Bordeaux is always a good idea. Audrey Hepburn would have certainly said so in that famous movie, had she visited the current version of what was once an elegant but austere French city in need of an overhaul. Paris got her remodel in the second half of the 19th century thanks to Napoleon III and his wingman, Baron Haussmann. Bordeaux, on the other hand, had to wait until the 21st century to get her much needed facelift. She has since established herself as one of the most dynamic, attractive cities in Europe. Ask Parisians and foreign investors, who are flocking there en masse, attracted by the weather, food and wine, historical sites, and southwestern joie de vivre. I was lucky to return recently and have already written a story about a favorite neighborhood of mine, les Chartrons.
Bordeaux is now a short (2-hour) TGV ride away from Paris. Let’s stray away from the crowded French capital and visit this elegant Southern Belle, shall we?
Grandiose and scenic Bordeaux
From the stately Place de la Bourse to the chic Triangle D’or (Golden Triangle,) its fancy boutiques, brasseries, caves à vin, Grand Théâtre (Opera House,) the expansive Esplanade des Quinconces and its fountains reminiscent of Versailles gardens, Bordeaux lives up to her reputation as one of the most elegant French cities. Illustration:
La vie en terrasse
Bordeaux is a flâneur’s paradise, and wherever you walk in the old town, you end up on a square (place,) large or small. Each has a different feel and personality; yet all offer ample seating at cafés and restaurants sprawling on the sidewalks. La vie est belle, à Bordeaux, and it is clearly best enjoyed en terrasse.
Finding a homebase
When I travel to big cities, I try to stay in the historical center, la vieille ville (the old town.) There, old medieval streets are for pedestrians only, and daily flâneries turn into into a rare treat. For visits five days or longer, I rent an apartment (usually via vrbo.com) In Bordeaux, I lucked out. My one-bedroom rental (*) offered the charm and authenticity of an old building, with all the amenities of an upgraded unit. Best of all, I was within 5 or 10 minutes of major attractions and the Garonne riverbanks. As soon as I stepped outside, I was immediately immersed in history and surrounded by quaint streets offering shopping, cafés, and plenty of people-watching opportunities. Did I mention the efficient local transportation system, the Tram, stopped right outside my front door?
Enjoying the bounties of Bordeaux
In Bordeaux, culture and history are everywhere. Plan at least three days to visit the main sites, from museums to historical buildings, public gardens, or just to stroll in the city’s many distinct neighborhoods. Of course, visitors also flock here for the wine and the food. Bordeaux’s wines are renowned around the world. Restaurants and troquets (bistros, bars) offer local specialties or international fare, oysters from le Bassin d’Arcachon, or dishes (meat or fish,) served with sauce à la bordelaise (sauce made with wine.) As for desserts, two sweet stars reign supreme: le cannelé and le macaron, originating in nearby Saint-Emilion. To save time and money, I was quite happy enjoying picnic lunches in my kitchen after picking up fresh produce at a market.
It’s time to head to the train station to catch that TGV back to Paris, you say? Are you sure? What’s the rush? We have not even strolled by the Garonne river yet, or explored Bordeaux‘s up-and-coming section of the Right Bank. You have not met the new friend I made in this fantastic city, either. Stick around a bit longer: I guarantee you will not miss the French capital! Until next time,
All photos by French Girl in Seattle.
Please do not use text or images without permission.
(*) Bordeaux Rental Apartment on vrbo.com.
The link is here. Tell the charming owner, Géraldine, I sent you.
Bordeaux, a city of neighborhoods. Find out more here.