Yesterday we couldn't find a phone jack in our otherwise fine hotel room. The phone was hard wired, and the instrument did not have a data port. Not to worry, said the desk clerk, and within an hour the manager and his assistant had appeared with an adapter. Turns out the phone jack was there all along, next to the sofa, but we had missed it. So we thanked him happily, but after he left it turned out the line was apparently dead. Girondins' Column in the distance
After our afternoon walk, we explained the problem. The hotel was most anxious to help. There was an internet connection at the desk we could use, or we could change rooms. When we indicated we could solve the problem the next day there was great relief. Then the technician would be here.
The technician came the next morning after work. He unscrewed the jack and immediately saw that the wires had not been connected to the jack. He was about to fix this problem, but first he tested the phone wires and found they were dead. At the same time the floor lamp happened to go out. The hotel had been converting all the rooms to internet and had strung new phone (and power) wires, but not all the wires had been connected properly. He would have the problem fixed today.
When we returned from sightseeing this afternoon he was leaving our room. He had just changed the bulb in the lamp. He also had strung a wire from the working phone line by the bed around three long walls to the desk, where he had been working most of the day. He had run electric wire and installed a brand-spanking new internet connection desk facility, with two electric outlets and a phone jack.
All the while this was going on there was a lot of animated conversation in French, most of which we understood. Everyone on the staff was most anxious to please, and had a good sense of humor. Part of the base of the Column
Now that we have a working connection, we wonder if the wire laying around the baseboard will ever be restrung inside the walls, and whether the hotel will ever get satisfaction for the wires that were strung somewhere but not connected. We'll never know.
This morning we walked toward the center of town. Our hotel is in a former suburb of Bordeaux, and the neighborhood is mostly apartments -- meaning it's relatively quiet during the day. But within a few blocks we were seeing more and more stores and activity. Bordeaux reminds us of New Orleans with the lacy wrought iron balconies and blank street-side facades, but of course it's the other way around - New Orleans reminds of us Bordeaux. Both cities could stand lots of painting and restoration of the soft stone buildings.
There is a wonderful monument in Bordeaux. It is to honor the Girondins, the people of the Department of Gironde, who served in the war of 1870 with Germany. Completed in 1902, the Girondins' Column is a masterpiece of the classical allegory that was popular at the time. Not a single Girondin is depicted (a matter of some dispute at the time). At the top of the 140-foot column stands winged victory, there are lovely laurels and embellishments, but the bottom section is incredible. Statues representing Concord, Fraternity, Abundance and Happiness, Labour, Security, Strength and the Republic ride triumphant while Lies, Vice and Ignorance are thrown to the ground and trampled beneath the hooves of horses spouting water from their nostrils. All in bronze. Unfortunately, the bronze horses disappeared in 1943, to be used by the Germans for war materials. Fortunately, they only made it as far as Angers, where they Dijeaux Gate were rediscovered in 1945. Unfortunately, they remained there for almost 40 years, while France tended to more important issues, such as rebuilding Paris. Fortunately, they were replaced on the Girondins' Column in Bordeaux in 1983, and a very wonderful sight they are.
The Grand Theater is another of Bordeaux' civic treasures. It occupies an entire city block, and is home to concerts, plays, operas and other productions. Unfortunately we couldn't go inside as they were preparing for a production.
By this time we had reached serious shopping, with pedestrian streets, Galeries Lafayette, Marks and Spencer, the Disney Store, etc. We found the Dijeaux Gate and the Gobineau Mansion, which were pictured in our city guide, as well as the Bus Ticket Office, which was not. There we purchased two tickets, good for three days unlimited bus rides. The clerk carefully inked our names and the start and stop dates on the cards, then placed them in specially designed plastic sleeves.
We went into a huge bookstore which turned out to be focused on university texts and references. Bob puzzled over the math section. It was about six feet wide and as high, almost all crammed with college texts and examination study guides. But in one corner were perhaps ten books on higher mathematics. And among these ten, most peculiarly, were two books he had used in his Ph.D. work, by Godement and Serre. These were books originally published in 1958, and republished 40 years later. Why, he wondered, were there no more recent books on the same subjects?
If you can imagine anything related to wine, it is for sale in Bordeaux. We must have passed twenty or thirty wine-related stores. Wines, sommelier accessories, related gastronomical equipment and books. These would attract a range of interests, from wine novices to wine experts. Still, most of the income goes to the wine estates in the surrounding regions, and not to the city of Bordeaux. Good wines start at less than $5 a bottle. Custom House
We looked around for a public building where there might be la toilette, and, sure enough, we found the Customs Museum. They would have let us use the toilets anyhow, but we felt honor bound to pay the admission. This was a bigger museum than the one we saw in Hamburg, but we had to wonder what will be come of all these customs worker when (and if) the European Union finally brings free trade to the continent. Anyhow, the museum showed the often violent history of French Douanes versus the smugglers.
We had three or four rain showers through the day, none of them lasting more than about half an hour. So we didn't get too wet.
Bordeaux is today having a memorial service for M. Jacques Chaban-Delmas, who died Friday in his nineties. He had been mayor of Bordeaux from 1947 until 1995. Naturally, a politician who reigns that long is much beloved and there are many tributes. But our take is that terms of office should be limited; people like Rickover and Hoover stayed well beyond the time of their great capability, and became somewhat corrupted.
To look at Bordeaux, you see a city that shows decades of neglect. Buildings are dirty and crumbling, many now unoccupied. While it is a truism that the money all went to Paris, nevertheless one wonders if stronger mayors in the provinces could have raised a voice for greater revenue sharing.