We decided to treat ourselves to good wine and what better area than Bordeaux! Bordeaux has an interesting history dating back to the Roman times, with Roman remains still present in the city. Next to Paris, Bordeaux has the highest number of preserved buildings in France and the old town area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With days exploring the city and times just people watching on the street our 5 days here seemed to breeze by.
How We Got There and Around
From Paris, we took a morning TGV train to Bordeaux. It was about a three hour train ride and pretty comfortable. Once we arrived in Bordeaux we took the tram to our apartment. The town is so small we ended up walking everywhere. When we did our wine tour, we signed up with a group, who drove us around (worth it!).
Where We Stayed
I LOVED our apartment. It was spacious, clean, recently renovated, and comfortable. The area was perfect, however, it did get loud at night. There were lots of people on vacation getting crazy at the local bar. I woke up at 4AM one morning to people singing Taylor Swift with a guitar right in front of our apartment. This was an AirBnB we took a chance with, as it was new to the site and there were no reviews. This turned out to be a good decision as we really enjoyed it and the host was great.
Our Favorite Foods & Drinks
Bordeaux is known for their world-class wine – but they also serve an array of great food & cocktails too! Here are some of our favorites:
Canelé – Bordeaux is known for canelé. They are tiny pastries made with rum and vanilla. We went to La Toque Cuivrée and bought a half dozen. We liked them a lot, but still prefer macaroons in Paris.
Aperol Spritz – Technically this is an Italian drink, however, they are very popular in Bordeaux for your pre-dinner drink.
Sel et Sucre, Crêperie – This tiny restaurant near our apartment had amazing crepes!
What We Did
The town is quite small, but we were able to take in the sights and do a wine tour:
Porte Cailhau – This historic monument was once the gateway to the city built in 1496.
Pont de Pierre – This was the first bridge over the Garonne River in Bordeaux – built in 1819. On each side of the bridge is a white medallion to honor the Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte. It also has the city’s coat of arms.
Le Miroir d’eau – This is the largest reflecting pool in the world! Every time we went by, there were always people there. This pool spouts out fog, jets, and at times just lays still. When we went by at first, there were lots of kids playing jets. Steve and Suzanne tried going back for night shot, but even then people were still there.
Place de la Bourse – This plaza was built from 1730-1775. The plaza once housed the statue of King Louis XI, but after the French Revolution that was destroyed. A Corinthian column-fountain took its place for a time. Then in 1869 “Three Graces” was installed in the square.
Place du Parlement – Once home to the Parliament of Bordeaux from 1451 to 1790. Today the square is packed with restaurants, bars and cafés.
Bordeaux National Opera – the Theater opened in 1780, and known to be where the famous ballet dancer Marius Petipa first performed. The theater has a beautiful neo-classical look, with 12 statues on the top representing the nine muses and three goddesses. When there is not a show in progress, they host exhibits, art displays and more.
Monument aux Girondins – This monument is to honor the Girondins victims of the Terror during the French Revolution – all of whom were killed by the guillotine. The monument was completed in 1904. It consists of several sculptures and water features. The monument is adjacent to a park, which at the time we were visiting was playing host to the traveling circus.
Palais Gallien – This is the site and remains of a former Roman arena. The little that remains today are preserved as a historic monument. When we visited the monument the office was closed, but we were still able to get pictures. It looks pretty good considering it was built in 100 AD!
Marché des Capucins – This is the indoor food, produce and meat market for the town. Not very big, and wasn’t very impressive.
Porte d’Aquitaine – Another gateway to the city of Bordeaux built in 1754. Today, there is a flea market just right outside/under it.
Église Catholique Saint-Éloi – This beautiful church was built in 1497, and we are so disappointed it was closed during our visit.
Tour Pey Berland – This is the bell tower for the Bordeaux Cathedral, set up separately so the bell vibrations didn’t affect the church. The wait to get up the tower was really long, so we chose to skip going up.
Bordeaux Cathedral (Cathedral of Saint Andrew) – The church was built in the 13th century, and still has ongoing renovations today. King Louis VII got married here to Eleanor of Aquitaine. The church was simply beautiful.
Museum of Wine – We checked out this museum after our wine tour, so we didn’t really get a lot from it since we had learned all about Bordeaux’s history from the wine tour. At the end of the museum tour, we did get to sample more wine and wine soaked chocolate raisins – yum!
Church St. Louis Chartrons – The church was built in 1880, and is known for its beautiful stain glass windows. Its grand organ was recently renovated in 2005, so many concerts are held in this church. Quite stunning.
Basilica of St. Michael – The church was built between the 14th – 16th centuries and dedicated to Saint Michael. In fact, inside is a beautiful pulpit representing Saint Michael slaying the dragon. It was heavily damaged in 1940, with all the stain glass windows being broken. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction. There is also a huge market outside the church selling fresh produce.
Bordeaux Wine Class & Tour – Our wine class & tour was AMAZING. I actually learned a lot about French wine, wine regions in France, and a lot about Bordeaux wine rules. Actually, some of the rules are a little silly and counter productive, but wine business here is all about “tradition”. Did you know that in 1855 Napoleon wanted the “best” wine in Bordeaux, so wine officials rated them – and that rating still counts today!!!! We learned a lot more:
- There are several wine regions within Bordeaux. We went to Saint Émilion for our wine tasting which has its own classification.
- Colors of wine – old versus young.
- We did blind tasting – holy cow Steve has a good palate.
- We also did blind smell tests – a lot harder than it sounds.
The town of Saint Émilion is beautiful, and we visited two chateaus for our tastings:
During our time, we got to taste great foods and even better wines while exploring the wine region with our tour guide. We had a fantastic time, and I truly feel like I am better wine drinker now – a more knowledgeable one.
Our time in France is over, and it really is sad. There is so much more to France I want to explore. I hope to visit Normandy Beach, other wine regions, and Southern France when we return. If you have not been to France – I highly recommend it. We had a great time, and ate such great foods and had some of the best wines ever.