from the colored glass that lines them, the even softer lights of the slumbering village shining in the distance.
When the morning came we climbed a bell tower where you could see the whole city and beyond, off into the beautiful wine country. Climbing back down from the tower we stepped into the cathedral it shadowed. Inside, someone was playing the huge, gorgeous pipe organ. They weren't playing any actual songs. It was random playing; immense, deep chords that shook you deep in your core followed by atonic and dissonant runs. There was no structure. It was amazing to listen to, the pipes singing the song that our lives have become. Full of energy, forgoing structure. Passion without punctuation, every note played solely for the sake of being heard. By anyone, by no one.
One night here really wasn't enough. One day I will be back here to really understand and know the city.
"Bonjour! Ça va?"
"Ah! Bonjour! Très bien, merci, et vous?"
"Ça va! We are checking out!"
"Excellent, it was great meeting you guys, I hope you enjoyed your stay. Bon Voyage!"
Stereotypes don't have to be true. Vive la France!