It is the end of winter and start of spring. We are driving from Toulouse to Bordeaux with a quick stop in Lourdes to see the sanctuary of our lady of Lourdes. The weather is having mood swings like the perfectly confused,passionate, gentle, beautiful yet mad hatter of a French woman. As we drive by , we see the earth change from happy sky to sad then teary eyed to having a gloomy don’t talk to me kind of day.
The drive from Lourdes to Bordeaux feels like we are the only insane ones heading in that direction. My first thought is I cannot believe no one here loves wine! 🙂 An hour later from god knows where its like the whole world is driving towards the last drop of the most immaculately aged wine on earth.
My heart starts to pump a bit faster and I now I am all excited to smell and taste elegance and intensity in a swirl and a sip. Bordeaux is a synonym for one of the finest wine regions in the world. Spreading over the entire landscape of Gironde and occupying a hefty total of more than 120,000 hectares of land this is the largest wine producing area of the France that houses more than 8,000 Châteaux.
What you may be surprised to hear is that Bordeaux is the 6Th largest city in France with all of the old 18th century historic area declared as a UNESCO Heritage site. This region itself makes billions of Euros for France every year.
Pardon my ignorance! but I expected quaint quite countryside like Tuscany but I am most pleasantly surprised as we head off high way E72 and enter the city. Jam packed roads remind me of any other big wealthy city in Europe. Beautiful bridges and tiny compact lanes are what I notice right away. My mind is slowly processing and breaking down all the preconceived notions I had of this city.
We drive by monuments that give us the feeling of being in Berlin. Large massive mossed monuments leave us with an almost sprained neck. Our aim at this moment though is to get to our Bed & Breakfast an 18th century building restored and run by Parisian duo Mariam and her husband. (More on: www. questandmark.com/france-22-bordeaux)
A few minutes of driving around the city and like the French say with surprise Voila! We are at destination. Mariam tells us to park the car on the street right outside the b&b and we are ecstatic to hear the news. Parking is free over the weekend until Monday morning in Toulouse in designated areas giving us more time to browse through Bordeaux. More parking info on www.parkopedia.fr/parking/bordeaux
My Top 3 Places to Stay:
22 Bordeaux – An 18th century restored building into a b&b. Owner ex Parisian Mariam and her husband. You will find here the best homemade breakfast in town. Mariam also does cooking classes through the week for a maximum of 6 persons per day. Book in advance to guarantee your seat on a short trip. www.22bordeaux.com
L’Hotel Particulier – A grand townhouse in French terms this hotel is situated right on of the busiest shopping streets in Europe and a few steps away from the Bordeaux Cathedral which is probably one of the most iconic sites of Bordeaux. Right away as you enter the hotel you feel part of a nobleman’s family. The rooms are done up in a medieval décor and might leave you not wanting to step out of the era. www.hotel-particulier.com
Le Grand Hotel De Bordeaux – A 5-star property just opposite the Grand Theater and in the heart of the historic center is the address to check into if you are looking for a vintage royal sleek and chic place to stay. Fancy Bars flock on all side of the entrance and will greet you with warm smiling faces of posh dressed fellow guests. If you are a bit run down from a long journey treat yourself to any of the 12 treatment rooms or the hot tub on the rooftop www.ghbordeaux.com
Top sights to see:
Grand Theatre – Opera National De Bordeaux
– Basilica De Bordeaux
– Tour Pey-Berland
Shop: at Rue St. Catherine the 1.2 km walking shopping street that boasts to be the longest shopping street in Europe.
Top 4 places to drink:
Bo Bar Bordeaux – Old ruined red velvet curtains, travel stickers on the entrance door , metal chandeliers, cobwebs and a wall full of wine is what gives Bo Bar all its charm as required as a funky with no fuss kind of place. With a max capacity of 20 persons and 2 people waiting tables this place reminds of a crowded pantry car of a train. This is however the best place to stop for a pre dinner drink if you can find a spot to squeeze in that is. Indulge in blind wine tasting and a plate of charcuterie or a smelly cheese platter to go with different varitey of wines served. Location @ 8 Place Saint-Pierre, 33000
Le Wine Bar – This Italian owned wine bar needs no praises as it is on everyones must stop list. Giancarlo’s bar being highly rated in Bordeaux is where you will find France, Italy and Spain come together to live the good life. High tables serve tapas over an exaggerated wine list. Caution: You may walk in for a drink and spend the entire evening here. Location: 19 Rue des Bahutiers, 33000 Bordeaux
Aux 4 Coin Du Vin – A hip and trendy place with high stools table setting. The place is filled with chatty students appreciating the beautiful selection of wine as the increase their knowledge of the same with every glass J reasonably priced – http://www.aux4coinsduvin.com
Le Bar A Vin – You cannot miss this spot as you walk past in downtown Bordeaux. The large opened gigantic door is so welcoming that it feels like your walking into some royalty’s personal cellar. However don’t be fooled by the entrance. The interiors are modern and sleek. High ceilings extend with selection of that look more like the national library of wine! This school of wine and Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux will definitely teach you a thing or two before you leave. Location: 3 Cours du 30 Juillet
My Top 4 places to Eat:
Le Petit Savoy – If you are looking to enjoy a coz romantic dinner or just catching up with friends I reccommed this place as the ambience is absolutely delightful. Resonably prices pair you meanwith a good bottle of wine and you are guaranteed a good meal. Menu: www.lapetitesavoie.fr/docs/lapetitesavoie_en.pdf
Petit Mignon – We stopped by this place for lunch before hitting the road. The set menu had a good variety of starter main and desert. I recommend the citrusy fresh beef tartare for main if your no so much into raw meat than the other option would be the Marget de canard that is cooked to delicious rosy centred pink perfection and the mango panna cotta for desert. A great selection of wine is available as usual. However I do recommend you make a reservation as this 15 odd table petit restaurant gets pretty packed for both lunch and dinner.
Le Petit Commerce: Seafood lovers head straight down Rue St. Pierre. On this stretch you will find small and large parts of this restaurant scattered around belonging to the same owner. Find a spot on a busy day or pick you seating from different ambience settings. Location : 22 Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre, 33000 Bordeaux
Chez Jean – was suggested to us by local and owner of Bordeaux 22. This restaurant is on Place du Parlement and is super easy to find. Great local dishes are cooked well but don’t expect the best you have ever eaten. (plenty of similar restaurants are on the same square if you are unable to find a spot here) Location: 1 Place du Parlement, 33000 Bordeaux
L’Autre Petit Bois – this place is great for a cup of tea after you meal or that last glass of wine and desert. Hip little place with cozy seating and a big tree holding up the structure. The staff here is extremely polite and helpful despite the language barrier. I had the molten lava chocolate cake. Location: 12 Place du Parlement, 33000 Bordeaux
I have to be honest that the above choices were tough to make given the variety of restaurants Bordeaux has to offer. It is in reality quite hard to be disappointed by food in this town but then again you may also be fooled into mediocre foor by chic window dressing settings. An important tip – Make a reservation before hand at a place you really want to try, as most places are tiny and are quickly booked out. Walking in means you have to wait for an hour or more easy as the French love to savour their food and enjoy every little of the experience *Dinner reservations start from 7:00pm until 9:30pm
Having had enough of wine, food and the good life over a weekend we had to turn our backs on this stunningly surprising city and say goodbye but just temporarily of course as we do plan to return real soon to explore the beautiful wine towns of St. Emillion and Bergerac.
Getting out of this town to hit the highway is tricky and lots of roads are just one ways leaving you dizzy like a buzzing bee. My suggestion would be to leave your big ego accompanied with your exceptional navigational skills aside for the time being and use your Google Maps to get out of here. It will in the end only help you save those extra kilometers on the gas tank.
Next up on the blog I have a brilliant little restaurant review of a place called La Cantine De Robert by Chef Robert Rodriguez in the medieval town of Carcassone, France. This one is a true vintage gem.
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