World Trip HomePost Nine

Post Nine - Spain to Bordeaux

Salamanca's Plaza MayorSalamanca's Plaza Mayor

Salamanca is a bustling city northwest of Madrid that brims with character, from its ancient buildings and cobble-stoned streets to its hip shopping district and eclectic nightlife fueled by the University of Salamanca's sizeable student population.

Minutes after we got off the bus, we found ourselves being buzzed in to a mom-and-pop hotel from the street at a small door squeezed between a restaurant and a souvenir shop. We walked up two dark, narrow flights of stone stairs to another door marked with the hostel's name on a small plaque. A sign next to another buzzer said "timbre" and also, in English, "please ring here." Soon, an apron-clad woman with a kind face and curly white hair showed us to our room.

Stepping in from the hallway, I was pleasantly surprised to walk into a sparkling-clean room with crisp bedspreads, a desk, and a bathroom with modern plumbing. The woman opened two floor-to-ceiling shutters on the opposite wall to reveal this view onto Salamanca's sprawling Plaza Mayor, widely reputed to be the loveliest in Spain. I dropped my bag and flopped down on the bed. The fresh air and muffled noises from the square soon lulled me into a peaceful sleep. -- Karen

Dog, by Keith HaringDog, by Keith Haring

I don't know what is more fascinating about the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the inside or the outside. It's a stunning work of architecture, no matter what your viewpoint.

And such a truly unique building deserves more than just landscaping, right? In fact, it needs … a 75-foot-tall statue of a dog covered with flowers! This refreshing, whimsical work of art is a colorful counterpoint to the glistening, swelling lines of the building. The flowers were perfectly positioned, and I couldn't spot a single brown bud. I just want to know one thing: How do they get the blooms to thrive upside-down?

Inside, the massive exhibition halls hosted just three exhibitions. One included sculptures the size of a house, another, the multimedia work of Nam Juin Park (ever seen a video of a nude woman wearing a television-set bra playing a cello? That's his stuff). But I spent most of my time in the Armani exhibit, which must have included at least 500 original pieces. -- Karen

Bilbao GuggenheimBilbao Guggenheim

The Guggenheim in Bilbao (near the French border) is one of the most amazing art museums I've been to. To me, a work of art should challenge your assumptions about reality while inspiring you at the same time. This museum did both from the moment we saw it. On the outside it looked like some bizarre silver-sheathed spaceship. Once we entered we were treated to some incredible art works too large to be displayed in any other space. We saw a maze of rusted iron forms ten feet high, a white room that looked like you could walk into infinity, a garden of television sets, and on the top floor, a collection of fashion from Armani. It was an amazing afternoon and it renewed my faith in modern art. -- Scott

French SaladFrench Salad

We were psyched to meet Michelle (pictured here) and Dave in Bordeaux. Michelle is fluent in French and has a velvet touch in the kitchen. Dave has a well-honed palate, and he lives to taste, well, everything fine that there is to taste. We were in good company for embarking on a culinary adventure.

This restaurant in the quaint, cobbled Place de Marche served warm, tasty buckwheat crepes and one of the most delicious salads I've ever had in my life. Thick discs of creamy, white goat cheese, wrapped in paper-thin dough and quickly fried, were nestled into a bed of greens, nuts, and fresh apple slices. The warm cheese pillows melted in my mouth, like a good egg over easy. The simple dressing coated everything each leaf perfectly-not too much, not too little.

OK, maybe the flavors were enhanced by the wine. Or the company. Or the sunshine bouncing off the walls of the plaza's old, stone buildings. I'm not sure. I do know one thing, though: That was a damn fine salad. -- Karen

St. EmilionSt. Emilion

If you close your eyes and imagine the classic French Bordeaux wine town with cobblestone streets and ancient buildings, you will probably picture St. Emilion. Set amid some of the most famous vineyards in the world, St. Emilion is a town that has changed little over the centuries. We stayed here for a few days while touring the wine region with our friends David and Michelle.

The French know that the important things in life are the little things that occur everyday; meals, conversation, time with friends and family. You can choose to make these things special or you can choose to keep them 'everyday'. In St. Emilion we rediscovered the beauty of lingering over a long lunch, watching the sun move through the branches of the tree overhead, and enjoying the day with our friends. -- Scott

L'Envers du Décor RestaurantL'Envers du Décor Restaurant

For our evening dinner in St. Emilion, we chose a bistro that offers a variety of wines by the glass and a menu of hearty dishes like omelets, rib eye, cheese plates, and charcuterie sampler assortments-just the thing for enjoying, and absorbing, wine.

We snagged a table in their courtyard, perused the menu briefly, then ordered a number of sampler plates (shown here) and four different glasses of wine. We ate family style, passed around all glasses worth sharing, and made notes underneath the blue velvet of the Bordeaux summer night sky. -- Karen

St. Emilion at NightSt. Emilion at Night

After Dave and Michelle headed home, Scott and I returned to St. Emilion for a couple more days to get to know the area better. We stayed right in town in a comfy old hotel with a pool (a blessed relief from the early July heat), exploring the countryside in the daytime and wandering tiny St. Emilion at night for dinner. One night we dined at this restaurant. Somehow, food seems to taste better when you're eating it outside under the vine-covered trellis. -- Karen

Wheat FieldWheat Field

We were driving south from Cognac back to Bordeaux when we saw a storm approaching from the coast. I pulled over and snapped off a few shots before the rain started falling. The French eat a lot of bread so it's appropriate that this photo is of a wheat field. I ran back to the car just in time and we sat and watched as sheets of water poured out of the sky. -- Scott

Next Up: Vin du Bordeaux

Copyright 2001
Scott & Karen Semyan