The tail end of our journey brings us back from the sleepy South-West with a quick visit to the Bergerac wine region, an area to the East of Bordeaux that sits somewhat in the shadow of its more famous cousin. Bergerac wines are often considered the ‘poor man’s Bordeaux’, but this is largely unfair - the Bergerac wines may be less expensive, but express their own terroir and perhaps give the winemakers a bit more freedom to create their own unique blends and styles.
We make our way to the centre of Bordeaux at last, drop off our reliable rental car and board the TGV to Paris. In NZ taking the train is more often a slow and noisy journey to take, not so on the ‘Train a Grande Vitesse’, the high speed inter-city train network that transports over 100 million passengers per year. In 2007 the TGV set the world record for a wheeled train at 574kph, while our trip scything through the countryside at the comparitively pedestrian speeds only barely exceeding 370kph. Still, the Johnsonville train line it ain’t.
Being our third time in Paris, we have already seen many of the major sites. The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Musée d’Orsay, and an unburnt Notre Dame have graced our attentions before. This time we are staying in the Oberkampf area in 11th Arrondissement, a short distance from The Marais. It is a trendy area with lots of specialty shops, bistros, and fine restaurants and like most of inner Paris it is very well serviced by the underground Metro. By coincidence we are staying immediately next to one of the best Boulangeries in Paris, that has a queue out the door from open to close, it is worth the wait.
We are only here for a couple of days so we make our way around some of the city that we haven’t seen before. The Saint-Martin Canal was built in the mid 1800s to connect the Ourcq River some 100km Northeast of Paris to the Seine. It supplied building materials, grain, and other goods, along with fresh water, to feed the fountains of Paris and enable the streets to be cleaned. A significant part of the canal was covered, leaving open boulevards above it, and also allowing subtle transport of troops into the middle of the city to quell unrest. It is still used by barges today, through a system of locks transporting heavy goods through the city.
Speaking of unrest, during our visit two protests take the attention of law enforcement- a climate change focus, and another spearheaded by the ‘yellow jackets.’ “For our security” a large part of the subway is shut down just incase protest becomes riot. Apparently some 100 people were arrested, however outside of helping us choose what area of the city to avoid it doesn’t trouble us at all.
A leisurely treasure hunt through ‘Les Puces’ the famous flea market, local parks, and the bohemian Montmartre area past Sacre Coeur give us another view of the vibrant city, as well as a meander down La Coulée Verte- a disused raised railway viaduct that has been converted into a long garden to give respite from the traffic to walkers and joggers. This really is a very liveable city, so long as you also enjoy the compact lifestyle of small apartments!
Our last evening in Paris gives us the chance to meet up with friends we met in Wellington through Wineseeker, over another scrumptious gourmet French dinner. This time in Paris we can also add Moroccan wine to our experience (though it doesn’t measure up to the French stuff).
Soon it is time for us to leave once more, To Paris and France we say “A bientôt”. I have gained an extra 2kg this trip, though that is surely solid muscle from lugging bags around and nothing at all to do with amount of sublime pastries, cheese, bread, wine, foie gras, butter, and other local delicacies consumed. We have new connections with wineries and armed with piles of tasting notes and price lists we will be planning new additions to our French imports to share with our friends and customers alike.