They say Paris is the city of Love...
I don't believe them. But I haven't been to Paris (yet!). Bordeaux is a charming city with a history steeped in wine but also you will be charmed by the architecture, food and wine, local Bordelaise culture, etc. I loved my trip to Bordeaux and can't wait to return!
1. Place de la Bourse
On my first night in Bordeaux, I took a walk to find some dinner. Then walked out into the most Instagrammed, Pinterest'd, Facebooked, and photographed place in all of Bordeaux. If you are only in Bordeaux for a couple days, you have to come and see this for yourself. I'm usually not one to go to touristy spots but this was seriously stunning. I came back another night when it was less crowded. Cross the street to the Mirror of Water for the stunning reflection.
2. La Cite du Vin
Yes, this much talked about "Disneyland of Wine" exists. I would not call it a "Disneyland of Wine" though. Its an educational centre and museum. There's a permanent high-tech exhibit that teaches you about the different wine regions of the world, a library, tasting rooms, screening room, wine bar, canteen, brasserie, rooftop bar and viewing deck, and restaurant. When I went, the temporary exhibition was on Georgia and how they were basically the first civilisation to make wine. For the wine geek, budding sommelier, wine student, wine enthusiast, this is a must visit!
3. Proximity to Saint Emillion village - a UNESCO site
This gorgeous historic UNESCO village is in the heart of the Saint Emillion appellation surrounded by vineyards producing some of the most beautifully complex wines of the world. (And my favorite wine region!) The medieval village was once inhabited by monks and when you visit the village you can see that the church and monks' living quarters are high up on the hill. Wander around the cobble stone streets and make your way to the church to get the most stunning views of the entire village. You can take the train to Saint Emillion and either walk up to the village (about a 10-20 min. walk depending on your speed) or charter a blablabla car or tuktuk.
4. French food and Wine!
The meal above may not look like anything fancy but it was one of the best meals I've had on the trip. A typical French provencal meal was shared in an old farmhouse in the Chateau Cerons estate during one of the wine tours I joined. Duck rillettes, duck rillettes with foie gras, whole tomato, freshly local homemade bread from the village, saucisson,grapes, and cheese (not pictured because I'm lactose intolerant - yea, le sad). This meal was paired with Chateau Cerons lovely sweet wine. If you're not familiar with Cerons, it is the region next to Barsac and Sauternes. I'm sure you've heard of the sweet botrytised wines from Sauternes! I'm not a huge fan of sweet wine but paired with a fatty duck or foie gras, it is seriously wonderful! Bordeaux loves duck and you will find duck in almost every single restaurant, brasserie, or cafe. Be careful and pace yourself - the food in Bordeaux can be quite rich so make sure you eat like the French. Eat slowly, have a glass of wine or two, take your time, don't order everything in sight and walk after your meal because you will need to digest it all!
5. Beautiful architecture
This beautiful building is the Bordeaux National Opera theater and one of the many grand buildings you will find in central Bordeaux. Apparently, Bordeaux was dubbed the "ugly" city and there was a lot of construction in recent years to make the city more beautiful and tourist-friendly. Sure there are some not-so-pretty parts of the city and there's a lot of new construction in those areas. Especially by the riverfront and around La Cite Du Vin. I loved wandering around after a day on my wine tours. The city is has some grittier parts but there are so many hidden gems.
6. History of wine trade
The photo above is taken from the observation deck of La Cite du Vin of the Garonne river. I posted this picture because the Garonne river plays a huge role in the history of the wine trade. A long time ago Bordeaux used to be marsh lands and one could not grow grapes to make wine. The Dutch were invited to drain the swamp and thus the appellation region of Medoc was born. The British merchants were coming in by boats along the Garonne river to Bordeaux to purchase wine from the negociants/wine merchants along the riverfront. All the historic buildings that you see along the riverfront were owned by wine merchants and sold their wine to the British. Bordeaux's geographic location in Southwestern France is also significant because it was once belonged to the British Empire and not part of France. A fascinating city filled with history of the wine trade.
7. Easy public transport
Trams, buses, bicycle, walking. Its easy to get around Bordeaux. The trams and buses cost around 1.60EUR for a ride (the ticket is valid for an hour so you can use it again if you're just stopping by somewhere). I also rented a bike from one of the many shared bike rental kiosks that are littered throughout the city. A lot of the streets have designated bike lanes and Bordelaise bike a lot. I highly recommend biking in the riverfront. The views are so wonderful and you get to burn off some of that French food!
Canelé is from Bordeaux. I had no idea! This little cake is found in shops throughout the city and the most common shops I found specialising in Canelé is called Canelé Bailladran. This cake has a history in wine as well. There is a process called fining in the winemaking process where the sediment from the oak barrels is removed from the wine before bottling. One of the common ways to do this is using egg whites. The egg whites acts as a magnet for the sediment and drags it to the bottom of the barrel. The egg yolks are discarded or sold or given to local bakers and thus the Canelé is made!
9. Chateau du Vin
The word Chateau in French literally means castle but in Bordeaux there were so many wineries that were sticking chateau on the label of their wines that Chateau is synonymous with winery. There are so many Chateaus in the Bordeaux region. You can spend so many days visiting the different chateaus in Saint Emillion, Pommerol, Pessac-Leognan, Haut-Medoc, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint Estephe, Saint Julian, Medoc, and more! So many regions, so many Chateaus! Famous and not so famous chateaus. You can either book wine tours, a guide, or book winery visits directly from the chateaus themselves if you plan on driving a car or blablabla car.
10. the proximity to the most famous wine appellations especially for full bodied red wines!
Margaux, Pauillac, Sauternes, Saint Emillion, Pomerol, to name a few of the most famous in the world of wine. Bordeaux has a lot of famous Chateaus with the most expensive wines (*cough.. Petrus, Mouton Rothschild, Margaux, Latour *cough*) but also a lot in between as well. When visiting a winery, they will tell you the history of the property, about the owners, the winemaking process, and give you a wine tasting of their wines. Most of them make two different wines. The premier wine and a second wine that is meant for easy drinking. Though people think of Bordeaux as a place for expensive wines, it is also a place of LOTs of accessible wine. I highly recommend visiting the city of Bordeaux and visiting the different wine regions.
Have you traveled for the love of wine? Have you been to Bordeaux? What is your favorite parts of the city?
All opinions and pictures are property of Alaine Handa except otherwise stated. All rights reserved. (c)