Back In Bordeaux
“Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.”
– Pope John XXIII
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
November 26, 2014
This morning, Viking River Cruises’ Viking Forseti was once again back in the beautiful city of Bordeaux, France for an entire day. At first, I have to admit that I was uncertain as to whether I’d like the repetition of the Bordeaux calls throughout the voyage, but today I think all the guests aboard the ship are thrilled to be here. After all, how could you not like Bordeaux?
For those who felt like donning their QuietVox listening devices and learning a bit of the local history, Viking offered an included guided tour of Bordeaux that included both motorcoach touring and an hour-long walking tour through the historic city center. It’s a great overview of the city, once again conducted by Viking’s knowledgeable local guides. It also includes a look at the concrete U-Boat sheds that were constructed by the Nazis in the 1940’s to house their Atlantic submarine fleet in occupied France. The joke is that they’re the ugliest buildings in Bordeaux, but they serve as a stark reminder of one of this beautiful country’s darkest moments.
Much as I love history, I didn’t partake in the tour this morning because I wanted to get out and walk – really walk. And I did just that, enjoying about five hours of aimless wandering spent exploring, window shopping, and even enjoying some fabulous vin chaud (mulled hot wine) from small but effective Bordeaux Christmas Market, which had literally just opened this morning for the season.
Also included in the Christmas Market were two booths selling French-Canadian specialties from Quebec, including – of course – Maple Syrup, small-batch beers, and Sortilège, a Canadian spirit made with maple syrup and Canadian whisky. I bought a maple-infused beer and felt very ‘at home.’
What’s good to get in Bordeaux? Anything to do with wine and champagne, naturally! In the city’s Quartier des Grandes Hommes is one of the best wine stores I’ve ever visited, with its own sections for Champagne and a separate store just for red wine. There are numerous cafes nearby as well, including one that had a line of people out of it that made me think they were giving away truffles or perhaps bars of gold – it was that lengthy.
As a homebase for Viking Forseti, Bordeaux is fantastic. Those who aren’t afraid to walk will find this an amazingly-accessible town, with everything you could possibly desire within walking distance. It’s also good to pop into the Tourist Office located at 12, cours du XXX Juillet near the Esplanade des Quinconces to see what’s happening during the time Viking Forseti will be in port; in our case, there’s a food festival that begins on Friday when we arrive back in Bordeaux. Armed with that information, we can always pop by if we so choose to.
One of my favorite maritime sights in Bordeaux is moored along the quayside just south of the beautiful Viking Forseti – except the Ville de Bordeaux isn’t quite as stunning. Fitted with a gigantic figurehead on the bow of a man munching on grapes and liberally decorated with dents, dings and rust, the entire vessel is an eclectic hodgepodge of technology. Her hull looks at least a century old. Her navigation bridge looks like it was ripped from a Second World War cruiser. Her oversized anchor could have probably stopped the Titanic.
Yet a quick Google search for ‘Ville de Bordeaux’ reveals a much newer, sexier ship – a roll-on-roll-off cargo carrier designed to transport parts for the Airbus A380. Which is also quite fascinating, as in this region, if you’re not working for a winery, you’re probably employed by Airbus.
I can’t find any real information on the Ville de Bordeaux. But I am very curious. Do you know what her story is?
For those who are looking to stay on or near our good ship Viking Forseti, here is what is happening onboard today:
- 6:00 – 11:00 AM: Café Breakfast. Coffee, juice and fresh pastries are available at the coffee station in front of the lounge.
- 6:30 – 9:30 AM: Continental Breakfast. A selection of beverages and breakfast items are available on the Aquavit Terrace.
- 7:00 – 9:30 AM: Breakfast. Enjoy a buffet breakfast and a choice of dishes cooked to order in The Restaurant.
- 9:30AM – 12:30 PM: Shore Excursion – City tour of Bordeaux by coach combined with a short walking tour.
- 12:30 PM: Lunch. Join us for lunch in The Restaurant.
- 12:30 PM: Café Lunch. If you prefer, enjoy a lighter, buffet-style lunch in the Lounge.
- 3:45 PM: Cooking Demonstration. Join Chef Pascal in the Lounge to learn more about cooking with Foie Gras.
- 5:00 PM: Discover the World of Viking. Join your program director Mieke in the Lounge and find out about different Viking cruises and the countries you can explore.
- 5:30 PM: Cocktail Hour. Enjoy a drink and some live music in the Lounge.
- 6:45 PM: Daily Briefing. Program Director Mieke invites you to the Lounge to find out about tomorrow’s events and excursions.
- 7:00 PM: Dinner. We invite you to join us for dinner in the Restaurant.
- 7:00 PM: Bar Menu. Enjoy a casual meal on the Aquavit Terrace.
- 9:15 PM: Wine Tasting: A Journey Through Tasting. Your sommelier Frank invites you to the Lounge to learn all about the basics of tasting and your wime.
By this stage, you might be wondering what the heck the name Viking Forseti really means. Each of the Viking Longships is named after one of the Norse gods, reflecting founder Torstein Hagen’s Norwegian heritage. Forseti is the Norse God of Justice:
“The Norse god of justice, Forseti radiates the light of truth. He is eloquent, wise, and, most of all, a fair and persuasive mediator. Forseti presides over all disputes of gods and men, giving all a proper hearing.
Forseti rules on his exalted throne in the radiant palace Glitnir, whose silver roof and pillars of gold shine so brightly that it can be seen from afar. Here, he patiently listens to both sides of every dispute, arriving at an equitable decision that none dare break for fear of incurring his wrath.
He is the beloved son of Baldur, god of light, and Nanna, goddess of purity. Forseti means ‘presiding one’ in old Norse and ‘president’ in modern Icelandic”
This afternoon, Chef Pascal invited us to a cooking demonstration so tasty, you could practically breathe in the calories. On the menu today: cooking with foie gras, which naturally led to eating foie gras. Viking also provides you with a sheet on how to cook up some of the amazing specialties Chef Pascal made, but I’d recommend ripping the bottom quarter of it off. There’s no need to see how many calories something that comes on a soup spoon has in it. Trust me – it has a comma in it.
Dinner was once again served in the Restaurant, and I have to mention how good the seafood dishes have been overall. In fact, there has never been a night where I have had difficulty finding something delicious to eat, and I’ve even started ordering two appetizers in order to try out the soup of the night, which seems to be universally fantastic. Another bonus, as far as I am concerned, is the French influence in all of the cuisine onboard. That’s exactly what I look for in a river cruise, particularly one sailing a region like this that is well-known for its culinary offerings.
Because mere minutes had passed between glasses of wine, tonight Viking Forseti’s sommelier Frank held an informative and delicious wine tasting in the Viking Lounge at 9:15 PM. Viking Forseti is the only ship in the fleet with an onboard sommelier, and it’s a position that I wish would be added to the rest of the fleet, particularly when sailing the Danube though the wine-producing regions in Germany and Austria like the Wachau Valley.
So, once again our evening draws to a close in the most wonderful and enjoyable way – enjoying fine wines, good food, fabulous conversation, and Viking River Cruises’ Viking Forseti.
Our full journey:
Viking Forseti - Chateaux, Rivers and Wine In Bordeaux
|November 22, 2014||Bordeaux, France||Arrival; free time.|
|November 23||Gironde River / Pauillac, France||Scenic Cruising / Medoc and Margaux wine country visit; wine tasting & evening at leisure|
|November 24||Blaye, France||Tour of Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage site; afternoon free time or optional excursion to Cognac|
|November 25||Libourne, France||Tour of Saint-Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site & Pomerol wine region; afternoon at leisure or optional excursion to Bergerac|
|November 26||Garonne River / Cadillac, France||Scenic Cruising / Excursion to Sauternes wine region & wine tasting|
|November 27||Cadillac, France / Bordeaux, France||Morning city tour / evening at leisure in Bordeaux|
|November 28||Bordeaux, France||Tour of city center, a UNESCO World Heritage site; afternoon at leisure|
|November 29, 2014||Bordeaux, France||Disembark Viking Forseti; flight to Budapest, Hungary for the start of our next Live Voyage Report!|
Paula Wynne says
I am an author researching the Gironne river for a WW2 novel set in the area. I wondered if you know a historian who may be able to answer some questions I have of the Nazi occupation of the river. Any help and advice will be acknowledged in my historical thriller.
Scott Watkins says
Hi Paula! I’m not an historian, but I’m interested in your novel – did you finish it? publish it? I’m going to be on the Garonne River this summer and thought it might be fun to be reading your book while there! Thanks – all the best.