Bordeaux is a charming town in Southeastern France that still has much of its medieval character in its architecture and landscape, much like my hometown, Honfleur in Normandy at the estuary of the Seine. If you are a lover of fine wines, hearty country cooking and historic buildings, this UNESCO World Heritage site since 2007 will not disappoint. At Bordeaux, expect the leisurely pace of country living with offerings of a metropolitan city like world-class shopping and museums, a combination I particularly appreciate.
Bordeaux is the capital of the world’s major wine industry, producing wine since the 8 th century. So, you cannot come here and not visit a vineyard. From my apart’hotel, Citadines Centre Mériadeck Bordeaux near the historic part of Bordeaux, you can join any number of day tours or drive to Saint-Emilion in the Libourne sub-region some 35 kilometres in the Northeast of Bordeaux.
Itself a UNESCO World Heritage site, Saint-Emilion, nicknamed “hill of 1000 vineyards” (its vineyards make up nearly 70 per cent of the total area of wine-producing communes), is known as much for the quality and quantity of its wines as it is for its beautifully preserved buildings. The region is responsible for some of the most expensive and long-lived wines.
The wine tours will take you to chateaux (manors) and let you stroll through the vineyards and learn about the wine-making process. You will also get to visit underground wine cellars and taste the wines straight from the barrels. Then, try your hand at mixing different types of grapes to make your own cuvée (vat of wine). Saint-Emilion wines have a high concentration of Merlot grapes and so have a deep fruitiness that those new to Bordeaux wines will appreciate.
When you have had your tipple, wander the village’s hilly cobbled streets and marvel at its ancient limestone buildings, and centuries-old underground monuments such as catacombs and quarries that now exhibit 20 centuries worth of pottery.
Another place I would recommend for a wine tour is Chateau de Leognan which is famous for wines from Grave, a sub-region of Bordeaux. The one I joined was an interactive journey which gave us wonderful information about the chateaux. Dating back to the 17 th century, the grounds consist of the chateau, and chapel, both lovingly restored to pristine conditions in 2006, and a custom-made winery as well as the vineyard. I love these wine tours because they give me a deeper understanding of the different wines Bordeaux is famous for which, of course, gives me more to talk to my guests about.
Walk This Way
Citadines Centre Mériadeck Bordeaux just opposite the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle is so centrally located it is a perfect place to begin your exploration of Bordeaux on foot. From the heart of Old Bordeaux, named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2007, your walk will take you to the Grand Theatre. Designed as a temple of the Arts and Light, the neo-Classical structure has 12 Corinthian-style colossal columns with statues of the nine Muses and three goddesses, Juno, Venus and Minerva on top. It is one of the last remaining 18 th -century theatres in the world. I love the Grand Theatre because every time I step into it, it feels like I am transported back in time. You can go on a guided tour inside but do catch an opera there if you can. The last one I saw was Casse Noisette and the experience was unforgettable.
Near the southern perimeter of the old town is Cathédrale St-André. This largest and most impressive church in Bordeaux that is the seat of the Archbishop of Bordeaux-Bazas and a national monument in France worth a visit simply because of its awe-inspiring architecture.
At night, amble along the banks of River Garonne and take in the night scene. The walk will take you to the old royal square, Place de la Bourse, on the edge of the river. Adding a touch of modern magic is the le miroir d’eau, a fountain that reflects the surrounding buildings in the square, creating an alternate dreamlike landscape.
Satiate Your Appetite
If all that walking has not tired you out, then spend a day at Rue Sainte-Catherine, Bordeaux’s main shopping thoroughfare. We like to think that this 1,250-metre stretch is Europe’s longest shopping street. Le Printemps, a branch of the one in Paris, holds court at the beginning of this street and is the perfect place to pick up some French fashion pieces.
When you are in need something to perk you up, pop into any of the cafes along the street for a canelé. This small dome-shaped French pastry with a thick, carmelised crust and a custardy centre is a specialty of Bordeaux and is a must-try with your afternoon cuppa.
The best red wines, history-rich sights and dainty pastries – France’s wine region of Bordeaux is certainly beguiling in its charms and worth a visit.
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