When I told one of our guests last year that visiting Bordeaux was a must, she asked me what was so special about it, what did I love about it? I found that difficult to articulate but when the guest arrived back from her day out in beautiful Bordeaux, she understood why I had found it so difficult to put into words the gloriousness of this city. We both agreed that it’s the open spaces, the superb 18th and 19th Century architecture and lack of high rise buildings, just simply the feel of the place.
Bordeaux is typically French in the sense that just wandering around and pottering about the city is a joy; soaking up the atmosphere and marvelling at the way in which all your senses are brought alive by what you experience.
There are still a few things I haven’t managed to fit in to my trips to Bordeaux, for example, I haven’t yet been inside the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux – the city opera house (#ONB; https://www.opera-bordeaux.com/); the famed MECA, artists residents with exhibitions (https://la-meca.com) ; and as I write there is a Klimt exhibition in the Bassins de Lumières (#bassinsdelumieres; https://www.bassins-lumieres.com/fr) which ends early 2021 that I must see. The Bassins de Lumières is an exhibition centre built in submarine bases from the second world war and houses illuminated art exhibitions, sometime accompanied by music.
Before I go into further detail about what to see and do in Bordeaux, here are a few facts about this superb city:
It is the 5th largest city in France and is the capital of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region
Its inhabitants are called ‘Bordelais’ (for men) or ‘Bordelaises’ (for women); you will also hear these phrases used in relation to local foodstuffs.
It is France’s most prominent wine region, with a 3.37 billion turnover, although no wine production is conducted within the city limits; Bordeaux wine has been produced in the region since the 8th century.
The historic part of the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage list and after Paris, it has the highest number of preserved historical buildings.
Bordeaux sits on the River Garonne and the crescent shape of the river, which orginally formed the second busiest port after London, is known as the Port of the Moon, or La Lune.
What to see and do
There is so much to see and do! For now, I’m listing just three experiences, in no particular order and these are not necessarily the ‘best’ things to see but there’s too much to fit into one blog. I feel a Bordeaux Blog Part II coming on
La Cité du Vin – this is an amazing and innovative building; to see it from the outside is enough but inside it is a cultural fest dedicated to the history and heritage of wine. You could happily spend three to four hours in here – it’s absolutely fascinating and so much to learn. The experience ends with a glass of wine on the top floor of this 55 metre building; choose a wine from Bordeaux itself or one of many countries around the world. #laciteduvin #insidelacité www.laciteduvin.com
Rue Sainte Catherine – if you’re into shopping you’re going to love this street; it’s the longest pedestrianised shopping street in Europe, stretching over a mile. Whilst many of the shops are traditional high street stores, many of which you can find across the whole of Europe, there are some classic French stores, such as Galerie Lafayette – perhaps the French answer to Selfridges. It’s when you wander off this main street, to both the left and right, that you find the quaint little shops that are more typically French.
Le Miroir D’Eau – the world’s largest reflecting pool, sitting on the banks of the Garonne and opposite La Place de la Bourse, one of the city’s most recognisable and photographed sites built from 1730-1775. Le Miroir D’Eau was built as recently as 2006 and covers 3,450 square metres. The architect reused a former underground warehouse to set the machinery and reservoir that powers the fountain which sprays mist every 15 minutes. One of my favourite memories is of buying some kouignettes from Georges Larnicol* and sitting with my sons on the steps next to the Miroir D’Eau, looking out over the river and sharing in the sense of contentment ones get when tasting one of the most delicious pieces of food ever for the first time, in the sunshine, in a beautiful place with those you love (one of the best food shops ever, situated at the top of Rue Sainte Catherine)
*One of the food shops I always frequent when in Bordeaux, situated opposite La Grande Théâtre in La Place de la Comédie. We also call kouignettes ‘heart attacks’ as they seem to be made of butter and sugar in the main - we’re only allowed one every three months at a maximum https://larnicol.com